“Wah Goin On Chap?”: 9 Celebrities You Probably Didn’t Realize Are Guyanese
Guyanese people are everywhere. Seriously. I live with them (they’re my neighbors above and below me in Brooklyn), I work with them (I’m sure you know Lauren Fox), my friends date them, and in New York alone, they’re a pretty large population. Through my Guyanese acquaintances, I’ve learned that some very well-known celebrities are also from Guyana, or they were raised by Guyanese parents. Here are nine that surprised me, and just might surprise you (if not, then I’m guessing you’re probably Guyanese too…):
The handsome actor is the son of a fellow actor. Luke’s father, Maurice Luke, used to act in London, but he was born in Georgetown, Guyana. Maurice eventually married Derek’s mother, Marjorie Dixon, a pianist, and they settled in Jersey City, New Jersey.
The daughter of Guyanese immigrant parents, Fiona has said in the past that her Guyanese culture has played a big part in her music:
“My roots have a lot of influence in my music…My culture is alive and well in my life, in my heart. It has really been the foundation for how I separated myself from the rest when I first started doing music because I wasn’t the black American girl when I came into the US music scene.
When you listen to my albums or come to my shows you will always hear an element of reggae or calypso or something because I am so proud of my heritage…the food, the culture, the music. I love my identity and it’s a big part of my music”
The “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here” singer, similar to Melanie Fiona, was raised by Guyanese parents in Toronto. Cox never met her biological father, but considers her mother Jeanette’s husband to be her father.
While Rihanna’s name is most synonymous with Barbados (she was born there, she proudly reps it and her father is from there), she’s also Guyanese. Her mother, the always adorable Monica Braithwaite, is of Afro-Guyanese descent. Ri Ri showed love to her Guyanese people on Twitter in 2012:
Sean Patrick Thomas
The Save The Last Dance and Barbershop star is the son of Guyanese parents: “My family lived in Wilmington, Delaware where we were considered different in our neighbourhood because we were the only black people, who were Guyanese.” He said that his mother, Cheryl, and father, Carlton, made education a huge priority, and celebrated when “you brought home a good report card, a diploma from a graduating class, or an award.”
The “Bleeding Love” singer was born in London, but raised by an Afro-Guyanese father named Aural Lewis. He, along with Leona’s mother, Maria (of Welsh, Irish and Italian descent), made major sacrifices to help their daughter cultivate her singing talents, making cutbacks where they could so that they could afford to have her attend prestigious theatre schools and more.
Vanessa Lee Chester
The Harriet The Spy and The Lost World: Jurassic Park star is the oldest child of Guyanese parents, and she is actually the first member of her family to be born in the United States. When asked about her ethnicity in a recent interview, Chester had this to say:
“Both of my parents were born in Georgetown, Guyana in South America. Most people associate Guyana with the Caribbean/West Indies (that’s if they have ever even heard of it), but it’s a small country on the tip of the continent. In regards to ethnicity, my brother and I are of African American, East Indian, West Indian/Caribbean, Amerindian, with a splash Caucasian and Chinese!”
Lewis was born to Guyanese parents, Carl and Joyce Lewis, and she was raised in Brooklyn. She hasn’t spoken much of her culture and upbringing, but clearly her upbringing helped her turn out to be quite a success.
Born on Christmas day (happy belated birthday!), Carol Christine Hilaria Pounder was born in Georgetown, Guyana, and raised on a sugar cane plantation. Her parents, Betsy and Ronald, had her educated in Britain, and by 1970, she moved the U.S. to study at Ithaca College in New York.