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20 celebrities who became politicians

(STACKER) – The celebrity-to-politician pipeline has become an accepted and even expected phenomenon in American—and increasingly, global—culture. Within the past several years, celebrities as disparate as Ye (formerly Kanye West) and Dr. Oz have launched (unsuccessful) political bids, while household names like Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who once played a president on TV, have risen to the highest offices of their respective nations.

While the number of stars seeking political office has seemingly increased in the past decade, celebrities involving themselves in U.S. politics is far from a new occurrence. Fame has buoyed people ranging from early 20th-century country singers to former child stars to Washington. Popularity, name recognition, and a sense of relatability have accounted for many celebrities’ pivot to politics, in many cases, regardless of experience or qualifications.

Yet celebrity does not guarantee a successful political career. Across centuries and regions in the U.S., most celebrities elected into office have shared certain characteristics: They’re mostly white, straight, politically conservative men. This phenomenon mirrors the demographic makeup of Congress—white politicians comprise 3 in 4 members of Congress, while women make up only 29%—but is far from representative of the overall race and gender demographics of the country’s population.

Meanwhile, celebrities who are women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, or people of color have historically had less success moving into politics. These disparities in political representation point to narrow perceptions of who Americans deem electable and who has the resources and access to run successful political campaigns.

To explore the history of celebrities in politics, Stacker compiled a list of 20 famous actors, athletes, and musicians who became politicians by being elected into office. Celebrities who made unsuccessful political bids were not included.

  • Donald Trump
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Jesse Ventura
  • Al Franken
  • Sheila Kuehl
  • George Murphy
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Fred Thompson
  • Sonny Bono
  • Sean Duffy
  • Kevin Johnson+
  • Fred Grandy
  • Steven Michael Quezada
  • Ben Jones
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Helen Gahagan Douglas
  • Jim Bunning
  • John Davis Lodge
  • Bill Bradley
  • Jimmie Davis
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