4 Celebs You Never Knew Were Refugees

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘refugee’? Probably not red carpet appearances, high glamour and swag by the bucket load, right? Here are some celebs whose stories might just surprise you…

Rita Ora:
‘When you put anyone into an alien environment, where other people aren’t completely comfortable with them being there, they are automatically going to be defensive. It’s the rule of the jungle, right?’

Chart-topper and new UK X Factor judge, Rita Sahatçiu Ora was born in Pristina in the former Yugoslavia. When she was only one year old, rival political groups ripped her country apart, and her ethnic-Albanian parents were forced to flee to avoid prejudice and brutal repression.

They made it to London where she shared a single room with her sister, brother and parents. Despite none of the family speaking any English, they were determined to succeed. Rita and her fam’s resolve to nail it at life in their new country paid off. Rita went to school in West London before winning a place at the renowned Sylvia Young stage school.

Ten years later, she’s a number one selling music artist and Fifty Shades actress, with countless big brands clamouring after her for endorsements.

Andreja Pejić:
‘We heard the air raid sirens and we all had to run to the bomb shelter. We didn’t know if the bomb was going to drop.’

Transgender fashion model, face of Make Up For Ever and new member of Taylor Swift's girl squad, Andreja has been hitting headlines ever since she first arrived on the scene as a highly-androgynous male catwalk star.

Pejić’s rise to the fashion elite was far from smooth – born in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, she was forced to flee to Serbia with her mother and grandmother during the Bosnian war and settled in a refugee camp near to Belgrade.

The family eventually emigrated to Australia as political refugees, starting a new life in Melbourne when Andreja was only eight-years-old, but her troubled history is never far from her mind, as she told Dazed magazine that her memories of the 1999 NATO bombing are still very much ‘stuck in my mind’.

‘I’m a refugee from a yellow brick tent.’

Outspoken rapper M.I.A (Maya Arulpragasam when she’s not using her stage name) has definitely fed her musical style with her experiences as a refugee. The quote above is from her track ‘ATENTion’ and there are countless other lyrics and references found in her albums which allude to displacement, military, propaganda, and the struggle to survive. ‘We do it cheap, hide our money in a heap/Send it home and make ’em study,’ she whispers in ‘Hussel’.

So what’s her story? Born in Sri Lanka, her family were among the Tamil minority, and an ethnic civil war forced them to leave for Britain when she was nine. It was living in a London housing project where she first discovered hip-hop.

She has since travelled the world performing, and finding the inspiration to write more unique music. ’I’m just trying to build some sort of bridge…I’m trying to create a third place, somewhere in between the developed world and the developing world."

In 2008 she went to Liberia to help reintroduce former child soldiers into society, telling the press that she ‘wanted to see what a country looks like after a war because I come from a place that has never seen the end of it.’

Andy Garcia
‘I’m an exile. My father had the courage to leave with his wife, his mother and three children under twelve. It took more courage to leave, to sacrifice everything for freedom, than to stay.’

Legendary actor Andy Garcia was born in Cuba but his family fled the country when he was five years old, following the Bay of Pigs invasion.

They settled in Florida where his family created a successful perfume company. The ’Ocean’s Eleven’ actor often speaks out about political prisoners in his homeland, and he’s been involved in a number of films which examine the country’s situation, including ‘The Lost City’.

>>> The Refugee Crisis: What Can We Do To Help?

Friday, 11. September 2015