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Celebrities From Upstate, New York! Including Tom Cruise, Lana Del Rey, Rachael Ray, Kristen Wiig, and more!

Celebrities From Upstate, New York!

From actors to musicians, Upstate New York has been the birthplace of some of the famous names in Hollywood. Even the smallest of towns hold the biggest of talents! Here's a list of just a few names we may know very well (and some towns you might be familiar with!).

Upstate Celebrities | Lana del Rey

Lana Del Rey

Location: Lake Placid, NY

The American singer and song writer was born in Manhattan, NYC but was raised in rural Lake Placid, NY since the age of one! In 2005, she relocated to New York City to chase her music dreams and despite several projects, it was in 2011 that Del Rey gained widespread recognition, thanks to the viral success of her single "Video Games."  Her most recent leaked song "I Don't Wanna Go", also known as "Lake Placid", takes some slight homage to her original everyday life in Upstate New York. 

Upstate Fact: The term "Vacation" was invented in Lake Placid! Americans began taking vacations ever since New York City's 19th-century elite, such as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, started "vacating" the city's hustle and bustle for the fresh air of the Adirondacks each summer. Hence the term!

Upstate Celebrities | Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray

Location: Glens Falls, NY

The famous American cook and television personality star was originally from Glens Falls! At the age of eight, her and her family also moved to Lake George, NY. Her mother managed restaurants in New York's Capital Region, including the Lake George Howard Johnson's restaurant, and when Ray became a buyer at Cowan & Lobel, a gourmet market in Albany, it was then when her idea for "30 Minute Meals" concept became popular. She would go on to teach a course demonstrating how to make quick meals in under 30 minutes and her "quick and easy" cooking style eventually led to her start on Food Network!

Upstate Fact: Glens Falls takes pride in its designation as "Hometown USA," a title given by Look Magazine due to its small-town atmosphere coupled with the conveniences of a larger city.

Upstate Celebrities | Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Location: Syracuse, NY

Tom Cruise?! Yep. Tom Cruise. Originally from Syracuse, NY, Cruise moved around a lot as a child but will always be tied to his birthplace in Central New York. Fun fact: he could have played the role as Iron Man! (and even Spiderman!)

Upstate Fact: The Carrier Dome in Syracuse is the largest domed stadium in the Northeastern United States.
Upstate Celebrities | Bill Pullman

Bill Pullman

Location: Hornell, NY

This multi-talented actor was born in small town Hornell, NY and even went to SUNY Delhi. He also happens to be an avid Buffalo Bills fan! He's known for his charity work, such as the time he set a fundraising premiere for a local YMCA near his hometown. We love a celebrity who cares about the importance of community!

(For the Millennials: he was in Casper and Space Balls. Mind blown.)

Upstate Fact:  Hornell is also nicknamed the "Maple City" after the large maples trees that once grew throughout the town and covered the surrounding hills of the Canisteo Valley.
Upstate Celebrities | Kristen Wiig

Kristin Wiig

Location: Canandaigua, NY

The talented comic address who started her career on SNL in 2005, was born in a small town by the finger lakes! Originally from Canandaigua, New York, she grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and later in Rochester, New York. 

Fun fact: Wiig's career could have taken a drastically different turn! While residing in Tucson, Arizona, she secured a job at a plastic surgery clinic, sketching patients' bodies post-surgery. However, the day before starting the job, she looked in the mirror and asked herself, "If you could do anything, what would it be?". The following day, she made a decisive choice, packing up her car and heading to LA to pursue acting. Follow your dreams, people!

Upstate Fact: During the summer months, Humphrey Bogart, the iconic film star famous for his roles in Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and The African Queen, enjoyed his vacations by the serene shores of Canandaigua Lake.

Upstate Celebrities | Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball

Location: Jameston, NY

We all love Lucy, and we love how she's from Upstate even more! The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum & Center for Comedy, located in Jamestown, NY (Lucille's hometown), welcomes visitors seven days a week. The museum showcases an array of rare memorabilia, including photographs, letters, scripts, gowns, awards, and more. Within the Desilu Studio, you'll find replica television sets, original props, and Emmy awards belonging to Lucille Ball. The experience extends to an interactive Vitameatavegamin commercial set, a screening area, and exhibits featuring vintage memorabilia and costumes worn on the iconic "I Love Lucy" show. 

Upstate Fact: The city hosts interesting local celebrations, like the Luci-Desi Days every summer and the Busti Apple Festival every September.

Upstate Celebrities | Cab Calloway

Cab Calloway

Location: Rochester, NY

One of the most beloved jazz singers and entertainers of the 20th century, he was a multifaceted talent who led big bands, dazzled audiences in films, commanded the airwaves, and delivered unforgettable live performances. His distinctive "Hi-Dee-Ho" shout became a national sensation, while his rendition of "Minnie the Moocher" resonated across multiple cinematic experiences. Notably, he emerged from retirement for a cameo appearance in the iconic 1980 film "The Blues Brothers," sharing the screen with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.

He also sung "St. James Infirmary Blues" in the Betty Boop short film, "Snow White", as the dancing Koko the Clown!

Upstate Fact: Rochester is known as the "Flour City" and the "Lilac Capital of America".

Upstate Celebrities | Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas

Location: Amsterdam, NY

Even the biggest stars can come from the smallest towns. Following his rise to fame, Douglas discreetly visited the Albany region on multiple occasions. Saratoga Springs socialite and philanthropist Marylou Whitney, who passed away in 2019, often hosted him as a guest. There are even accounts of Douglas enjoying meals at Gershon’s Deli in Schenectady in 1983 and being celebrated with a hometown parade in 1985.

Kirk Douglas even told a Times Union reporter in 1978, "Listen, I’m in and out of the Albany area all the time — I just don’t advertise it. I sneak in, visit my sisters, we go out, visit. After I’m gone, somebody always tells one of them, ‘Hey, I think Kirk Douglas was in town.'"

Upstate Fact: The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame was located in Amsterdam until November 2015, when it relocated to Wichita Falls, Texas.

Upstate Celebrities | Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon

Location: Saugerties, NY

Jimmy Fallon not only is from Saugerties, he also went to the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY! Although he did not graduate at the time and left college to pursue his career in comedy, fourteen years later after leaving he was awarded a BA in Communications by Saint Rose officials who granted him experiential learning credits for his television work.
Upstate Fact: The Band resided in a house known as 'Big Pink' in West Saugerties while recording The Basement Tapes (with Bob Dylan) in 1967.
Upstate of Mind Logo | Compas Life



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