Celebrities Who Grew Up In Alaska

The 49th state, Alaska wasn't inducted into the union until 1959, beginning a boom from an indigenous population of about 50,000 to today's total of 740,000 citizens (per Smithsonian). That statehood came almost a full 50 years after the first film studios began popping up in Hollywood. Despite being so late to the game, the land of the midnight sun has still managed to turn out a number of well-known celebrities.

From movie stars to athletes to authors, a number of famous folks were either born in the state or spent a number of their formative years there. These individuals prove that there's more to Alaskans than a rugged sense of individuality and a ton of grit — there's as much artistic talent here as anywhere in the lower 48.

Read on to see who all has called the last frontier home. Did you know any of these folks were from Alaska?

Bristol Palin

We'll start with one of the more well-known Alaskan-born celebs, Bristol Palin. The daughter of Republican politician Sarah Palin, Bristol became a household name as a teenager when her mother's 2008 vice presidential campaign announced that she was pregnant. Following the announcement, the 18-year-old would become the face of abstinence (via ABC News), even going so far as to appear on ABC Family's "Secret Life of the American Teenager" to spread her sex-should-wait-until-marriage message.

For years, being a young mother was central to her brand (she had her second child at 24 while still unmarried, per Reuters), which made her a perfect candidate for MTV's reality series "Teen Mom." In 2018, she joined the cast of the OG show alongside Maci Bookout, Catelynn Baltierra, Amber Portwood, and Cheyenne Floyd. It seems, however, that the Wasilla native had a fairly negative experience on set as she quit after only one season, writing on Instagram that the series "took away [her] peace."

Since stepping away from "Teen Mom OG," Palin hasn't appeared on reality TV in any capacity. The outspoken conservative hasn't even attempted to reboot her own short-lived Lifetime series, "Life's a Tripp." Instead, she's moved to Austin, Texas, and poured her energy into becoming one of the area's most successful real estate agents (per Austin Homeseeker). While she seems to be enjoying this new life lived mainly out of the public eye, her social media accounts show that she makes regular trips back to the Last Frontier state.

Holly Madison

Holly Madison is best known for being one of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner's many girlfriends. The blonde bombshell began dating the much older publisher in 2001 and stayed with him until 2008. Much of her time in the Playboy mansion was chronicled on the reality series "The Girls Next Door" and in her very vulnerable memoir "Down the Rabbit Hole" (via Buzzfeed). But being on the arm of the country's most notorious playboy isn't the only interesting thing about Madison's life.

For starters, she spent much of her childhood living on the remote Prince of Wales Island, as her detailed on her website. Located three hours from Ketchikan, the Alsakan community is rugged and outdoorsy, a backdrop that surely led to dozens of wild tales from her younger years. Additionally, since ending things with Hefner, she's had a successful career based on her individual talents. Among her accomplishments are her own reality show, two books, and a burlesque show that ran at Las Vegas' Planet Hollywood resort for three years.

These days, according to Us Weekly, Madison hosts a podcast called "Girls Next Level" alongside former Playboy mansion housemate Bridget Marquardt. In each episode, the duo dive into what life was really like in Hefner's inner circle. She's also mom to two kiddos, Rainbow and Forest, with ex Pasquale Rotella.

Curt Schilling

When Curt Schilling was brought home from an Anchorage hospital in November 1966, his father, Cliff Schilling, tucked him into his crib alongside a baseball glove (per SABR). Both Schilling's birthplace and that crib companion would go on to play a major role in his future.

A military kid, Schilling moved around quite a bit in his childhood. But perhaps being born into the early days of a cold Alaskan winter instilled a sense of toughness and resilience in him that would go on to serve him well throughout his career as a major league pitcher. Most sports fans will remember the 19-year MLB veteran for his performance in game six of the 2004 ALCS playoffs. Schilling, who was then a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, threw seven innings against the New York Yankees with a hurt ankle, bleeding through his sock and cleat, and becoming the epitome of the don't-quit-until-the-job-is-done mentality. His performance that October evening led to the Red Sox clenching their first World Series title in 86 years (per The National Baseball Hall of Fame).

These days, Schilling is retired from professional sports. He spent some time as an analyst for ESPN, but, following a series of anti-trans social media posts, was fired in 2016 (per Bleacher Report). According to Fox News, he now lives a quiet life in Tennessee and has a number of political ambitions.

Carlos Boozer

Basketball star Carlos Boozer was born in Germany but raised in Juneau, Alaska. A rare talent from an early age, Boozer graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School (where he'd lead his team to two back-to-back state titles) with his pick of college programs. He eventually chose Duke, piloting the team for three years before being drafted by the Cleveland Cavilers in 2002. He'd wind up spending 13 years in the NBA, playing for four teams, before moving to an overseas league in 2016.

After a brief retirement, Boozer left the more traditional basketball arena to play in Ice Cube's three-on-three league, Big3 (per Clutch Points). The role was a perfect fit, as it utilized his prior experience as an NBA star and Olympian (he helped Team USA win gold at the 2008 games in Bejing and was an active member of the 2004 team in Athens). While he's no longer playing the game in any capacity — he retired for good in 2019 — he was instrumental in getting that program off the ground.

These days, Carlos Boozer lives in Miami and spends most of his energy focused on being the best dad he can be. He told the Salt Lake Tribune that the move to a warmer climate was intentional, something he had often dreamed about doing as a child growing up in the frigid northern territory.

Irene Bedard

A member of Alaska's indigenous community, Irene Bedard is part Inupiat and part French Canadian/Cree (per AAA Native Arts). She was raised in Anchorage, where she discovered her love of acting as an elementary schooler. Eventually, she left the 49th state to pursue that passion, attending the University of Arts in Pennsylvania and then moving to LA, where she could be closer to auditions and bigger stages. Her focus paid off, and Bedard won a series of major roles in projects like "Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee," "Squanto: A Warrior's Tale," Steven Spielberg's miniseries "Into the West," and Dinsey's animated feature film "Pocahontas." It's that last role she's best known for — Bedard provided both the voice and physical model for the Native American princess in the original theatrical release and its direct-to-video follow-up.

Her on-screen roles may have slowed down these days, but Bedard is still plenty involved behind the scenes. In 2012 she opened her own production company, Sleeping Lady Films Waking Giants Productions, which has offices in both Anchorage and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The company's primary goal is to tell stories about indigenous communities that would both lift up those communities and spread positive messages about Native Americans. In 2015, the company acquired the rights to "Two Old Women" an international bestseller based on an Athabascan legend (per A Tribe Called Geek). 


Singer-songwriter Jewel had perhaps the most quintessential Alaskan upbringing of anyone on our list. The musician was raised on an 800-acre homestead in Homer, Alaska. It was a rural existence — she told The Guardian the family had no phone, television, or indoor plumbing, and the town itself was home to just 4,000 people — but she credits the experience with making her tough enough to make it in her cutthroat industry.

And made it, she has. To date, Jewel has released six albums in a variety of genres. Her debut, "Pieces of You," is considered one of the best-selling records of all time. She's also appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows, published two poetry collections and two children's books, and won a slew of prestigious awards. Most recently, she represented her home state on "American Song Contest," though she was eliminated in week three (per Gold Derby).

Unlike many other stars with ties to Alaska, Jewel's are far from casual. She wasn't born on a military base, nor did her family move away when she was just a toddler. According to Rolling Stone, both sets of her grandparents settled in the state in the early parts of the 20th century, and her paternal grandfather helped write the state's charter. Her parents were born and bred Alaskans as well, and her father still lives in the northern territory. Wide Open Country reports that Jewel calls Nashville home these days, though we imagine she must make frequent trips back to Alaska to see family.

Rudy Pankow

A relative newcomer to the scene, Rudy Pankow is best known for his role in Netflix's "Outer Banks." The blonde actor plays JJ, the troublemaker of the teenage friend group who uses the treasure hunt to escape a tough home life. Much like his character, Pankow also grew up in a small community, though his hometown is located not in the south, but in Alaska.

Pankow told Wonderland Magazine that Ketchikan, Alaska, where he was born and raised, is "fairly similar" to the fictional North Carolina locale. "Both are fishing, tourism towns," he said, "The biggest difference is the temperature." He also noted that giving up his spot on the Kansas State University football team skills he acquired growing up in the rural part of the state, like driving a boat and trekking through the bush, served him well on set.

In addition to "Outer Banks," Pankow's set to stay plenty busy for the foreseeable future. A quick glance at his IMDb page reveals he's been picking up feature films, an independent short, and a handful of TV appearances since "Outer Banks" debuted in 2020. He currently resides in LA full-time.

Charles Melton

Another young actor who found success with a show aimed at a teenage audience, Charles Melton was born in Juneau, Alaska. The "Riverdale" star told Women's Wear Daily that being born in the 49th state was a matter of happenstance, as his father, who was in the military, had only been stationed there a short while before Melton was born. Thanks to his father's career, the family moved around a lot, and by the time he turned 18 he'd been out of Alaska for years. (In fact, he'd been away for long enough that he'd lived in seven additional places: five states and two countries.)

Melton didn't decide to pursue acting until he was 20, trading his spot on the Kansas State University football team for the bright lights of Hollywood (per ABC News). It took several years of work, taking any guest role or modeling gig that came his way, before he got his big break as Reggie Mantle on The CW's "Riverdale." He's also appeared on the big screen as Daniel Bay in "The Sun is Also a Star."

Recently, Melton has been in the headlines for his love life. First, there was his years-long, on-again, off-again relationship with co-star Camila Mendes (via Seventeen). Following their latest split in early 2022, he's been linked to actor-director Chase Sui Wonders, according to Life & Style. Given how dreamy he was as the romantic lead in "The Sun is Also a Star," it's no surprise that folks are obsessed with knowing who he's dating.

Khleo Thomas

Yet another military kid, actor Khleo Thomas was born in Anchorage, Alaska. Like Charles Melton, he didn't live in the state for long, moving to Germany and then Southern California as his father's orders changed. Thomas told PBS he'd wanted to be an actor for as long as he could remember, and at age 6, landed his first commercial. At 14, he scored the role that would break him out of relative obscurity and make him a household name (at least temporarily): Zero in the big screen adaptation of Louis Sachar's young adult novel "Holes."

The success of "Holes" lead to a number of other opportunities for Thomas, and he appeared in at least half a dozen other films over the next few years, including "Walking Tall" and "Roll Bounce." In 2010, he also began to dabble in music, releasing hip-hop tracks and EPs through Bow Wow's label, LBW. More recently, the actor has been pouring his energy into his lifestyle brand, Slick Living, his YouTube channel, and his Twitch page, where he entertains audiences with video game content and day-in-the-life style vlogs.

As for Alaska, Thomas never felt the urge to return, seemingly preferring the warm climates of SoCal where he still lives.

Robin Hobb

If you've spent any amount of time on BookTok you've likely heard of Robin Hobb. A fantasy author, Hobb's "Realm of the Elderlings" series has captured the imaginations of millions of readers and sold millions of copies.

Hobb was born in California but spent most of her childhood in Fairbanks, Alaska. In an essay for her website, the author recalls moving to the wilds of the northern state as a 10-year-old and how much of a culture shock it was to go from warm, sunny, and comfortable to cold, dark, and rugged (the family home was a partially-finished log cabin with no indoor plumbing). "I think that move to Alaska shaped me as a writer more than any other experience in my life," she said. "A lot of that 'hands on' experience shows up in my writing." Hobb also credits her time working on an Alaskan fishing boat alongside her husband as giving her many of the ideas she includes in her best-selling series (via Stuff).

According to The New Statesman, Hobb now lives in Tacoma, Washington, and wrapped up the "Elderlings" chronicles in 2017. She took a brief break from writing during the pandemic, but has hinted on her Goodreads blog that something new may be coming soon. Readers around the world are crossing their fingers, ready to dig into whatever she releases.