Welsh and famous
From legendary crooners and icons of cinema to cutting-edge comedians and one of the finest poets ever to grace the page, Wales has produced abundant talent in entertainment. Here are a few famous Welsh people you might know.
Shirley Bassey at the National Stadium, Cardiff
The Cardiff waitress who hit number one. A true music icon, Shirley Bassey went from Cardiff waitress to global megastar within a few years, scoring Wales’ first number one in 1959. Decades of hits and awards later, her most recent performances have included singing one of her James Bond theme songs at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Hollywood star with roots proudly in Wales. From The Darling Buds of May to casino heists with Brad Pitt and George Clooney as her accomplices in Ocean’s Eleven, Catherine Zeta-Jones is a Welsh celebrity who rarely misses a chance to voice her affection for her homeland. Her middle name comes from a boat docked in her native Swansea.
Tom Jones at the Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff by Andrew King
Famous Welsh singer who stormed America. Starting out in beat groups around the dusty clubs of South Wales, Tom Jones was born in Pontypridd as Thomas John Woodword. His first hit, It’s Not Unusual, launched a superstar, and by the mid-1960s he’d won a Grammy Award in America. His charisma and unmistakeable crooning still fills stadiums.
Brilliant actor raised on Welsh drama. Starting out alongside Vanessa Redgrave and going on to impersonate Tony Blair, Michael Sheen’s distinctly Welsh fire has won him dozens of awards. Born in Newport, his early days on the boards saw him co-found his own theatre company and perfect his skills at the National Youth Theatre of Wales.
Charlotte Church at Swn Festival, Cardiff
Vocal prodigy with Cardiff beginnings. In 1998, while she was being lauded as The Voice of an Angel, Charlotte Church’s incredible talent was still being nurtured in Cardiff. Having become one of the world’s most loved classical performers, these days she’s reinvented herself as an indie-rock singer. A popular personality with proud Welsh roots.
Comedy star who started on BBC Radio Wales. We know him as a hugely successful television and stage favourite, but comedian Rob Brydon’s path to fame began at college in Cardiff and on Radio Wales. Glamorgan born and Port Talbot raised, his character in much-loved show Gavin and Stacey took him back to his South Wales roots.
Katherine Jenkins at the Celtic Manor Resort near Newport, Wye Valley
Internationally popular classical singer. You might not be surprised to know that Katherine Jenkins’ earliest operatic emergence saw her win the Welsh Choirgirl of the Year during her time with the country’s National Youth Choir. Her astounding voice has made Jenkins Britain’s most popular classical singer – the girl from Neath has enjoyed stratospheric success.
Acting genius sparked by a Welsh icon. After meeting fellow future icon Richard Burton in their native Port Talbot, Anthony Hopkins took the wise decision to indulge his desire for drama. More than 50 years after graduating from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, he is simply one of the greatest actors of all time.
Dylan Thomas statue, Swansea
A literary giant of the 20th century. Born and raised in Swansea – where the Dylan Thomas Theatre puts on a great show almost a century on – this hugely popular writer was arguably the most important poet of the 20th century. A fascinating personality, he was regularly known to frequent the pubs, cinemas and promenades along the coast.
Great actor who loves the Welsh language. One of Britain’s most charismatic performers, Rhys Ifans was raised in the North Wales Borderlands and attended a Welsh language school before starting out on television in his home country. A powerful actor with an impish sense of humour, he’s gone on to feature in everything from Harry Potter adventures to Spider-Man blockbusters.