These 27 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 a voice actor, Broadway star, American Idol finalist, and many professional athletes. 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
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
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
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 some love for our city’s barbecue and architecture on FOX 13 News.

Karen Olivo
Known for: Actress

Former Harrison School of the Arts student Karen Olivo is a Tony Award-winning actor who performed in the original cast of “Hamilton.” She has also starred in the revival of “West Side Story,” “Harry’s Law,” and “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.”

George Lowe
Known for: Actor

Famous for his voice acting on the Cartoon Network, Lowe voiced the character “Space Ghost.” He now owns a house off of Cleveland Heights Boulevard that is filled with artwork from both large and small artists.

Desmond Clark
Known for: NFL player

Clark began his football career at Kathleen High School. He went on to play as a receiver at Wake Forest University before going pro as a tight end with the Denver Broncos. Clark is doing good in his hometown by serving as Campaign Chair for the United Way of Central Florida.

Matt Joyce
Known for: MLB player

This former Florida Southern Moc made it to the big leagues. Joyce played for the Tampa Bay Rays for five years, and he also played for seven other teams during his career.

Rhea Durham Wahlberg
Known for: Model

Originally noticed at a modeling show at Lakeland Square Mall, Wahlberg 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. You may also be familiar with her husband, actor Mark Wahlberg.

Pat Skipper
Known for: Actor

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

Steve Pearce
Known for: MLB player

Nicknamed the “Late Lightning,” Pearce has played for multiple notable teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and more. He was selected as the 2018 World Series MVP after his win with the Red Sox.

Eddie Goines
Known for: NFL player and actor

Goines 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 like “House of Payne,” “Suits,” and “Law & Order.”

Barbara Cooper Clack Heddon
Known for: Professional water skier

Heddon first learned to water ski on Lake Hollingsworth, eventually entering her first tournament in 1957. After breaking many records, she was inducted into the USA Water Ski & Wake Sports Hall of Fame.

Chris Sale
Known for: MLB player

Sale began his career pitching for the Chicago White Sox, and he then went on to win the 2018 World Series with the Boston Red Sox.

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

This R&B singer has released many successful records. You might have caught her appearance in the film “Girls Trip.”

NFL player Ray Lewis speaks on a microphone to fans in a football stadium. He stands at a podium wearing a winter coat, hat, and gloves. The Lombardi trophy sits on a table next to the podium.

Ray Lewis was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

Ray Lewis
Known for: NFL player

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

Charleene Closshey
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 the movie “No Postage Necessary,” and she is also a classically trained violinist.

Jonny Diaz
Known for: Singer

This contemporary Christian singer has been making music since 2003, finding success with his hit single, “More Beautiful You.”

Frances Langford
Known for: Singer

Frances Langford, the “GI Nightingale,” performed on USO tours with Bob Hope and also has a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star. In case you didn’t know, the Frances Langford Promenade on Lake Mirror was named after her.

Lee Janzen
Known for: Professional golfer

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

Mike and Maurkice Pouncey
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
Known for: Basketball player

After playing basketball at Kathleen High School, Sanders went on to play as a Rutgers Scarlet Knight, then was drafted to play professionally. He most recently played overseas on a basketball team in Poland.

Neva Jane Langley
Known for: Miss America 1953

This former Lakeland High School cheerleader became Miss America in 1953, representing the state of Georgia. She lived in Georgia until her death in 2012.

Lindsey Alley
Known for: Mickey Mouse Club member

Alley graduated from Lakeland High School in 1996 and was a Mousketeer on Disney’s “The Mickey Mouse Club.” Today, she stays busy with appearances on stage, film, and TV screens.

Tiffany Hayes
Known for: WNBA player

Tiffany was drafted by the Atlanta Dream as a guard in 2012 and was named the team’s all-time leading three-point shooter. She now plays for the Connecticut Sun.

Joe Nemechek
Known for: Racecar driver

At only 13 years old, 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
Known for: NFL player

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

Dwayne Bacon
Known for: NBA player

This Lakeland native and former McKeel Academy student was drafted as a shooting guard for the Charlotte Hornets. He most recently played for the EuroLeague.

This article was written in collaboration with @polkway863.

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