27 POC Who Became Famous for Embracing Their Uniqueness

It can be difficult to be notably different, unique, or weird — especially if you’re a person of color

Photo: Unsplash/@haticehuma

Photo: Unsplash/@haticehuma

It can be difficult to be notably different, unique, or weird — especially if you’re a person of color. It can also make you a target for teasing and bullying. But if you find the beauty in your differences and embrace them, it can lead you to your purpose and be the exact thing that catapults you to stardom. At the very least, it will allow you to love yourself for having these beautiful, unique traits.

A great way to see how this works is to see how others were able to not only own their otherness but to capitalize on it. We compiled a list of 27 Black, Latinx, Asian, and Middle Eastern artists, innovators, icons, legends, and creators who decided to stand out, loud and proud, and changed the entire world in the process.


Alejandra Guzman

The first artist in our roundup of unique artists is Alejandra Guzman. Born into Mexican entertainment royalty (her mother is actress Sylvia Pinal and her father is singer and actor Enrique Guzman), you would expect her to perhaps fade into the shadow of her parents and also-famous siblings. Not only has she shined as the black sheep of the family, but Alejandra Guzman has made her mark as the eccentric, brutally honest, in-your-face, talented Reina de Rock.



You know you’re are an icon, forever irreplaceable, when you only need one name, like Prince. The African-American music virtuoso not only was a genius at music, but he pushed boundaries. He pushed for complete expression, true talent, blurring gender norms, perceptions of sexuality and masculinity, and ownership of your art.



Sri Lankan Tamil artist M.I.A. has always been about creating unique, bold art but also delivering important political messages. Born Mathangi Arulpragasam, the rapper, singer, songwriter, activist, record producer, and visual artist hasn’t shied away from performing nine months pregnant in polka dots at the Grammys, wearing loud yet super cool fashion, sharing even louder statements about the world, and mixing sounds from around the world for the dopest music.


André 3000


Being unique in how you dress and express yourself sets you apart from the masses. It may look weird to some, but there are of millions of others who will find it fly and want to follow suit. A perfect example? Rapper, designer, actor, singer, and songwriter André 3000, a.k.a. André Lauren Benjamin. He’s one half of the iconic rap duo OutKast and his sound, style, and everything about him is unique. But it’s also what sets him apart and a contributing factor to what made André a star. Just check out the video for “Hey Ya,” and you can see his genius in action.


Celia Cruz


Celia Cruz was a trailblazer. She was an Afro-Cuban woman fronting the all-male orchestra La Sonora Mantancera. She had a unique voice, made “azucar” a call to culture instead of just being sugar, and cemented her place in history as La Reina de la Salsa. And of course, her style made her unforgettable on its own. Huge wigs in all colors of the rainbow, heelless heels, bedazzled caftans and Bata Cubanas (Cuban Rumba dresses) with ruffles for days were Celia’s signatures.


George Clinton

George Clinton is so different, he is literally out of this world. As the frontman for the Parliament-Funkadelic, he took funk to new, intergalactic levels, and influenced the later G-funk sound of the ’90s, and work across other genres. And like other legendary, original artists, his personal style reflected his work. It has been vibrant, futuristic, psychedelic, cool, and unlike anything, we have ever seen before.



You have to offer something different, unique, and memorable to become a living legend. Vallejo native E-40, born Earl Stevens, is one of the iconic faces, and voices, of Bay Area rap. His sound and rap style is so unique, you instantly know it’s an E-40 song out the gate. Add to that that E-40 can come out with a dictionary of all the cool slang words he has single-handedly come up with, and you have a true original.


La Lupe

La Lupe is the Queen of Latin Soul. Her powerful, emotive voice is part of the reason, but her raw, frenetic performances were also a factor. The Afro-Cubana didn’t hold back, and instead of just singing a song, she invited us all to experience all the emotions of those songs with her and through her.


Jimi Hendrix

You can’t even discuss the 1960s without talking about Jimi Hendrix. The Seattle native and African-American legend (who is also believed to have been of Cherokee descent) was like a psychedelic-laced breath of fresh air in music, style, and individuality. Hendrix is considered both one of the best artists and guitarists of all time.


Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee is considered the best, most famous martial artist of all time. Born Lee Jun-fan in San Francisco, Lee created his own style of martial arts, called Jeet Kune Do, was an international movie star, and shared his philosophies on life with the world. One of his big gifts to others was sharing and teaching kung fu with Westerners, which was considered taboo at the time.


Erykah Badu

You need a lot of confidence and style to live your life as uniquely and boldly as one of our favorite artists, Erykah Badu. Her mere presence exudes African, boho, earthy, neo-soul, hip-hop, vintage, connected-to-the-universe vibes, and that is filtered through everything she does, including her music and her way of dress.


Grace Jones

Grace Jones looked like she was dropped from within the galaxies, but she was actually born in Jamaica. Jones is the queen of living life as a fierce individual. She has lent her gorgeous looks, style, and voice to a career which includes modeling, music, and acting. Grace Jones’ edgy, larger-than-life, and androgynous aesthetic is credited with influencing the cross-dressing movement of the 1980s.


Freddie Mercury


Freddie Mercury, born in Zanzibar to Parsi parents from India, is one of the best performers of all time. When he stepped on a stage, although very shy in real life, Freddie (born Farrokh Bulsara) came alive with pizzazz, electricity, and talent. Through his theatrical presence and matching stage styles, he encouraged many others to live uniquely loud and proud.


Cardi B

Cardi B is all about going big and never going home. The Dominicana’s blunt truths and equally loud style got everyone’s attention, first on Instagram, then on the show Love & Hip Hop. Once it was time for Cardi to put all that truth to music, she was ready, and so was the world. She has proven that staying true to who you are, what you’ve lived, and where you come from is being real, and it’s paid off — big time.


Yma Sumac


Yma Sumac was a Peruvian singer who could reach five octaves, including singing notes in a whistle register, like a bird. Her incredible voice was sent from God, and her entire presence royal, which makes sense as it is believed she was descended from Atahualpa, the last Incan emperor.


Eartha Kitt


Singer and actress Eartha Kitt built a career around her glamorous uniqueness. Just hearing her talk is mesmerizing (check out the video above); that unique cat-like purr is her signature! In fact, she used it to interpret maybe the best version of Catwoman in the Batman TV series.


Mariah Carey


Biracial Afro-Latina Mariah Carey has made it a point to fully live the diva lifestyle, over-the-top and in her unique way. She wasn’t going to try to blend in with everyone else, despite always feeling like an outsider, especially when growing up. Mariah definitely has the diva voice and equally-powerhouse career to match, but she completes it all with gowns, diamonds, chandeliers, scandals, epic girliness, and a diva vocabulary, dahling.


Little Richard


Some of the most unique, fearless, and iconic people in the world fail to get the credit they deserve. But they are copied. Take Little Richard, for instance. Born Richard Wayne Penniman, the rock ‘n’ roll legend was a trailblazer during the 1950s, tearing up the piano and delivering energetic performances, while dressed up in equally flamboyant garb.


Aretha Franklin


When many consider you the best singer of all time, you can’t help but be an individual. Aretha Franklin took the instrument of the voice and took it to levels that no one else did. It was the quality and range of her voice, but also the emotion it contained. And like any self-respecting diva, Aretha also had the confidence, attitude, and sparkling wardrobe to match.



Korean-Chinese-American Awkwafina, born Nora Lum, has made a career from owning her awkwardness and turning it into gold. In fact, in the clip above, she admits that she used humor to hide her embarrassment of being different. Today, she is famous, on TV, and in films and songs.


Gloria Trevi

Mexican superstar Gloria Trevi has reached the pinnacle of her career by being unapologetically herself. Once known as the Mexican Madonna, she sang about rocking her hair down and unruly, wore quirky, torn rocker gear, and always aimed to push the envelope and shock. Today, she is still showing others that it is great to own your truth, live it, and share it with others.



Rihanna always does things her way, and it’s paid off for the global superstar. She’s a successful singer and businesswoman. In fact, her inclusive cosmetic line, Fenty Beauty plays a huge role in her success, as it has revolutionized the beauty industry. By consistently and unapologetically being herself and infusing that uniqueness into everything from her personal style to her business sense, Rihanna has made herself a legend.


Steve Jobs

Syrian genius Steve Jobs revolutionized technology by being different and thinking differently. He also was brave enough to take risks throughout this storied career at Apple and beyond. It’s a great reminder to think outside the box in whatever industry you decide to be a part of — or just build the entire box from scratch yourself.


Jean-Michel Basquiat


Artists see things through their own individual filter, made up of taste, technique, life experience, and perception. Their art is deeply personal and an extension of how different they really are. Afro-Puerto Rican Jean-Michel Basquiat‘s art took the world by storm due to its uniqueness — it’s style, messages, and influences. There’s a lesson here: although it is tempting for artists to copy another’s well-received art, it’s what sets you apart and how only you can express that, that makes for the best art you can possibly create.


Lil Kim

No matter what they say (Lil Kim song reference), Lil Kim is a trailblazer. Long before Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and other female rappers were rapping about sexy things, decked out in designer clothes, Lil Kim was. She made it okay for a female rapper to be a female rapper and say the same things the guys were saying, but from a woman’s perspective. She was all for not having to dress like a male rapper to earn street cred, but instead did it all in Chanel, Versace, and diamonds.


Mac Dre

All hyphy-ness (that emanates from the Hyphy Movement) from The Bay traces back to its biggest star, legend Mac Dre. Born Andre Louis Hicks. The Oakland-born, Vallejo-based rapper had a style all his own. It’s because of Mac Dre that the Bay Area gets hyphy, does the thizzle dance, and has yet another way to be one of a kind.


Missy Elliot

With her rapping skills, Missy Elliott didn’t have to rely on being very different to succeed, but her eccentric signature style is part of what has made her one of the best female rappers of all time. Everything Missy has done has been so far outside the box, be it her sound (we have to also shout out super producer Timbaland here, another one of a kind talent), her videos, and her fashion choices. Who else do you know who has backward rap lyrics and has turned a black garbage bag into surreal art?

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