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In the world of celebrity culture, the importance of an education often takes second billing to the bright glares of the spotlight. Many stars have opted to forgo their education in pursuit of their career. However, these 10 stars not only got their degrees first but raised the academic bar by attending Ivy League institutions.

Sanaa Lathan

Sanaa was born the daughter of famed director Stan Lathan and for some that might’ve been her golden ticket to Hollywood. However, Sanna pursued a degree in drama at Yale University. She graduated with her BA in 1995 and has made a name for herself all on her merit. Her roles in Love & Basketball and Something New are a testament to her talent.

Bob Johnson

The founder of B.E.T. became the first black billionaire when he sold the station to Viacom in 2001 and the first person of color to be recognized on Forbes richest. His smarts also allowed for BET to become the first black-controlled company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. He no doubt utilized his acumen from the knowledge he gained at Princeton University. He was part of the class of 1972 with a degree in Public/International Affairs.

Rashida Jones

When your father is music mogul, Quincy Jones, there are many opportunities that open themselves up to you but Rashida hasn’t gotten by on her family ties. She has put in her own hard work and graduated from Harvard University in 1997 with a degree in Religion and Philosophy. Since then, she’s become just as well known as her father with roles in The Social Network, “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.”

John Legend

The Grammy award winning singer and songwriter was part of the University of Pennsylvania’s graduating class in 1999. He earned a BA in English and was also a member of the famed Sphinx Senior Society while an undergraduate. After he earned his degree, he linked up with the likes of Lauryn Hill and Kanye West to help launch his successful career.

Hill Harper
The actor who has starred in CSI: NY and author is an alumnus of both Brown University and Harvard Law. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown in 1988. Afterwards, he went to Harvard where he befriended fellow law student, a young Barack Obama. The two became friends and it is a friendship that still exists today. He has campaigned on the President’s behalf and is a member of the Obama for America National Finance Committee.


Angela Bassett
The critically acclaimed actress graduated from Yale University in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in African American studies. In 1983, she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale’s School of Drama. She spent a total of seven years at the school and it is where she met her future husband, Courtney B. Vance.


Courtney B. Vance
The well respected actor and Tony award nominee has created a following for himself on such shows as Law & Order and demonstrated early on that he would lay down the necessary foundation for his career. He graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1982. While attending Harvard, he was already working as an actor at the Boston Shakespeare Company. He later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree later at Yale School of Drama.

Ryan Leslie
The singer, songwriter and producer can lay claim to not only claim hits but he scored a perfect 1600 score on his SAT’s when he was 15. That impressive feat was the precursor to him enrolling in Harvard University. He graduated in 1998 with a BA in Government and Economics and had the honor of delivering Harvard’s ‘Harvard Oration’.

Tyra Banks

When you’re traveling around the world as an international supermodel, you don’t necessarily have time to take college courses. Though Trya was set to attend Loyola after high school, but modeling was calling and she answered, thinking she was just going to make money for college. We don’t need to tell you how modeling worked out for her. But considering Tyra was an honor student in high school, education was important to her. Though she was already a media mogul, with a talk show, competition show and other ventures, Tyra decided to further her education by enrolling in the executive education program at Harvard Business School. She graduated from the program earlier this year.

Barack and Michelle Obama

Contrary to claims about President Obama’s capabilities, both Barack and his better half, Michelle are Ivy league graduates. Initially enrolling in Occidental college in California, Barack Obama transferred after two years to attend the prestigious Columbia University, in New York. After he graduated from there he worked as a community organizer in Chi-Town before going back to law school at Harvard. And he didn’t just attend Harvard, he was the president of the Harvard Law Review.

But Barack is not the only one with academic accolades, Michelle also has degrees from two Ivy league institutions. For undergrad, she attended Princeton University, majoring in sociology and African American studies, graduating cum laude. From there she also went to Harvard Law School, earning her J.D. in 1988.
Stephanie Guerilus is a multimedia journalist and author. Follow her @qsteph

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