Famous Active & Former Jehovah's Witnesses
This list of famous Jehovah's Witnesses highlights that a Watchtower upbringing did little to prevent them engaging in illegal or immoral behaviour. The long term effect of an unreasonably strict upbringing, with unrealistic teachings of never growing old and dying, and all manner of boundaries dictated, is not necessarily better than one based on making educated choices.
Does the Watchtower Society teach truth? Will the world soon end with the destruction of any person that is not one of Jehovah's Witnesses? There is a wealth of information on jwfacts.com to help understand if Jehovah's Witnesses are the only religion teaching truth.
Please note, the active/inactive status is likely to change over time, so may not be accurate at the time of viewing.
Michael Jackson & Family - Mostly Inactive - Musicians
For a full article on Michael Jackson's experiences as a Jehovah's Witness see Michael Jackson.
Famous for their singing and acting the Jackson Five, Michael, Janet and LaToya Jackson were all raised by their mother Katherine as Jehovah's Witnesses. Katherine and her daughter Rebbie are the only ones still active as of 2009.
"Sundays were my day for "Pioneering," the term used for the missionary work that Jehovahs Witnesses do. We would spend the day in the suburbs of Southern California, going door to door or making the rounds of a shopping mall, distributing our Watchtower magazine. I continued my pioneering work for years and years after my career had been launched."
(beliefnet.com Oct 26 2007)
Prince - Died Active - Musician
Prince was raised a Seventh Day Adventist and then later a Baptist. His mother, Mattie Shaw later converted to being a Jehovah's Witness, as was family friend Larry Graham, bass player from Sly and the Family Stone. His baby son Gregory, born to his first wife Mayte Garciain, died from a genetic disorder of the skull called Pfieffer syndrome October 1996, seven dies after birth. In 2001, his father died and "Princes mother, the jazz singer Mattie Shaw, died six months later. Her final wish was said to be that her son should become a Jehovahs Witness as she had been for most of her life. Prince grappled with depression and something approaching a midlife crisis." (mirror.co.uk 1 July 2010) This helps explain his interest in the Witnesses around this period and conversion with his wife Manuela Testolini in 2001, and baptism in 2003.
Manuela filed for divorce in 2006. In 2007 Prince started dating Bria Valente, who converted to a Witness after he produced her first album.
Venus and Serena Williams - Active - tennis
The Williams sisters dominated women's tennis, but became renowned for their tempers and immodest clothing on and off court. As of 2009, neither have been baptised.
"Raised as devout Jehovahs Witnesses, both were home-schooled by their mother, and have received their high school diplomas." (williamssisters.org Oct 29 2007)
"The fact that Venus (and her sister Serena) are both active Jehovah's Witnesses participating in the Olympics has provoked an interesting reaction from the organization. None at all. So while many Witnesses cheer for Venus, they know deep in their hearts that they would be subject to judicial procedures for much lesser offenses. And when Venus stood on the podium to receive the gold medal to the tune of the American national anthem, she became a different kind of pioneer than to which we are accustomed."
(freeminds.org Oct 30 2007)
Naomi Campbell - Inactive - Model
Naomi Campbell was raised a Jehovah's Witness. She has made a name as one of the few supermodels but is equally well known for being violent and difficult, with a string of assault charges, a Playboy spread and a history of drug addiction.
"In the Closet" was a Michael Jackson song that featured Michael and Naomi Campbell, two former Jehovah's Witnesses.
Valerie Campbell - Active - model
Mother of Naomi Campbell
Nelson Manela's family
Evelyn Mase, Mandela's first wife and mother of 4 of Mandela's children, converted to being a Jehovah's Witness after their divorce in 1958. (globalgrind.com/2013/12/09/women-nelson-mandelas-long-road-to-freedom-list/
Mandela's youngest sister was also a Witness.
"Recently, a funeral service such as this was conducted for one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who happened to be the youngest sister of Nelson Mandela, the president of South Africa. After the service, the president sincerely thanked the speaker." Watchtower 1998 July 15 p.22
Donald Glover - Childish Gambino: - Inactive - actor/musician
Rap artist Childish Gambino, writer on 30 Rock, and acts in sitcom Community, and movies such as The Lazarus Effect and The Martian.
“Being a Jehovah’s Witness was interesting. I think it amplified my own alienness. I was always the odd one out, and Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate Christmas, you don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance, and when you have Jewish kids in the class who don’t celebrate Christmas everyone understands, but when you say you’re a Jehovah’s Witness they say, “So… You come to my door at 9 a.m. and wake my family up? I don’t understand any of your rules. ...
I believe it made me see the world differently. Part of the religion is teaching you that the world is an evil place, so trying to reconcile really liking stuff in the world but also being told it’s bad makes you want to figure out, “What is this?” and “Why am I being drawn to this?” My creative outlet was definitely shaped by being a Jehovah’s Witness.”” thedailybeast.com 20th Feb 2015
Luke Evans: - Inactive - actor
Luke Evans has starred in a number of popular movies including Robin Hood (2010), Fast and Furious 6 (2013) and The Hobbit (2012, 2014)
"Born to a bricklayer and a cleaner in Aberbargoed, a tiny village in the Welsh valleys, Evans partly attributes his tenacity to his upbringing as a Jehovah's Witness. His family didn't celebrate birthdays or Christmas, and his education was miserable. "I was often looked at as a leper by kids at school, because I was a Jehovah's Witness. They didn't like it – you were 'weird'. And on Saturday mornings you'd be knocking at their doors. I remember standing there with my mum and dad, thinking, 'Oh my God, I know whose door this is, and I'll have to see them on Monday.' It was terrible."
Terrible but character building? "Well, I'm still here, and I'm smiling," he says, explaining that being bullied gave him thick skin and that having doors slammed in his face prepared him for rejection. "When I didn't get a job I thought, 'Don't worry, there'll be another one.' I still live by that now. Nothing really fazes me any more."
Evans had always wanted to sing, so at 16 he left school, quit the Jehovah's Witnesses and got a job to finance some singing lessons." Alex Godfrey The Guardian, 7 Dec 2013
Coco Rocha: - Active - model
"Model Coco Rocha talks about the challenges of being a devout Jehovah’s Witness in the new issue of Du Jour. “There aren’t many Witnesses who are in the public eye. I can’t even name any,” says Rocha. “So, yeah, it’s hard sometimes when you’re here alone. You’re not there with someone who can hold your hand and say we’ll do this together.” Rocha still goes door to door every few weeks to spread her faith."
Sherri Shepherd - Inactive - TV presenter
In an episode of The View, Sherri discussed her upbringing as a Jehovah's Witnesses, the 1975 teaching, and the Watchtower's perpetual statement that the end of the world is just about to happen.
Michelle Rodriguez - Inactive - Actor
Actress from movies such Girlfight, The Fast and The Furious, and Avatar. Arrested for Driving Under the Influence.
"I was a Jehovah's Witness from the age of seven and my family was very strict. I went to church every day, and I'd go knocking on people's doors with my grandma trying to save their souls. Sometimes the person who answered the door would be a friend from school who knew that I cursed and swore - and there I was in a dress holding a Bible. I'd say, 'Grandma, please not this house.' dailymail.co.uk ELAINE LIPWORTH 12 Mar 2011
"Sometimes I wake up in awe that I'm alive. I can't get over that part, so I guess it makes me kind of like an existentialist. I'm always researching ancient religions, and I was also raised Jehovah's Witness, so that kind of scarred me for life. ...
So I hated school right away. Religion had a lot to do with it because I felt like everybody was always lying to me." interviewmagazine.com 17th Jan 2014
Marc John Jefferies - Active - Actor
Marc John Jefferies started acting as toddler and has appeared in movies including Brown Sugar, The Haunted Mansion, Stuart Little 2, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and Spiderman 2. See imdb.com. In an interview in 1995, after Marc's appearance as a 4 year old in Losing Isaiah, his father stated:
""We're Jehovah's Witnesses, so being a policeman isn't a possibility, and Marc knows that," explained Marc's 29-year-old father, also named Marc John Jeffries." (columbia.edu 25 May 2014)
Danielle Colby - Inactive - Reality TV
Danielle Colby found fame as a burlesque dancer and on the reality show American Pickers.
You might think it’d be a monumental leap from a Jehovah’s Witnesses girlhood to a life of burlesque dancing, roller-derby team ownership, fashion design and reality show stardom.
Not so, says Danielle Colby of the History Channel’s hit show American Pickers. “I beg to differ with you on that,” she says with a laugh, by phone from her home in Chicago. “All of my friends who left the faith became strippers, just about every one of them. They saved money and paid for college and got great jobs.” dallasnews.com 30 Jan 2014
Notorious BIG - Inactive - Musician
"The legendary Notorious BIG was raised a Jehovah Witness by his mother, Voletta Wallace, a religion that doesn't celebrate any holidays, but as a kid growing up he wanted to celebrate his mom on Mother's Day, but as Ms. Wallace says "every day is Mother's Day to me." Although Biggie died too soon, he made his life onstage, as well as his life offstage with his mom memorable." (globalgrind.com 28 Nov 2012)
Notorious started dealing crack at the age of 12, was arrested on weapons charges at 17 and by 19 imprisoned on the charge of dealing crack cocaine. He had his first child T'yanna with his long time girlfriend in 1993 and his second child Christopher with wife Faith Evans in 1996. On release from prision he started to devote himself to rap, and ended up working with Puff Daddy for Bad Boy Records. He also worked with Michael Jackson. Originally friends with Tupac, this ended during the East Coast West Coast rivalry, with Tupac dying from gunshot wounds in 1996 and Notorious being shot dead in March 1997.
"The lyrics driving Biggie Smalls' fame - he borrowed that nickname from a gangster in the 1975 film "Let's Do It Again" - were an amplification of assorted dysfunctions of ghetto life. But they were not the sort of language easily embraced byhis mother, who, as a dutiful Jehovah's Witness, evangelizes door-to-door. She says she didn't listen to his work until Biggie was in the grave. As a mother, she said, she cannot help finding traces of genius in it, despite its misogyny and other brutalities. "I cried the first time I listened because so much profanity was there. They were grotesque stories about the stink of the world, but they also read so beautifully to me," Wallace said. BY KATTI GRAY STAFF WRITER November 1, 2005
JaRule - Inactive - Musician
"My mom had friends from work; they would hang out with her girlfriends and co-workers and they would have drinks and stuff, you know regular stuff, you know what people do, normal stuff. And she got caught doing that stuff and then they disfellowship you. My mom, she was kind of tired of living like a double life, because she felt these things she was doing werent wrong like in regular society. She says she called them and she told them, and they disfellowshiped her. Now when you get disfellowshiped, nobody is allowed to talk to you--not even your family. My mom, she was real hurt by that. Thats how I kind of got like a cold feeling towards the religion and religions in general. Because I said I dont think that is something God would want. I dont think God would want to separate families. … But when I got older, I start hearing lots of this about Jehovah's Witness, the people I used to go to the Hall with. Such and such son just went to jail, she was selling drugs and not this regular-family s--t going on. You know, regular human problems, brother such and such hit his wife and hes getting demoted from being an elder now. Im seeing all these things happening in the Christian churches too. So now Im looking at it as, you know, it's not just the Christian religion. The Jehovah's Witness used to make it seem that all the outside religion is f---ed up and theyre the best religion. But it's not everyone else, it's you too. I mean, everybody has their problems, because we are all human."
(beliefnet.com Oct 25 2007)
XZibit - Inactive - Musician
"My parents were Jehovah's Witnesses and they didn't particularly care for rap music," says Joiner, who is known as Xzibit. "I would get my little headphones and sneak and listen to it at night. Every time they would catch me, they would get it and break my tapes. And I'd be mad. Eventually, I got sick of it. So I said, 'You know what? I can rap my own stuff and they can never take that from me.'"
"stuck at the San Antonio airport on my way to Albuquerque. My dad had a leg amputated due to his struggle with diabetes. … My dad was a devoted Jehovah's Witness, he sacrificed his entire life AND family for his faith, and them bastards aint no where around.#fake" sohh.com 22 Jan 2012
Lark Voorhies - Active - Actress
Stared in Saved By The Bell, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, In the House, "Head and Shoulders" shampoo commercials, and several music videos such as Kenny Lattimore's "Never Too Busy", Dru Hill's "These Are The Times" and Boys II Men's "On Bended Knee." She is the niece of Jermaine Jackson. Lark married Miguel Coleman but divorced in 2004.
"Voorhies, a Jehovah's Witness, reportedly quit Days of Our Lives, because she believed a sex scene violated her religious principles." (filmspot.com Nov 2 2007)
In 2012, an article appeared with the following heading:
"‘Saved By the Bell’ star Lark Voorhies has bipolar disorder, according to her mother, by By Suzy Byrne | Yahoo! TV – Wed, Oct 3, 2012
It went on:
"[Lark} tried to explain away her abrupt, extended silences during the conversation by saying, “You caught me in moments of prayer. I have a strong spiritual sense.” She also talked about the voices in her head, but the magazine noted that she was “defiant about getting psychiatric help.” Explaining her reasoning, Lark said, “They can’t explain it. They can’t treat it. They don’t know about it.” … These days, Lark resides with her mother; drives, but only close to home; and has few friends. Tricia says she’s not giving up hope that her daughter will pull through, noting, "She's trying so hard. She says she's delayed, but she's going to get there." tv.yahoo.com
Gary Gygax - Inventor of Dungeons and Dragons
Gary Gygax was a practicing Jehovah's Witness when he invented Dungeons and Dragons, a game of huge cultural significance. He ended up disassociating due to the congregation having issues with the game. This is briefly discussed in Michael Witwer’s biography Empire of Imagination, and discussed at Signature Reads (7 Oct 2015) and New Yorker (2 Nov 2015).
It is intriguing that Gygax published a note in the IFW Monthly of February 1969 about Christmas being pagan, five years before he released "D&D" in 1974.
Patti Smith - Inactive - Musician/Poet/Artist
Patti Smith, 1970's punk icon, was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and left as a teenager.
"Patti Smith in Rosengrten 1978" by Klaus Hiltscher
"SMITH: Exactly, because I was real religious when I was young. I wanted to be a missionary. I was a Jehovah's Witness for a long time and I was always going out to preach. ... I'd go out every Saturday and take my Watchtowers and Awakes! because I was real serious about it. I had this idea that the coolest thing that could happen to you was talking with God. My father was always talking about God, and I idolized my father, so I'd spend hours trying to have mental telepathy with God." NEW AGAIN: PATTI SMITH By MAXIME DE FALAISE MCKENDRY Photography ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE Published 7th Oct 2015 (interviewmagazine.com Published 7th Oct 2015)
"I was brought up a Jehovah's Witness and I had a strong religious education and a very good Bible education. I left organized religion as a teenager because I felt it was too confining." Robertson, Jessica (2007). "Exclusive Interview with Patti Smith". Spinner. AOL. Viewed 10th Oct 2015
Peter Andre - Inactive - Musician
"It contains revelations about life before Katie and growing up in Australia in a family with devout Jehovah's Witness values. Pete reflects on life married to Britain's hottest celebrity, what life is like caring for her sick child, and how they celebrated the arrival of their first son together, Junior." Review from All About Us: My Story by Peter Andre (amazon.co.uk 25 Oct 2007)
The question is asked about Peter Andre in the May 2005 Cleo (Australia) Jordan & Peter: Is this the worlds trashiest couple?
Geri Halliwell - Inactive - Musician - Spice Girls
From Geri's autobiography:
"Although she had been raised as a Catholic, my mother joined the Jehovah's Witnesses when I was very young. She never gave a reason, although I suspect she felt lonely and wanted to escape from my father. Clutching my favourite toys, yellow Ted and my black dolly Pippa, .I sat through endless sermons at the King's Hall and learned Bible stories like Jonah and the Whale.
Afterwards, small groups stepped out to spread the word. 'From door to door to teach to preach .' they sang. I stood on doorsteps, clutching my mother's hand. Nobody ever wanted to invite us in, and some of them were quite rude.
The Jehovah's Witnesses didn't celebrate birthdays or Christmas, which is pretty difficult for a child to understand. Parties and presents matter at that age. I didn't go to friend's birthday parties because I didn't have a gift to give them.
Just as I grew old enough to be embarrassed by this, my mother abandoned her faith in disillusionment. 'My expectations were high,' she said later. 'They were a bunch of hypocrites who were just as materialistic and greedy as the rest of us."
Geri Halliwell, If Only p.31
"Mother became a Jehovah's Witness when Geri was very young, which meant Geri didn't get to celebrate birthdays or Christmas."
(imdb.com Nov 1 2007)
Krazyzie Bone - Inactive - Musician
Rap artist from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, real name Anthony Henderson.
"One of five, Krayzie was raised by his hard-working, struggling parents in the ghetto. They were devout Jehovah's Witnesses. He credits his musicality to his father, a steel worker, who would sing at home. Needless to say, despite the efforts of his parents to instil him with a sense of righteousness, Krayzie fell prey to the thuggish ruggish streets. He wound up in gaol for two years after inadvertently shooting his homeboy, Wish Bone, in the leg. It was during this spell that Krayzie developed the distinctive Bone rap delivery, which proved a hit with his inmates. When Krayzie came out, he created the group Bone Enterprise (later Bone Thugs-N-Harmony) with Wish and three other homeboys, Bizzy Bone, Layzie Bone and Flesh-N-Bone. Together they set about turning their lives around -- using hip-hop as a means of empowerment."
(sevenmag.com Oct 29 2007)
Nemesis Rising - Jacob and Joshua - Inactive
"Pop duo Nemesis Rising normally get noticed because of the way they look and hey, even I had my head turned by these identical twins. Gay twins are a bit of a fascination for some people it seems. They certainly got a lot of attention when cameras from Logo TV followed them around for a reality series called Jacob and Joshua: Nemesis Rising. Jacob (blond) and Joshua (dark) showed off their gay life in LA, but also took an emotional trip home to Montana to come out to their Jehovah's Witness family. They were excommunicated for opening up about their sexuality, but remain close to their parents and siblings."
(pinknews.co.uk Oct 26 2007)
Hank Marvin - Active - Musician
Part of the Shadows and friends with Cliff Richard.
"Marvin moved to Australia and became a Jehovah's Witness in 1973, but later joined a re-formed Shadows. The group resumed recording, and hit the Top Ten in 1978-79 with "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and "Theme from 'The Deerhunter'.""
(Hank Marvin Biography shopping.yahoo.com Oct 25 2007)
George Benson - Active - musician
Benson is reportedly an elder. In the 1990s I waitered on him at the Australian Bethel, He arrived in a limousine with his body guard and was seated at the head table.
Dwight Eisenhower - Inactive - Politician
34th President of the United States (1953-1961)
"In fact, Dwight D. Eisenhower was raised a Jehovah's Witness, a sect commonly called Russellites or Bible Students until 1931. His mother was active in the sect from 1895, when Dwight was five years old, until she died. Eisenhower's father was also an active member, although after 1915 he eventually no longer considered himself a Witness. All of the Eisenhower boys left the Jehovah's Witness religion when adults and openly opposed major aspects of Watchtower teaching, although some of the values they learned from their Bible studies probably influenced them throughout their lives."
Hinano Yoshkawa - Inactive - Model
Japanese model and actress. At 19 she married cross-dresser Izam on February 24, 1999 and then divorced on September 29, 1999.
Gloria Naylor - Inactive - Author
"Also in the same year, Naylor's mother joined the Jehovah's Witnesses and in 1968 Naylor followed in her footsteps. The Jehovah's Witnesses brought her out of her shyness and gave her a cause, community and opportunity for travel. They encouraged her already active imagination and believed in the power of the written word, which would have obvious importance to Naylor in the future. Unfortunately the Jehovah's Witnesses also isolated her from her own culture. There was an incredible explosion of black literature at the time and Naylor didn't even realize it. She witnessed for seven years, supporting herself as a switchboard operator, but eventually left the Jehovah's Witnesses because "things weren't getting better, but worse.""
(voices.cla.umn.edu Oct 25 2007)
Wayan Brothers and Sisters - Mostly Inactive - Actors
Damon, Dwayne, Keenen, Ivory, Kim, Nadia, Marlon, Shawn.
"My father is a Jehovah's Witness, and he raised us under a very strict hand. He believed that if he did not spare the rod, he would raise functional, obedient children. He failed to realize that he didn't need to beat [us] all of the time; he needed to talk to us, to try to understand us. I think that he learned [to do that] towards the end of his career as a father. [When I was young], he didn't know there was any different way of being. He's two generations away from being a slave; [when he was growing up] he got beat, so he passed it on. The good thing is I don't [beat] my children, and none of my brothers and sisters do to theirs. We've broken the chain."
Dave Mustaine of the band Megadeth - Inactive - Musician
Mustaine is considered one of the pioneers of Thrash Metal. He converted to being a Born Again Christian in 2002.
An interview he stated:
JBS: As far as your family is concerned, by choosing that name, weren't you adding insult to injury for Jehovah's Witnesses?
DM: It did in a sense, but we've already got a distance between us. Regardless of what I did with my career, I don't think my problems with my family would have been resolved. I did what I did because I wanted to do it. I didn't have any inhibitions or any kind of feelings toward what they thought. (megadeth.rockmetal.art.pl Oct 2006)
Teresa Graves - Died Active - Actress and Signer
In 1974, Teresa was the first African-American actress to star in her own one-hour drama, "Get Christie Love!" She was also baptised in 1974, retired from show business in 1983, and died tragically in a house fire in 2002, aged 54. (see imdb.com)
Lord Jamar of the band Nubians - Inactive - Musician
Larry Graham - Active - Musician - Sly & the Family Stone
"He is widely heralded as the Master of Bass, a founding father of funk, Mr. Thunderlicks. His thumb, quips the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, should be insured. His voice, gut-low and as smooth as his snaky bass lines, is like Barry White's on a fitness plan, promising danger and excitement. He is Larry Graham: veteran of Sly & the Family Stone, Woodstock survivor, chief engineer of Graham Central Station, devout Jehovah's Witness and the hipster Obi-Wan of the Artist's New Power Generation." (rollingstone.com Nov 1 2007)
Mickey Spillane - Author
Mickey Spillane was a famous crime writer who sold over 225 million books. He died in 2006. In an interview by Michael Carlson he was asked:
"You were raised a Catholic, right?
No I wasn't raised either one (Catholic or Protestant). I'm one of the Jehovah's Witnesses." (http://crimetime.co.uk 5 Jul 2014)
Written 2006. Latest update Apr 2016.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2016