What do an Oscar winner, a three-time NBA champion and a Grammy-winning rockstar all have in common? They all have Bahamian roots.
I’ll admit, most people don’t think about The Bahamas beyond its gorgeous waters and spectacular natural beauty. But, the land of 700 islands has produced some of the world’s top talents and they have impacted almost every facet of the entertainment industry.
- Sir Sidney Poitier
Not only is Sir Sidney Poitier a film director and activist, he is the former ambassador to The Bahamas and happens to be one of Oprah Winfrey’s favourite people. He is the oldest living and earliest surviving Best Actor Academy Award winner. He was born in Miami, Florida, but his entire family lived in The Bahamas. Sir Sidney won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for the 1963 film, Lilies of the Field.
2. Calvin Lockhart
Actor Calvin Lockhart was an accomplished actor. He was born in Nassau, Bahamas and is best known for his 1970 film, Cotton Comes to Harlem and as the character, Biggie Smalls in the 1975 Warner Brothers film, Let’s Do It Again. Rapper The Notorious B.I.G. actually got his name Biggie Smalls from Lockhart’s character.
3. Roxie Roker
Roxie Roker is best known for playing Helen Willis on the popular 70s sitcom, The Jeffersons. She was half f the first interracial couple to be featured in prime time television. She is also the mother to rock musician, Lenny Kravitz and the grandmother of actress, Zoe Kravitz. Roker was born in Miami, to an American mother and Bahamian father, who came from Andros – The Bahamas’ largest island.
4. Lenny Kravitz
Leonard Kravitz is the son of Roxie Roker and it is through her that he gets his Bahamian heritage. The rockstar is also an ambassador for The Bahamas. Kravitz has a home in Eleuthera, one of The Bahamas’ most beautiful islands. He bought the plot of land back in 1989. He often talks about spending his childhood summers in The Bahamas with his cousins. He said he was raised as a “proud Bahamian” and even shared that his hit song, Fly Away was inspired by The Bahamas.
5. Persia White
Persia White is best known for her role as Lynn Searcy on the sitcom, Girlfriends, but she is also Bahamian. She was born in Nassau, Bahamas, but her family emigrated to the United States after her father, who is also Bahamian, got injured in a car accident. White often talks about her time in The Bahamas and her upbringing.
6. Esther Rolle
Esther Rolle was an actress best known for her work on the hit TV sitcom, Maude and later, its spinoff, Good Times. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and even won an Emmy for her work the limited series, Summer of My German Soldier. She was born in Pompano Beach, Florida to two Bahamian parents. Both of them were born in Nassau, Bahamas, and later moved to Florida.
7. Rick Fox
Ulrich Fox is a former basketball player, actor and businessman who was born in Toronto, Canada, but raised in The Bahamas. He was also born to a Bahamian father. Fox played for the NBA on the Boston Celtics and later the Los Angeles Lakers. He has also served as an ambassador for The Bahamas and has done TV spots and other promotion for The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. I was actually friends with one of Fox’s younger sisters because we took piano lessons at the same place. I used to secretly pray that Fox would show up so I could see him in person. Sadly, he never did.
8. Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Tamera Mowry-Housley
Tia and Tamera, are arguably the world’s most famous black twins and the pair also have Bahamian roots. The actresses and reality stars are connected to The Bahamas through their mother, Darlene, whom it has been reported was born in The Bahamas. Both Tia and Tamera often speak about The Bahamas, and several years ago, traced their roots by visiting the island of Eleuthera. The entire episode aired on their reality show. Even though Tia and Tamera are two people, I am counting them as one because they share the same parents.
9. Michael K. Williams
Michael Kenneth Williams is best known for playing Omar Little on the HBO series, The Wire and subsequently, Albert “Chalky” White on the HBO series, Boardwalk Empire. While he was born in New York, he is the son of a Bahamian. His mother is a Bahamian from Nassau, Bahamas. Williams has done a number of local TV ads for companies in The Bahamas and can often be seen participating in the country’s annual Junkanoo festival.
10. Al Roker
Television host and weatherman, Al Roker has often discussed his Bahamian heritage. Roker is actually a very popular last name in The Bahamas. Roker is also reported to be a distant cousin to actress, Roxie Roker. Several years ago, Roker took his NBC audience on a journey to Exuma where he traced his roots.
11. Shakara Ledard
Model and actress, Shakara Ledard has appeared in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition and Maxim. She was born in Nassau, Bahamas to a French father and a Bahamian mother. Ledard has also appeared in the movie, After the Sunset and in music videos for Usher and Babyface.
12. Dr. Myron Rolle
Dr. Myron Rolle is a neurosurgery resident at Harvard Medical School and retired football safety. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He has been featured on numerous TV and radio shows, most notably the Steve Harvey Show. While Rolle was born in the US, his parents and three of his four brothers were born and raised in The Bahamas.
13. Katrina “Trina” Taylor
Rapper, actress and songwriter, Katrina “Trina” Taylor, also known as ‘The Baddest B*tch’ was born in the US, but her mother, who died in 2019 from breast cancer, was from The Bahamas. Trina often visits The Bahamas and frequently hooks up with her extended family in the islands.
14. Chavano ‘Buddy’ Hield
Chavano ‘Buddy’ Hield is a basketball player for the Sacremento Kings. He was born in Freeport, Bahamas. The New Orleans Pelicans selected him as the sixth overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft. Hield grew up in Eight Mile Rock, Freeport and displayed tremendous skill on the court. He was eventually recruited to attend a basketball prep school in Wichita, Kansas.
15. Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson is a basketball player for the Golden State Warriors, is a three-time NBA champion and a five-time NBA All-Star. He is regarded as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. And digging into his history we learn that Thompson also has Bahamian roots. He was born in Los Angeles, California, but he is the son of NBA great, Mychal Thompson, who was born in Nassau, Bahamas and still maintains ties to the country.
16. Johnny Kemp
Johnny Kemp was a Bahamian singer, songwriter and record producer best known for his 1988 hit, Just Got Paid. Kemp was born in Nassau, Bahamas and was even nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song for his smash hit. Sadly, he died in 2015 in Montego Bay, Jamaica due to a drowning accident. But, his song is still being played on radios today.
17. Kimbo Slice
Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson was a mixed marital artist, boxer and professional wrestler who rose from homelessness to fame. His backyard fights, which were regularly featured on YouTube, drew large audiences. Sadly, Ferguson died in 2016 from heart failure and a mass on his liver. He was only 42.
18. Lil’ Duval
Comedian, actor and singer/rapper, Roland “Lil’ Duval’ Powell was born in Florida, but his roots are Bahamian. Very little is known about just how he is connected to The Bahamas, but he is often seen and heard on social media talking to his many Bahamian family members in The Bahamas. Powell is often seen visiting The Bahamas and even opened for Jamaican dancehall star, Buju Banton during his Long Walk To Freedom concert in The Bahamas, several years ago.