As a society, we’ve generally come to believe that celebrities are stupid. They may be beautiful, they may be talented, but when it comes to intelligence, ordinary people tend to believe they’re lacking something. There are obviously some exceptions.
There are celebrities who have proven their intelligence over and over again to a degree that’s made it impossible for average people to ignore. George Clooney and Angelina Jolie fall into this group. We want to believe they’re dumb, but they’ve given us too much evidence to the contrary.
For the rest of the celebrity world, we normal humans are more comfortable believing they aren’t particularly smart. Of course, that’s far from the truth with many celebrities, even those who initially seem to be kind of stupid. Celebrities are incredibly successful, and we have plenty of reasons to be jealous of that success.
Still, with few exceptions, they had to be good at something in order to become as famous as they did. Celebrity rarely comes to people on accident, although sometimes it’s advantageous for stars to seem dumber than they are. Underneath it all, though, many of these celebrities have a real intelligence that can be easy to overlook.
Here are 16 'Dumb' Stars Smarter Than You Realized.
16 Cindy Crawford
The perception around most supermodels is that their good looks are all they really need. They can be dumb and vain, because they have the beauty to make things work out anyway. One would think, then, that Cindy Crawford, one of the biggest supermodels ever, wouldn’t need much intelligence in order to succeed. Her stunningly perfect features ought to be more than enough.
Before she was a model, though, Crawford was studying to be a chemical engineer. She had a scholarship at Northwestern University, but was still short on cash, so Crawford decided to start modeling on the side to pay for school. She eventually realized that she could make more money as a model than even her work as a chemical engineer could get her, and so she decided to pursue that full time.
Although it might have been a risky decision, if we all looked like she does, we would probably make the same choice.
15 Pamela Anderson
Pamela Anderson biggest role was probably on Baywatch. Ever since then, many have thought of the actress and model as a ditzy blonde who was more than happy to prance around the beach in an incredibly tight swimsuit. There’s more to this blonde than her busty exterior, though. Anderson’s entire family claims membership in Mensa, which only accepts those with IQs in the top two percent.
What’s more, Anderson is also an avid animal rights activist. She’s dedicated a large portion of her life to protecting animals who she feels have been abused by major food corporations. In 2015, Anderson also published her autobiography, Raw, which offered a revealing look at her life, and proved that Anderson was a fairly gifted writer.
There’s a lot going on underneath Anderson’s more obvious bombshell qualities, and we should consider her intelligence before we objectify her.
14 Ashton Kutcher
You may know Ashton Kutcher as the dopey but handsome Kelso from That '70s Show. Kutcher also put on an incredibly immature persona while he hosted Punk'd, but that doesn’t reflect Kutcher’s real intelligence. Kutcher was actually a student at the University of Iowa before becoming a star, with a major in biochemical engineering.
Kutcher’s noble goal was to find a cure for his brother’s heart ailment, but he ultimately dropped out of school to pursue a career in modeling and acting. Although Kutcher didn’t finish his studies, his decisions certainly worked out well for him, and probably ensured that his brother got the best care possible.
Kutcher’s onscreen persona may be fairly clueless, but he’s quietly become a pretty wealthy guy. After all, Kutcher was getting quite a payday for his work on Two and a Half Men, and that money had to go somewhere.
13 Kal Penn
Kal Penn might be best known for his role as Kumar in the Harold and Kumar franchise. In these films, he plays a stoner, someone who’s just questing for his next meal, and not much more. Although he’s played other roles throughout his career, Penn has come to be seen as someone as simple-minded as the characters he’s well-known for playing. Penn, however, has enough intelligence to earn himself a job inside the White House.
After getting involved with Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency in 2007 and 2008, Penn was offered a position as the Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Penn accepted the role, and has been active in politics ever since.
Penn supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary, and is now an actor and political consultant on the series Designated Survivor, where he plays a White House speechwriter.
12 Lil Wayne
Most rappers are wrongly considered unintelligent, but Lil Wayne has been especially maligned throughout his career. His lyrics are often pretty simplistic, lacking the verbal dexterity that characterizes some of his peers. While he hasn’t always received the widespread acclaim of other artists like Jay-Z or Kanye West, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a good mind.
In fact, President Bill Clinton suggested that Lil Wayne had more than his share of intelligence. In 2010, Clinton told NPR that Lil Wayne, who was in jail at the time, was “smart, and he’s got ability.” Clinton pointed out that it would be hard for a dumb person to earn the level of success that Wayne has.
Wayne has been around so long, it’s easy to forget how many other artists he’s collaborated. He’s had quite a few hits during his time as a pop star, and it’s hard to imagine that much success could come to someone who is as stupid as many believe Lil Wayne to be.
11 Lisa Kudrow
Lisa Kudrow is probably best known for playing Phoebe on Friends for ten full seasons. The actress turned Phoebe into one of the more likeable characters on the show, in part because of how clueless she was about the way the world worked. It would be easy to describe Phoebe as ditzy or dumb, even if those characterizations aren’t totally fair to the character.
The same cannot be said about Lisa Kudrow, though, as the actress grew up the daughter of a doctor, and attended Vassar University to earn her own degree in science. Although she was never particularly interested in the subject, Kudrow proved that she could buckle down and do the work to earn such a degree, and has also done really interesting work in the years since Friends ended.
Kudrow may still be best known as the simple-minded Phoebe, but there’s a lot more going on in her brain than meets the eye.
10 Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler is widely regarded as one of the dumbest figures in show business. That belief stems from his movie-making career, which largely consists of him playing pretty stupid people making pretty stupid decisions. Sandler’s characters don’t actually have that much in common with the man himself, who’s managed to make a pretty substantial career out of playing them.
Sandler actually holds a degree in Fine Arts from New York University, and has proved to be an exceptionally shrewd businessman. His production company, Happy Madison, has produced more than 15 movies that have grossed over $100 million at the box office, and his deal with Netflix has allowed him the creative freedom to make whatever movies he wants.
Sandler’s delved into deeper roles in films like Punch Drunk Love, but he knows how to make money too, no matter how stupid the characters he plays are.
9 Ken Jeong
Ken Jeong plays total maniacs on television. It’s what he’s well-known for, and he performs the roles admirably. Still, Jeong has talents that his onscreen roles might not immediately suggest. The actor is actually a licensed medical doctor, and has an M.D. attached to his name. His roles on Community and in The Hangover movies suggest that Jeong is the kind of comedian who plays things pretty broad.
This kind of broad comedy may seem simple, but Jeong pulls it off with remarkable aplomb. It’s easy to imagine a comedian trying and failing to replicate Jeong’s particular brand of comedy, which speaks to its specificity. Of course, Jeong’s intelligence clearly extends well outside the realm of comedy and into the world of medicine.
Dr. Ken, Jeong’s show on ABC, may not have lasted more than a couple of seasons, but it seems as though it came from a remarkably autobiographical place.
8 Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon has become a powerful actress in recent years, but one of her first breakout roles was in Legally Blonde. In the film, Witherspoon plays a sorority girl who gains acceptance to Harvard Law School, and must prove that she is a worthy member of the school. The film is all about what a mistake it is to underestimate a woman just because of her appearance.
This message could be extended to Witherspoon, who has become a powerful producer and advocate in Hollywood in recent years. Witherspoon also spent a year studying literature at Stanford University, although she eventually dropped out to pursue a career in acting.
Witherspoon has shown us what a smart, powerful woman can achieve inside of the Hollywood system, and has created roles for herself that are well-worth watching. Although she may have broken big as a ditzy blonde, Reese Witherspoon has proven since then that she’s way more than that.
7 Michael Bay
Michael Bay loves to blow stuff up. It’s what the Transformers director is best known for, and there are very good reasons for that. Explosions and bombast have become the trademarks of Bay’s style, and it’s always worked for him at the box office. Although his films are very rarely well-reviewed, all of them do quite well financially, and prove that some directors might actually be critic-proof.
While many believe Bay’s movies are irredeemably bad, many film theorists and filmmakers have studied Bay’s films because of his unique style. Many of Bay’s signature moves, like quick cuts that reveal different angles on the same thing, are actually much harder to pull off than they initially appear to be.
While liking his films may be more a question of taste than anything else, it’s hard to deny that Bay has a signature style that he replicates in all of his films. He’s a craftsman, even if you aren’t a huge fan of his craft.
Shakira speaks five different languages, so that alone should suggest her intelligence. For American audiences, part of the problem has always been this language barrier. While Shakira’s songs are often sharply written in Spanish, their English translations seem simple, and leave some listeners believing that their creator isn’t all that bright. In fact, this pop sensation and coach on The Voice is actually more than brainy enough to hold her own.
If the number of languages she’s mastered isn’t enough to blow you away, Shakira reportedly has an IQ of 140, which would mean that she is either a genius or very close to being one.
Shakira’s success as a recording artist didn’t come her way by accident. Shakira worked hard to get where she is now. She used her brains and her talent to earn the success that she has, and anyone who doubts that clearly doesn’t know how smart she really is.
5 Flavor Flav
Flavor Flav may have been in an incredibly innovative rap group, but his recent time as a reality TV star has turned him into a punchline in Hollywood. After all, when Flavor Flav was in Public Enemy, his main job seemed to be shouting “Yeah, boy!” whenever it seemed appropriate. If you’ve seen Public Enemy live, though, you may know know that there’s another side to Flavor Flav hidden underneath the showmanship.
In fact, Flavor Flav is a remarkably competent drummer, capable of playing a full kit. Apparently, he was widely regarded as a prodigy in childhood, and can now play 15 different instruments. He co-wrote the first Public Enemy album with Chuck D, and it turns out that he’s the only member of the group who actually has any musical abilities past rapping.
Flavor Flav may not seem like a key member of the group, but it turns out that he may actually be the revolutionary group’s most crucial piece.
4 Dolph Lundgren
When you think of big, brawny actors with names like Dolph, you don’t necessarily expect them to have all their ducks in a row. After all, if you can get by on looks alone, why wouldn’t you? Lundgren has plenty of brains to compliment those good looks, though. The actor reportedly has an IQ of 160, and a degree in chemical engineering. He was awarded a prestigious Fullbright scholarship at MIT.
Genetically, it seems like Lundgren really lucked out. He managed to be both brawny and brainy, and he’s consistently had a second career to fall back on if he ever needs it.
It may be more glamorous to live the life of a movie star, but Lundgren has a versatility and intelligence that many actors lack, even if he packs it inside a pretty massive frame. He’s a big guy, but he’s also a smart guy. That’s a package many of us rarely believe exists, but one that may be more common than we think.
3 Jerry Springer
Jerry Springer is very good at hosting shows that get out of hand. He did it for years, but before that, he was actually the mayor of the city of Cincinnati.
It must have taken some intelligence for Springer to convince the good people of Cincinnati that he was worthy of their votes, and that wasn't even the beginning of his political career. Springer graduated from law school at Northwestern, and immediately became a political advisor to a young up-and-coming politician named Robert F. Kennedy.
Springer was apparently a political wunderkind, and was on the Cincinnati city council at the young age of 27. Springer eventually took his talent to television in Cincinnati, where he stood out because he expressed actual opinions.
The politician-turned-TV host then took on a nationally syndicated talk show, and when that show faced cancellation, he was forced to spice it up into the version that he’s famous for today. He’s much smarter than that show might suggest.
2 Nolan Gould
None of the characters on Modern Family seem like real geniuses, but one of the actors on the show almost definitely is. Nolan Gould, who plays Luke Dunphy, the youngest member of the Dunphy clan, is really smart. Although Luke often seems to be a kind of clueless kid in the world of the show, Gould graduated from high school at the age of 13, and apparently has an IQ of 150. He’s also a member of Mensa.
It’d be easy to overlook Gould’s intelligence because of his young age, but he’s likely one of the more intelligent young people on the planet. Gould began acting when he was only 3 years old, finding work in commercials. Since his casting on Modern Family, he’s grown up in front of our eyes, and earned a healthy paycheck to boot.
Although he’s tasked with playing a fairly dimwitted character, Gould’s intelligence means his future is almost limitless. He’s got money, and apparently he’s got brains as well.
After a prolonged absence from the music scene, Kesha has returned with an evocative new album that reveals how smart she’s always been. She’s emerged from years of hardship, and is ready to show a new side of herself. Although her early records suggested that she was a hard partier who woke up hungover and went out drinking again the next night, this perception of her as an immature party girl couldn’t be further from the truth.
In an interview with Seventeen Magazine in 2010, Kesha revealed that she was basically a genius. She has an IQ of 140, and claims to have scored a near perfect 1500 on her SATs. Kesha was offered a scholarship to pursue a degree in psychology, but she instead chose to pursue a career in music after dropping out of high school.
There have been bumps along her road to success, but Kesha’s standing stronger than ever now, and seems proud of who she is.
Are there other supposedly 'dumb' stars who are secret geniuses? Let us know in the comments!