These 23 famous figures from Lakeland might surprise you

Actors from Broadway and Hollywood have called Lakeland home, along with singers, MLB pitchers, football stars and even a fashion magazine cover girl.

Moulin Rouge Karen Olivo

Karen Olivo with Aaron Tveit in “Moulin Rouge.”

Photo via WWD

Hollywood may be a solid 2,500 miles away, but our little city still manages to stay on the radar for many celebrities. There’s resident George Lowe, a Cartoon Network voice actor; Harrison School for the Arts grad Karen Olivio, who has starred in Broadway’s “Moulin Rouge! The Musical;” Kimmy Gabriela who recently was in the top 20 for American Idol, and countless stars who have either vacationed, filmed, or even met their spouse in the area (looking at you, Seth and Lauren Rogen). If all that doesn’t have you convinced we’re essentially the real Hollywood of Florida, just remember: You can’t spell La La Land without LAL.

While many prestigious personalities make their way to Swan City at some point in their lives, there are a handful who were fortunate enough to call Lakeland home from the very beginning.

Here are some of Lakeland’s most famous alumni:

Tracy McGrady

Class of 1997

Known for: NBA Player

Once an Auburndale High School student, this NBA All-Star played ball for teams including the Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, and the New York Knicks.

Kimmy Gabriela

Class of 2020

Known for: Singer

During season 18 of American Idol, George Jenkins High School graduate Kimmy Gabriela advanced in the competition as a semifinalist in the top 20. She also is a songwriter and continues to play shows locally.

Lauren Miller Rogen

Class of 1982

Known for: Actor

This actor, screenwriter, and director grew up in Lakeland and has appeared in films including “Superbad”, “For a Good Time, Call…”, and “Growing Up and Other Lies.” She is married to actor, comedian, director, writer, and producer Seth Rogen. Seth even showed our city some love on FOX 13 News, highlighting how he enjoys the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and BBQ dishes that Lakeland has to offer.

Karen Olivio

Class of 1976

Known for: Actress

Former Harrison School of the Arts student Karen Olivio is a Tony award-winning actor who has performed in “Hamilton,” the “West Side Story” revival, and “Harry’s Law.” She is set to star in Broadway’s “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.”

George Lowe

Class of 1958

Known for: Actor

Famous for his voice acting, George Lowe owns a house in Lakeland off Cleveland Heights Boulevard that is filled with artwork from both large and small artists.

Matt Joyce

Class of 1984

Known for: Major League Baseball

This former Florida Southern Moc made it to the big leagues and plays for the Atlanta Braves.

Rhea Durham Wahlberg

Class of 1978

Known for: Model

Originally noticed at a modeling show at Lakeland Square Mall, Rhea went on to become a successful model who has appeared on the cover of notable fashion magazines including Vogue and Elle. She also modeled for Revlon and walked in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

Pat Skipper

Class of 1958

Known for: Actor in The X-Files, Bosch, and Halloween.

Known for his role in The X-Files, Skipper has also appeared in Bosch and Halloween, as well as TV shows including Shameless and The Mentalist.

Steve Pearce

Class of 1983

Known for: Major League Baseball

Nicknamed the “Late Lightning,” Steve has played for multiple notable teams including the Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and more.

Eddie Goines

Class of 1991

Known for: NFL player and Actor

Eddie was raised in Lakeland and went on to be drafted by the Seattle Seahawks. After a knee injury, he began pursuing acting and has been in TV shows including House of Payne, Suits, and Law & Order.

Chris Sale

Class of 1989

Known for: Major League Baseball pitcher

He began his career with the Chicago White Sox and then went on to win the 2018 World Series with the Boston Red Sox.

Faith Evans

Class of 1973

Known for: Singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress

This R&B singer has released many successful records and even made an appearance in the film, “Girls Trip.”

Charleene Closshey

Class of 1981

Known for: Actress, producer and composer

Harrison School for the Arts grad Charleene debuted on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning musical, “Once.” She appeared in “No Postage Necessary” and she is also a classically trained violinist.

Jonny Diaz

Class of 1984

Known for: Singer

This contemporary Christian acoustic pop singer successfully released his hit single, “More Beautiful You.”

Frances Langford

Class of 1913

Known for: Singer

She performed on USO tours with Bob Hope and also has a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star. And in case you didn’t knowthe Frances Langford Promenade on Lake Mirror was named after her.

Lee Janzen

Class of 1964

Known for: Professional golfer

This Florida Southern College graduate won the Division II national championship. After college, he went on to win the U.S. Open twice in 1993 and 1998.

Mike and Maurkice Pouncey

Class of 1989

Known for: NFL players

These twin brothers attended Lakeland High School and played football as teens. They both went on to be drafted into the NFL. Mike played for the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers and Maurkice played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Corey Sanders

Class of 1977

Known for: Basketball player

After playing basketball at Kathleen High School, Corey went on to play as a Rutgers Scarlet Knight, then was drafted to play professionally. He currently plays for the Mega Basket Georgia of the Georgia A-League.

Neva Jane Langley

Class of 1933

Known for: Miss America 1953

This former Lakeland High School cheerleader became Miss America in 1953 from the state of Georgia. She currently lives in Athens, Georgia.

Lindsey Alley

Class of 1977

Known for: Mickey Mouse Club member

Lindsey graduated from Lakeland High School in 1996 and was on Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club, which aired on and off between 1955 and 1996.

Ray Lewis

Class of 1975

Known for: NFL player

Lakeland native Ray Lewis graduated from Kathleen High School. He went on to be named MVP of the Baltimore Ravens’ Superbowl win in 2001. He was also the first pro football inductee in the Polk County Hall of Fame.

Tiffany Hayes

Class of 1989

Known for: WNBA player

Tiffany plays for the Atlanta Dream as a guard and was named the team’s all-time leading three-point shooter.

Joe Nemechek

Class of 1963

Known for: Racecar Driver

At only 13 years old, Joe Nemechek began his racing career and took home more than 300 trophies in six years. He has raced in the NASCAR Busch Series Championship, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and more. He is also the founder of the NEMCO Motorsports team.

Rod Smart

Class of 1977

Known for: Former NFL player

Known by his nickname, “He Hate Me,” from his time with the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL, Rod also played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers.

Dwayne Bacon

Class of 1995

Known for: NBA player

This Lakeland native (and former McKeel Academy student) is now a shooting guard for the Charlotte Hornets.

This article was written in collaboration with @polkway863.

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