From Manny Pacquiao to Shirley Temple: Seven celebrities who swapped the entertainment industry for politics

Kanye West is not the first star to hold political ambitions

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Shirley Temple and Manny Pacquiao all embarked on political careers
Powered by automated translation

Kanye West apparently plans to run for president of the US.

The rapper made the announcement on Twitter on July 4, writing: "We must now realise the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States."

It remains to be seen whether West's bid for the Oval Office chair is sincere or a marketing ploy for his upcoming album God's Country.

If, against all odds, the 21-time Grammy-winning artist manages to find himself elected as 46th president of the US (2020 has been weird enough), he will be far from the first celebrity to turn to politics.

Indeed, incumbent US President Donald Trump was the host of reality TV show The Apprentice, while Ronald Reagan was a film actor before he became the US president between 1981 and 1989.

Below, we take a look at seven other celebrities who left the entertainment industry for careers in politics.

1. Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visits a settlement affected by heavy rainfall and flooding in Ivano-Frankivsk Region, Ukraine June 25, 2020. Picture taken June 25, 2020. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Before becoming the president of Ukraine in 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky was an actor and comedian. Reuters

Before becoming the president of Ukraine in 2019, Zelensky was an actor and stand-up comedian with no political experience.

His career in the entertainment industry began when he was 17, after he took part in a comedy competition on the TV show KVN. He then created and headed the Kvartal 95 comedy team, touring around post-Soviet countries until 2003.

Five years later, Zelensky leapt on to the silver screen, starring in the feature film Love in the Big City and its sequels. Before long, he became a staple in a number of romantic-comedies and one of Ukraine's most popular performers.

However, looking at some of his material, it seems Zelensky had his eye on the presidential role for some time. On his 2015 show Servant of the People, he played a high-school teacher who unexpectedly becomes the president of Ukraine after a video of him admonishing corrupt politicians goes viral.

2. Manny Pacquiao

Philippine boxing icon and Senator Manny Pacquiao (R) gestures as he asks questions to retired police officer Arturo "Arthur" Lascanas (L) at a Senate hearing in Manila on March 6, 2017. - The former police aide of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he was part of a "death squad" that took part in over 300 killings when Duterte was a city mayor. (Photo by TED ALJIBE / AFP)
Filipino boxer and senator Manny Pacquiao. AFP

Manny “The Pacman” Pacquiao first established himself as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time before he turned to a career in politics.

He is the only boxer in history to have won major world titles across eight different weight classes and the only to hold world championships across four decades.

Pacquiao is also currently one of the 24 senators of the Philippines.

His political career began in 2007, after he announced his campaign for a seat in the Philippine House of Representatives. In preparation, he enrolled at the Development Academy of the Philippines, in the Graduate School of Public and Development Management.

In May 2010, Pacquiao was elected to the House of Representatives, representing the province of Sarangani, winning by a landslide against the Chiongbian family, who had been in power in the province for more than three decades.

He assumed his role in the senate in June 2016, after garnering more than 16 million votes.

3. Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple rose to fame as an actress in the 1930s. AP
Shirley Temple rose to fame as an actress in the 1930s. AP

Temple was one of the world's most recognisable child actors before becoming the US ambassador to Ghana and to Czechoslovakia, and also serving as Chief of Protocol of the US.

She began her career in film at the age of 3 in 1931, achieving international fame for her role as Shirley Blake in the 1934 film Bright Eyes. Soon, she became a Hollywood regular, appearing in a series of hit films, including Curly Top and Heidi.

By the time she retired from acting in 1950, at the age of 22, Temple had starred in no fewer than 44 films.

In 1967, she made an unsuccessful bid for California's 11th congressional district, but came in second in the open primaries with 22 per cent of the vote.

She then began her diplomatic career in 1969, after she represented the US at the United Nations General Assembly, working at the US Mission under Ambassador Charles W Yost.

Temple was also appointed the US Ambassador to Ghana by then US President Gerald Ford, serving in the role between 1974 and 1976. She then became the first female Chief of Protocol, which put her in charge of arrangements for President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration and inaugural ball.

She served as US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia between 1989 and 1992, after being appointed to the role by President George H W Bush. She died in 2014 at the age of 85.

4. Hayk Marutyan

Marutyan, the incumbent mayor of Yerevan, was once one of Armenia’s most popular comedy personalities.

He rose to fame as part of the comedy duo Hayko Mko in the 2000s.

Along with Mkrtich "Mko" Arzumanyan, he co-produced comedy sketch show Kargin Haghordum (The Good Show) before going on to star in several comedy films, including Super Mother and Love Odd.

In the early 2010s, Marutyan became actively involved in Armenia's social and political movements.

In 2012, he voiced his support for the Mashtots Park Movement – also known as #SaveMashtotsPark and OccupyMashtots – which protested the destruction of trees and green zones in Yerevan, but also evolved into a movement against corrupt politicians.

He then actively protested against the presidency of Serzh Sargsyan and, during the 2018 revolution, voiced his support for Nikol Pashinyan, who is currently serving as Armenia's prime minister.

That same year, he was elected Yerevan's mayor in a landslide victory, garnering about 81 per cent of the votes.

Marutyan has since led the fight in preserving green spaces in the Armenian capital, and has removed illegally built properties on spaces that were reserved for parks and other open areas. He has even vowed to replace Yerevan’s dilapidated public transportation system within the next two to four years.

5. Yukio Aoshima

Before becoming the governor of Tokyo from 1995 and 1999, Aoshima was an established film director, actor, screenwriter, musician and novelist.

Born in Tokyo in 1932, Aoshima began writing manzai comedy – a Japanese tradition of stand-up comedy – while he was a student at Waseda University in the late 1940s, soon making his debut as a comedy writer in Japan’s growing television industry.

He became a household name in Japan after starring in a number of comedy programmes in the 1960s, including Soap Bubble Holiday and Mean Granny.

Aoshima then produced, directed and starred in the film The Bell, which competed at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival. His debut novel Ningen banji saio ga hinoeuma won the coveted Naoki Prize in 1981.

Aoshima ran for Governor of Tokyo in 1995. Unlike other politicians, he refused to give outdoor speeches and ran without the support of a major political party. He took office in April 1995 and was the target of an assassination attempt one month later, after a bomb was mailed to his office in Tokyo. The bomb – which was believed to have been mailed by a Japanese doomsday cult – exploded in the face of his assistant and severely wounded him.

He resigned from his role as governor in 1999, by which time his administration was viewed to be largely ineffective and Aoshima, in turn, become known as “Mr Broken Manifesto”.

He ran for the House of Councillors again in 2001 and 2004, but failed to win a seat. He died in 2006 at the age of 74.

6. Kabori Sarwar

Sarwar was an established film actress before she was elected as a member of parliament in Bangladesh in 2008.

She began her career in cinema at the age of 13, acting in the 1964 film Sutorang.

In the 1970s, she acted in a number of feature films with prominent Bangladeshi actor Farooque. In 1978, Sarwar received the Bangladesh National Film Award for Best Actress for her role in the film Sareng Bou (The Captain's Wife).

7. Arnold Schwarzenegger

'The Terminator' star served as governor of California between 2003 and 2011.  Paramount Pictures
'The Terminator' star served as governor of California between 2003 and 2011.  Paramount Pictures

It seems like a lifetime ago, but The Terminator star served as governor of California between 2003 and 2011.

Schwarzenegger's move from acting to politics was as remarkable as his transition from bodybuilder to one of Hollywood’s most famous screen stars.

He was born in Austria to an alcoholic police chief father, who would regularly beat him and pit him in fights against his older brother.

Schwarzenegger turned to movies as an escape – specifically the films of bodybuilder Reg Park – which helped mould his decision to move to the US in 1968. Eight years and a few small parts later, Schwarzenegger nabbed a Golden Globe Award for Best Newcomer for his role in Stay Hungry.

The rest, as they say, is history.