From the Middle East to the Far East, these celebrities bring new meaning to the phrase “big in Japan.” For one reason or another, they struck a chord with a specific group of people in a land far away from home. Let’s take a look at the hilariously unexpected popularity of these celebs across the world!
Jessica Simpson - Ukraine
Not content with being a chart-topping pop star, at some point in the early 2000s, singer Jessica Simpson tried her hand at acting. In 2007, she starred in the romantic comedy "Blonde Ambition." To say that the modern ripoff of "Working Girl" flopped is an understatement - the film averaged just $48 per screening!
In Ukraine, however, it was a different story. The film opened at number one during its opening weekend thanks to the country's appetite for adorably cliche comedies. Despite her popularity in Eastern Europe, it might be best for everyone that Jessica doesn't get bitten by the acting bug again!
Jennifer Love Hewitt - Japan
While many of us remember Jennifer Love Hewitt from teen movies and shows like "Party of Five," she actually became a full-fledged pop star in Japan as a teen! In 1992, she released a Japan-exclusive pop album called "Love Songs," followed by two other albums that were also successful. It's kind of crazy to think that "The Ghost Whisperer" is also a pop sensation in Japan.
She explained that the Japanese love "perky music''. The poppier the music, the better." In addition to having a music career over there, the young Jennifer also starred in several commercials for Japanese brands and appeared on Japanese talk shows!
Nicolas Cage - China
Though once a celebrated actor, many would agree that Nicolas Cage's career has taken quite a turn. And while he might be more famous today for his questionable hair pieces and inspiration behind a popular meme, there is somewhere where he is (still) respected. You guessed it, or maybe not, China.
Several of Nic's films, including "Ghost Rider" and "The Croods," have made it past the country's strict censors, giving him the status of a film star. The country is so fond of him that in 2013 he was even named "Best Global Actor in Motion Pictures" at the county's prestigious Huading Awards show!
David Hasselhoff - Germany
When most of us think of David Hasselhoff, we think of the handsome lifeguard on "Baywatch" or the crime-solving "Knight Rider," but many of us have forgotten that The Hoff was also once a bonafide pop star, at least in Europe. David's song "Looking for Freedom" gained popularity in Germany when it became the unofficial anthem for the reunification of Berlin after the fall of the Berlin wall.
We bet you didn't expect to see 'freedom fighter' on David Hasslehoff's CV. Since then, Germany's love affair with the star hasn't waned, and he's appeared on the German show "Ze Network" and even inspired the David Hasselhoff Museum in Berlin!
Avril Lavigne - China
Yes, there was a time when we used to belt out the lyrics to "Sk8r Boi" while we waited for our parents to pick us up from the mall. Some of us may have even sported pink locks to look like our pop rock princess. But for many of us today, the music of Avril Lavigne is a nostalgic memory.
On the other side of the world, however, Avril is still a major star. In addition to being a popular star in Japan, she is also huge in China. In addition to selling out shows, the angsty pop star also filmed a commercial for a Chinese brand of iced tea, because why not?
Chuck Norris - Europe
Before he was the subject of some pretty ridiculous "Chuck Norris Facts," the action star and martial artist was considered by many to be the epitome of the "American hero." So much so that decades on, people know exactly who he is without having watched a single movie of his. For many growing up under communism, Chuck's appeal was so strong that people would smuggle his films into the country!
In recent years, Chuck has starred in advertisements for cell phone company T-Mobile in the Czech Republic. While the "Walker, Texas Ranger" star inspired a Chuck Norris-themed restaurant and statue in Zagreb, Croatia! Not bad for a 70s action star.
Kelly Rowland - UK
Though she was one-third of Destiny's Child, Kelly Rowland has had trouble carving out her own career. Though she had some success with the hit "Dilemma," it was nothing compared to the fame she has received across the pond. Having teamed up with various DJs, Rowland has finally found her musical niche.
Her song "When Love Takes Over," and other dance-inspired tracks quickly jumped the charts in the U.K. but failed to make a dent stateside. She even became a popular host on the British music reality show, The X Factor UK. and while she might be back in the United States, she remains a popular star in Europe.
Bruce Lee - Bosnia and Herzegovina
Though Bruce Lee may be known for his career as a martial arts actor, his legacy has stretched much further than Hollywood. For many in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the late star became known to symbolize "loyalty, skill, friendship, and justice."
It's no surprise then that the city of Mostar erected a statue of the "Enter the Dragon" star in 2005. Though this part of the world has long been known for being in conflict, it's very special to see just how much they clearly value these good qualities, and how they pay tribute to them. Hopefully, residents will use this statue as a constant reminder and inspiration.
Marty Friedman - Japan
While many Western artists enjoy a surprising amount of fame abroad, few actually move to those foreign countries and become pop culture figures! Lead guitarist for metal band Megadeth, Marty Friedman, has become quite the sensation in Japan since moving to Tokyo in 2003. He already had a steady Japanese following before the move, but after Friedman achieved acclaim he could frankly never achieve elsewhere.
The American guitarist has appeared in a whopping 700 Japanese television programs, collaborated with Japanese artists, written for Japanese music magazines, and even starred in Japanese movies and shows! One could say that he is definitely "big in Japan!"
Shayne Ward - Vietnam
Though the name Shayne Ward may not sound familiar to Americans, the singer and actor was once quite the star in his native U.K. In recent years, however, the "X Factor U.K." winner has found a devoted new legion of fans in Vietnam! The singer has had multiple hits over the years that have melted the hearts of people everywhere - not to mention a successful run on the Christmas charts in the UK.
It seems that the Vietnamese can't get enough of the "That's My Goal" singer, especially after he played a gig in Hanoi in 2008. Since then, his devoted Vietnamese fans have created fan pages for him on social media, and his fans can't wait until his next concert!
Kenny Rogers - Kenya
One wouldn't expect to hear the music of the late country legend Kenny Rogers in Kenya, but the "Islands in the Stream" singer is actually a fan favorite in the African nation! Surprisingly, Kenyans are quite devoted fans of country music and have a special love for Kenny. Maybe it's down to the similarities in their names...? Maybe not, but it was fun enough to point out anyway.
Kenya even has several country music shows that frequently play his songs, and his music has even inspired a new generation of Kenyan country artists! One of the most requested songs for Kenyan radio stations? Kenny's 1978 classic, "The Gambler!" Who knew?
Craig Ferguson - USA
As a young man in Scotland, we're sure that Craig Ferguson could never have imagined becoming a major star in the United States. After a fledgling career as a drummer for a punk rock band and later as an actor in his native Scotland, Craig's career changed when he found fame in the U.S.
After being cast on the sitcom "The Drew Carey Show," he quickly became a fan favorite leading to him hosting "The Late Late Show" for a decade. Craig's stateside fame and experience even inspired him to become an American citizen in 2008! We're sure Craig's life could pen a very interesting biography.
James Blunt - China
James Blunt may be known as being a one-hit wonder thanks to his ridiculously catchy 2004 hit "You’re Beautiful,” but that's only to the unwise, unenlightened bunch who haven't heard the rest of his equally-catchy, though even better, songs. In China, however, people understand his worth, and there seems to be no stopping this pop star!
The British singer is especially popular there, especially after collaborating with Chinese pop icon Jason Zhang for their hit “Adrenaline.” Though he admits, "I can count to 10 in Chinese, but I don't sing anything," the singer has toured China repeatedly, much to the delight of his Chinese fans!
Kevin James - Germany
Perhaps it's his surprising German ancestry (his last name is actually Knipfing), but Germany can’t seem to get enough of comedic actor Kevin James. The star of “Grown Ups” and “Here Comes the Boom” is quite the star in this European country.
His film “Hitch” was a huge hit, and his role in the sitcom “The King of Queens” made him a household name across the country. The secret behind his success abroad? Many believe that Germans enjoy his particular brand of slapstick humor and physical comedy. It's not the humor we would expect Germans to enjoy, that is to say, any humor, but this is fun to know.
Cyndi Lauper - Japan
Cyndi Lauper is a beloved music icon in the United States, but she also holds a special place in the hearts of Japanese fans. Though she had toured the country before, it was her devotion to the country following the tragic 2011 earthquake that made her especially loved. She immediately put out public statements in support, and ensured she kept her tour dates the following year exactly as planned.
Cyndi also credits her Japanese fans with supporting her "When the Americans made me feel like I should crawl and fall off the edge of the earth, these people would come to me and say, ‘Please make music—we love your music.’" We don’t blame her for sticking by them!
Halle Berry - China
Halle Berry might be an Oscar-winning actress, but in recent years her fame has slightly fizzled thanks to a series of movie flops and her headline-grabbing relationships. In China, however, the actress is still very much admired. So much so that she was recently given the “Global Icon Award” after being selected by 80 million Chinese citizens after voting in several polls.
Comparing her warm welcome in China to being like an “original Beatle,” she also hopes to be able to make movies and entertain the Chinese audience. In the interest of Berry's ratings with the critics, let’s just hope she doesn’t agree to any “Catwoman” sequels!
Anne-Marie - South Korea
Even if the name Anne-Marie doesn’t seem familiar, you would for sure recognize her voice. You probably have heard her major hit, a collaboration with Clean Bandit called "Rockabye." It seems that in addition to dominating the charts in the West, the U.K. native has a surprisingly huge fan base in South Korea.
Her song “2002” became a huge hit in the country, and she even helped compose Korean pop group TWICE’s hit song, “Scientist.” It seems that Anne-Marie is going to be a common fixture on the K-Pop (Korean Pop) scene for years to come! Good for her for paving her way into the international music scene.
Céline Dion - Jamaica
Though there’s no doubt that Céline Dion is a global superstar, her fame in Jamaica was quite surprising to learn about. It seems that the icon’s music is extremely popular on the island where her powerful love ballads are frequently remixed into fast-paced dancehall hits. Hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it.
Jamaicans got a chance to see the French Canadian star in person when she performed there in 2012, causing the island to come to a complete standstill. One song that is a favorite on the island? Her 2000 hit, “I’m Alive,” didn't achieve the expected level of fame in the U.S. but is loved in Jamaica.
Lionel Richie - Middle East
The residents of the Middle East have few things in common. But one thing they do share is a love for Lionel Richie. The crooner is apparently so huge in this part of the world that his song “All Night Long” was played even during wartime!
The singer explained that he is huge in the Arab world. Why is that, you ask? Well, don't ask Richie - he claims he hasn't got the slightest clue why they love him so much over there. He has performed in Libya, Morocco, Dubai, and Qatar but wishes to play in Iraq one day, where some of his biggest fans are said to live.
Edward Furlong - Japan
Edward Furlong was once one of Hollywood’s most promising stars. The child star gained fame in the early 90s as young John Connor in the action film “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and in the horror movie “Pet Sematary Two.”
But continents away, Edward also made a name for himself when he released an album in Japan called “Hold on Tight,” which featured his cover of the Doors’ hit “People Are Strange” and where he also appeared in a commercial for instant Hot Noodle soup. Unfortunately, being famous in Japan wasn’t enough to sustain his career in Hollywood. Still, he'll always have the memories.
Kenny G - China
For celebrated saxophonist Kenny G, his legacy in China is quite complicated. It seems that while Kenny G’s music is extremely popular in China, his 1989 song “Going Home” has become the unofficial theme song for telling people to…well … go home.
From malls to wedding banquet halls, the Chinese have become used to hearing the song used as a signal to wrap it up. While no one knows the origin of using Kenny G’s music to signal closing time, the artist is glad to know there was no language barrier to connecting with his music. That is a good point, though, how do non-English-speaking people understand what the song is indicating?
Anastacia - UK
It might come as a surprise to many, but Anastacia is actually American! Though she achieved some stateside fame with her hit song, “I’m Outta Love,” most of her fame has been achieved across the pond, in the U.K.
The “Left Outside Alone” singer has explained that being an American and having a successful career in the E.U., being in London made her feel very comfortable in a country where the language wasn’t a barrier. The Anglophile even became a judge on “The X Factor U.K.” in 2012 and even joined the British dance reality show “Strictly Come Dancing.” Talk about assimilating!
Wolfgang Puck - USA
Growing up in a small Austrian town, Wolfgang Puck had no idea that he would one day be cooking for presidents and celebrities after making it big in the United States. Though he trained in prestigious restaurants across Europe, he became a culinary star after opening his Los Angeles restaurant, Spago. Since then, he's become a hot name in Hollywood.
The Hollywood hotspot helped launch his empire of cooking books, restaurants, food products, and roles on shows like “Frasier” and reality cooking shows like “MasterChef.” Wolfgang is so adored by American fans that he received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
Steven Seagal - Serbia
Few things would surprise us about Steven Seagal, but learning that the eccentric action movie star is a Serbian citizen is definitely one of them. It turns out that Steven Seagal is apparently a huge star in Serbia, where he was even asked to train the country’s special forces in the Japanese martial art known as Aikido.
The “Under Siege” star is a frequent visitor to the country and even hopes to open a school for martial arts in the capital of Belgrade. Surprisingly, his popularity also granted him citizenship in another Eastern European country - Russia. The more you know!
Garth Brooks - Ireland
Garth Brooks may have “Friends in Low Places,” but he’s also got tons of friends, or rather, fans, in Ireland. While Garth is country royalty in the U.S., he is also a major star thousands of miles away in Ireland. Ireland may not strike you as a big market for country music, but given that it's Garth Brooks of all people, we get it.
The Irish can’t seem to get enough of the country crooner, and his concerts on the Emerald Isle sell out within hours. The singer, who is actually of Irish descent, even recorded an ode to the country called “Ireland,” where he referred to it as his home.
Nicole Scherzinger - UK
Nicole Scherzinger may have achieved fame as a member of the pop group, ‘The Pussycat Dolls,’ but she has struggled to launch a successful solo career in the United States. Across the pond, however, she has become a major celebrity thanks to her role as a frequent judge on the musical reality shows “The X Factor U.K.” and “Bring the Noise.”
And we can't forget her time on "The Masked Singer," as well as her appearance in the West End productions. In addition, Nicole’s former relationship with famous British Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton also made her a frequent fixture in British tabloids and secured her status as a household name.
Debbie Harry - UK
Debbie Harry might be known as one of the most famous female singers in the world thanks to massive hits like “Heart of Glass” and “Call Me,” but there’s one region in the world where she feels most appreciated - the UK. And to be even more specific - Scotland.
Beginning in the 70s, Debbie became so entrenched in the British music scene to the point where she admits that she even started to feel British. In a recent Scottish poll, the “Atomic” singer has been voted Glasgow’s most popular celebrity of the past decade! It seems their love affair goes both ways!
Leif Garrett - South Korea
For most Americans, Leif Garrett’s career seems to have been over as quickly as it started, but in South Korea, the former child star is surprisingly popular. In fact, Leif returned to the Asian country decades after visiting at the height of his fame to perform concerts in Busan and the capital city of Seoul.
While the often-troubled once-teen pinup’s music career was more of a “blink-and-you-miss-it,” Koreans seem to have a special fondness for him! We're not entirely sure why, and we have a feeling that Leif isn't too sure himself. But hey, for a struggling celebrity, why not ride the wave wherever it takes you?
Frank Zappa - Lithuania
For many, the late musician Frank Zappa represents a special type of freedom and creativity not often seen in the music industry. For Lithuanians, however, Frank’s music and political beliefs represented those of the country when it became independent from the USSR. It's a legacy that we bet Frank never expected to leave, but we're sure he's very proud of himself for sticking to his values.
It was this love of the musician that led a group of Lithuanians to erect a bust of Frank in the Lithuanian city of Vilnius. Though Frank never got an opportunity to tour there, we’re sure he would have loved to see this artistic dedication to him!
P!nk - Australia
There’s no doubt that P!nk is one of the most popular artists in recent years thanks to hits like “So What,” but did you know she has a huge following Down Under? The intense fandom has prompted many articles seeking to explain her popularity in the country, but many suspect it's because both P!nk and Australians are known for their honest and down-to-earth personalities.
She is so popular there that she routinely sells out shows and breaks records for album sales, becoming one of the most successful artists in Australia despite being American! It sounds to us like a match made in musical heaven.
Carly Rae Jepsen - Japan
Carly Rae Jepsen may have experienced huge success with her songs “Call Me Maybe” and “I Really Like You,” but many consider her to be a two-hit-wonder. In Japan, however, Carly’s brand of super-sweet pop music remains extremely popular. It's right up their alley with its upbeat tempo and fun lyrics.
Carly even shared that Japan was one of the first countries to really embrace her as an artist. In addition to releasing her album Emotion in Japan months before her native Canada, she also released a Japan-exclusive remix of the same album. Carly has even swished her hair around in a commercial for Japanese shampoo.
Beth Ditto - UK
If you ask most Americans about the band The Gossip or its former-lead singer Beth Ditto, you might be met with a blank look. That’s because, despite the band’s American roots, they have found the most success in Europe, specifically the U.K. This love and appreciation haven't gone unnoticed by Beth.
The “Heavy Cross” singer has joked that she wished she could live in Britain, saying that she feels like it's really easy to become big over there. She says that they would take any old "one-trick pony" off the street! A little harsh to both herself and the good people of Britain, but an interesting take nonetheless.
John Malkovich - France
There are times when a love affair between a foreign celebrity and a country’s fans goes both ways. In the case of Francophile actor John Malkovich, embracing France (and his legions of fans there) has been a part of his life for decades.
Contrary to the stereotype of the snobby Frenchman, the French have been so receptive to him that he actually moved there for close to a decade and worked in the theater scene of southern France. A dispute over taxes led to Malkovich and his family moving back to the States. While he was in France, he even bought a vineyard in the village of Lacoste, which has produced some award-winning wines!
Jennifer Connelly - Japan
We’ve all had moments in our lives that we would rather forget, but for celebrities, mistakes are often immortalized in film or pictures. Jennifer Connelly might be an Oscar-winning actress, but as a teen, she was a superstar in Japan! Her international look was a hit with local Japanese audiences, and her famous commercial is still spoken about today.
Jennifer not only filmed some truly cringe-worthy commercials in the country but her voice was used to create a chart-topping pop song. Though she probably would like to forget about the time she pranced around in some high-waisted jeans from Shiseido’s “Perky Jeans” line, her Japanese fans haven’t forgotten!
Jessica Sanchez - Philippines
It's always nice to see someone from your country make it big in Hollywood. Perhaps that’s why Filipina-American singer Jessica Sanchez has such a huge following in the Philippines. While Jessica was a runner-up in the 11th season of “American Idol,” her talent and pride in her Filipino descent have made her a star in that part of the world.
Jessica frequently tours the Philippines, performing in sold-out concerts and singing songs in Tagalog - the national language of the Philippines! With such an amazing voice, it’s not that hard to see why they would be so proud of Jessica!
Kylie Minogue - UK
Before she was “Spinning Around,” Kylie Minogue was a fan favorite on the Aussie soap opera “Neighbours.” It was on this show that Brits fell in love with the petite star - a love affair that would continue for decades.
After leaving the world of acting, Kylie has become a massive pop star often called the “Princess of Pop” by the European media. Kylie has lived in the U.K. for most of her life and was recently voted one of the region’s most-played female artists thanks to her many No.1 hits and bubbly persona. Not bad for an Aussie soap star.
Vengaboys - India
North Americans might have to take a trip back to the 90s to remember the dance-pop group the Vengaboys. But while many of us barely remember hits like “We Like to Party” and “Boom Boom Boom,” India certainly hasn’t forgotten. The country is home to a surprisingly huge population of devoted fans.
Because of this, the Vengaboys have toured extensively throughout India and have even said that the country is their “second home!” Calling the support they receive from Indians “overwhelming,” they consider it their favorite country! It just goes to show artists that they should never give up - they just need to find their audience.
Miranda Kerr - Japan
With her big blue eyes and adorable dimples, supermodel Miranda Kerr looks like she could be an anime character herself. It's no surprise then that the Japanese, who are fans of anything kawaii (cute), would fall for this Aussie. Miranda Kerr is a show-stopper in any country she lands in - it's no wonder she's built such an impressive career for herself.
Miranda has appeared in Japanese commercials for everything from laundry detergent to iced tea, where she has even sung songs in Japanese! She also collaborated with Japanese fashion designer Samantha Thavasa for a handbag collection. We don’t think she’ll be saying "Sayonara" to her Japanese fans anytime soon!
Scissor Sisters - UK
If you haven’t heard of the band The Scissor Sisters, then don't feel too bad, you’re not the only one. The band has struggled to make itself known in the United States, despite having been started there. Luckily, the Brits have been more than welcome to this dance-pop band and have made them pop stars.
Frontman Jake Shears even explained that before their success in the U.K., saying that they were just a bunch of strangely-dressed weirdos, and they think the Brits appreciated their authenticity. While this might be true, at least they're “strangely-dressed weirdos” with a huge British fan base today!
Kevin Costner - Turkey
Kevin Costner is one of the most respected actors working today, which is why it may have seemed strange when the “Dancing With Wolves” actor decided to film a commercial for Turkish Airlines. But don't doubt Costner's intellect - he knew that he was filming for an audience that he knows appreciates him more than anywhere else. It turns out that the Turks absolutely love the American actor.
Upon visiting the country, not only did he shake hands with important politicians, there was even talk of him playing the beloved Turkish founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk! Thankfully, Kevin passed on that offer, saying he should be played by an actual Turk.
Miranda Cosgrove - Brazil
There are devoted fans, and then there are the Brazilian fans of actress Miranda Cosgrove. As the star of the hit Disney Channel series iCarly, Miranda became a popular star across the world, but her Brazilian fans are especially devoted. It's unclear just why the Nickelodeon star has garnered so much fame in Brazil, but hey, who's complaining?
One Brazilian superfan even began tweeting random celebrities, asking them to help bring Miranda to the South American country! Their fierce devotion is known to Miranda and the rest of the show’s cast, who love how “Brazilians come to defend us and say nice things" on social media.
Harrison Ford - Japan
Thanks to his roles in iconic films like the “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” franchises, Harrison Ford is one of the most familiar faces in the world. It’s no shock then that, at some point, he would develop a huge fan base in Japan. Ford's charm knows no international bounds, so it makes sense that Japanese audiences loved his look and persona.
Over the years, the “Blade Runner” star filmed several commercials hawking everything from Kirin Lager to PlayStation Vitas in the country. While some actors would be embarrassed to participate in foreign commercials, Harrison understands just how admired he is in this part of the world!
Clint Eastwood - Italy
Clint Eastwood may be known as the epitome of the all-American movie star in large part to his films like “Dirty Harry” and “Gran Torino,” but it can be argued that he owes much of his fame to Italians. The Italians have loved Eastwood's rugged on-screen persona for decades, and who can blame them? Eastwood has produced some of the most memorable lines in Hollywood history.
It was Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns that helped launch his fame as the rugged antihero, and the actor is still a beloved icon in the European country. Clint even managed to learn some Italian to communicate with the famed filmmaker - a move that certainly paid off!
Jessie J - China
Though Jessie J experienced fame in her native U.K., it pales in comparison to the adoration she receives from her Chinese fans. The British singer is so popular there that she even took part in a Chinese reality singing competition show called “Singer” where she won first place!
The show, which was viewed by over a billion viewers, has helped make the “Bang Bang” singer one of the most popular music acts in the country. The singer is thrilled by her fame in China, saying that she sees her music as an opportunity to bridge a gap between her native British culture and Chinese culture. That may be a bit of a tall order, but in her defense, she has made some pretty impressive diplomatic strides.
Jeff Dunham - The Middle East
While many would say that comedy is usually successful only within certain regions or cultures, comedian Jeff Dunham has found a way to break barriers with his hilarious routines. One surprising place where he has amassed a huge amount of fans? The Middle East.
You may not think that the Middle East has the most sophisticated taste for comedy - that's why Jeff Dunham is so popular. We kid, we kid. From Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv, the comedian has performed at sold-out venues across the region and has a comedic range that is personified by his puppets and spans a plethora of cultural differences.
Cheap Trick - Japan
There could be no mention of bands being “Big in Japan” without talking about the American rock band Cheap Trick. Though the band did have some hits in their native country, their reception in Japan was similar to “Beatlemania,” according to the band’s photographer, who watched as the band was swarmed by hordes of screaming Japanese fans.
Their devotion helped the band’s music reach the top of the charts, and Japan was the setting for their now-iconic live concert at Tokyo’s Budokan arena. This is another interesting example of how the right audience can be found in the most unexpected of places.
Napalm Death - Indonesia
You would think that a metal band with the name Napalm Death wouldn’t exactly have a following in a conservative country such as Indonesia, but you’d be wrong. It turns out that Indonesians can’t get enough of the British heavy metal group.
Even the country’s president, Joko Widodo, is a huge fan of the band Napalm Death and was even spotted wearing a t-shirt with the band’s name on it. Not long ago, the band’s frontman, Barney Greenway, personally reached out to the superfan and president to discuss Indonesia's policies! We don't know how that went or how much Greenway even knew about foreign policy - but it definitely made for an interesting headline.
Neil Sedaka - Japan
Sometimes, having an exotic-sounding name can help you build a fan base around the world - at least, that was the case for iconic singer Neil Sedaka. The legendary crooner explained that many Japanese thought that he was Japanese, too, thanks to his last name! Really, his last name is from his father's Turkish roots, but the Japanese don't need to know that.
Though the truth was later revealed, it didn’t stop the “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” singer from becoming a huge hit in Japan. His song “One Way Ticket” became an especially big hit there, where locals began referring to it as “the choo-choo train song.”
Air Supply - Jamaica
When Air Supply lead singer Graham Russell was told that his band was loved in Jamaica, he had trouble believing it. He explained that it wasn’t until they played at the country's Jazz and Blues festival that they got to see first-hand how intense it truly was. Since then, they've maintained a close relationship with their Jamaican fans.
Surprisingly, the soft rock band is especially appreciated on the island, making their trip to Jamaica one of their most memorable concerts. Many believe that Jamaicans love Air Supply for their deep lyrics about love and relationships, a piece of music known as “soul sounds.”
Alyssa Milano - Japan
During the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, it seemed that you couldn’t be a celebrity without producing at least one pop album in Japan, and Alyssa Milano was no different. In 1989, she released an album called “Look in My Heart.”
Though few Americans know about her pop star career, she was huge in Japan. She even ended up recording four albums for the Japanese market! While today she might be embarrassed by her music, she once said she recorded music in Japan because she much preferred to have it released where it’s appreciated rather than where she would be laughed at.
‘Sugar Man’ Sixto Diaz Rodriguez - South Africa
It might be surprising to learn that the artist known as Rodriguez or ‘Sugar Man’ is extremely popular thousands of miles from his native Detroit. In fact, he is so popular that it is said he has sold more records in South Africa than Elvis Presley!
It is believed that his lyrics about fighting against the system helped gain him fans in South Africa, especially during the time of anti-apartheid protests. There was a widespread rumor in South Africa in the 80s and 90s that Rodriguez had passed away, and when it was discovered he was still alive, his fame shot up again. Since gaining this huge fan base, he has toured across South Africa multiple times.
Nicole Kidman – Venezuela
Born in Hawaii to Australian parents while on student visas, Nicole Kidman began her life as someone that loved to be international, but it got better from there. She became one of the most famous and highest-paid actresses in the world thanks to appearing in famous films like “Far and Away,” “Batman Forever,” “Eyes Wide Shut,” and many, many more. She’s still making plenty of movies, acting and producing television, and even has a little bit of music out there.
In addition, she’s also INCREDIBLY famous in Venezuela. Why? We don’t know! However, she is such a draw for that country that when Kidman tried some of the local cuisine (arepa) while she was in Australia, the news in Venezuela covered the event for entire weeks. Remember, she wasn’t even in Venezuela at the time.
Sylvester Stallone – Russia
It’s weird to think that Sylvester Stallone is so famous in Russia when some of his biggest moments as an actor – John Rambo and Rocky Balboa – came about while going up against Russians. Or, at least, people from the Soviet Union. Would this man be anywhere near as popular and beloved as he is now if he never got into the ring with Ivan Drago (who was played by the Swedish Dolph Lundgren)?
Yet Stallone is a big figure in Russia for some reason. Some of his films, including “Grudge Match” had their biggest overseas gross from the country. It’s not just his acting that has made him famous, either. He’s also celebrated as a painter for some reason, and he once even got to have an exhibition in a St. Petersburg museum.
Woody Allen – Europe
While the neurotic and odd Woody Allen found plenty of success in his native United States, it seems that Europe is where he really made his mark. Thanks to a couple of controversies (as well as a collection of not-so-great films) the filmmaker and actor’s star has fallen in the States, but he remains a beloved figure across the pond.
The reason is a little cyclical, but makes perfect sense: His early films were popular in Europe because they were good and offered something other than the standard American fare. European investors and studios reached out, knowing he had a market there, and the movies that came out of those projects were enjoyed by Europeans. A cynic might also point out that the controversies that knocked him down a peg in America aren’t as big a deal in Europe.
Jerry Lewis – France
If you’ve never popped in a classic Jerry Lewis film, you’re missing out. His brand of comedy and humor have to be seen to be believed, and it’s no surprise that American audiences loved his slapstick, jokes, and strange noises. However, France seemed to like him even more. To many French audiences, Lewis embodied and satirized the “ugly American” trope, which gave them plenty to laugh at.
Influential film critic Robert Benayoun, who wrote the seminal book on Lewis, called him a revolutionary, a man who dared, an experimentalist, and a pioneer. It also helped that his movies were really, really funny. Even now, public showings of any of Jerry Lewis’s filmography are bound to draw big crowds. Finally, Lewis appreciated the French right back, making numerous trips to the country.
John Cusack – China
While not the biggest name in his native America, John Cusack still enjoys the celebrity life. But in China, he’s at the top of the list. He started getting lead roles in a number of Chinese projects such as the hit “Dragon Blade.” This started because one of his films, “2012,” ended up being a big smash in China, proving that something can be popular anywhere.
In recent years, he’s starred in plenty of projects of varying sizes, from independent films to blockbusters, and while they’ve met with mixed box-office success in America, they remain draws in China. He also has some collaborations with Jackie Chan who is obviously famous in America, but might be the most well-known celebrity in China. Cusack has also loved martial arts, and uses it in several of his movies.
John Lennon – Cuba
When Fidel Castro was in power, the island nation of Cuba banned music from the Beatles, as well as lots of other popular musicians. It was Western decadence, so it didn’t have a place in Castro’s Cuba. After the Beatles broke up, Lennon went on to become a big-time political activist, constantly sparring with those in the government, especially in the Nixon years.
The news from Miami was beamed to Cuba, where Castro and other high-ranking members of the regime could watch. Castro found a strange sort of kinship in Lennon, which doesn’t exactly say many good things about Lennon. The rock musician became an icon in Cuba, with a bronze statue in the park. He’s such a popular figure that the statue doesn’t have glasses, because people keep stealing them.
Chris de Burgh – Lebanon
Irish singer/songwriter Chris de Burgh released “Lady in Red” back in 1986 and the song immediately became a big hit in a number of countries, including the Middle Eastern country of Lebanon. However, it was the Lebanese civil war that was the real root cause of de Burgh’s popularity. Bet you didn’t expect that one, did you? As bombs fell on one side or the other, the Lebanese would shelter in bunkers, listening to music to pass the time.
Of course, a beautiful, memorable song like “Lady in Red” would be on constant rotation, and thus this musician became a household name halfway across the world from his native Ireland. Local musicians consider being able to perform with him a huge boost to their career, and for the most part, they are correct.
Gérard Depardieu – Russia and North Korea
French actor Depardieu wasn’t happy with his native country, and it’s for one of the most classic reasons to be unhappy – the high taxes. He decided that the best course of action would be to move to Russia. Okay, Big G, whatever makes sense to you. France imposes high taxes on the wealthy, which is always a winning idea (sarcasm), and this traveling man figured he would move to Russia, and Russia was all about it.
His popularity even led President Putin to grant Depardieu citizenship. In addition, Depardieu has also made trips to North Korea, making him popular there just for recognizing them. He also liked Turkey and had talks with President Erdogan. One might wonder why Depardieu is always getting cozy with despots, but that’s a question for another time.
Megadeth – Latin America
Megadeth has been a popular heavy metal band for a couple of decades, but for some reason, their style of music is oh-so beloved in Latin America, with a particular emphasis in Argentina. The reason for this is a combination of a couple of things. First, the music genre as a whole is well-liked there, reaching bigger mainstream success than in many other parts of the world even if those parts have heavy metal, like America.
Argentina rock is one of the first non-English rock movements to become internationally popular, so there’s plenty of history there. In addition, Megadeth released “Countdown to Extinction” in 1992, a tumultuous time in Argentina’s history. The aggressive sound and frenzied lyrics of the album captured how many people felt in the country.
Saya Hiyama – United States
It isn’t all that common for something like a news anchor to make an international leap in popularity, but it’s been known to happen. Let’s take Japanese anchorwoman Saya Hiyama as an example. It was all because of the 2021 Fukushima earthquake that struck Japan off the coast of Tohoku, Japan. The news was revealed during a broadcast while Hiyama was talking about something.
She had a big smile, and was cheerfully discussing the topic, but as soon as the news about the earthquake hit, she switched to a serious and no-nonsense demeanor, seemingly on a dime. She was known for her happy personality, but her professionalism ended up making her a much bigger name – after the event, her Twitter presence skyrocketed, with most of her new followers coming from outside Japan.
Jonathan Kos-Read – China
If you aren’t familiar with this American actor, you aren’t alone. He’s a relative unknown in the United States, but he’s an extremely well-regarded television and film actor in China. He works under the Chinese stage name Cao Cao, and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. As a Caucasian, he fills a specific niche market in the Chinese entertainment industry.
Seeing as China has a population of over a billion people, we can see why making friends with such a huge audience might be a good idea for an entertainer. He’s been in plenty of movies and television shows, and he even had a reality show about his life. He’s often asked to act as an American, a European, or lots of other figures from the Western side of the world.
30 Seconds to Mars – Europe
You might know Jared Leto, the frontman for this rock band, better as the guy who keeps ruining movies, but the band itself is well-known around the world. They enjoy modest success in America, but their big claim to fame is their fans in Europe. They regularly have sold-out tours in the continent as well as in the United Kingdom, and also often collect awards from that side of the world.
Oh, also, they might be starting a cult, since the band has been holding something called “Camp Mars Europe” and “Camp Mars Festival,” which is held on, apparently, “Mars Island.” Leto dresses in an all-white robe as devotees flock around him, but that was in 2019, long before he proved he wasn’t a very good actor.
Andrew W.K. – Japan
There was a hot minute when Andrew W.K. was the biggest name in music, and it’s hard for that amount of time to be more accurate. He had a couple of successful records, and his fun party-boy attitude and energy were a big attraction to people who needed to let loose. However, it seems the public at large has started ignoring him...except for in Japan.
He’s once again a musician who has proved to be big in the tiny island nation. Mr. W.K. has had several Japan-only releases, which include an album of Japanese pop song covers, and an album of songs from the Gundam series in order to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the famous property. If you want to be big in Japan, go with the classics.
Bill Hicks – England
With a dry wit and some acerbic brilliance, Bill Hicks became popular in the United States, but his popularity was much bigger on the other side of the Atlantic. Even years after his early death in 1994, Hicks enjoyed great popularity, with a pair of British filmmakers creating a film about his life in 2010. The Brits seemed to particularly love the irony and dry humor of Hicks’s delivery, and they also didn’t mind that he regularly made fun of American culture.
His stand-up special “Relentless” aired during primetime on BBC channel 4, one of the most popular networks, and he sold out when he made appearances in London. He might not have had a lot of time to enjoy his popularity there, but he made the most of it while he could.
John Oliver – The United States
Talk to almost anybody that likes to keep their finger on the pop-culture pulse in America, and they’ll have an opinion about John Oliver, the Brit who contributed on “The Daily Show” before going on to have his own show, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” However, both of the shows have mainly American audiences. In his home country, on the other hand, he could probably walk down a busy street and not even be recognized.
In fact, you might be hard-pressed to find anybody that sees him in the same light as people from America. Oliver is aware of this fact, and can often be heard doing some self-deprecation. In a segment about the UK, he said: “We turn to the United Kingdom, where I am fondly known as ‘Who?’”
Anthony “Sulley” Sullivan – The United States
In what might be one of the most bizarre examples on this list, Anthony “Sulley” Sullivan became famous in the United States because he was a pitchman. Imagine a British Billy Mays and you’re on the right track. The shtick was that Americans assumed British people were intelligent, so one of them selling you an item means that the item is of high quality...right? That’s what they went with, anyway, to various results.
He never even expected to be known outside of the United States, but to his surprise, he actually got some “press” in England thanks to the bizarre transatlantic accent he used in the ads. Apparently, his method of pronouncing potatoes is famous. Now, thanks to the show he had with fellow advertiser Billy Mays, his success is a little more international.
Muhammad Ali – The Democratic Republic of Congo
No doubt you’re familiar with Muhammad Ali, nicknamed “The Greatest.” The man could punch really hard, and he proved it in the ring more than a couple of times. He was and remains one of the most well-respected and famous boxers in the United States, but there was a period of time when he was one of the most popular public figures EVER in Zaire, which eventually became The Democratic Republic of Congo.
This is due to the legendary fight he had with George Foreman in the country, which was known as the “Rumble in the Jungle.” The Congolese audience cheered Ali on by shouting “Ali boma ye!” which means “Ali, kill him!” in Lingala. Following Ali’s death, his star power understandably fell.
Jean-Claude van Damme – Arab Countries
Born in Belgium, the Muscles from Brussels made his way to America to star in action movies that took the world by storm. And by the world, we mean countries in the Arabian part of the world. One of the big reasons was that he starred in the film “Legionnaire,” a Western action film that has positive portrayals of Arabs during a time when such things were few and far between.
There was a rumor that van Damme had converted to Islam, but there’s no real evidence of it other than internet hearsay. However, the actor does apparently follow a “Muslim” diet inspired by the diet that the Prophet Muhammad was said to have followed. Not a lot of meat, lots of vegetables, and hummus.
Hilary Duff – Italy
We’re told that Hilary Duff is famous in Italy, but we’re not exactly sure why. One of the most common reasons is that the film follow-up for her famous show “Lizzie McGuire” (Aptly titled “The Lizzie McGuire Movie”) is set mainly in Rome. Hilary got to go around Rome, acting as both the title character as well as a famous Italian pop-star lookalike, Isabella, which probably got a lot of people to notice from the country.
Regardless of why, Duff is a big name in the European country. In fact, there is at least one exclusive compilation album that is only available in Italy. The songs she releases regularly reach number one there, and we bet they like “How I Met Your Father.”
Taylor Kitsch – Europe and Asia
Even if you remember the name Taylor Kitsch, you probably only remember it from famous flops such as “John Carter” and “Battleship,” two movies that tried so hard to be blockbusters, but they could only bust themselves. He was the lead actor in both films, and audiences both in the United States and in Kitsch’s native Canada weren’t impressed.
However, both of the films were far more successful in areas of Europe and Asia, and Kitsch was able to avoid falling out of the limelight completely by taking projects that have a more foreign appeal. He’s been in a number of films, and he’s also remembered fondly for his time as troubled high-school football star Tim Riggins in “Friday Night Lights.” He might never be an A-lister, but he’s on the list.
Thalia – Philippines
While Thalia – full name Ariadna Thalia Sodi Miranda – is known as the “Queen of Latin Pop” in her home country of Mexico, it’s her “trilogy” of soap operas that made her famous in the Philippines, “Maria Mercedes,” “Maria la del Barrio,” and “Marimar.” The latter two soaps were popular enough in the Philippines to get their own foreign-language remakes. Thalia isn’t the only person from these shows to gain fame elsewhere.
The villain of “Marimor” had plenty of fans in the Philippines thanks to some memes, and the actress who played the villain of “Maria la del Barrio” also got some memetic fandom thanks to her hammy nature and outbursts. She even has a page on the “Know Your Meme” website. Back to Thalia, we don’t even know if she’s known for her music in the Philippines.
Brad Pitt – Japan
Obviously, Brad Pitt is a worldwide superstar that has at least a little bit of fame in every country – he’s probably filmed at least one movie set in every country. However, there’s one country that seems to find this A-lister even more irresistible than a lot of the others, and that’s Japan. Specifically, it’s the young women of the country who can’t get enough of Mr. Pitt.
This went so far as to make “Brad Pitt” one of the most popular names for the digital pet Tamagotchi. Pitt has been outspoken about his love for the country while on publicity tours for his movies, and he was also a star in “Bullet Train,” an adaptation of a Japanese book that takes place almost entirely on a bullet train in Japan.
Masi Oka – The United States
Masi Oka rose to prominence thanks to his time on the American science-fiction show “Heroes,” but he’d been in the business for a while since then. He even worked with Industrial Light and Magic on the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy. After that, he joined the cast of “Heroes” and became close to a household name, picking up a fair share of credits even after the show wrapped.
Despite having been born in Tokyo, however, he moved to Los Angeles at a young age. Despite his nationality being still listed as Japanese, Oka actually has a rather small fandom in Japan. Most people of that nation that are aware of him are just happy that he made it big in America, and most of them seem to consider him more American.
Val Valentino – Brazil
You might not know exactly who Valentino is – he’s an American illusionist that is better known as “The Masked Magician.” This illusionist gained a sudden surge in popularity on the other side of the equator when clips of his show “Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed” were shown on the show “Fantástico.” It’s a hugely popular program in Brazil, and thanks to it, Val Valentino gained a whole lot of popularity in Brazil.
The show revealed the secrets to several large magic acts, something many find themselves interested in. He’s also quite fondly regarded in Chile, where he made a number of public appearances in his Masked Magician persona before he started going without the mask, and in Japan. In fact, Brazil likes him so much that they gave him the name “Mister M.”
Diane Lane – Japan
With experience acting since 1971 and acting in movies since 1979, Lane is a formidable name in the history of filmmaking. She was in “The Perfect Storm,” “Streets of Fire,” she’s in the DC Extended Universe as Martha Kent, and plenty more. However, she’s likely way more popular in Japan, thanks mostly to the modeling she did for a number of Japanese magazines.
She also had a modeling photo book published and was also in a number of advertisements for cars, soft drinks, and jewelry. A lot of this comes from the aforementioned “Streets of Fire,” which was a critical failure in America, but the style was much more received in Japan. Its aesthetic was even inspiration for familiar titles like “Street Fighter,” “Final Fight” and “Streets of Rage.”
Richard Gere – Japan
We’re unsure why former leading man Richard Gere is such a huge figure in Japan, but there’s no doubt that he is. They adore him, to the point that legendary director Akira Kurosawa gave him a big role in one of his (Kurosawa’s) last films, “Rhapsody in August.” Gere also got to have an impromptu dance with the former Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi. He’s also appeared in a number of successful foreign remakes of Japanese films.
Again, we’re not really sure why this is. He does plenty of ads, which is pretty common when it comes to American celebs, but the Japanese have really taken to him. In fact, there’s a common joke that Koizumi’s premiership was only so long because he looked a lot like Gere.
Taron Egerton – Asia
Actor Taron Egerton is incredibly popular in Asia, despite not having the longest CV when it comes to Hollywood. Still, His work in the “Kingsman” series of films put him on the map, and for some reason, South Korea in particular loves his time in the films. K-Pop acts, including the global superstars BTS, will often give shout-outs to both Egerton and his role in the films to this day.
Indeed, South Korea adores the man so much that they gave him the fan nickname “Kim Taron.” Kim is the most common surname in the country, meaning that many consider him an honorary South Korean. The Philippines like him for the things “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” says about certain political figures that may or may not be from the Philippines. His boyish yet chiseled looks also appeal heavily to the male beauty standards of the entire Asian continent.
Olivia Hussey – South Korea
After making it big as the female lead in “Romeo and Juliet” from 1968, Olivia Hussey took a little break before jumping back into the Hollywood machine. Sure, she was in some good movies, but why is she so popular in South Korea? Well...it’s because she’s pretty. Don’t get us wrong, there’s a lot to like about Miss Hussey, but the people of South Korea know her because of her looks.
It’s actually a little weird – she’s a huge influence on South Korean beauty standards. If you look like Olivia Hussey, South Korea thinks you are attractive. It’s so widespread that if the media wants to call a beautiful singer, model, or actress attractive without coming right out about it, they'll compare the figure to Hussey.
Bill Engvall – Canada
During a segment about arriving at jury duty and being asked if he was a famous Canadian, Bill Engvall’s reply was simply: “Only in Canada.” This is actually not too uncommon when it comes to comedians, since the “Just for Laughs” comedy festival in Montreal is broadcast on public Canadian television, and it’s a common spot for comedians to make a big break.
Engvall’s type of down-home, family-focused, and redneck style (he was part of the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour”) is likely to land well in Canada, which has plenty of people that consider themselves blue-collar or rednecks, even if the terms are usually more likely to point to the United States.
David Kirk Taylor – Italy
David Kirk Taylor – also known as David Zed – is an American actor, singer, and mime who became extremely popular in Italy for his character “Mr. Zed” during the early eighties. The character is an android who is, apparently, a robot pretending to be a man who is pretending to be a robot. He sang one of his songs at the Sanremo Music Festival, a big event in the country.
His famous robotic character even got a movie parody at the time. Then there was a long slump, but it’s hard to keep a good robot down. Since the late 2000s, he’s been in a number of Italian TV series, as well as some made-for-TV movies, though without his famous robotic character.