Cap And Gown Swag: Celebrities Cheesing It Up In Their Throwback Graduation Photos

May 16, 2013  |  
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We all have those extra cheesy graduation photos don’t we? You know the ones. Posing next to the year of our graduation. Holding on to roses and laying our faces on our hands. Looking back on them now, I think we all cringe. But back in the day, they made us proud. Same goes for celebrities. Here are a few celebs looking very happy and accomplished as they graduated from middle school, high school and college.

Dwyane Wade

Before he was a NBA champion and star dating Gabrielle Union and wearing capri Gucci pants, Wade was another kid from the South Side of Chicago with hoop dreams who idolized Michael Jordan. I would predict that this graduation photo was from middle school/junior high since he looks so young. He’s come so far hasn’t he? And thankfully he also grew into those ears.


In 2003, Ciara Princess Harris was all smiles, graduating from Riverdale High School in Riverdale, Georgia. Who knew that shortly after leaving the school halls (with a very nice weave by the way) she would be getting signed by L.A. Reid and would be pulling out the “Matrix” on folks??

Bruno Mars

The year was 2003 and Bruno Mars, then Peter Gene Hernandez, pre-perm and bouffant, was letting those natural curls glow in the sunlight. Soon after graduating from President Theodore Roosevelt High School at the age of 17, Hernandez moved to LA and started his journey to musical success, starting by changing his name to Bruno Mars.


Already a major success in the music industry, and shortly after releasing her second album, One in a Million, Aaliyah somehow found the time to not only go to prom, but to finish up her classes successfully and graduate from high school. She got her diploma from the Detroit High School for the Performing Arts in 1997.

Lil John

Then just Jonathan Smith, the now famous DJ was clearly on geek mode, graduating from Frederick Douglas High School in Atlanta. Luckily he replaced the huge spectacles behind for even bigger sunglasses. So if you were ever wondering what he looked like behind the locs and the shades…now you know.

Nicki Minaj


Now this just screams throwback with the white rose. If we could have just found a picture with her on the glass table with her reflection underneath, it would be throwback perfection. Anywho, back before the over-the-top makeup and colorful wigs and American Idol beefs, Onika Maraj was a star drama student at LaGuardia High School in Manhattan.


Looking exactly the same, a young Shawn Carter (looking like he was graduating from middle school) tried to pull out a decent smile in his cap and gown. Jigga man wouldn’t go on to graduate from high school, but clearly he didn’t let that keep him from being successful and having major guap in his bank account(s).

As you can see, the photo above is from Lopez’s middle school days, but the photo below is from her time at Preston High School, a Roman Catholic school for girls in the Bronx. At the school, Lopez excelled in gymnastics, track, and softball. In her last year of school, she got her first real acting role in a low-budget film called My Little Girl in 1986.


Why Shequoiya though?? Anyway, after years of actually appearing in movies like Polly and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, getting a taste of stardom while participating in cheerleading, and track and finishing her studies at the same time, Ashanti Douglas graduated from Glen Cove High School and afterwards hustled to get her music career to take off.

Michelle Obama

After graduating salutatorian of her class in ’81 at Whitney Young High School in Chicago, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson took her intelligence to Princeton. She majored in sociology and African American studies, receiving a Bachelors of Arts in ’85 (this photo is from her Princeton days). Of course, Robinson would continue on with her education, pursuing her law degree from Harvard.

Jennifer Hudson

Before the Oscar, the stint on American Idol and finding love with David Otunga, Jennifer Hudson was a student at Dunbar Vocational High School in Chicago and graduated from the school in ’99. Afterwards, she started her pursuit of a music career, getting her first record contract in 2002, but ended up asking to be released from it so that she could participate on American Idol in 2004. Good move!

Amy Winehouse 

Winehouse, years before the fame and the tragedy, was an extremely talented young lady, who at the age of 12 was given a scholarship at the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School, but her antics got her expelled before graduation years later. But that wasn’t going to hold her back. By the age of 16, Winehouse got her first record contract, an age when most of us were just trying to get to class and deal with teenage angst.

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