Forget An American Boy! 15 Foreign Men We Love
Hollywood has become so large and diverse that we oftentimes take for granted the fact that some of our favorite men were not made, born, or even bred in the US. Many come from England, others from Africa, some from the Caribbean, others from Continental Europe and still some from neighboring Canada. So let’s pause and take a closer look at some of the international fellas who are doing their thing all over the world. And really, when you get right down to it, what’s not to love about hot accents, exotic homelands, and multilingual abilities? I know, nothing. Click through!
Born Idrissa Akuna Elba in the East Ham district of London, England, Idris Elba is the son of a Sierra Leonean father and a Ghanaian mother. Taught to work hard, Elba mastered the art of DJ’ing while working for an uncle’s wedding DJ business, then working for himself on the London nightclub circuit. For a time, Elba followed in his father’s footsteps and took a job as a factory worker in an East London suburb. But Elba’s passion for music and, eventually, theater just wouldn’t quit, and by the mid 90’s he landed his first role on British TV. Since then, Elba has enjoyed massive success in British and American television, movies, and music, to all of our delight. We just love this fine, and somehow still single, man!
The fastest man ever may also be one of the most charming. Hailing from Trelawny Parish in northwest Jamaica and proud of it, Usain Bolt has made running 23 miles per hour look as effortless as a fun run in the park – and clearly such skill gets you bank. Bolt has amassed a fortune unmatched by any of his Olympic running competitors thanks to his many endorsement deals with brands like Puma, Gatorade, Visa and Virgin Media. Ya mon, you better believe we love us some Usain Bolt. His remarkable talent, animated personality and homeland pride continue to make him one of our – and everyone else’s – foreign favorites.
With such a successful acting career forged mostly from African American television and movies, it’s easy to forget that Boris Kodjoe is Austrian born and German raised. And not only that, Boris Frederic Cecil Tay-Natey Ofuatey-Kodjoe speaks German, French, Spanish and, of course, English – but that wasn’t always the case. Kodjoe admits that he knew no English at the time of his US arrival, but a desire to act motivated him to learn the language – and learn it well. Now virtually accent-less, Kodjoe still never forgets his homeland: he and his family spend a lot of time in Germany.
If you didn’t already know, Drake is a Canada native. He was raised in Toronto where he landed the 7 season gig on Degrassi: The Next Generation that would give him a name, sort of. Ultimately, mass appeal – and massive amounts of money – would not come to Drake until the 2010 release of his successful debut album Thank Me Later… and thank goodness it did.
Djimon Hounsou was born in the West African country of Benin but emigrated to France at the age of 13. A troubled youth; he would eventually drop out of school and become homeless. But such fineness would not go unnoticed. A chance meeting with French designer Thierry Mugler developed into a Parisian modeling career for Hounsou in 1987. By 1990, his modeling afforded him passage to the United States where his appearances in music videos, televisions shows, and movies – remember Amistad? – would catapult him to superstardom. But never one to forget where he came from, Hounsou opted to retain his Beninese citizenship upon becoming a naturalized US resident. You’ve just got to respect him for that.
Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam, or simply Akon, is a Senegalese born musical powerhouse. The man has released over 35 Billboard Hot 100 songs and worked with numerous artists, guest appearing on more than 300 songs. We know Akon well in the United States, but in Africa he’s largely considered one of the continent’s most powerful celebrities. Does everything Akon touch turn to platinum? – Record album sales and award nods would suggest so.
Lewis Hamilton of Hertfordshire, England is a British Formula One racing driver of mixed origin. Because of this, he’s widely considered “the first black driver in Formula One.” But whether he decides to embrace this label or not, the man can still drive. With a record number of 1st place finishes and a Formula One Championship under his belt, there’s just no stopping Hamilton – and that’s exactly why we love him.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is an English actor and model of Nigerian – specifically Yoruba, origin. If you’re unfamiliar with his name, his face should look awfully familiar. He’s acted in a number of blockbusters and cult movies like The Bourne Identity and Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, as well as hit TV shows like New York Undercover and Lost. Clearly a talented and versatile actor, Akinnuoye-Agbaje is also an intelligent man. He obtained a law degree from a top university in London. We likey.
We know Rick Fox is Vanessa Williams’ fine ex-husband, but did we also know that Fox was born in Toronto and raised in the Bahamas? I sure didn’t. Apparently it was his skills on the basketball court that brought him to the United States – and to our attention – where he was eventually drafted into the NBA. After retiring from the sport, Fox began acting on shows like One Tree Hill, Single Ladies and House of Payne.
Tinie Tempah, the sharp dressed Briton of Nigerian origin, has had a foot in the British music industry for years. Despite this, Americans wouldn’t really come to know the rap star until the 2010 release of his debut album Disc-Overy. But since then, Tempah has definitely become one of our foreign favorites – if not for his music, than certainly for his undeniable style. GQ even crowned him UK’s Best Dressed Man in 2012.
Fans of Showtime’s hit drama Homeland know David Harewood very well. As David Estes, the Director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, Harewood shines, and why wouldn’t he? The Birmingham, England born actor has been in the biz for over twenty years – mostly in British television and film, but in US productions as well: most notably Blood Diamond.
Although best known for the success of his single “Wavin’ Flag”, which was chosen as the 2010 FIFA World Cup anthem, K’naan has made a number of other notable achievements. He’s an award winning rapper, poet, singer, songwriter and instrumentalist; and passionate philanthropist.
K’naan was born and raised in Somalia until civil war necessitated his family’s move to the dangerous Rexdale neighborhood of Toronto. He credits this upbringing as influence for much of his music and all of his social activism. K’naan’s songs often allude to harsh conditions and violence in Somalia. Passionate about human rights, K’naan worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the suffering endured through the 2011 East Africa drought, and continues to promote legislation that provides assistance to African nations.
British actor Aml Ameen may not be as well-known as many of the men on this list – but that’s not for lack of talent. (If you’ve seen Red Tails or Harry’s Law you know what I’m talking about.) Born in London, Ameen began acting as a child and quickly picked up roles on various British TV shows. Now that his talent and obvious good looks have attracted American attention we’re sure to be seeing a lot more of him. And we have no complaints about that.
Interestingly enough, Sidney Poitier was born in the United States but raised in the Bahamas. As a teen, he moved back to the states where he eventually joined the United States Army as a dishwasher until a successful audition landed him a spot in the American Negro Theater. And the rest is truly history. But no international man would deserve mention on this list if he wasn’t about repping his homeland – and Poitier definitely does so. In 1997 he became the Ambassador of the Bahamas to both Japan and UNESCO, two positions he still holds to this day.
There’s no denying the influence that Bob Marley’s music and messages have had on the world. We’re all familiar with songs like “No Woman, No Cry” and “One Love” but we also know that Marley’s music reflects Jamaica and the culture of its people. Marley himself was born and raised in a village in Saint Ann Parish. He would remain closely connected to his homeland for the entirety of his life, purchasing just two other residences: one in London and another in Miami. Although Jamaica was a large part of his being, the world appreciated Bob Marley for his convictions, his talent, and his strength of character.