Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep in "The Mummy" 

Contrary to what we learned at the 2010 World Cup, Shakira is not actually South African. But there are famous people who are. Whether they claim their South African heritage or it was just a place where they were born, South Africa can still call them its own. And as you’ll see, the Rainbow Nation has produced some pretty impressive people. Here are 15 celebrities you didn’t realize were from South Africa.

Steve Nash
Steve Nash
Although Steve Nash moved to Canada when he was 18 months old, he was born in Johannesburg to a Welsh mother and an English father. He didn’t start playing basketball until he was 12 or 13 (like all good Canadians, he focused more on hockey) but told his mother that one day he would play in the NBA and would be a star. Pretty good prediction, given that played for the Lakers until this year — he has since retired — and is a two-time NBA MVP and an eight-time NBA All-Star.

J.R.R. Tolkien 
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State (now Free State Province) and lived there until age 3 when he moved to England after his father’s death. He’s best known for authoring the epic “Lord of the Rings” series written between 1937 and 1949. Tolkien addressed societal issues in other works, expressing opposition to Stalinism, socialism, and his disgust of racism. He even wrote a fairly well-read piece about racism in South Africa. 

Charlize Theron at the 85th Annual Oscars

Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron is one of the few people on this list who actually grew up in South Africa (her first language is Afrikaans). Born in Benoni in then-Transvaal Province, she grew up on her parents’ farm outside Johannesburg. At 13, she was sent to boarding school and began studying at the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg until she moved to Los Angeles at 19 to join the movie business.
Dave Matthews performing in Milan, Italy
Brengola-Diena /
Dave Matthews

Born in Johannesburg, Dave Matthews moved back and forth between New York and England from age 2 to 10, but returned to Johannesburg with his family. After graduating from high school in 1985, he was conscripted into the South African military but left the country to avoid service. A Quaker, he considered himself a pacifist and unable to fight. Fun fact: Matthews worked for IBM for a short time before he joined the music world and became the rocker we all know and love today.

Glynis Johns

 We’ll go back a little to a time when the measure of celebrity wasn’t based upon US Weekly magazine covers. Glynis Johns won a Tony award for creating the character of Desiree Armfeldt in “A Little Night Music” on Broadway. She is especially remembered for playing Winifred Banks, the suffragette mother in “Mary Poppins.” She received an Oscar nomination for her role in the 1960 film “The Sundowners.” Born and raised in Pretoria to British parents, Johns became the first person ever to croon the lyrics to the famous song “Send in the Clowns.” 

Trevor Rabin 

The famous 1980s rock band “Yes” had Trevor Rabin in the front as guitarist, songwriter, bass guitarist, and keyboardist. Rabin was born in Johannesburg to British parents. His father was the lead violinist for the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Yes did not achieve huge success until Rabin joined. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was written by Rabin and became a smash hit and a timeless classic rock sensation.