Sometime ago we asked our regular contributors through e-mail, What celebrity seems stupid but is actually very intelligent? We got many interesting response. Here are some of them. We have just copied and pasted their responses, not editing them in any way and most of the respondents have requested to stay anonymous, so no names will be published. Enjoy.
1-5 Smart Celebrities
01. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has a University degree in business and economics. Moved to America barely able to speak English and became a successful bodybuilder. In the 1970s documentary Pumping Iron, Arnold speaks of using psychological warfare against his opponents in what many people believed to be a purely physical sport. In addition, Arnold helped develop many bodybuilding theories that people still adhere to today. By the time he became a movie star, he was already quite wealthy from various business ventures (such as a bricklaying business and a mail-order bodybuilding supply company).
Arnold has often been characterized as a dumb jock because of his accent (he actually works with a speech coach to keep his Austrian accent because he knows it’s a major part of his image) and his physique, but he’s actually a very intelligent and driven individual who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “fail.”
02. Dolph Lundgren has a master’s in chemical engineering and would have gotten a scholarship to MIT but decided not to go.
03. Lady Gaga. Her entire persona is an act, but she wouldn’t be nearly as popular without it. She was smart enough to tone it down/drop it when every popstar wannabe started doing the same, thus sucking the trope dry.
04. Cindy Crawford won an academic scholarship to study engineering at Northwestern, but dropped out to pursue her modeling career.
05. Natalie Portman has two scientific publications from her work in high school and college in psychology. She went to Harvard. She was also a semi-finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search.
6-10 Smart Celebrities
06. Ke$ha scored very high on her SAT. She gets stereotyped as dumb because she’s a blonde girl who sings about boys and partying. According to this article, she used to sneak into college courses for fun.
07. Maybe not “very intelligent,” but Rob Gronkowski is way smarter than his public persona would indicate. He hasn’t touched a penny of his NFL money and instead is living off all his endorsements. Considering how many former NFL players go broke from poor financial management, this shows a lot of foresight and good planning on his part. Also when his family was on Celebrity Family Feud, he was the smartest one up there.
08. Marshawn Lynch falls in the same vein. He apparently hadn’t touched any of his ~$50mil from Seattle and only spent endorsement money while playing.
09. Nolan Gould plays the intellectually-challenged Luke Dunphy on Modern Family. In real life, Gould is a genius. He’s a member of Mensa, accelerated ten grades in school and graduated high school at the age of 13.
10. Nicki Minaj. She encourages her fans to stay in school, achieve in life, to make themselves proud and happy. She regularly talks to them on twitter and instagram and from what I’ve heard, is super lovely and sweet in person. She sends a really positive message to a lot of girls wanting to get into the music industry, in that she actively states she has never had to do sexual favors to get where she is in the male-dominated environment of rap.
She also promotes feminism and black beauty (such as the natural hair movement) which is so important for young black people who feel self conscious about their hair or their skin. She recognizes the power she has and uses it well. I don’t know about her academic intelligence but I think we can all see an amazing amount of social and intrapersonal intelligence here. A lot of people just choose to only see her for her jigglies, so I think she’s kind of unappreciated for that.
11-15 Smart Celebrities
11. Ken Jeong (Chang from Community) is a licensed physician. He did his residency in internal medicine.
12. Flavor Flav was a musical prodigy as a child. He taught himself piano at the age of 5 and can play 15 instruments. He also graduated from culinary school and was a professional chef.
13. Taylor Swift symbolizes the sweet innocent girl, yet she is insanely smart. I honestly don’t know how one human being does all that she does. She’s CEO of her own management company, she holds a major share in her record company, and she completely controls her own career and artwork. When she proposed her 1989 album her record company basically called her crazy, but because she had such a high stake of it she did what she wanted anyway. They said she could never sell an album without her whole face or name on the cover and she sold 1.287M copies in the first week. Nobody had done that since 2003, in an era where we pirate and stream more than ever before. She picked a fight with Spotify over streaming royalties just because she could and pretty much won. She’s the only woman to ever succeed herself for the #1 Hot 100 spot, the ONLY person to have three 1M-selling debut weeks, and she manages herself. She’s highly respected in the industry, and on her days off she visits sick kids in hospitals.
14. Shakira speaks like six languages.
15. Queen band members. Freddie earned a diploma in Art and Graphic Design. Brian May is an astrophysicist. Roger Taylor is a biologist and John Deacon is an electronics engineer.
16-20 Smart Celebrities
16. Rowan Atkinson, at least if you’ve only watched him in Mr. Bean. He’s really eloquent in his interviews and apparently has his acting pretty much down to a science. He got a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Oxford.
17. Jim Varney, who passed away in 2000. He was famous for his roles in the Ernest movies he made in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The guy was a genius. It’s a shame he passed so young from lung cancer.
18. David Duchovny. I was pretty surprised to find out he has a Masters in English literature from Yale and was pursuing a PhD (about magic and technology in contemporary literature) before he became an actor.
19. An oldie but a goodie. Sorrell Booke, who played Boss Hogg on the Dukes of Hazzard TV series had two degrees, spoke 5 languages including Japanese and was a counterintelligence officer during the Korean war.
20. Keanu Reeves. I had a pretty low opinion of him (Bill & Ted, along with “I know Kung Fu” being the main reasons) but then I saw a documentary he produced and appeared in called “Side By Side” on the shift from physical film to digital. He has some surprisingly poignant conversations with different filmmakers. Definitely worth your time if you’re interested in film at all.
21-25 Smart Celebrities
21. Sacha Baron Cohen. When he’s not in character he comes across as very eloquent and well-educated. It’s just recently he started doing things out of character. He was very reclusive and didn’t show his real persona. The only reason he revealed he was Ali G was because skeevy guys were pretending they were Ali G to get with women.
22. I honestly think Leo Messi might be some sort of idiot savant. People don’t normally think of athletes as intelligent, but the way he plays shows an extremely high level of strategic and even emotional intelligence, he knows how to play people as well as the ball. I think many would say he has genius-level working intelligence, maybe one of the best ever.
All that said, if you hear him interviewed, he is completely unable to express himself about how he plays or almost anything except pretty mundane topics like how much he enjoys being a father. If you just heard him talk, you’d think that out there he would be like some pawn that the other players just move around and tell what to do. Part of me thinks that might all be an act just to get the press to leave him alone, in which case he is way smarter that I even thought.
23. Conan O’Brien. He actually went to Harvard and was able to pull off one of the greatest celebrity pranks of all time yet never shared the details of his awesome feat, until now.
The popular talk show host revealed on his recent appearance on The Howard Stern Show that while attending Harvard University in the 1980s he managed to convince Bill Cosby that he had received a lifetime achievement award from the prestigious Ivy league institution. What’s more, Cosby then flew to Harvard and showed up in a tuxedo, at which point O’Brien presented him with an old bowling trophy. Making the entire experience even more hysterical is that Cosby arrived at the airport in a private plane already wearing his tuxedo, and O’Brien picked him up in his parents’ dirty station wagon. “He walks out, and I’m like, ‘Mr. Cosby! Hey!’” O’Brien told Stern. “And he’s looking past me for the stretch limo, and there’s no stretch limo. So I opened the door and went, “It’s in here, come on!” O’Brien then said at one point Cosby even held up the wrapper of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Then, Cosby arrived at the school where he accepted what he believed to be the Lifetime Achievement in Comedy award, presented by the popular Harvard Lampoon, looking thrilled to be there. “He comes out, and that’s when I saw what a master he is,” said O’Brien. “I saw this guy not really do material, he just went out. But in that Bill Cosby way, he’s got the rhythm. I honestly wanted to meet him,” explained O’Brien. “I think it came from a good place.” Wow, amazing stuff from a young Conan O’Brien showing he was destined for stardom.
Another great prank he pulled was:
Enter one notorious prankster, the aforementioned Conan O’Brien, once president of the Harvard Lampoon and now a late-night talk-show host on NBC. Legend has it that O’Brien spent a night in jail following a stunt he pulled as an undergraduate. (On “advice of counsel,” O’Brien declined to comment.) Having procured a jack-hammer as well as several hard hats and other construction-related paraphernalia, he and a group of fellow students cordoned off a section of street in downtown Boston and went to work, as it were, tearing up the pavement.
O’Brien then reported his own crime to the Boston police: college students dressed as construction workers were jack-hammering in downtown Boston — Do something, quickly! His handiwork only half done, O’Brien then telephoned the Massachusetts state police. He and his fellow construction workers, O’Brien said, were trying to do their jobs but were being harassed by a bunch of college pranksters dressed as policemen. In short order, the Boston police came to arrest the students and the state police came to arrest the Boston police. The confusion that followed landed its choreographer in hot water, but also in the annals of Harvard prank history.
24. Danica McKellar (Winnie from Wonder Years). She loves math, and even has a theorem named after her. As an undergraduate, she coauthored a scientific paper with Professor Lincoln Chayes and fellow student Brandy Winn entitled “Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on Z2.” Their results are termed the ‘Chayes–McKellar–Winn theorem’. Later she wrote an educational book titled “Math Doesn’t Suck”, to help kids, and especially girls, to like math.
25. Lisa Kudrow, who played the dumb blonde on Friends. She a BS in Biology and worked with her dad (a leading specialist in headaches). She even helped him research ‘the comparative likelihood of left-handed individuals developing cluster headaches’.
She decided to become an actress and took improv classes with Conan O’Brien (and dated him briefly) and got her role on Friends by approaching Phoebe’s character differently than the other actresses that auditioned before her. She thought it would be funny if Phoebe was nonchalant about all the horrible things that had happened to her. She’s also been married to the same person for almost 20 years now.