It’s pretty crazy that it is 2016 and there are still people who believe every single stereotype about Middle Eastern culture. In such modern times, there are people who feel that all people of Middle Eastern descent look, dress, sound, and think the same. Obviously, this is a dumb assumption to make in general when it comes to any group of people, but I feel like Middle Easterners are particularly victimized in the media and in real life. It’s ridiculously dumb and I can’t help thinking that people would feel less inclined to believe negative stereotypes if they realized that so many of their favorite celebrities and other public figures that they love are actually of Middle Eastern descent. Ideally, people would realize that every Middle Eastern individual is different solely based on common sense, but if that has not happened so far, it’s very unlikely to occur at this point.
That is why it makes sense for us to realize that so many public figures have Middle Eastern roots. It is also important to recognize that the phrase “Middle Eastern” encompasses many countries and cultures including Iraq, Iran, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Oman, Cyprus, and Bahrain. This should be emphasized because it doesn’t make sense to have a singular mental picture for what a Middle Eastern person looks, sounds, dresses and acts alike. It’s the same thing as expecting people from different states in America to have the same accents, appearance, and hobbies. It just would not be at all logical.
Sadly, the phrase “Middle Eastern” has a lot of negative connotations associated with it. That is both unfair and unnecessary. Hopefully if people recognize how many of their favorite stars have roots in these different cultures, then they could find it easier to be more accepting. There are probably a lot of celebrities that you had no idea were Middle Eastern. Did you know that these 14 celebrities have Middle Eastern roots?
14. Jerry Seinfeld
It’s hard for me to look past New York City when Jerry Seinfeld is mentioned, but he obviously has to have some sort of ethnic makeup. So what is the comedian’s cultural background? Jerry Seinfeld can be classified as a Middle Eastern descendant because his mother is Syrian. Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most successful comedians of all time so he has to be someone making fellow Syrians proud. Jerry is such an open book though so I am a little surprised that he has not talked about his Middle Eastern heritage in his stand up routines. If more people realized that those “friends in my head” celebrities are of Middle Eastern descent, then the public perception might shift in a more positive direction.
13. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman is one of those people who does not seem to care about being a celebrity. She is a lot more focused on being an actress than a star. As a result she ends up being the type of person who does not share a lot of personal details. This means that most people who are fans of hers do not know a lot about her like where she is from or the details of her heritage. Most people probably had no idea that Natalie Portman was actually born in Israel.
12. Bar Refaeli
This is another person whose appearance is not necessarily a dead giveaway of her heritage. With her blonde hair and light eyes, the supermodel does not necessarily fit the stereotype for how a Middle Easterner supposedly looks, but appearances aren’t everything. There is not one set look for people of Middle Eastern descent. Nevertheless, Bar Refaeli was born and raised in Israel. The beauty is one hundred percent Israeli and this means that she is Middle Eastern and making her country proud with her extremely successful modeling career.
11. Salma Hayek
When it comes to thinking about Salma Hayek and her cultural background I think of her speaking Spanish because of her Mexican heritage. Salma Hayek has always been very vocal about her Mexican pride so it is honestly a little surprising to hear that she is not one hundred percent Mexican. I honestly never had any idea that the actress is also Middle Eastern, but she really is. Salma Hayek’s father is one hundred percent Lebanese! This is pretty surprising since she has emphasized being a Latina with a lot of her career choices and in various interviews, but it is true.
10. Jenna Dewan-Tatum
Jenna Dewan-Tatum has always been gorgeous and the actress can credit some of that to her Middle Eastern descent. So what is the deal there? What is in Jenna Dewan-Tatum’s genetic makeup. Her father is half Lebanese which means that Jenna Dewan is a quarter Lebanese herself. This is not something that I knew before, but I’m not too shocked about it. Jenna Dewan-Tatum is an actress who likes to keep private. We really don’t hear much from her unless she has a project to promote so it is only logical for her fans not to know a ton about her personal life and background.
9. Gigi Hadid
This is one of those cases where you cannot always judge a book by its cover. The super model may look like a typical California girl with blonde hair and perfectly bronzed skin, but that is not the case. I can see how you could be fooled though. In fact, if you think about it her last name “Hadid” should have been a dead giveaway to some of her ethnic makeup. Gigi may look like a California dream girl, but she actually has a more diverse background than that. Gigi Hadid’s father Mohamed Hadid was born in Israel and is an Arab Palestinian which means that half of Gigi’s background is of Middle Eastern descent.
8. DJ Khaled
The record producer and SnapChat superstar’s given name is Khaled Bin Abdul Khaled and this is because he is of Palestinian Arab descent. By keeping “Khaled” in his stage name, he is able to show off and take pride in his Middle Eastern roots. DJ Khaled is one of the most popular celebrities right now. His wise words, optimism, and keys to success have made him a household name. DJ Khaled is definitely a positive public figure to represent the Middle Eastern culture.
Shakira is the unofficial spokesperson for Colombian pride, but the Spanish-speaking singer has even more in her background. Shakira is actually half Lebanese on her father’s side of the family. This is pretty surprising to me because I feel like Shakira is pretty much always singing and talking about her Colombian culture. So I just assumed that the singer was one hundred percent Colombian. It makes me wonder why she doesn’t mention her Middle Eastern heritage in her songs as much as she references her Colombian background. Maybe if she did, it would be a great way to bring some positive shine to the Lebanese and other Middle Eastern nations.
6. Hoda Kotb
Hoda Kotb was born in Oklahoma, but both of her parents are Egyptian. Therefore, the morning show host is another person who can be considered to be of Middle Eastern descent. And on top of that, the name “Hoda” means “guidance” in Arabic so that should have been a good indication to anyone with linguistic knowledge in their arsenal. Hoda Kotb is probably one of the most famous Egyptians right now in the entertainment industry. The woman is a gem and a half.
5. Zoe Saldana
As far as I can tell, Zoe Saldana has always been absolutely gorgeous and she can credit a lot of that to her multicultural makeup. Zoe Saldana is Lebanese, Puerto Rican, Haitian, and Dominican. It’s unclear how that all plays out percentage wise, but the actress’s Lebanese heritage gives her the right to say that she is someone of Middle Eastern. No matter what portion of Zoe Saldana’s heritage is Middle Eastern, she is still a great person to represent the diverse culture. She is beautiful, talented, successful, and pretty much has it all going on.
4. Vince Vaughn
This one is a little bit of a stretch, but technically it still counts, so hear me out and have an open mind here. Vince Vaughn is a celebrity who can be considered Middle Eastern because his grandmother on his father’s side of the family is Lebanese. Aside from that, Vince Vaughn has a varied ethnic makeup with Italian, English, Scottish, Irish, German, and Dutch mixed in among other things. But no matter how small of a portion his Middle Eastern heritage may be, it is still something for him to take pride in!
3. Jillian Michaels
The world knows Jillian Michaels from her personal training work on The Biggest Loser. She was so focused on improving the lives of others that the attention was not really on her as much and even her biggest fans do not know a ton about her. Don’t let her popular American last name fool you. Jillian Michaels is actually one quarter Lebanese and one quarter Syrian. And aside from that, Jillian Michaels is not even her given name. Jillian Michaels’s birth name was Jillian McKarus. When you add everything all up, it means that the famous personal trainer is half Middle Eastern.
2. Andre Agassi
There is no doubt about it: Andre Agassi will always be revered as one of the greatest American tennis players which makes total sense since he was born in Las Vegas and has a stellar career record on the court. Nevertheless, Andre Agassi is one quarter Assyrian-Iranian thanks to his father who was also an athlete. His dad Emmanuel Agassi made the Middle East proud when he represented Iran as a boxer in both the 1948 and 1952 Olympics. This means that both of the Agassi’s were successful athletes with Middle Eastern roots.
1. Paula Abdul
Paula Abdul has always had an appearance that has been tough to put your finger on. Without any offense intended, Paula Abdul has always seemed ethnically ambiguous to me. And by that I mean that almost anyone with any cultural background can relate to the singer because her look is so versatile. Paula Abdul is Russian and Ukranian on her mother’s side of her family, but Paula Abdul’s father is Syrian. This means that we can credit half of her good looks to her Middle Eastern heritage.