Conn. (WTNH) — To us, our favorite stars and celebrities may only exist on the big screen (or small screen, if you’re on TikTok). But, most of our icons didn’t get their start in Hollywood.
In fact, Connecticut is home to dozens of famous people! From an old-school Hollywood actress to TikTok stars to a former U.S. president, our state has raised dozens of icons we know and love.
Here are 10 celebrities you may not have known are homegrown:
Katharine Hepburn, Actress (1907 – 2003)
Katharine Hepburn was born in Hartford, Connecticut on May 12, 1907. An unlikely Hollywood star, Hepburn rose to fame due to her beauty, wit, and eccentric charm. She began her career on Broadway and quickly rose through the ranks to become one of Hollywood’s most iconic leading ladies. She is best known for her performances in classic films such as ‘The African Queen,’ ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ and ‘Little Women’ Hepburn passed away at age 96 on June 29, 2003, in her estate in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Her estate still stands in Old Saybrook to this day, and it is a popular tourist attraction to many. The town of Old Saybrook has also dedicated a museum to Hepburn on the town’s Main Street.
George W. Bush, 43rd U.S. President (1946 – Present)
Former U.S. President George W. Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut on July 6, 1946. While Bush was raised in Texas, he did not stay away from New England for long. He went to high school in Massachusetts and came back to Connecticut to attend Yale University. His grandfather, Prescott Bush, was even a U.S. Senator from Connecticut. Bush went on to serve as president for two terms, spanning in total from 2001-2009. Bush was defined early on in his presidency by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which pushed the U.S. into Bush’s global war on terror. His presidency was also largely defined in his second term in his handling of the 2008 economic crisis.
Katherine Heigl, Actress (1978 – Present)
While Katherine Heigl was born in the nation’s capital on November 24, 1978, she spent her childhood in New Canaan, Connecticut. Heigl started her career as a child model, which eventually garnered her enough attention to make it to the big screen. Heigl is best known for her breakthrough role from 2005 – 2010 as Dr. Izzie Stevens on the ABC hit drama, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. This role brought her awards and accolades such as winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She’s also well known for her leading role in movies such as ‘Knocked Up,’ ’27 Dresses,’ and ‘The Big Wedding.’
Christopher Walken, Actor (1943 – Present)
Actor Christopher Walken was born in Astoria, Queens, New York on March 31, 1943. Today, he is a resident of Wilton, Connecticut. For his numerous roles in film and television, Walken is the recipient of multiple commendations including an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. He’s well known for his roles in films such as ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘Batman Returns,’ ‘Wedding Crashers’, and ‘Hairspray’. Walken has been in the spotlight for more than just his roles on screen, though. Walken was questioned in the 1981 death of actress and co-star Natalie Wood, who after famously being terrified of water, drowned off the coast of Catalina Island in California. Walken was one of the few people present on the yacht from which Wood disappeared and subsequently drowned. The death was originally believed to be an accident, but investigators still question her drowning to this day. Walken spoke to detectives about the crimes but has never been named a suspect or person of interest.
Dixie & Charli D’Amelio, Social media influencers (2001, 2004 – Present)
Dixie D’Amelio (born August 12, 2001) and Charli D’Amelio (May 1, 2004) were both born and raised in Norwalk, Connecticut. Charli first rose to fame in 2019 for her viral videos on the social media platform TikTok, where she showcased her dancing abilities. Charli is a trained dancer of over 10 years and used her social media presence to launch herself and her family into the limelight. The D’Amelio’s are even the stars of their series, ‘The D’Amelio Show’, a docuseries on Hulu. Most recently, Charli has become a contestant on the hit series ‘Dancing with the Stars’, where many would say she is taking the competition by storm. Dixie is also a well-known presence on social media and has begun to showcase her talents as a singer. In December 2020, Dixie released her singles “One Whole Day” with Wiz Khalifa, and “Roommates”, which was co-written by Demi Lovato. Her most recent album came out in June 2022, and it’s titled ‘A Letter to Me.’ She also recently appeared in a YouTube web series called Attaway General and hosts a talk show on YouTube called ‘The Early Late Night Show‘.
John Mayer, Musician (1977 – Present)
John Mayer, born on October 16, 1977, is a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter from Bridgeport, Connecticut. He grew up in Fairfield before attending the Berklee College of Music to pursue his dreams of being a musician. After leaving the school with a fellow friend and artist, the two began their own band, the LoFi Masters in Atlanta. They played mostly in coffee shops until the duo split, as Mayer decided he wanted a career in pop music. He spent the next several years playing in clubs, refining his skills, and building a following. By 2001, Mayer was picked up by major record companies and released his first EP, ‘Inside Wants Out’. From there his career blossomed. He is best known for the acoustic nature of his early work which then transitioned into more traditional pop music. Some of Mayer’s hit songs include: ‘Your Body is a Wonderland’, ‘Gravity’, and ‘Waiting on the World to Change.’
Annie Leibovitz, Photographer (1949 – Present)
Annie Leibovitz is a portrait photographer, born on October 2, 1949, in Waterbury. Leibovitz is best known for her stunning portraits, which are known to convey depth, emotion, intimate settings, and poses. She was often known for taking celebrity portraits. Arguably one of her most renowned pieces was a polaroid shot of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, taken just five hours before Lennon’s murder. To this day, critics have claimed that the photograph is one of Rolling Stone magazine’s most famous cover photos. She has also photographed the late Queen Elizabeth II, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Reese Witherspoon, and more. The Library of Congress has named Leibovitz a Living Legend, and she was the first woman to have a featured exhibition at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery. While her work has drawn some controversy over the years, such as her depiction of Lebron James on a ‘Vogue’ magazine cover, she is well-known in the artist community as a respected icon.
Meg Ryan, Actress (1961 – Present)
Meg Ryan, or perhaps better known as Sally from the award-winning romantic comedy ‘When Harry Met Sally’, was born on November 19, 1961, in Fairfield, where she spent her entire childhood. Ryan is as homegrown as they come, she attended St. Pius X Elementary School in Fairfield, graduated from Bethel High School, and spent the first few years of her college career studying journalism at the University of Connecticut. Her time in college is what first sent her into the world of television. She began acting in commercials and soap operas to earn extra cash, which propelled her into more serious acting. The semester before her graduation, Ryan left school and began her career as a professional actress. Now she is a well-known star, having roles in films such as ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, ‘Top Gun’, and ‘You’ve Got Mail’.
Gaten Matarazzo, Actor (2002 – Present)
Gaten Matarazzo was born on September 8, 2002, in New London, Connecticut. While he was later raised in Little Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, Matarazzo’s roots stem from our own backyard. He has returned to Connecticut several times and won third place with his vocal solo titled “Ben” at Starpower Talent Competition Nationals in Uncasville. Like many, Matarazzo’s acting career began on Broadway before he landed his breakthrough role as Dustin Henderson on Netflix’s critically-acclaimed Stranger Things. Matarazzo has gone on to claim more success as he not only returned to Broadway but furthered his acting career in film. In one of his most recent ventures, Matarazzo starred in the Paramount+ movie, ‘Honor Society’.
Stephenie Meyer, Author (1973 – Present)
Award-winning author Stephenie Meyer was born on December 24, 1973, in Hartford, Connecticut. Meyer is known for her best-selling vampire romance series, ‘Twilight’. ‘Twilight’ has sold over 100 million copies, has been translated into 37 languages, and was adapted into five films. Meyer’s writing career began with a dream, she’s said. Her 2003 dream of a human girl falling in love with a vampire who thirsted for her blood would eventually lead to ‘Twilight’ and the three following books of the series. In fact, Meyer has said that this dream was depicted in chapter 13 of the first book. She began writing ‘Twilight’ after that dream, starting the novel midway through, in chapter 13. She finished the novel and then backfilled to write the beginning. Meyer sent out 14 letters to various publishers before she received a positive response to her writing on her 15th try, and the rest is history. She has written other well-known novels including ‘The Host’ (which was also adapted into a film), ‘The Chemist’, and other ‘Twilight’-based spinoffs.