High-profile celebrity sightings are less common in Seattle than in New York or Hollywood. But The Emerald City’s music and tech scenes have produced and attracted several national and regional household names. Seattle also has its fair share of acclaimed writers and entrepreneurs. Here are 11 contemporary luminaries, born or living in Seattle, who’ve impacted or represented the community in influential ways.
Ask a Seattleite what force has held the most influence over Seattle during the past decade. They’ll almost certainly respond with “Amazon.” The online retail giant’s massive first headquarters transformed the streetscape, demography, and culture of South Lake Union. And Seattleites have mixed feelings about it. If this weren’t reason enough to include Amazon’s founder and CEO on this list, Bezos’ wealth recently surpassed Bill Gates’. Jeff Bezos is one of the most influential people in the world right now. In Seattle, his influence is as high as the Space Needle.
Known for his signature Orange crocs and fleece vests, “Molto Mario” is one of the biggest names in the restaurant world. The chef, restaurateur, and media personality co-owns several restaurants in the northeast, Las Vegas, and Singapore. “The Chew” co-host now lives in New York City with his wife and children. But Mario Batali hails from Seattle, where his sister Gina runs their father’s old restaurant, Salumi Artisan Cured Meats.
Born Kenneth Bruce Gorelick in Seattle in 1956, Kenny G. was born, raised, educated, and discovered in Seattle. The talented saxophonist has sold over 70 million records, and is credited with popularizing smooth jazz.
Bill and Melinda Gates
Seattle is a city of ideas, and Bill and Melinda Gates have had more than a few successful ones. The Microsoft co-founder is as famous for his wealth as for his innovative vision and business savvy. But before topping Forbes Billionaires List 18 of 23 years, Gates donated personal Microsoft stock to create the “William H. Gates Foundation.”
In 2000, Bill and Melinda combined three family foundations to create the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Committed to reducing inequities around the world, it is considered the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world. Bill and Melinda have been recognized independently and together (alongside Sonny Bono) for their philanthropic efforts.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
The hip-hop duo responsible for “Thrift Shop,” “Can’t Hold Us,” “Same Love,” and “Downtown” is known for defying conventions. Some of their song lyrics have been particularly bold for the hip-hop genre. And the duo is not on a record label, never has been, and is doing just fine.
Alternative rock icon Dave Matthews was born in South Africa and built his musical foundation in Virginia. But the singer-songwriter and guitarist has called Seattle “home” for well over a decade now. Dave Matthews is outspoken about his love for the Emerald City, where he may well be the most frequently sighted celebrity.
Journalist, author, media pundit, and LGBTQ activist Dan Savage is best known for his advice-column-turned-podcast “Savage Love”. Savage, who moved to Seattle to write for The Stranger‘s first issue in 1991, also has four books to his name. In The Kid, he recounts his adventures in adoption and parenting. And in The Commitment, Savage delves into his decision to marry longtime partner Terry Miller. In 2010, he founded the It Gets Better Project.
Novelist and TV writer Maria Semple was not fond of Seattle when she moved from L.A. in 2008. But she used writing as a therapeutic outlet, and ended up creating the runaway bestseller Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Last year, Semple published another novel set in Seattle called Today Will Be Different. The observations Semple makes watching people and observing her surroundings paint a distinct and recognizable picture of Seattle. Semple, who has written for Ellen and Mad About You, injects a healthy dose of humor into her work.
Best known for his role as Dwight Schrute in The Office, Seattle-born Rainn Dietrich Wilson is a modern-day sitcom icon. In addition to acting, the University of Washington drama program graduate is a comedian, director, producer, activist, entrepreneur, and memoirist. In 2008, he co-founded successful YouTube channel and media company SoulPancake, now owned by Participant Media. Today, Wilson divides his time between Los Angeles and Sisters, Oregon. If you want to learn more about his personal life, career, and faith, check out his memoir, The Bassoon King.
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