7 Untold Stories of KC Stars Before They Got Famous

Paul Rudd was student council president? Jason Sudeikis was a basketball star? Janelle Monae was a dedicated Westport shopper? It’s all true. Many of Hollywood’s best and brightest got their start in KC, and we found the pictures to prove it.

Ellie Kemper


Kemper at age 3 in her family’s KC home; Kemper’s field hockey portrait at Princeton University; Kemper at the 2016 Screen Actors Guild Awards

Elizabeth “Ellie” Claire Kemper was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Long before playing the optimistic title character on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Kemper was spending her days in the 816. She’s the granddaughter of Mildred Lane Kemper, the namesake of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, and the great-grand-niece of R. Crosby Kemper, the namesake of Kemper Arena. Even though her family moved to St. Louis when she was five, KC can still claim her as their own. Fun fact: Jon Hamm was her high school drama teacher.


Rob Riggle

Riggle’s senior portrait at SMS in 1988; Riggle records footage for SMS’ TV station; Riggle is interviewed on “Conan” in 2014

Robert Allen Riggle was born in Kentucky and moved to Overland Park with his family when he was 2. Before cracking us up on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show,” he attended Shawnee Mission South, where he was a big part of the school’s radio and TV stations as well as a member of the football team. He was voted “most humorous” by his classmates and graduated in 1988. He later graduated from the University of Kansas in 1992 with a B.A. in Theater and Film. When Riggle hosted the 2012 ESPY Awards, he entered the stage to the KU fight song and was joined by some of the cheerleaders and Big Jay himself – check it out.


Janelle Monáe


Robinson as a child; Robinson in dance class; Robinson at the 2016 Grammy Awards

Janelle Monáe Robinson was born in Kansas City, Kansas and knew she wanted to be a singer and a performer from a very young age. She attended F.L. Schlagle High School where she was an AP English student. Robinson started her stage career by performing and writing at Young Playwrights Roundtable, Wyandotte High School and the Coterie Theatre. If she wasn’t working on music, Robinson could be found shopping at various thrift stores or consignment shops in Westport. Local DJ Steve Serrano interviewed Robinson in Westport back in 2013 about her album, and she also talked about her KC roots.


Paul Rudd

Rudd’s senior portrait at SMW; Rudd (third from right) with his fellow members of the male drill team “Vikestuds”; Rudd at the premiere of “Captain America: Civil War” in 2016

Paul Stephen Rudd was born in New Jersey but moved to Lenexa with his family when he was 10. Before he had us rolling on the floor laughing because of films like “Anchorman” and “I Love You, Man,” Rudd was student council president, a yell leader and a member of the Sadie Hawkins court at Shawnee Mission West High School. After graduating in 1987, Rudd went to the University of Kansas where he majored in theater. Paul, on behalf of everyone in KC, we love you, man. Also, you were a pretty sweet Bat Mitzvah DJ back in the day.


Eric Stonestreet


Stonestreet’s senior portrait at Piper HS in 1990; Stonestreet throws the shot put during a track meet; Stonestreet at the Fox and FX 2015 Emmys after party

Eric Allen Stonestreet was born in Kansas City, Kansas. At age 9, he created the character Fizbo the clown whom you may recall seeing on Stonestreet’s current gig, ABC’s Emmy Award winning show “Modern Family.” Stonestreet attended Piper High School where he was a member of the track & field team. After graduating, he went to Kansas State University. Stonestreet is a dedicated Royals fan and even made a bet with Jimmy Kimmel last year about who would win the World Series. (Spoiler alert: Stonestreet totally won the bet.)


Jason Sudeikis


Sudeikis’ senior portrait at SMW in 1994; Sudeikis (center, looking up) during a Vikings basketball game; Sudeikis at the 2016 Golden Globe Awards

Daniel Jason Sudeikis was born in Virginia but moved to Overland Park with his family as a child. Sudeikis’ first two years of high school were spent at Rockhurst, but he transferred to Shawnee Mission West where he was a guard on the Vikings’ varsity basketball team. Despite his basketball success, comedy had his heart. He started studying improv at ComedySportz (now Comedy City) as a high school student and quickly took off from there. Even when he made it to “Saturday Night Live,” he managed to give Kansas City a shout-out every once in awhile. Also, we can’t believe his name is actually Daniel.


Kate (Spade) Valentine

Valentine in 1998; Valentine and her husband stock shelves at a store; Valentine during an interview in 2016

Katherine Noel Valentine, also known as Kate Spade, was born in Kansas City, Missouri and is best known as the co-founder and namesake of the designer brands, Kate Spade New York and Frances Valentine. Valentine graduated from the all-girls Catholic high school St. Teresa’s Academy and went on to attend the University of Kansas before transferring to Arizona State where she graduated with a degree in journalism in 1985. Earlier this year, she unveiled her new fashion brand at Halls in KC.


Author: mazuma

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