Newark is the most populous city in New Jersey, so you’d expect it to have produced a few famous faces over the years. Which it has… although ‘few’ might be an understatement. Whether we’re talking actors, musicians, directors, writers, comedians, or world-famous cookie makers, a staggering number of household names can call the city home. Find out which Brick City residents have made the biggest name for themselves as we uncover 20 of our favorite celebrities from Newark, NJ.
20. Brian DePalma
Film director Brian DePalma may have been raised in Philly, but he got his start in life in Newark, NJ. Even if you’re not that familiar with his name, you’re almost certain to have caught a few of his films over the years. Along with big blockbusters like Carrie, Mission: Impossible, and Scarface, his credits also include cult classics like Femme Fatale, Phantom of the Paradise, and Body Double.
19. Sam Porcello
As nj.com says, you might not recognize his name, but if you’ve got a sweet tooth, you owe Newark native and renowned food scientist Sam Porcello a big debt of gratitude for his contributions to the cookie industry. Not only did he develop five patents for the Oreo during his time at snacks giant Nabisco, but he was also the creative genius who came up with the creme-filling for Oreos and Double Stuffed Oreos. Porcello died on May 12, 2012, at the age of 76, but will forever be remembered as “Mr. Oreo.”
18. Connie Francis
Singer Connie Francis was born in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark on December 12, 1937. She came to prominence in the late ’50s and early ’60s with hit songs like Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You, Die Liebe ist ein seltsames Spiel, Stupid Cupid, Who’s Sorry Now?, and the million-selling The Majesty of Love. After a series of personal and professional misfortunes led to a slump in her commercial fortunes from the mid-’60s on, Francis staged a major comeback in 1989. Now aged 84, she’s sold over 100 million records worldwide.
17. Cissy Houston
Gospel singer Cissy Houston first made her name as a backup singer for artists such as Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, and Dionne Warwick. After getting tired of playing second fiddle to other singers, she launched her own hugely successful solo career in 1970, picking up two Grammy Awards for her efforts. Talent clearly runs in her veins- as well as being the mother of the late Whitney Houston, Cissy is the cousin of opera singer Leontyne Price and aunt to singers Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick.
16. Jason Alexander
Jason Alexander was born on September 23, 1959, in Newark. He’s best known for his performance as George Constanza on the TV series Seinfield, which earned him four Golden Globe Awards and seven Primetime Emmy Award nominations. You might also recognize him from Pretty Woman and as the voice of Hugo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Outside of acting, Alexander has enjoyed major success as a director, comedian, and TV presenter.
15. John Amos
He’s a prolific actor of stage, TV, and film, but for many fans, John Amos will forever be James Evans, Sr. from the ’70s sitcom, Good Times. Other credits taking up space on his resume include Admiral Percy Fitzwallace on The West Wing, Washington, D.C., Mayor Ethan Baker in The District, weatherman Gordy Howard on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and the Older Kunta Kinte on the TV dramatization of Roots, a performance which earned him an Emmy nomination. In 2020, Amos’ achievements were recognized with induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
14. Ray Liotta
Ray Liotta was born in Newark in 1954. After being abandoned at birth, he was adopted at the age of six months by a couple from Union, New Jersey. After getting into acting straight out of college, he quickly developed a reputation for playing tough guys and gangsters. Some of his best-known roles include Henry Hill in Goodfellas, Ray Sinclair in Something Wild (which earned him a Golden Globe nomination), Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, Samuel Rhodes in Identity, and Fred Jung in Blow.
13. Faith Evans
Faith Evans may have been born in Lakeland, Florida, but she was raised in Newark. After starting her career as a backing vocalist, she made headlines in 1994 when she became the first female artist to sign to Puff Daddy’s record label Bad Boy. A few months later, she was back in the news after marrying Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace. Over her career, Evans has released multiple platinum-selling albums, selling over 20 million records worldwide.
12. Frankie Valli
Frankie Valli (or Francesco Stephen Castelluccio, to give him his full name) was born in Newark on May 3, 1934. Best known for his distinctive falsetto, Valli came to prominence with the Four Seasons before launching his own equally successful solo career in the ’70s. Over his long career, the now 87-year-old singer has racked up dozens of hit singles, including 5 number ones with the Four Seasons. Valli was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2005, his early life in NJ was bought to life on Broadway in the musical Jersey Boys.
11. Joe Rogan
Joe Rogan was born in Newark, New Jersey, on August 11, 1967. After starting his career in comedy, he branched out into acting and hosting in the 1990s. In 2001, his career went into overdrive when he signed up for a five-year stint on the Fear Factor. These days, he’s keeping busy as the host of The Joe Rogan Experience on Spotify, one of the most popular podcasts in the world and, as of 2022, one of the most controversial. He might still be pulling in the listeners, but his decision to use the show to spread misinformation about COVID-19 has led a number of high-profile artists, including Neil Young, to withdraw their music from Spotify.
10. Gloria Gaynor
Before she became an international superstar, Gloria Gaynor was called Gloria Fowles and lived in Newark, NJ. After spending her childhood dreaming of becoming a singer, she earned her stripes with the Soul Satisfiers before breaking out into a hugely successful solo career in the ’60s. A natural-born disco diva, her international smash hit, I Will Survive, remains one of the biggest and most popular disco anthems of all time. Some of her other well-known songs include Let Me Know (I Have a Right), I Am What I Am, and Never Can Say Goodbye.
9. Allen Ginsberg
Beat poet Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark on June 3, 1926. A major player in the counterculture, Ginsberg rose to fame off the back of the poem Howl, which, in 1957, became the center of an obscenity trial for its descriptions of homosexuality. Wisdom prevailed, with Judge Clayton W. Horn declaring the poem was not obscene and querying “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?” Ginsberg died on April 5, 1997, of liver cancer bought about by complications of hepatitis. He was 70 years old.
8. Paul Simon
Paul Simon was born in Newark on October 13, 1941. In 1956, he and his school friend Art Garfunkel began performing together:10 years later, they shot to fame with the hit single The Sound of Silence. Although Garfunkel had the voice, Simon had the songs, with most of the duo’s best-known material (including Mrs. Robinson, America, Bridge over Troubled Water, and The Boxer) emanating from his pen. Since the 1970s, Simon has worked primarily as a solo artist, enjoying ups, downs, and, in 1986, a career-defining moment with the phenomenally successful, Grammy award-winning album Graceland. He’s been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice (once as a solo artist and once as a member of Simon and Garfunkel,), named by Time as one of the “100 People Who Shaped the World,” and has been ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the “100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.”
7. Ice T
Newark native Ice T started out as an underground rapper in the 1980s before winning mainstream attention with his debut album Rhyme Pays. Further solo success followed, as did several albums with the heavy metal band Body Count. Outside of music, Ice-T has enjoyed success as an actor in films such as Breakin’ and New Jack City, along with the TV show Law & Order. Over the last decade, he’s dabbled with reality TV alongside his wife, Nicole “Coco” Austin, in the show Ice Love Coco and turned his hand to presenting on the true crime documentary, In Ice Cold Blood.
6. Philip Roth
Literary giants don’t get much bigger than this Newark writer, who often set his novels in his hometown. After first finding fame with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, Philip Roth continued to enjoy huge success with works such as Portnoy’s Complaint, Sabbath’s Theater, American Pastoral, and Everyman. Widely considered one of the greatest American writers in modern history, he won a slew of awards over his career, including the PEN/Faulkner Award on three occasions, the Franz Kafka Prize, and the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. Roth died on May 22, 2018, at the age of 85.
5. Joe Pesci
Newark native Joe Pesci is best known for playing villainous, volatile characters, quite often alongside Robert De Niro and frequently with Martin Scorsese behind the camera. When he’s not showing off his serious acting chops in the likes of Raging Bull, Casino, The Irishman, or Goodfellas, he’s playing it for laughs in Lethal Weapon or the Home Alone franchise. He officially retired from acting in 1999, but has got bored on enough occasions to appear in three films since.
4. Jerry Lewis
Known and loved as The King of Comedy, Jerry Lewis was born on March 16, 1926, in Newark. Over the course of his eight-decade career, he turned slapstick into an art form, becoming one of the leading cultural figures in 20th century America thanks to his huge contribution to entertainment. After spending the first ten years of his career as one-half of Martin and Lewis alongside legendary singer Dean Martin, he launched his solo career in the mid-1950s, subsequently going on to become the highest-grossing movie star of the era. Lewis died on August 20, 2017, at the age of 91.
3. Sarah Vaughan
Jazz singer Sarah Vaughan was born in Newark on March 27, 1924. Known and loved for the distinctive, operatic quality of her vocals (a quality that moved music critic Scott Yanow of All Music to describe her as “one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century”), she earned numerous accolades over the course of her career, including four Grammy Awards and an NEA Jazz Masters Award. Vaughan died of lung cancer at the age of just 66 on April 3, 1990.
2. Shaquille O’ Neal
If you’re a baseball fan, Shaquille O’ Neal is a name that needs no introduction. Even if you’re not, you’re probably still familiar with his career. Widely considered one of the greatest basketball players and centers of all time, the four-time NBA champion enjoyed a 19-year white-hot streak in the NBA, earning 28,596 career points and 15 All-Star trips. Somehow, he’s also managed to find time to release a handful of albums (the first of which, Shaq Diesel, went platinum), feature in several films, star in multiple reality TV shows, and host a podcast. All the hard work hasn’t been for nothing – according to Celebrity Net Worth, the star is worth the phenomenal amount of $400 million.
1. Whitney Houston
Another name that needs no introduction next, this time the late, great Whitney Houston. With over 200 million records sales to her name, she’s one of the best-selling recording artists of all time. Over her career, she broke and set numerous records, becoming the first (and so far, only) artist to pick up seven consecutive number ones on the Billboard Hot 100 and releasing the best-selling physical single by a female artist (I Will Always Love You) in history. After battling with addiction for years, Houston died from accidental drowning on February 11, 2012, at the age of 48.
You can also read:
- 20 of Our Favorite Celebrities from Corpus Christi
- 20 of Our Favorite Celebrities from Queens, NY
- 20 of Our Favorite Celebrities from Vermont
- 20 of Our Favorite Celebrities From Maryland
- 20 of Our Favorite Celebrities From Chile