Bet You Didn't Know These Celebs Were Arab!

Published April 17th, 2012 - 20:34 GMT

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We are proud to announce a list of Western stars and luminaries of the entertainment and art world who have something of the Arab within! Part Arab, many generations ago or just a single remove away, we expose the closet Arabs and the all out Arab-embracing celebs. Most descend from the Levant region between Syria and Lebanon, but there is the occasional Iraqi, Jordanian or Palestinian lurking within this gallery of Arab blood. Continue reading below »

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Jerry Seinfeld: Turns out he could be as much as half Arab, of the Syrian variety! With a mother of Syrian Jewish heritage and a Turkish immigrant father, this man's star-studded street credit traces back to Ellis Island. In fact, the proud-'Araby' nabbed the family heritage award from the 'Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation' in 2009.
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Image 1 of 16:  1 / 16Jerry Seinfeld: Turns out he could be as much as half Arab, of the Syrian variety! With a mother of Syrian Jewish heritage and a Turkish immigrant father, this man's star-studded street credit traces back to Ellis Island. In fact, the proud-'Araby' nabbed the family heritage award from the 'Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation' in 2009.

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Vincent Anthony Vaughn: Known in celeb-speak as Vince Vaughn, he is a Hollywood heavy who turns out to be partially Lebanese. Hit films include 'The Break Up' and 'The Wedding Crashers'. He has dated Jennifer Aniston, romantic lead opposite and other half to the simulated break up - enacted off-screen when the two split. Anybody smell a PR stunt?
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Image 2 of 16:  2 / 16Vincent Anthony Vaughn: Known in celeb-speak as Vince Vaughn, he is a Hollywood heavy who turns out to be partially Lebanese. Hit films include 'The Break Up' and 'The Wedding Crashers'. He has dated Jennifer Aniston, romantic lead opposite and other half to the simulated break up - enacted off-screen when the two split. Anybody smell a PR stunt?

Enlarge
Salma Hayek: It's no secret that this sizzling Mexican is of Spanish & Lebanese extract. Her father hails from Lebanon. Her name has served the actress, director & producer well, as she bagged Best Actress for her role as Frida Kahlo. She rose to fame alongside Antonio Banderas in 90s film 'Desperado' - now one of Hollywood's elegant beauties.
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Image 3 of 16:  3 / 16Salma Hayek: It's no secret that this sizzling Mexican is of Spanish & Lebanese extract. Her father hails from Lebanon. Her name has served the actress, director & producer well, as she bagged Best Actress for her role as Frida Kahlo. She rose to fame alongside Antonio Banderas in 90s film 'Desperado' - now one of Hollywood's elegant beauties.

Enlarge
Tiffany Renee Darwish -- one for the oldies. Pop 80s sensation 'Tiffany' is another Lebanese-Syrian descendent, from her paternal roots. If you know her, you danced or sang to 'teen anthem' - and major hit that shot her to fame - 'I think we're alone now'. If you, don't worry, there's no shame in it-  you're not alone!
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Image 4 of 16:  4 / 16Tiffany Renee Darwish -- one for the oldies. Pop 80s sensation 'Tiffany' is another Lebanese-Syrian descendent, from her paternal roots. If you know her, you danced or sang to 'teen anthem' - and major hit that shot her to fame - "I think we're alone now". If you, don't worry, there's no shame in it- you're not alone!

Enlarge
Tony Shalhoub. Known to most as 'Monk' from the winning eponymous crime-comedy, this man is Lebanese through and through, with both parents immigrating to the US.  His TV career took off with 'Wings'. His hair betrays his roots! Bet you could tell from the tell-tale unruly frizzy dark locks that he hid an Arab within!
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Image 5 of 16:  5 / 16Tony Shalhoub. Known to most as 'Monk' from the winning eponymous crime-comedy, this man is Lebanese through and through, with both parents immigrating to the US. His TV career took off with "Wings". His hair betrays his roots! Bet you could tell from the tell-tale unruly frizzy dark locks that he hid an Arab within!

Enlarge
Paula Abdul: Whether you know her from American Idol or as a darling pop star of the '80s with adorable 'Opposites Attract' 
among her repertoire of bouncy tunes, she's unsurprisingly from the family name 'Abdul' got some Arab heritage going on. Both Jewish and Syrian, she's lived between Brazil, Syria and the US.
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Image 6 of 16:  6 / 16Paula Abdul: Whether you know her from American Idol or as a darling pop star of the '80s with adorable 'Opposites Attract' among her repertoire of bouncy tunes, she's unsurprisingly from the family name 'Abdul' got some Arab heritage going on. Both Jewish and Syrian, she's lived between Brazil, Syria and the US.

Enlarge
Michael Nouri - another addition to the Lebanese background club, he is famous for his role in Flashdance. He has also made notable appearances in TV hit series, The O.C, detective show NCIS (as a Mossad operative, courtesy of his Semitic looks), as well as featuring in American TV drama 'Brothers and Sisters' and movie 'The Proposal'.
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Image 7 of 16:  7 / 16Michael Nouri - another addition to the Lebanese background club, he is famous for his role in Flashdance. He has also made notable appearances in TV hit series, The O.C, detective show NCIS (as a Mossad operative, courtesy of his Semitic looks), as well as featuring in American TV drama 'Brothers and Sisters' and movie 'The Proposal'.

Enlarge
DJ Khaled: Khaled Bin Abdul Khaled (of Palestinian origin) is a household name in the US hiphop industry. DJ Khaled (pron. 'Kaled') hits include 'All I do is win' (featuring hiphop moguls Snoop Dogg, T-Pain, Ludacris ) & 'I'm so hood'. This successful Palestinian collaborates with Usher & Kanye West & is President for record label Def Jam South.
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Image 8 of 16:  8 / 16DJ Khaled: Khaled Bin Abdul Khaled (of Palestinian origin) is a household name in the US hiphop industry. DJ Khaled (pron. 'Kaled') hits include "All I do is win" (featuring hiphop moguls Snoop Dogg, T-Pain, Ludacris ) & "I'm so hood". This successful Palestinian collaborates with Usher & Kanye West & is President for record label Def Jam South.

Enlarge
Frank Zappa: Frank Vincent Zappa (passed) was an American composer, singer-songwriter, electronic guitarist, record producer and film director. His 1966 debut album with band 'The Mothers of Invention', Freak Out! is a ubiquitous party-favorite mixed and re-mixed catchy tune. This musical legend had mixed Arab blood, but pure Arab hairy features!
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Image 9 of 16:  9 / 16Frank Zappa: Frank Vincent Zappa (passed) was an American composer, singer-songwriter, electronic guitarist, record producer and film director. His 1966 debut album with band 'The Mothers of Invention', Freak Out! is a ubiquitous party-favorite mixed and re-mixed catchy tune. This musical legend had mixed Arab blood, but pure Arab hairy features!

Enlarge
Sam Roy 'Sammy' Hagar- Lead singer for hard rock outfit, Van Halen. Partially Lebanese but all-Lebanese in his musical and rock n roll spirit. The Lebanese in him is exposed by his party-animal, rocker career.
Reduce

Image 10 of 16:  10 / 16Sam Roy "Sammy" Hagar- Lead singer for hard rock outfit, Van Halen. Partially Lebanese but all-Lebanese in his musical and rock n roll spirit. The Lebanese in him is exposed by his party-animal, rocker career.

Enlarge
Ralph Nader: Well-known political activist in the U.S, Nader is a six-time candidate for President of the United States, running for the Green Party twice. His parents immigrated from Lebanon and he speaks Arabic. Popular by 'lefty' student culture, he champions causes such as the environment, and other branches of social activism.
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Image 11 of 16:  11 / 16Ralph Nader: Well-known political activist in the U.S, Nader is a six-time candidate for President of the United States, running for the Green Party twice. His parents immigrated from Lebanon and he speaks Arabic. Popular by 'lefty' student culture, he champions causes such as the environment, and other branches of social activism.

Enlarge
Alia Shawkat-- of Iraqi descent from her father's side, this young 20-something star has played Arab and Jewish characters on TV. She plays 'Maeby Funke' on TV serial 'Arrested Development'. This Mesopotamian Arab-ess starred in Amreeka as the Palestinian-American character. Multi-active in the arts, she has a musical bent too.
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Image 12 of 16:  12 / 16Alia Shawkat-- of Iraqi descent from her father's side, this young 20-something star has played Arab and Jewish characters on TV. She plays 'Maeby Funke' on TV serial 'Arrested Development'. This Mesopotamian Arab-ess starred in Amreeka as the Palestinian-American character. Multi-active in the arts, she has a musical bent too.

Enlarge
Marlo Thomas: the daughter of Lebanese American comedian, Danny Thomas is known for her role in Friends as 'Rachel's'
mother. This sometimes actress also has a literary streak, currently dedicated to a section for the Huffington Post.
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Image 13 of 16:  13 / 16Marlo Thomas: the daughter of Lebanese American comedian, Danny Thomas is known for her role in Friends as 'Rachel's' mother. This sometimes actress also has a literary streak, currently dedicated to a section for the Huffington Post.

Enlarge
Catherine Keener: Another acting lady of Lebanese descent, she is probably most known for her part in the '40-Year Old Virgin' as the 'experienced' love interest. An challenging part to play if she is remotely close to the conservative Arab culture from which she hails.
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Image 14 of 16:  14 / 16Catherine Keener: Another acting lady of Lebanese descent, she is probably most known for her part in the '40-Year Old Virgin' as the 'experienced' love interest. An challenging part to play if she is remotely close to the conservative Arab culture from which she hails.

Enlarge
Shannon Elizabeth: She strutted her stuff as 'Nadia' from the 'American Pie' teenage boy sleazy films. She plays the sexy seductress foreign exchange student, and strips for a web cam. Daughter of a Syrian Lebanese father, we can only wonder if her Dad was OK with her sultry image.
Reduce

Image 15 of 16:  15 / 16Shannon Elizabeth: She strutted her stuff as 'Nadia' from the 'American Pie' teenage boy sleazy films. She plays the sexy seductress foreign exchange student, and strips for a web cam. Daughter of a Syrian Lebanese father, we can only wonder if her Dad was OK with her sultry image.

Enlarge
Julia Sawalha: This English actress is of stellar Jordanian parentage. For British audiences, she is a household name from 'AbFab' and the TV edition of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. Her sister acted in soap EastEnders, and her father is actor Nadim Sawalha from James Bond movies. Her grandma, businesswoman and award-holder from Queen Noor.
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Image 16 of 16:  16 / 16Julia Sawalha: This English actress is of stellar Jordanian parentage. For British audiences, she is a household name from 'AbFab' and the TV edition of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. Her sister acted in soap EastEnders, and her father is actor Nadim Sawalha from James Bond movies. Her grandma, businesswoman and award-holder from Queen Noor.

Enlarge

1

Jerry Seinfeld: Turns out he could be as much as half Arab, of the Syrian variety! With a mother of Syrian Jewish heritage and a Turkish immigrant father, this man's star-studded street credit traces back to Ellis Island. In fact, the proud-'Araby' nabbed the family heritage award from the 'Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation' in 2009.

Image 1 of 16Jerry Seinfeld: Turns out he could be as much as half Arab, of the Syrian variety! With a mother of Syrian Jewish heritage and a Turkish immigrant father, this man's star-studded street credit traces back to Ellis Island. In fact, the proud-'Araby' nabbed the family heritage award from the 'Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation' in 2009.

2

Vincent Anthony Vaughn: Known in celeb-speak as Vince Vaughn, he is a Hollywood heavy who turns out to be partially Lebanese. Hit films include 'The Break Up' and 'The Wedding Crashers'. He has dated Jennifer Aniston, romantic lead opposite and other half to the simulated break up - enacted off-screen when the two split. Anybody smell a PR stunt?

Image 2 of 16Vincent Anthony Vaughn: Known in celeb-speak as Vince Vaughn, he is a Hollywood heavy who turns out to be partially Lebanese. Hit films include 'The Break Up' and 'The Wedding Crashers'. He has dated Jennifer Aniston, romantic lead opposite and other half to the simulated break up - enacted off-screen when the two split. Anybody smell a PR stunt?

3

Salma Hayek: It's no secret that this sizzling Mexican is of Spanish & Lebanese extract. Her father hails from Lebanon. Her name has served the actress, director & producer well, as she bagged Best Actress for her role as Frida Kahlo. She rose to fame alongside Antonio Banderas in 90s film 'Desperado' - now one of Hollywood's elegant beauties.

Image 3 of 16Salma Hayek: It's no secret that this sizzling Mexican is of Spanish & Lebanese extract. Her father hails from Lebanon. Her name has served the actress, director & producer well, as she bagged Best Actress for her role as Frida Kahlo. She rose to fame alongside Antonio Banderas in 90s film 'Desperado' - now one of Hollywood's elegant beauties.

4

Tiffany Renee Darwish -- one for the oldies. Pop 80s sensation 'Tiffany' is another Lebanese-Syrian descendent, from her paternal roots. If you know her, you danced or sang to 'teen anthem' - and major hit that shot her to fame - 'I think we're alone now'. If you, don't worry, there's no shame in it-  you're not alone!

Image 4 of 16Tiffany Renee Darwish -- one for the oldies. Pop 80s sensation 'Tiffany' is another Lebanese-Syrian descendent, from her paternal roots. If you know her, you danced or sang to 'teen anthem' - and major hit that shot her to fame - "I think we're alone now". If you, don't worry, there's no shame in it- you're not alone!

5

Tony Shalhoub. Known to most as 'Monk' from the winning eponymous crime-comedy, this man is Lebanese through and through, with both parents immigrating to the US.  His TV career took off with 'Wings'. His hair betrays his roots! Bet you could tell from the tell-tale unruly frizzy dark locks that he hid an Arab within!

Image 5 of 16Tony Shalhoub. Known to most as 'Monk' from the winning eponymous crime-comedy, this man is Lebanese through and through, with both parents immigrating to the US. His TV career took off with "Wings". His hair betrays his roots! Bet you could tell from the tell-tale unruly frizzy dark locks that he hid an Arab within!

6

Paula Abdul: Whether you know her from American Idol or as a darling pop star of the '80s with adorable 'Opposites Attract' 
among her repertoire of bouncy tunes, she's unsurprisingly from the family name 'Abdul' got some Arab heritage going on. Both Jewish and Syrian, she's lived between Brazil, Syria and the US.

Image 6 of 16Paula Abdul: Whether you know her from American Idol or as a darling pop star of the '80s with adorable 'Opposites Attract' among her repertoire of bouncy tunes, she's unsurprisingly from the family name 'Abdul' got some Arab heritage going on. Both Jewish and Syrian, she's lived between Brazil, Syria and the US.

7

Michael Nouri - another addition to the Lebanese background club, he is famous for his role in Flashdance. He has also made notable appearances in TV hit series, The O.C, detective show NCIS (as a Mossad operative, courtesy of his Semitic looks), as well as featuring in American TV drama 'Brothers and Sisters' and movie 'The Proposal'.

Image 7 of 16Michael Nouri - another addition to the Lebanese background club, he is famous for his role in Flashdance. He has also made notable appearances in TV hit series, The O.C, detective show NCIS (as a Mossad operative, courtesy of his Semitic looks), as well as featuring in American TV drama 'Brothers and Sisters' and movie 'The Proposal'.

8

DJ Khaled: Khaled Bin Abdul Khaled (of Palestinian origin) is a household name in the US hiphop industry. DJ Khaled (pron. 'Kaled') hits include 'All I do is win' (featuring hiphop moguls Snoop Dogg, T-Pain, Ludacris ) & 'I'm so hood'. This successful Palestinian collaborates with Usher & Kanye West & is President for record label Def Jam South.

Image 8 of 16DJ Khaled: Khaled Bin Abdul Khaled (of Palestinian origin) is a household name in the US hiphop industry. DJ Khaled (pron. 'Kaled') hits include "All I do is win" (featuring hiphop moguls Snoop Dogg, T-Pain, Ludacris ) & "I'm so hood". This successful Palestinian collaborates with Usher & Kanye West & is President for record label Def Jam South.

9

Frank Zappa: Frank Vincent Zappa (passed) was an American composer, singer-songwriter, electronic guitarist, record producer and film director. His 1966 debut album with band 'The Mothers of Invention', Freak Out! is a ubiquitous party-favorite mixed and re-mixed catchy tune. This musical legend had mixed Arab blood, but pure Arab hairy features!

Image 9 of 16Frank Zappa: Frank Vincent Zappa (passed) was an American composer, singer-songwriter, electronic guitarist, record producer and film director. His 1966 debut album with band 'The Mothers of Invention', Freak Out! is a ubiquitous party-favorite mixed and re-mixed catchy tune. This musical legend had mixed Arab blood, but pure Arab hairy features!

10

Sam Roy 'Sammy' Hagar- Lead singer for hard rock outfit, Van Halen. Partially Lebanese but all-Lebanese in his musical and rock n roll spirit. The Lebanese in him is exposed by his party-animal, rocker career.

Image 10 of 16Sam Roy "Sammy" Hagar- Lead singer for hard rock outfit, Van Halen. Partially Lebanese but all-Lebanese in his musical and rock n roll spirit. The Lebanese in him is exposed by his party-animal, rocker career.

11

Ralph Nader: Well-known political activist in the U.S, Nader is a six-time candidate for President of the United States, running for the Green Party twice. His parents immigrated from Lebanon and he speaks Arabic. Popular by 'lefty' student culture, he champions causes such as the environment, and other branches of social activism.

Image 11 of 16Ralph Nader: Well-known political activist in the U.S, Nader is a six-time candidate for President of the United States, running for the Green Party twice. His parents immigrated from Lebanon and he speaks Arabic. Popular by 'lefty' student culture, he champions causes such as the environment, and other branches of social activism.

12

Alia Shawkat-- of Iraqi descent from her father's side, this young 20-something star has played Arab and Jewish characters on TV. She plays 'Maeby Funke' on TV serial 'Arrested Development'. This Mesopotamian Arab-ess starred in Amreeka as the Palestinian-American character. Multi-active in the arts, she has a musical bent too.

Image 12 of 16Alia Shawkat-- of Iraqi descent from her father's side, this young 20-something star has played Arab and Jewish characters on TV. She plays 'Maeby Funke' on TV serial 'Arrested Development'. This Mesopotamian Arab-ess starred in Amreeka as the Palestinian-American character. Multi-active in the arts, she has a musical bent too.

13

Marlo Thomas: the daughter of Lebanese American comedian, Danny Thomas is known for her role in Friends as 'Rachel's'
mother. This sometimes actress also has a literary streak, currently dedicated to a section for the Huffington Post.

Image 13 of 16Marlo Thomas: the daughter of Lebanese American comedian, Danny Thomas is known for her role in Friends as 'Rachel's' mother. This sometimes actress also has a literary streak, currently dedicated to a section for the Huffington Post.

14

Catherine Keener: Another acting lady of Lebanese descent, she is probably most known for her part in the '40-Year Old Virgin' as the 'experienced' love interest. An challenging part to play if she is remotely close to the conservative Arab culture from which she hails.

Image 14 of 16Catherine Keener: Another acting lady of Lebanese descent, she is probably most known for her part in the '40-Year Old Virgin' as the 'experienced' love interest. An challenging part to play if she is remotely close to the conservative Arab culture from which she hails.

15

Shannon Elizabeth: She strutted her stuff as 'Nadia' from the 'American Pie' teenage boy sleazy films. She plays the sexy seductress foreign exchange student, and strips for a web cam. Daughter of a Syrian Lebanese father, we can only wonder if her Dad was OK with her sultry image.

Image 15 of 16Shannon Elizabeth: She strutted her stuff as 'Nadia' from the 'American Pie' teenage boy sleazy films. She plays the sexy seductress foreign exchange student, and strips for a web cam. Daughter of a Syrian Lebanese father, we can only wonder if her Dad was OK with her sultry image.

16

Julia Sawalha: This English actress is of stellar Jordanian parentage. For British audiences, she is a household name from 'AbFab' and the TV edition of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. Her sister acted in soap EastEnders, and her father is actor Nadim Sawalha from James Bond movies. Her grandma, businesswoman and award-holder from Queen Noor.

Image 16 of 16Julia Sawalha: This English actress is of stellar Jordanian parentage. For British audiences, she is a household name from 'AbFab' and the TV edition of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. Her sister acted in soap EastEnders, and her father is actor Nadim Sawalha from James Bond movies. Her grandma, businesswoman and award-holder from Queen Noor.

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Did you know that the following famous people had Arab origins? Here's a selection of Hollywood acting legends and singing stars, who come in degrees of Arab-ness, from partial, to fully-fledged and native speaking Arab. From the more commonly recognized names as Paula Abdul, Tiffany and Salma Hayek and Julia Sawalha to the lesser known hybrid Arabs as Vince Vaughn, Tony Shalhoub, hip-hop frat party play-lister, DJ Khaled (Kalid), comedy hero Jerry Seinfeld and rock legend Frank Zappa. Find out where all the Arab talent that headed 'West' landed, from the big-screen to the classic musical archives.

 

Do you know of any other Western celebrity who remains in the 'Arab closet' that might have Arabic heritage? 

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