he transition from the red carpet to the halls of power has been a smooth one for many politicians. Name recognition puts celebrities a step ahead of potential competitors, and success as an entertainer, be it on screen, on stage, or on the athletic field, brings with it no small amount of credibility. After all, if a person can excel in one extremely challenging, extremely public endeavor, why not another?
10. The Gipper
Perhaps the best known celebrity politician in recent memory is Ronald Reagan. As he evolved from radio announcer to Hollywood actor to California governor to U.S. president, Reagan perfected his timing and delivery, crafting a public persona that earned him the nickname “the Great Communicator.”
9. The Hoopster
After concluding a professional basketball career with the New York Knicks, Hall of Famer Bill Bradley turned to politics. Without having held a lesser office he was elected to the U.S. Senate from New Jersey in 1978 and served three six-year terms. A liberal Democrat, he announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency on Jan. 12, 1999, but lost the Democratic nomination to Al Gore.
8. The Southpaw
The Philippines have been home to a number of colorful political figures, and in 2010 boxer Manny Pacquiao rode a wave of popularity into the national legislature. As perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter of his generation, the “Pac-Man” rose from poverty to global superstardom, and, after his election, he divided his time between lawmaking duties and training for his next bout.
7. The Underdog
Filipino actor Joseph Estrada made a career of playing tough guys who fight a crooked establishment. Truth veered rather dramatically away from fiction after Estrada was elected president of the Philippines in 1998, however, when a massive bribery and corruption scandal brought his government down amidst nationwide protests.
6. The Dame
British actress Glenda Jackson rose from modest beginnings to become one of the finest stage and screen performers of her day. She won a pair of Academy Awards before turning to politics in 1992, when she won a seat in the House of Commons as a Labour candidate. Although she failed in a bid to become mayor of London in 2000, she successfully defended her parliamentary seat in 1997, 2001, 2005, and 2010.
5. The Governator
The 2003 California gubernatorial election, necessitated by recall of sitting governor Gray Davis, was political theater at its most theatrical, with a flood of unlikely candidates from every imaginable background. In a field that included diminutive actor Gary Coleman, former baseball commissioner Pete Ueberroth, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, and political pundit Arianna Huffington, former bodybuilder and action star Arnold Schwarzenegger emerged as the winner, inheriting the state’s colossal budget crisis.
4. The Salsero
Not content simply to be one of the world’s most popular and influential salsa musicians, Rubén Blades forged a successful career as a film actor. Always ready to tackle social issues through his music, Blades tried to influence policy directly by running for president of Panama in 1994. Although unsuccessful, he remained politically involved in his native country, and in 2004, he was appointed to the cabinet of President Martín Torrijos to serve as minister of tourism.
3. The Wrestler
2. The Tunesmith
1. The Receiver
Professional football player Steve Largent retired from the NFL in 1989 having captured virtually every career receiving record. After 14 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and a short stint as a marketing consultant, Largent successfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served for four terms (1994–2002).