Famous People You Didn’t Know Were From Brooklyn

May 24, 2021

You probably know of quite a few celebrities who were born in Brooklyn, and many more who grew up here while gazing out at the possibilities awaiting them across the river. Famous Brooklynites who you could likely identify by their accents alone include Marissa Tomei, Leah Remini, Jay-Z, Mike Tyson, Mel Brooks, Lil’ Kim, Rosie Perez and Jerry Seinfeld. And let’s not forget pioneering Supreme Court Justice, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But can you name more?

Here are same famous people you may not know are from Brooklyn.

Al Capone

Though this notorious gangster is known for being a Chicago crime boss in the 1920s and ’30s, and for his stint at Alcatraz, he was in fact a Brooklyn native. Born in 1899 to Italian immigrants, Al Capone first lived on Navy Street and then spent some time living here in Park Slope, on Garfield Place. The New York Times has a great write-up of the juicy gossip surrounding the Capones.

Ina Garten

Known for her Barefoot Contessa food empire and Westhampton store of the same name, Ina Garten was born right here in Brooklyn, in 1948, though she was raised in nearby Connecticut. Garten has a ton of fantastic recipes but we can’t help but wonder how they might differ had she spent more of her life here.

Lena Horne

Recognized for being one of Hollywood’s first highly acclaimed Black starlets and as a passionate civil rights activist, Lena Horn was born in Bed-Stuy in 1917. She spent a few years in Georgia then moved back to NYC where she attended high school in Brooklyn. Her childhood home at 519 Macon Street was recently on the market for $2 million.

Michael Jordan

Many of us associate Michael Jordan with Chicago, the Bulls and #23. But did you know he was born in Fort Greene in 1963, at Cumberland Hospital, more recently know as the Auburn Family Center? He moved to North Carolina as a young child and excelled in sports…you know the rest.

Debbie Gibson

Debbie Gibson was raised on Long Island where she took piano lessons from Billy Joel’s teacher, Morton Estrin, but was born right here in Brooklyn in 1970. She began writing her own songs at a young age and of course became one of our favorite teen pop sensations back in the day.

Barbara Streisand

Born in Williamsburg in 1942, Barbara Streisand attended Bais Yakov Academy, where she sang in choir, followed by Erasmus Hall High School. After graduating, she left for Manhattan. She later said, “I always wanted to be somebody, to be famous …You know, get out of Brooklyn.”

Ken Burns

Interestingly enough, the first major project for Brooklyn-born Ken Burns was a 1981 documentary called Brooklyn Bridge. Despite having been born in Brooklyn in 1953, Burns’ family moved around a lot. When he was still a baby, Burns moved to the French Alps, followed by Delaware and Michigan.

Jimmy Smits

Whether you associate Jimmy Smits with palm trees from his time on LA Law, a certain California gangster from Sons of Anarchy, Dexter’s antagonist-turned-sidekick in Miami or, of course, his roles as a cop here in NY on NYPD Blue or Brooklyn Nine-Nine, you might guess from his accent that he’s affiliated with New York. After all, he was born here in 1955 and went on to attend Thomas Jefferson High School, Brooklyn College and Cornell.

Dr. Anthony Fauci

Okay, we probably all know Dr. Fauci is from Brooklyn but since he’s been such an important figure over the past year we just had to include him. Did you know that as he was growing up his family owned a pharmacy in Dyker Heights?

If you like reading about famous people from Brooklyn, check out our list of favorite Movies Set in Brooklyn.

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