From Hollywood Clout to Real Power

December 5, 2019

Twice in the last 40 years have celebrities become president of the United States: former actor (turned California governor) Ronald Reagan and real estate mogul (turned The Apprentice host) Donald Trump. They’re merely the most successful famous people to run for political office.

Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood is best known as a movie cowboy, but in recent decades he’s turned to directing — he helmed two Best Picture Oscar-winning movies in Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. He’s a guy who knows how to be in charge. Back in 1986, he was elected mayor of the wealthy California city of Carmel-by-the-Sea. He won in a landslide, garnering 72 percent of the vote.

Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken just has a knack for finishing in second-place in high profile contests. In 2003, he was the runner-up on American Idol, losing to Ruben Studdard, although he ultimately had the more successful career. He put all that on hold to become an activist, which culminated in a 2014 run for a congressional seat representing North Carolina. Once again, he came in second, losing to incumbent Renee Elmers.

Wyclef Jean

Wyclef Jean, in both his solo career and a member of the rap group the Fugees, frequently mention that he was from Haiti, and worked for Haitian causes. After that country experienced a horrific earthquake in 2010, he helped lead relief efforts. Soon after he announced a run for president of the country. He might have had a real shot, had the Haitian government not nullified his candidacy. Not only did he not speak Haiti’s official language, French, but he also wasn’t a legal resident of Haiti.

Sean Duffy

Sean Duffy is known almost exclusively as a House of Representatives member representing his home state of Wisconsin. Enough time has passed that few remember his first brush with the public eye: He was a cast member on the 1997 season of MTV’s The Real World.

Justin Jeffrie

Justin Jeffrie was a member of 98 Degrees, that early 2000s boy band that wasn’t NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys. After that musical fad fizzled out, he went into politics, running as the Green Party candidate in the Cincinnati mayoral election of 2005. (He finished in fifth place, getting just over 700 total votes.)

Jerry Springer

Jerry Springer becoming a talk show host and celebrity came almost totally out of left field, considering the other turns his life has taken. He ran for an Ohio congressional seat in 1968, but was elected to Cincinnati’s city council in 1971. He had to resign that spot in 1974 when he was easily implicated in a prostitution sting — he’d paid for services rendered with a personal check. He survived that down point and was elected Cincinnati mayor in 1977.