Big Celebrities Who Grew Up in Small Towns

Brad Pitt

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Brad Pitt
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Big Deals

Shawnee, Oklahoma; Smyrna, Georgia; Plainfield, Illinois; Union, Kentucky — they aren't known as incubators of stardom, but the World's Most Famous don't come just from the coasts. Small towns have bred plenty of great talents for the fields of sports and entertainment, some of whom maintain close ties, while others never look back. Some of the names may surprise you.

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Johnny Depp
Rich Fury/Getty Images

Johnny Depp

Owensboro, Kentucky
Johnny Depp doesn't seem to have too many warm memories of his Kentucky childhood in the dozens of places his family stopped. In 2018, he told Rolling Stone that he "worshiped" his mother, but followed that by saying in a eulogy at her 2016 funeral that, "My mom was maybe the meanest human being I have ever met." Still, one of his first purchases after Hollywood success was a horse farm for her outside Lexington.

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Chrissy Teigen, John Legend

John Legend

Springfield, Ohio
John Legend's high life in Manhattan and Los Angeles is chronicled in wife Chrissy Teigen's active Instagram, but the crooner grew up in the southwestern Ohio town of Springfield, where his mother was a seamstress and his father worked for International Harvester. He inherited musical talent from both: His father was a drummer, and his mother sang and directed the church choir. Legend skipped two grades, entered high school at age 12, and left Springfield when he attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

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Julia Roberts 2016

Julia Roberts

Smyrna, Georgia
Before becoming one of Hollywood's biggest stars, Julia Roberts grew up the daughter of two actors in Smyrna, a short distance from Atlanta. Seeking stardom, Roberts moved at age 17 to New York, where "I was just lonely, and the city was so fast and big," she told "CBS This Morning" in 2017. The future Oscar winner had graduated from high school in 1985; three years later, she broke through in "Mystic Pizza."

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McCarthy at an event for Can You Ever Forgive Me?
McCarthy at an event for Can You Ever Forgive Me? by GabboT (CC BY-SA)

Melissa McCarthy

Plainfield, Illinois
Melissa McCarthy grew up on a farm in Plainfield, attending high school in nearby Joliet. She got her first TV break on the show of her cousin, Jenny McCarthy, and had a long run as the beloved chef Sookie on "Gilmore Girls." Now a major star, she was recently named one of The New York Times' best actors of the past 20 years. In 2018, she poked gentle fun at her hometown on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" with "Plainfield's Community Calendar." McCarthy also appeared on HGTV's "Celebrity IOU," presenting renovations she did on her aunt and uncle's home in nearby Chicago.

Ben Roethlisberger in 2020
Ben Roethlisberger in 2020 by All-Pro Reels (CC BY-SA)

Ben Roethlisberger

Findlay, Ohio
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is known by fans as "Big Ben," and he was a big man on campus back at his high school in northwest Ohio. In fact, he was captain of the football, basketball, and baseball teams there (though he didn't make quarterback until his senior year). In 2012, he returned to Ohio to complete his bachelor's degree at Miami University. Although he cut ties with Findlay for six years, after criticisms following accusations of sexual assault, the town was once again listed as his birthplace as of 2017, ESPN reports.

Cindy Crawford Cannes 2013
Cindy Crawford Cannes 2013 by JJ Georges (CC BY-SA)

Cindy Crawford

DeKalb, Illinois

Population: 43,862

The all-American supermodel was likely prettier than most girls-next-door, but she grew up in a small Illinois town 60 miles from Chicago where, she says in her memoir "Becoming," she grew up in a "typical, all-American, blue-collar family" that enjoyed backyard barbecues and Fourth of July parades. It was enough for Crawford — for a while. "I loved my small-town upbringing. Yet I knew, even then, that somehow my path would take me beyond the comforts of that familiar place," she writes. 

Brad Pitt
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Brad Pitt

Shawnee, Oklahoma
Brad Pitt has made more than 70 films, but it's not often you see him playing a sophisticated city slicker. He comes by it honestly: Pitt was born in Oklahoma and raised in Springfield, Missouri, where he graduated from Kickapoo High School. "It's kind of surreal to think he went to school here," the high school's theater director told KY3 news when Pitt won the best actor Oscar this year.

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Dolly Parton
Kevin Winter / Staff / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images North America / Getty Images CC

Dolly Parton

Sevierville, Tennessee
Legendary singer-songwriter Dolly Parton never left her home behind. In 1987, she opened Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, a Smoky Mountains destination for those seeking out amusement, live performances, and touch of Parton history. She may have made national headlines for donating $1 million to development of the Moderna vaccine, but she also gave $3 million to the Mountain Tough fund to help people in her hometown directly.

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Margot Robbie
Margot Robbie by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA)

Margot Robbie

Dalby, Queensland, Australia
Margot Robbie, the versatile star of "I, Tonya" and "The Wolf of Wall Street," grew up far from Hollywood, in an agricultural center of Queensland, Australia. By high school, though, she was at a private school on the Gold Coast, where the deputy principal described her as "normal and well-adjusted." In 2018, she made a visit home and proved that hadn't changed, with reported highlights of the low-key trip including an hour spent chatting with a friend of her aunt's.

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Taylor Swift
Kathy Hutchins/shutterstock

Taylor Swift

Wyomissing, Pennsylvania
Taylor Swift now has $81 million worth of real estate in Nashville, Rhode Island, and other locations, but the pop-country star grew up on an 11-acre Christmas tree farm in the mid-Atlantic. During a two-night concert run in Philadelphia, she went back to visit her elementary and high schools. "It's not my family farm anymore," she said before singing "Never Grow Up" in Philadelphia. "We sold it when we went to Nashville. I've been thinking about how cool it is to be back where I started writing songs."

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Chris Pratt at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con
Chris Pratt at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA)

Chris Pratt

Virginia, Minnesota
Until he was 7, future Guardian of the Galaxy Chris Pratt lived in the iron mining community of Virginia, where his father was in mining and his mother worked in a supermarket. They moved to Lake Stevens, Washington, where wrestling was just the first of many turns on his road to Hollywood — selling coupons, trying some awkward stripping at bachelorette parties, moving to Maui and working for the Christian group Jews for Jesus also among them. He was discovered by Rae Dawn Chong, who put him in her short "Cursed Part 3."

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Pink at Madison Square Garden
Pink at Madison Square Garden by slgckgc (CC BY)


Doylestown, Pennsylvania
P!nk was born Alecia Beth Moore in Bucks County. Her mother worked 18 years at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia — where the singer donated $1 million after recovering from COVID-19 — while the teen Pink haunted Siren Records, "the hipster hangout for skate punks," the local Intelligencer newspaper wrote.

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oprah winfrey
Tom Cooper/Getty

Oprah Winfrey

Kosciusko, Mississippi
Oprah Winfrey probably doesn't have many happy memories of this small town, where the future billionaire experienced multiple childhood traumas. In 2020, she donated $12 million to the cities she has called home, including Kosciusko, where in 2006 she dedicated the Boys & Girls Club that bears her name.

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Lambert in 2019 on her Bandwagon tour
Lambert in 2019 on her Bandwagon tour by Loco4Music (CC BY-SA)

Miranda Lambert

Lindale, Texas
Country singer-songwriter Miranda Lambert still has family in Lindale, where she opened a bricks-and-mortar Pink Pistol shop. During her childhood, her parents were private investigators once hired by Paula Jones' attorneys to work on the Bill Clinton impeachment trial. At one point, she told Redbook, the family was homeless and moved in with relatives. Lambert got her start playing bars around Texas, making her way to competing on "Nashville Star," which launched her into the big time.

Josh Hutcherson
Gregg DeGuire / Stringer / FilmMagic

Josh Hutcherson

Union, Kentucky
Josh Hutcherson was born in then-rural Union — there's since been a residential boom — and by age 8 had persuaded his parents to take him to nearby Cincinnati to get an agent. By 2002, he had moved to Los Angeles with his mother, where he immediately began booking work. He appeared regularly in TV and film until 2012, when he hit the next level with "The Hunger Games." In 2013, he headed home for the University of Louisville-University of Kentucky basketball game, and was welcomed with a Mockingjay salute from the crowd.

Ellen DeGeneres
Dave Kotinsky / Stringer / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images CC

Ellen DeGeneres

Atlanta, Texas
Talk-show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres was born in Metairie, Louisiana, but graduated high school in tiny Atlanta. In 2006, she hosted her 30th high school reunion, and flew her classmates — including her prom date — to Los Angeles.

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Dave Chappelle
Paul Morigi / Stringer / Getty Images Entertainment

Dave Chappelle

Yellow Springs, Ohio
Boundary-breaking comedian Dave Chappelle grew up in this town outside of Dayton, where his father was a professor at Antioch College. Chappelle was born into a politically active family, reaching back to great-grandfather William David Chappelle. During the summer of the pandemic, Chappelle brought stars including Jon Stewart, Tiffany Haddish, and David Letterman to perform outdoors in his hometown, where he'd returned to live. He plays music there with famous guests, and reportedly plans to open a comedy club and restaurant.

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Millie Bobby Brown
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Millie Bobby Brown

Windermere, Florida
Millie Bobby Brown, star of "Stranger Things," was born in Marbella, Spain, and spent much of her childhood with her British parents in Bournemouth, Dorset, England. Her family relocated to Windermere, Florida, outside Orlando, when she was 8. They moved to Los Angeles when an agent told her parents that "she has instincts you cannot teach." 

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Zach Galifianakis
John Lamparski / Stringer / WireImage

Zach Galifianakis

Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Zach Galifianakis remains loyal to his home state, where the comedian and "Hangover" star said he missed graduating from North Carolina State by a single credit (for calculus). He lives there today with his wife and two sons, in the town of Sparta. He has also defended North Carolina barbecue against South Carolinian Stephen Colbert, and this year recorded a PSA encouraging North Carolinians to register to vote.

Carrie Underwood 2017

Carrie Underwood

Checotah, Oklahoma
Carrie Underwood grew up on the family farm outside of Muskogee, singing at her church and local events before winning the fourth season of "American Idol." She parlayed that win into chart-topping albums and multiple Grammys. Underwood has reinvested in her hometown, giving to an animal shelter, fire department, and the town's first splash pad.

Jason Campbell
Jason Campbell by Keith Allison (CC BY-SA)

Jason Campbell

Taylorsville, Mississippi
Quarterback Jason Campbell grew up in a town of less than 2,000 before becoming a first-round draft pick for Washington in 2005. He went on to play for multiple teams, and founded the Jason Campbell/Fellowship of Christian Athletes Football Camp outside of Hattiesburg. Campbell told the Hattiesburg American, "A kid can say, 'Hey, I can be the next one,' because he knows there are guys who have come before him who have done it."

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