From Ronald Reagan to Volodymyr Zelensky, stars who went into politics

Agence France-Presse
From Ronald Reagan to Volodymyr Zelensky, stars who went into politics
Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelensky joins a growing list of celebrities and personalities becoming world leaders in their respective countries

PARIS, France – Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, whom exit polls showed winning Sunday’s presidential election in Ukraine, follows several celebrities – from US actor Ronald Reagan to Liberian footballer George Weah – who nabbed top political jobs in their countries.

Actors and comedians 

Reagan, a Hollywood actor for more than two decades, was the first cinema star to become head of state. 

He was elected governor of California in 1966 before starting the first of two terms as the 40th US president in 1981.

Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger later also made the leap from cinema to politics.

The bodybuilder and action hero was Republican governor of California, the richest and most populous US state, from 2003 to 2011.

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In the Philippines, all-action tough guy movie star Joseph Estrada, who played in around 100 films, entered politics in 1969, becoming mayor, senator and vice president. 

He was elected president in 1998 but driven out of office in 2001 by a popular revolt after corruption accusations.

STILL AT IT. Former president Joseph Estrada is gunning for another term as Manila mayor. File photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

In Guatemala, Jimmy Morales – a former TV comic with no previous political experience who campaigned on anti-corruption promises – was elected president in October 2015. 

Also a cinema producer and TV personality, Morales is famous for his 2007 film A President in a Sombrero in which he plays a country bumpkin cowboy named Neto who nearly gets elected president by accident.

Another popular cinema and theatre actor, Salvador del Solar, became Peru’s culture minister in 2016, before being named prime minister in March 2019.

Show business and reality TV 

Italian media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, reputed for peppering his television programs with nearly nude women, was Italian prime minister on three occasions between 1994 and 2011. 

Despite his regular brushes with the law, the man known as “the immortal” for his longevity in politics led the Italian right for more than two decades.

In January 2017 US real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump, whose surprise election shocked the world, entered the White House without any political, diplomatic or military experience.

The 45th president of the United States hosted the TV show The Apprentice between 2004 and 2015.

FROM REALITY TO US President. Donal Trump finds himself elected as the 45th president of the United States in 2016. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP

Music and song 

In Lithuania, musician Vytautas Landsbergis led his country to independence from the Soviet Union and was in 1990 elected as president.

In Haiti, popular carnival singer Michel Martelly – known to the country’s youth as “Sweet Micky” – won the April 2011 presidential election with more than 67% of votes, ruling until 2016.

From sport to politics 

Double Olympic gold medal epee winner in 1968 and 1972, Pal Schmitt became the 4th president of democratic Hungary in 2010. 

He was forced to resign two years later after being accused of plagiarism in his doctoral thesis.

George Weah emerged from Liberia’s slums to become a superstar footballer in the 1990s and was elected president of the west African nation in December 2017.

The only African player to have won the Ballon d’Or, he entered politics at the end of the country’s 1989-2003 civil war, winning his first political job as a senator in 2014.

In August 2018 former cricket champion Imran Khan, idolized by millions of Pakistanis for having led the national cricket team to its only World Cup victory in 1992, became prime minister.

Well away from the electoral process, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada, who seized power in 1971 in a coup, was a former heavyweight boxing champion.

Others have combined jobs in literature and politics, like Senegal’s poet and author Leopold Sedar Senghor, who became the republic’s first president upon independence in 1960, and Vaclav Havel who in 1989 won post-communist Czechoslovakia’s first presidential election.  –


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