21 Famous People You Might Not Know Are From Minnesota

famous people from minnesota

We Minnesotans are too humble to brag, but that won’t stop our state-pride from staying fiercely loyal to each and every one of our own!

Over the years, The North Star State has produced quite the surprising number of… stars!

Here are the 21 most famous celebrities that you might not know were born in Minnesota.

1. Adam Young (Owatonna, MN)

Owl City frontman Adam Young had just graduated from Owatonna High School and was working at the local Coca-Cola distribution plant when he burst onto the music scene with his multi-platinum single “Fireflies.”

I’m confident we all heard the song about 2 million times during the summer of 2009. Young reports the lyrics were inspired by fireflies Young saw on a family trip to a northern Minnesota lake.

2. Bob Dylan (Duluth, MN)

Born Robert Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Bob Dylan might possibly be the most famous Iron Range Minnesotan of all time.

Dylan grew up wandering the North Shore towns of Duluth and Hibbing before moving to the Dinkytown area of Minneapolis. (The neighborhood still has a tribute to Dylan’s work.) His legendary music career has spanned over 60 years and includes the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.

3. Chris Pratt (Virginia, MN)

Marvel Universe and Parks and Rec fans from Minnesota will be happy to know that mega-Hollywood star Chris Pratt is actually a native of the Iron Range.

Pratt was born to parents Daniel and Kathleen (Indahl) Pratt in Virginia, Minnesota, in 1979. His family moved to Washington shortly after Pratt’s birth.

4. Gretchen Carlson (Anoka, MN)

A 1984 valedictorian of Anoka High School, journalist, activist, and author Gretchen Carlson grew up in a musical family. She studied at McPhail and was a member of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony as a child. Carlson would go on to be Miss Minnesota and then Miss America 1989. 

One of Carlson’s childhood babysitters was Michelle Bachman–who Carlson would later go on to cover her Presidential run on Fox News.

5. Jessica Biel (Ely, MN)

When husband Justin Timberlake performed at the Superbowl halftime show in 2018 at U.S. Bank Stadium, his wife and Ely-native Jessica Biel talked a lot about what it was like growing up in the frozen “Bold North.” 

Every so often, she and Timberlake make a visit back to the state where Biel was born.

6. Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN)

Winter Olympics superstar Jessie Diggins shattered records in 2018 when she became the first American to win a gold medal in cross-country skiing. In 2021, she added two more medals to the count, making her the most decorated American cross-country skier of all time.

Diggins was born in St. Paul, grew up in Afton, and graduated from Stillwater High School.

7. Jessica Lange (Cloquet, MN)

One of the most decorated actresses of all time, Jessica Lange, was born in Cloquet, Minnesota in 1949. She graduated from Cloquet High School before receiving a scholarship to study art and photography at the University of Minnesota.

She would later achieve the Triple Crown of acting, including winning two Academy Awards, three Primetime Emmy Awards, and a Tony Award–along with a slew of others.

Lange has owned homes in Stillwater and Duluth over the years.

8. Joel & Ethan Coen (St. Louis Park, MN)

Joel and Ethan Coen, known to most as “The Coen Brothers,” moved to St. Louis Park in 1959. We love to think their epic movie classics like Fargo, No Country for Old Men, and A Serious Man have some strong Minnesota roots. It was here that the pair saved up for their first movie camera by mowing lawns around the neighborhood.

The Coen Brothers production company Mike Zoss Productions is reportedly named after the soda fountain at Mike Zoss Drugs at the Texa-Tonka Shopping Center.

9. John Madden (Austin, MN)

Legendary NFL broadcaster John Madden was born in 1936 in the tiny Southeastern Minnesota town of Austin. His parents were married at a church in the city the year before. The family would continue living in Austin near the county fairgrounds until Madden turned five.

Madden passed away in 2021 at the age of 85.

10. Josh Hartnett (St. Paul, MN)

Not long before making his early 2000s blockbusters Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down, Josh Harnett was a graduate of Minneapolis South High School. He grew up in St. Paul, attending Nativity of Our Lord Catholic School.

Harnett occasionally makes a Twin Cities appearance and, until 2015, preferred living here over Hollywood for much of his career.

11. Judy Garland (Grand Rapids, MN)

The tiny town of Grand Rapids, MN (where Judy Garland was born and lived until the age of 4) was the recent subject of a chart-topping podcast titled “No Place Like Home.” In one of the more interesting celebrity stories with Minnesota ties, it details how the famous ruby slippers Garland wore in the Wizard of Oz went missing from the local museum and then reappeared 13 years later.

12. Lindsay Vonn (St. Paul, MN)

It’s true! Before she was celebrated as an Olympic Gold medalist and one of the most decorated women’s downhill skiers of all time, Linday was carving up Buck Hill in Burnsville.

That’s because Lindsay Vonn (born Lindsay Kildrow) was born and raised in St. Paul before moving to Vail, Colorado as a teenager to pursue skiing full-time.

13. Prince (Minneapolis, MN)

It wouldn’t be a list of famous Minnesotans without including the most famous of all. Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis, moving around to various homes in the north and south areas of the city. So much has been written about his iconic career and life in Minnesota–including a list of must-see Prince stops if you’re in the area.

14. Rachael Leigh Cook (Minneapolis, MN)

Minneapolis was the home of many 90’s teen stars, including Rachel Leigh Cook, a Minneapolis South High School classmate of Josh Hartnett. Cook started modeling and acting at the age of 10, doing print models for Target. She starred in prominent roles like the Baby Sitter’s Club and Tom and Huck at the age of 14.

These days, she owns her own production company and lives in LA.

15. Robert Mondavi (Virginia, MN)

It’s hard to imagine that one of the most prolific winemakers in American History grew up in the chilly Iron Range town of Virginia, a place where it’s too cold to grow Cabernet grapes. But that’s precisely where American wine-making legend Robert Mondavi was born.

Mondavi’s parents emigrated from Italy to Hibbing, where they had son Robert in June 1913. The Mondavi family left Minnesota when Robert was in high school, moving to Lodi, California, where he would become a major player in raising California wines to world-class standards.

16. Samantha Harris (Hopkins, MN)

Fans of Dancing with the Stars may or may not know that this Emmy-winning TV host and journalist grew up in Hopkins, MN.

She discussed her childhood in her book Your Healthiest Healthy and her days at Hopkins High School. She even anchored the high school’s KHOP-TV broadcast there.

17. Seann William Scott (Cottage Grove, MN)

The youngest of 7 siblings, actor Seann William Scott grew up in Cottage Grove, where he graduated from Park High School. Before taking on his most famous role as Steve Stifler in the 1990s American Pie movies, he was also on the varsity football and basketball teams.

These days, he plays ‘Father Joe’ on the Fox series Flatch, a character with Minnesota ties.

18. Sunisa “Suni” Lee (St. Paul, MN)

Suni Lee became a household name worldwide in 2020 when this St. Paul native sprang onto the global stage as the Olympic all-around gymnastics champion and the first Hmong-American Olympian.

Suni was raised in Minnesota by Hmong refugee parents, and much of her family still calls the East Side of St. Paul home.

19. Thomas Friedman (St. Louis Park, MN)

Regular readers of the New York Times will recognize the political and economic commentary of op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman. However, they may not know this three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning writer was born in Minneapolis and attended St. Louis Park High School.

Friedman wrote articles for the school newspaper, The Echo, and managed the paper’s finances until he graduated in 1971. From there, he studied for two years at the University of Minnesota before pursuing a Mediterranean Studies degree from Brandeis University.

20. Vince Vaughn (Minneapolis, MN)

Although actor/comedian Vince Anthony Vaughn was born in South Minneapolis in March 1970, his parents and family moved shortly after to Buffalo Grove and Lake Forest, Illinois. So yes, we’ll claim him as our own. (Even though he didn’t live in Minnesota for a full year of his life.)

Best known for his rom-com roles, Vaughn still talks about Minnesota ties. He has made appearances for Gophers games and claimed his star on Minnesota’s Walk of Fame.

21. Winona Ryder (Winona, MN)

Every few years, a story circulates through social media (even though it’s not really news to anyone from Minnesota) that actress Winona Ryder is named after the city of Winona.

During her 2020 Superbowl commercial, the buzz around Ryder’s upbringing in Minnesota gained a fever pitch again as she filmed a Squarespace ad featuring Winona Ryder near the city’s welcome sign sporting Red Wing boots.

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