Even though people of Arab descent aren’t often celebrated in the news, especially with tensions in the Middle East, ISIS, and the former War on Terror, you might be surprised to know that some of your favorite entertainers have Arabic heritage.
Whatever your stereotypes and assumptions may be, some of these names may surprise you. It just goes to show you that people are pretty hard to categorize and these stars are no exception.
Here are a few stars whose ancestors or even parents came from somewhere in the Middle East. Just because they are not named Mohammed doesn’t make their ancestry any less legitimate. Many of them have ancestors who came from Lebanon or Syria, but there are a few outliers from countries like Palestine and Iraq as well. Here are their names and their backgrounds.
10. Shannon Elizabeth
She may be as American as apple pie, but Shannon Elizabeth, who came into the spotlight as Nadia in the movie American Pie, is the daughter of a Syrian-Lebanese dad and an English, Irish and German mother.
Her given name is Shannon Elizabeth Fadal. Growing up, Elizabeth was involved in athletics and even considered going pro in tennis. In addition to her success as an actress, Elizabeth is now making her mark in the directing world and recently started her own production company.
9. Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi, who is an iconic tennis legend of the recent past, has Arabic ancestry. His father boxed in the Olympics for Iran although his ancestral roots were from Armenia and Assyria.
Agassi definitely inherited his father’s athletic ability, as he was often ranked as the number-one tennis player in the world and left his mark on the sport when he retired in 2006, after 20 years of play. He won numerous prestigious titles, such as the U.S. Open, Australian Open and French Open in the 90s.
8. Ralph Nader
There aren’t many people who have run for president more than Ralph Nader. While you might easily recognize his face or voice, you may not recognize that he comes from an immigrant family.
His parents left Lebanon to make a home in the United States. Nader has been in politics for more than 50 years. He made his debut when he lobbied for a safety campaign to improve automobile industry. This politician, who brought the Green Party into the spotlight, is passionate about issues like the environment and social activism.
7. Sammy Hagar
Sammy Hagar aka “The Red Rocker” is famous for once being the lead singer for rock band Van Halen. He is another one in the part-Lebanese club.
Hagar started his career with ‘70s hard rock band Montrose, singing lead vocals and playing rhythm guitar. He also had several hits as a solo act before he replaced David Lee Roth with Van Halen in 1985.
6. Paula Abdul
Paula Abdul’s last name might betray her, but it is no pseudonym. Abdul first became famous as a singer in the ’80s with hits like “Opposites Attract.” She is better known as the sympathetic judge from the earlier seasons of American Idol.
She has Jewish and Syrian heritage, which she has explored. She’s actually lived in Syria, in addition to the United States and Brazil.
5. Tony Shalhoub
Tony Shalhoub is best known as Adrian Monk from the hit crime-based comedy Monk. Shalhoub is a second-generation American; his maternal grandparents emigrated from Lebanon to the United States. His father is also a Lebanese immigrant. He first starred on the television show Wings and has had various movies roles, such as in Men In Black. You might also know him as the husband of actress Brooke Adams.
4. DJ Khaled
Khaled sounds Arab enough, but DJ Khaled’s full name is actually Khaled Bin Abdul Khaled. The household hip-hop name has Palestinian roots. His parents were always supportive of his career. In fact, they were also musicians who played Arabic music.
Khaled embraced the musical sounds of his parents’ new country. He’s collaborated with other hip-hop superstars like Snoop Dogg, T-Pain, Ludacris, Kanye West and Usher. In addition to his own hits like “All I Do Is Win” and “I’m So Hood,” he is also the president of the Def Jam South record label.
3. Vince Vaughn
Vince Vaughn is a Hollywood heavyweight who is currently starring in the HBO hit True Detective. It also turns out that he has Arabic ancestry, as his paternal grandmother was Lebanese.
Vaughn first hit the spotlight in the 1990s with the success of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. He has a lot of skills up his sleeve, making it big in both comedy and drama. Vaughn has starred in such movies as The Wedding Crashers and The Break Up.
2. Salma Hayek
Salma Hayek is not just Latina, she is also Lebanese. The Mexican actress has Spanish and Lebanese blood – her father is originally from Lebanon. Her name in Arabic means peace.
Her talent has taken the acting, directing and producing world by storm. She was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo at the 2003 Academy Awards. She first hit the big screen in the 90s, starring alongside Antonio Banderas in Desperado.
1. Jerry Seinfeld
One of America’s favorite funny men is half Arab. Jerry Seinfeld‘s mother comes from a Syrian Jewish family, and his father was an immigrant from Turkey, though he first immigrated to Hungary before making his way to the United States.
Seinfeld, who is most famous for the television show by the same name, can trace his heritage back to Ellis Island and was actually awarded the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation family heritage award in 2009.