Celebrities Who Became Politicians

By Loraine Balita-Centeno on June 4 2020 in Politics

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger introduces President George W. Bush and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, Calif., on Oct. 25, 2007.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger introduces President George W. Bush and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, Calif., on Oct. 25, 2007.
  • In 2018 actress Cynthia Nixon ran for Governor of New York but eventually lost to Andrew Cuomo.
  • Ronald Reagan starred in over 50 films before becoming the 40th President of the United States of America.
  • Clint Eastwood known for his iconic role in the Dirty Harry franchise served as mayor of Carmel, a small sea-side city in California, from 1986 to 1988.

US President Donald Trump who rose to fame as the host of the reality series The Apprentice isn’t the first celebrity who went into politics. There were a dozen others who first became known as an actor on TV or the big screen, an athlete, or a musician before running for office. Others were able to leverage their stardom to get their political careers started. Here are just a few of the most famous celebrity-turned politicians.  

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan at Durenberger Rally by Michael Evans, 1982 (NARA/Reagan Library). Image credit: Pingnews.com/Flickr.com

Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the US who served the country from 1981 to 1989. He was one of the world leaders who were instrumental in ending the Cold War.  Before his big White House job, Reagan served two terms as California’s governor. But he first made a name for himself not as a politician but as an actor. He appeared in over 50 films and hosted shows like General Electric Theater and Death Valley Days before running for office.  He also served as president of the Screen Actor's Guild.

Cynthia Nixon

Cynthia Nixon. Image credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York/Wikimedia.org

Best known for her role as Miranda in the hit HBO series Sex And The City, Cynthia Nixon ran for Governor of New York in 2018. The native New Yorker announced her plans via a video she posted on her Twitter account. In the video, she said: “Half the kids in our upstate cities live below the poverty line. How did we let this happen? I love New York. I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else. But something has to change.” Despite her noble aspirations and popularity, Nixon lost to Andrew Cuomo.

Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao during the opening ceremony of the NCAA Season 87 at the Araneta Coliseum on July 2, 2011. Image credit: Inboundpass/Wikimedia.org

Considered by many historians as the greatest professional boxer of all time, Pacquiao has bagged boxing titles in more weight classes than any other boxer in history. His success in the ring brought him even more success outside the arena with endorsement deals and TV shows boosting his popularity even further. His meteoric rise from poverty served as the perfect backdrop for a political campaign. He eventually earned a seat in the Philippine Senate and has been serving as a Senator of the Philippines since 2016.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking at the 2019 San Diego Comic Con International. Image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr.com

The Austrian-American actor started as a bodybuilder who won his first world title when he was just 20 years old. He went on to win 13 more world championship titles in bodybuilding before becoming a Hollywood star. He became a household name after playing a cyborg in the Terminator franchise in the 80s and the 90s. He soon starred in other action flicks where he got to show off his physique. His intentions to switch to politics became known in 2003 when he announced that he’s running for Governor of California. He won and served as its “Governator” until 2011.

Glenn Jacobs

Glenn Jacobs, also known as "Kane", speaking at the 2013 Liberty Political Action Conference (LPAC) in Chantilly, Virginia. Image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr.com

Glenn Jacobs was born and raised in rural Missouri. He played basketball for the Truman State University before a knee injury put his basketball dreams to an end. Eventually, he went into wrestling and soon became part of the WWE. It was then that he became known throughout the country after performing in over 50 cities. In 1995 he moved to Tennessee where he got married and settled down. In 2017 he announced his bid to become the mayor of Knox County, Tennessee. He won over Linda Haney in 2018.

Sonny Bono

Sonny Bono 1996. Image credit: Kingkongphoto & www.celebrity-photos.com from Laurel  Maryland, USA/Wikimedia.org

Bono, who was popularly known as Cher’s other half, became famous in the 60s after the couple bagged the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with their song “I Got You, Babe”. He and Cher then hosted a variety show called “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” in the early 70s before their divorce years later. After the demise of their marriage, he went on to star in films and on TV before becoming a politician in the late 80s. He served as mayor of Palm Springs, California from 1988 to 1992 before becoming the State’s congressman from 1995 until he died in 1998 in a skiing accident.

Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars.

Best known for his iconic character Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry franchise. Clint Eastwood was also an award-winning director. He won an Academy Award as the director of Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. He’s always been very outspoken about his political views often dabbling in local politics. In January 1986 he ran for Mayor of Carmel, a small sea-side city in California. He defeated incumbent Charlotte Townsend and became mayor of the city until 1988. He told journalists he didn't want to run for another term so he can spend more time with his family. He donated all his salary throughout his term as a Mayor to a local youth center.

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