Celebrity Immigrants Share Their 'Coming To America' Stories

July 2, 2018

By Meredith Ganzman/Joe Cingrana

Celebrities like Charlize Theron, Kumail Nanjiani, and Emily Blunt came from all over the world to now call the United States their home.


Charlize Theron
© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron was actually born in South Africa. But now that Charlize has become a U.S citizen she says she’s here to stay. "It's quite a process. You have to work hard, you know, study up," she said. "Then finally I was approved and you have to go in and do an interview. You have to know your stuff."


Emily Blunt & John Krasinski
© Press Association

For British born actress Emily Blunt, what she had to do to become naturalized was also difficult. "Things like renouncing my queen!"

Emily was sworn in with Matthew McConaughey's wife, Camila Alves. Her husband John Krasinski says having McConaughey there made the whole experience even more memorable. "I said John did you enjoy the ceremony? And he said I did. I was doing the best I could to stand next to McConaughey in that courtroom and not say, 'All Rise, All Rise, All Rise.'"


Kumail Nanjiani
(Photo by Scott KirklandPictureGroup/Sipa USA)

Actor, comedian, and screenwriter Kumail Nanjiani was born and raised in Pakistan and immigrated to the United States when he was 18-years-old to attend college in Iowa.

This is me at age 3. I cannot imagine being ripped from my family and put into a cage at this age, or any age for that matter. I would have never recovered. Imagine who you were at the age of 3. How would that child deal with such a trauma? To donate against the separation of families at the border, check link in my bio.

A post shared by @ kumailn on

#tbt me and my grandfather. I used to be a ventriloquist dummy.

A post shared by @ kumailn on

The move shaped who he would become as a comedian. "I was super shy in Karachi. So I never really felt confident in myself or anything," he said in an interview. "It wasn’t until I came to America and was sort of on my own and was forced to interact with people and be genuinely social that I started coming out of my shell and being funny and really being like a person.”


Mila Kunis
© Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Actress Mila Kunis immigrated from Ukraine with her family when she was just a seven-years-old. And the move was much further than what she initially expected.

“So I was like ‘oh we’re moving up the street.’ And then one day we weren’t moving up the street. We were on a train, and I was like ‘woah we’re on a train. Where are we going? This is a long street you lived on…’ And then we got to Moscow. And then we got on a plane. And all of this was very new to me. A train was new. The plane was new. I had Coca-Cola for the first time. I mean the entire experience was very new."

She says in the book Six Words Fresh Off the Boat, coming to America was all about making "a better life for our children." And now Mila and her husband Ashton Kutcher have two little ones of their own.


Salm Hayek
© Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

"There’s one part of my houses that does not go from country to country. It stays in one country. And that is the kitchen. It’s always Mexican. No matter where I am, if you went into my kitchen, you think you are in Mexico."

Salma Hayek was born in Mexico but she has also become a U.S. citizen. Salma says she has taught her daughter to honor her roots.


In interviews she says, "I have taught my child to embrace her Mexican heritage, to love my first language, Spanish, to learn about Mexican history, music, folk art, food, and even the Mexican candy I grew up with… I have tried my whole life to represent my Mexican roots with honor and pride."


Arnold Schwarzenegger

"Only in America. My life would have been an impossible dream anywhere else."

Actor turned “Governator,” Arnold Schwarzenegger moved to the United States after winning the title of "Mr. Universe" as a bodybuilder.

#tbt to when I was 16, before I ever competed.

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Since then he’s conquered the box office in movies like The Terminator, and later became the governor of California. He has truly lived the American dream, he says, "So I tell everyone I am not self-made, I'm American-made. I am grateful every day that this country accepted me with open arms and made my impossible dream a reality."

Only in America. My life would have been an impossible dream anywhere else, so I tell everyone I am not self-made, I'm American-made. I am grateful every day that this country accepted me with open arms and made my impossible dream a reality, and I am so truly thankful to all of the men and women who have bravely served throughout our history and made America great. Happy birthday, U.S.A. #fourthofjuly

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For these celebrities, it’s all about remembering where they’ve come from while also honoring America, the country they now call home.