There’s something in the water of Ohio that creates fame, whether it’s on stage, in a concert hall, on the court, or in the history books. Some names might come with more infamy than fame, but we’re leaning in the morally right direction.
Let’s take a look at the biggest names from Ohio…
Famous Actors from Ohio
Sarah Jessica Parker
Long before Sex & the City and Cosmopolitans with the girls, Sarah Jessica Parker was born from humble beginnings in Nelsonville, Ohio. She fell in love with the stage at Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts before being catapulted to Broadway – and just like that – the hit HBO franchise.
While his birth name is Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez, he changed his name to Martin Sheen for the movies. His career accolades span generations, but Sheen started his life in Dayton. He was a caddy at a Dayton country club when he was younger and previously said, “The lessons learned in Dayton have guided me throughout my life.”
Those of you from Cleveland might remember Halle Brothers Department Store, and that’s where Halle Berry got her first name. Berry grew up in Cleveland, attending Bedford High School. She went on to win Miss Ohio USA and compete in Miss World before rising through the ranks of the Hollywood elite.
FUN FACT: Halle Berry was born at the same hospital as Dorothy Dandridge, whom she portrayed in 1999’s “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.”
The Dawson’s Creek alum grew up in Toledo and is known to post her favorite things about Ohio when she visits. She was in high school theater before finally landing the role of Joey. In 2019, she was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree before giving the commencement speech at the University of Toledo.
Long before he was the bad boy of Beverly Hills 90210, Luke Perry was raised in Mansfield. He always spoke highly of his home state, stating in 1991, “I love where I come from. The people there are good people. When they say thank you, they mean it.” Those in Mansfield remember him fondly as a trickster, ladies’ man, and a natural-born entertainer.
Famous Singers from Ohio
Before John Legend was a singing superstar, he was among “Ordinary People” in his hometown of Springfield, Ohio. He started the path to the EGOT distinction at church, where he sang with the choir starting at age seven.
Pardon us while we swoon. Dean Martin was born Dino Crocetti in Steubenville. He had a boxing career before he teamed up with the Rat Pack. The town still celebrates the crooner with an annual Dean Martin Festival. Ain’t that a kick in the head?
The raspy voice we all love caused the singer born Natalie McIntyre to be shy in her hometown of Canton. She took the name Macy Gray from a name on a mailbox she saw as a child, saying, “The name just really stuck with me.”
She went to the same school as Marilyn Manson (born Brian Hugh Warner in Canton) but didn’t realize it until years later.
A Shaker Heights native, Paul Newman brushed up his acting skills at the Cleveland Play House before heading to college and then Broadway to kick off his path to movie stardom. Always a charitable man, he donated $10 million to Kenyon College in Ohio in 2007, saying, “I personally feel great affection and a debt of gratitude for Kenyon.”
Famous Comedians from Ohio
This funny guy has exploded in popularity over the past few years and was raised an hour west of Columbus “surrounded by cornfields… the sticks. The kind of town where the gas station is also the grocery store.” He comically works in Ohio for several of his trending comedy acts.
There’s no doubt Drew Cary loves Cleveland. His path to stardom took him through James Ford Rhodes High School and Kent State. From there, he joined the Marines, serving in Ohio. After some local comedy writing and routines at the Cleveland Comedy Club, he competed and won Star Search. The rest is Ohio history, from the Drew Cary Show to host of The Price is Right.
The first star on our list from Lima is Phyllis Diller. The eccentric Diller used comedy as a way to cope with tragedy early in her life. She was a housewife early on, but then the family moved to California, where Diller got her first taste of fame at a radio station. Female comedians were rare in those days, and she broke the mold of making people laugh with her self-deprecating style.
Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon was born in Cleveland. She went to private schools in Shaker Heights and Gates Mills before attending NYU. Shannon created the endearing Mary Katherine Gallagher character based on her experience of losing her mom, sister, and cousin in a car accident.
She admitted it was “really based on me, how I felt after the accident — really nervous, accident-prone, wanting to please, (messed) up but full of hope. I just exaggerated everything I felt as a little girl and turned it into a character.”
Famous Athletes from Ohio
Before she was leaping into Olympic records, Simone Biles was born in Columbus in 1997. She might not have started gymnastics until she moved to Texas, but her first steps were in Ohio.
Jack Nicklaus, the legendary golfer, was born in Columbus. Nicklaus honed his skills at Scioto Country Club starting at age 10. He attended Ohio State, eyeing a career as a pharmacist, but he couldn’t resist the lure of professional golf.
Born Wardell Stephen Curry II, Steph Curry was born in Akron when his dad played for the Cavs. The Currys moved to Charlotte after Dell Curry was traded, but he still claims his hometown by saying, “I’m from Akron, but Charlotte raised.”
LeBron James and Curry were born four years apart at the same Akron hospital. James repeatedly honors his hometown despite some tension along the way. He also gives back to the community through House Three Thirty, a community space to support the neighborhood that supported him for all those years.
“In Northeast Ohio nothing is given, everything is earned. You work for what you have!” -LeBron James
Travis Kelce (yes, the one Taylor Swift was sweet on) was born in Westlake and attended Cleveland Heights High School before college ball took him to the University of Cincinnati. While the Kelce family moved away from Ohio, Travis says he likes to visit when he can.
In an October 2023 interview, James said that Travis Kelce is now the most famous athlete from Northeast Ohio, “What Trav has got going on right now, and the Swifties, I think I’m gonna give the crown to him right now.”
Famous Chefs from Ohio
Long before he came up with Flavortown, he came into this world via Columbus. He’s been back to Ohio with Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and as of 2023, it looks like he’s bringing one of his restaurants home to Scioto Downs.
The Iron Chef hails from Cleveland and brought his multi-heritage love of food to the town. You can still enjoy his restaurants in Ohio, such as Lola Bistro and Mabel’s BBQ Cleveland.
Before Tosi turned heads as “The Most Innovative Woman in Food & Drink,” she was born in Berea. She started baking as a child, leading to the sweet treats we love today, like Milk Bar Pie and Cereal Milk.
Icons from Ohio
This group of notably famous people from Ohio doesn’t easily fit into one category, which makes them a category all their own.
The man with all the bright ideas was born in Milan, Ohio, in 1847. Thomas Edison went on to pave the path for lightbulbs, movies, and X-rays. You can visit the Thomas Edison Birthplace Museum in Milan to learn more about his life.
A childhood in Toledo fueled Gloria Steinem to be the activist, feminist, and journalist we know today. She attended Waite High School before she started blazing trails worldwide.
The Wright Brothers
Did you know that Kitty Hawk was chosen for the Wright Brothers’ first flight because it was the closest option to Dayton? They ran a printing press and bicycle shop before getting into aeronautics, inspired by the tests done on the Lake Michigan shoreline. You can still visit that shop and Dayton’s Wright Brothers National Museum.
Iconic filmmaker Steven Spielberg spent the first seven years of his life in Ohio. He was born in Cincinnati before moving around the country with his parents. His life story is loosely re-told in the movie The Fablemans.
The man behind Limited Brands, now known as Bath & Body Works, Inc., is an Ohio native. Les Wexner started the Limited Brand after living between Dayton and Columbus during childhood and eventually graduating from Ohio State University. He’s the richest man in the state, with a net worth of $6 billion.
The Infamous Conclusion
Since it’s one of the most Googled things about Ohio, yes, Jeffrey Dahmer grew up in Bath Township, Ohio. He also started that killing spree in his childhood home on Bath Road. That home still stands today and is privately owned.
On a much brighter note, Ohio has also fed the NASA program with a “statistically significant” number of local astronauts.
We can’t wait to see who the next famous person from Ohio will be, and we’re ready to cheer them on.