Des Moines, IA

Five Famous Celebrities From Des Moines, IA

James Logie
Photo by Austin Goode on Unsplash

There are many talented people that hail from Iowa. When you look at the city of Des Moines, it's home to quite a few.

Whether they were born here, moved here, or were just passing through, Des Moines has been a place that many people have called home.

This will be a quick look at some of the most famous people from the city. In a short list like this, it's impossible to include everyone, so some people have unintentionally been left off.

This list will also be in no particular order, but provides a quick snapshot of the talent who have lived here.

Cloris Leachman

If you grew up in the 60s, 70s, or 80s, you no doubt saw Cloris Leachman in either TV shows or movies. Born in Des Moines in 1926, Leachman started out life acting at a young age.

She competed in the Miss America Pageant before appearing in plays on Broadway. One of her first big movie roles was "The Last Picture Show" which won her an Academy Award.

Leachman also appeared in classic comedies like Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein."

When it came to TV, Leachman appeared in the Mary Tyler Moore Show, where she played Phyllis Lindstrom. This role won her several Emmy Awards. This led to a spin-off show called "Phyllis.

You may also remember Cloris Leachman from her role as Edna Garrett on "The Facts of Life."

Steve Higgins

Until he became the co-host alongside Jimmy Fallon, most people did not know Steve Higgins. But he's had been an instrumental part of the success of Saturday Night Live.

Born in Des Moines in 1963, Higgins took a liking to comedy at a young age. He would appear in several comedy troupes, where he honed his improv ability.

Higgins would appear in sketch comedy shows in cities like Chicago. From 1995 to 1997, Higgins was the head writer for Saturday Night Live. After 1997, he stayed on the writing staff and was also a producer of the show.

His work on SNL won him several Emmy awards. The character of Andy Dwyer from "Parks and Recreation" is said to be based on Higgins.

In 2009, Higgins came to the forefront where he appeared as the announcer for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. With this position, Higgins could show his quick wit and ability to improv, which has kept him with Fallon to this day.

Jason Momoa

Despite being born in Hawaii, Jason Momoa was raised in Iowa by his mother. He grew up in Norwalk, just south of the Des Moines International Airport.

Momoa has been acting for a long time, but has become more famous in the last few years for his roles on Game of Thrones, and playing Aquaman in the DC Extended Universe.

Momoa had one of his first TV roles at age 19 when he was cast in Baywatch. Some other roles Momoa was involved with include "Stargate Atlantis," but a notable moment happened when he was cast as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones.

His role as Aquaman has had Momoa appear in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," along with "Justice League." Momoa also recently appeared in another big blockbuster movie: Dune.

Ronald Reagan

Even though he wasn't born here, Ronald Reagan spent some time in Des Moines. It's hard to cover the legacy of the former president in just a few brief paragraphs, but this is just a quick overview.

Born in Illinois in 1911, Reagan's first job was as a lifeguard. When he went to college, he had interests in many areas, including acting, sports, and campus politics.

It was after he graduated college that Reagan would end up in Des Moines in 1932. In a pre-television era, radio was people's primary form of news and entertainment. Reagan would work as an announcer for several different radio stations.

His big connection to Des Moines was working for WHO radio, where he was a baseball announcer for the Chicago Cubs. Even though the games were happening in Chicago, the studio got wire transfers of the game describing basic plays.

Reagan would have to expand on the plays, give them more excitement, and make people feel as if the game was happening right in front of him.

It was this job that got Reagan into acting. During a road trip with the Cubs to California, Reagan had the opportunity to do a screen test for a movie studio. This would lead to his acting career, which got him into politics, and eventually into the presidency.


Whether you like them or aren't into their music, Slipknot has been an extremely influential band in the heavy metal and nu metal genre. They've also achieved a number one Billboard song.

Slipknot has always been made up of several members, but they can be considered a Des Moines band as seven of the nine members were born there.

There was a big heavy metal scene in Des Moines in the early 90s. Early members of Slipknot would play in several different bands. Slipknot went through several iterations in their early days, including the name "Meld."

In 1995, they officially became Slipknot and self-financed their first album. Their second album would be called "Iowa."

Even with all the changes the band has gone through, they have been nominated for an impressive 10 Grammy Awards and won for "Best Metal Performance" in 2006.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned, it's impossible to cover all the well-known people that have called Des Moines home. This list is just to give you a quick sampling of the diverse talent from the city.

You may have your own favorites, but Des Moines has produced some exceptionally talented people who have been major influences to the world.

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Personal trainer, podcaster, Amazon best-selling author. Writing about some health, a little marketing, and a whole lot of 1980s.


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