Duke Kahanamoku

Famous Hawaiians? I Can Name Five!

One of best ways to start off this blog and to introduce the spirit of Hawai'i is to introduce a few friendly faces that have done well to represent the Hawaiian people on a national or international scale. I tried to avoid movie stars and singers as best I could when putting this list together, but it turns out that most famous Hawaiians are entertainers in some shape or form. These people may not be/have been knowlingly or purposefully representing the islands, but I think that all people from Hawai'i do so no matter what. It comes from the iconic images of Hawai'i that conjure in the minds of many. No, Barack Obama does not count. Being from Hawai'i and being Hawaiian are not the same thing.

Duke Kahanamoku (1890 - 1968): This three time Olympic gold medalist put the island chain on the map,breaking the Olympic record for the 100-meter dash in swimming in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. He competed in four separate Olympics and continued to give swimming exhibitions in California throughout the 1920s. The Michael Phelps of his day, Kahanamoku went on to play minor roles in a movie career spanning almost 30 years. He's also the first person to be in both the swimming and the surfing Hall of Fame and served as a Honolulu sheriff after completing his swimming career. Kahanamoku is also credited with introducing and popularizing the sport of surfing to the mainland, New Zealand and Australia. In 1960, he was appointed Hawai'i's Ambassador of Aloha and remains one of the state's most well-known citizens in its history.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (1959 - 1997): Best known for his medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World", Bruddah Iz still is a powerful influence on Hawaiian music and culture. Alone in Iz World, an album released four years after his death, debuted at #1 on Billboard's World Chart and #135 on Billboard's Top 200, #13 on the Top Independent Albums Chart, and #15 on the Top Internet Album Sales charts. His music often had a political message, promoting Hawaiian rights and Hawaiian independence through his lyrics. At his funeral, his koa wood coffin lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu. He was the third person in Hawaiian history to be accorded this honor, and the only one who was not a government official. Approximately ten thousand people attended the funeral, and thousands of other fans gathered as his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean.

Brook Mahealani Lee: She was Miss Universe 1997 and is the most recent American to wear the crown. She is also the first native Hawaiian to wear the Miss Universe crown. After her reign, Lee pursued a graduate degree in communications and made several appearances in movies and television shows.

Nicole Scherzinger: After fronting the Pussycat Dolls and winning the 10th season of 'Dancing With the Stars', Scherzinger is continuing her success by joining the cast of Rent at the Hollywood Bowl. Besides 'Dancing' she's made minor appearances in various television shows and also appeared as a guest judge on NBC's "The Sing-Off". Though originally born in Hawai'i, Scherzinger spent most of her time growing up in Louisville, Kentucky and attended Wright State University before launching her singing career by singing backup for the rock band Days of the New.

Kelly Hu: You may better know her as Lady Deathstrike from the movie X2, but Hu has played minor roles on television since the 80s. She was Miss Teen USA in 1985, and was the first Asian American to wear the crown as well as the first Asian American on the cover of Maxim magazine (her issue is the best selling issue in the magazine's history). Currently, Hu is the voice of Stacy in the Disney animated series "Phineas and Ferb" and has a reoccuring role in "The Vampire Diaries" on the CW.