We all love celebrities. They give us endless hours of entertainment through their movies, songs, and guest spots on TMZ. We love to see them play down and dirty bad guys who sure hate niceness and can’t wait to kill the hero. We love to see them play the hero battling to keep grandmas and kiddies safe from the evils of the world. We love when they sing songs that make us get all excited. We love when they sing songs that make us cry.
Through it all, through all the movies and TV shows, through all the rock anthems and power ballads, there’s one thing we tend to think when we see these stars as they try and make casual conversation with Jimmy Kimmel or Stephen Colbert – I don’t know if this person is very smart.
To be fair to celebrities, when they do smart stuff, it doesn’t really make for good TV. You’re not going to see George Clooney on the cover of People Magazine if he cures the common cold, but his face will fill that page if he gets a DUI. In truth, like the rest of us, celebrities are dumb sometimes. And they’re smart sometimes. But then some of them are smart pretty much all the time.
They don’t shove it in our faces, but these fifteen celebrities aren’t just brilliant actors, comedians, or musicians, they’re straight up brilliant. These fifteen people are so smart that they could play scientists in movies and not look goofy (so you know Denise Richards isn’t here).
15. Cindy Crawford
Cindy Crawford is the epitome of beauty. For years her visage was everywhere, from Sports Illustrated to Elle, and no one was complaining about it. She showed up in soda commercials and made us all forget that the carbonated beverage is little more than diabetes in a can and in George Michael videos to make us want to take sexy baths.
Little did we know that Cindy Crawford wasn’t just super attractive, she was super smart! Cindy graduated valedictorian from her high school in DeKalb, Illinois and received a scholarship to study chemical engineering at Northwestern University. Crawford started modeling while she was in high school, and used the money to help cover college costs that her scholarship didn’t. She never graduated though – Crawford was so smart she realized that she would make a whole lot more money as the world’s most famous model than she ever could doing whatever it is chemical engineers do. Engineering chemicals, maybe? This list is about how smart the celebrities are, no one promised the writer of the piece would also be intelligent!
14. Lisa Kudrow
Playing one of the most iconic TV dumb dumbs, Phoebe Buffay on Friends, Lisa Kudrow became a household name almost overnight. As often happens, people tend to think actors closely resemble the character they are known for, so most people have no clue that Kudrow is actually wicked smart.
Before she started acting professionally, but after she went to high school with N.W.A. member and rap legend Eazy-E, Kudrow attended Vassar where she earned a degree in biology. After graduation, Kudrow spent eight years working with her father studying headaches. The two published a paper on hemispheric dominance and headache types that showed left-handed people were more likely to suffer from cluster headaches. While she worked on headaches during the day, Kudrow worked on her comedic acting skills at night, taking improv classes at The Groundlings and working with Conan O’Brien in an improv troupe. Kudrow almost joined Saturday Night Live, but the slot went to Julia Sweeney.
13. Jordana Brewster
Jordana Brewster started her acting career on the soap opera All My Children, but before long she jumped to the big screen in Robert Rodriguez‘s high school horror movie The Faculty. The stunning and talented actress is best known for her role as Mia Torretto, the sister of Vin Diesel‘s Dom, in the Fast and Furious series.
After The Fast and the Furious, Brewster decided to take a break from acting and headed off to college. In 2003, Brewster graduated from Yale with a B.A. in English. Lucky for us, Brewster decided to get back into acting, returning to the role of Mia in the Fast and Furious franchise. With the tragic death of Paul Walker, Brewster’s character was written out of the movies, giving her character, and Walker’s a happy ending. These days you can catch her acting alongside Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford’s mustache on Lethal Weapon.
12. Emma Watson
She came to the attention of the world as the smartest wizard at Hogwarts, and then Emma Watson went and proved it was typecasting by being one of the smartest people in Hollywood.
Watson graduated from Brown University in 2014, earning a bachelor’s degree in English. While it took Watson five years to get her degree, that was only because she took two semesters off to work on various movies.
After college, Watson has kept busy with acting and doing what she can to speak on the issues that matter to her. As a UN Goodwill Ambassador, Watson has used her celebrity to promote education for women around the world. In 2014, Watson gave a speech at the UN focusing on gender equality and the work needed to reach it. Watson received death threats shortly after the speech, which is sadly how many people react to the idea of someone speaking their mind.
11. Kate Beckinsale
While she’s best known for playing the lead vampire in the Underworld series, Kate Beckinsale has had a long and impressive career, much of it thanks to her genius level intellect.
The daughter of actors Richard Beckinsale and Judy Loe, Kate was able to nurture her mind from a young age, but as Paris Hilton has shown us all, having the chance to nurture a mind doesn’t mean a mind will be nurtured.
Beckinsale worked hard in school, twice winning the WH Smith Young Writers Award – once for fiction and once for poetry – but the stress she put on herself was too much – at fifteen she suffered a nervous breakdown.
Beckinsale worked to heal her mind and attended New College, Oxford where she studied Modern Languages. While she ended up leaving school before graduating, Beckinsale is fluent in four languages, which is three more than most of us will ever be any good at.
10. Natalie Portman
Kate Beckinsale isn’t the only multi-linguist around here – Natalie Portman is fluent in six languages, but that is just the start of Portman’s impressive brain.
While still in high school, Portman co-wrote A Simple Method to Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar with scientists Ian Hurley and Jonathan Woodward. The paper was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal NeuroImage.
When Portman won her best actress Oscar, she became the first Harvard graduate to win an Academy Award. While working on her B.A. in psychology at Harvard, Portman also worked as a research assistant for civil rights activist Alan Dershowitz. Portman went all out with her college experience – she lived on campus at the famed Lowell House. As if all of that isn’t impressive enough, Portman published her second co-written scientific paper, Frontal Lobe Activation During Object Permanence: Data From Near-Infrared Spectroscopy.
9. Rashida Jones
Rashida Jones may be one of the funniest and most beautiful women on TV today, but she was a straight up nerd growing up. At age six, Jones could be found reading multiple books at once. She soon became obsessed with electronics and the burgeoning world of home computers.
Jones ended up in the National Honor Society while in high school and attended Harvard where she initially planned to study law but watching the OJ Simpson murder trial turned her off the legal system. Out of law, Jones studied religion and philosophy.
Keeping her nerd cred intact, Jones created Frenemy of the State, a comic book published by Oni Press. Along with starring in her own show, Angie Tribeca, Jones is co-writing the screenplay for Toy Story 4.
8. The Gyllenhaal Siblings
Maggie was the first of the two to head off to Columbia University where she studied English. Jake joined his sister at the prestigious school four years later – he was a freshman when she was a senior. Jake had planned to study Eastern religions but dropped out in his sophomore year to focus on his acting career.
When they aren’t working, both the Gyllenhaals are socially active – Maggie works with the ACLU and is an ambassador for the Hear the World Foundation. Jake is on the advisory board of New Eyes for the Needy and sits on the board for the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.
7. Ashton Kutcher
Between That ’70s Show and Dude, Where’s My Car?, Ashton Kutcher has made a whole lot of loot by acting stupid. Apparently, it takes a lot of brains to come off so dumb on screen, because in reality, Ashton is a real smarty pants.
Before fame came his way, Kutcher planned to apply to MIT and Purdue for engineering, but after he was caught breaking into his high school with his cousin, those plans fell apart. Kutcher ended up at the University of Iowa but didn’t stay long – taking a page from the Cindy Crawford guide, Kutcher ended up dropping out when he was nineteen to pursue a modeling career.
These days, when Kutcher isn’t working on his Netflix series The Ranch, he’s making a whole lot of money by using his noggin to invest wisely. Among Kutcher’s portfolio, you’ll find companies like Airbnb, Spotify, and Foursquare.
6. Mayim Bialik
If you weren’t around for it, explaining the cultural effect Blossom had on American teens is hard to pull off. Blossom, the show and the titular character played by Mayim Bialik, helped kids not only learn that they weren’t alone in their teenage angst but also how to dress for the 1990s.
For Mayim Bialik, Blossom ended just as she was getting ready for college. Accepted to both Harvard and Yale, the actor chose to stay close to home and attend UCLA. Bialik earned a B.S. degree in neuroscience, with minors in Hebrew and Jewish studies at UCLA before the acting bug bit her again.
Still, not one to leave things unfinished, Bialik headed back to UCLA two years later to get her Ph.D. in neuroscience. Now one of the staples of The Big Bang Theory, Bialik has also published three books.
5. Jessica Alba
Unlike everyone else on this list, Jessica Alba didn’t go to college for even a year, and while she has said that she regrets missing the experience, it is hard to imagine her life would be much better with a degree.
While she may not have a B.A. or any other fancy schooling, that doesn’t mean Alba isn’t a smart cookie. The actor graduated from high school at sixteen before becoming a member of the Atlantic Theater Company in New York.
In 2008, inspired by the birth of her first child, and remembering the series of serious illnesses she dealt with as a child, Alba started The Honest Company – a consumer goods company that sells non-toxic household products. It was three more years before the first products of The Honest Company hit store shelves. In 2015, The Honest Company was valued at 1.7 billion dollars, twenty percent of which Alba owns. If building your own billion dollar company isn’t a sign of genius, I don’t know what is.
4. Sharon Stone
Sharon Stone first became famous for her looks, but quickly showed the world that her acting skills were no joke, which may be too bad for the rest of the world because Stone has a mind like few others.
Stone entered the second grade when she was just five. At fifteen, she accepted a scholarship to Edinboro University where she studied creative writing. While she was attending Edinboro, Stone won the title of Miss Crawford County, Pennsylvania, which kicked off her modeling and acting careers.
Since becoming a star, Stone has used her celebrity to publicize the charities and causes she believes in. Her work for charities dealing with HIV and AIDS has been praised around the world. In 2013, Stone was awarded the Peace Summit Award for the role she has played in the unending struggle to rid the world of the disease.
3. David Duchovny
Everyone’s favorite alien hunter David Duchovny isn’t just a science fiction heartthrob, he’s a full-on genius.
Before he was playing alcoholic writers who sleep with an endless array of beautiful women, before he was jetting around the country because the truth was out there, Duchovny got himself a B.A. in English literature from Princeton University and a Master’s in English literature from Yale University. Duchovny was well on his way to a doctorate when he dropped out of school to pursue acting – he made the choice after booking a beer commercial.
When he isn’t arguing with Gillian Anderson about cryptids or showing up in Twin Peaks, Duchovny puts his degrees to use – he is a New York Times bestselling author with two novels under his belt. As if that wasn’t enough, the former Red Shoe Diaries star also released an album in 2015. You have to wonder, is there anything Duchovny can’t do?
2. James Franco
James Franco hit the scene playing a not too bright stoner on the cult classic series Freaks and Geeks, and all you need to do to know that the man is an amazingly talented actor is watch his work in that show, or in movies like This is the End, and then look at his real life.
While Franco has made a name for himself playing goofballs, in real life he’s just about as smart as they come. Franco has been described as a math whiz, and he worked as an intern at Lockheed Martin. Franco dropped out of UCLA in his freshman year to pursue acting, much to the anger of his parents.
I’d bet his parents have gotten over it by now though. Along with being a wildly successful actor, Franco has returned to his studies multiple times. In 2008, he received his undergraduate degree in English from UCLA then moved to New York where he attended Columbia University, the Tisch School of the Arts, and Brooklyn College all at the same time while also working on the MFA Program for Writers at North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College.
1. Flavor Flav
You may not believe it, but a guy best known for yelling “Yeaaaaaaaaaaaah Boyyyyyyyyyy!” and appearing in various reality shows is a musical prodigy.
Flavor Flav came to fame as a member of the iconic hip-hop group Public Enemy, but music was in his blood long before the band came together. Flav taught himself to play the piano when he was just five and soon mastered the drums and guitar as well. Along with his amazing instrumental skills, Flav sang in his local church choir.
Flav would often skip school and spend his days practicing his music. He dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade and got his G.E.D. It was while he was studying communications at Adelphi University that Flav met Chuck D. The two would become friends and soon start Public Enemy, forever changing the course of music.
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