19 Male Celebrity Role Models Boys Can Look Up To (PHOTOS)

So much attention is paid to providing strong, smart, and driven women as role models for girls that it often feels as if boys are forgotten. But they need men to look up to as well. Fortunately, there is no shortage of them, from entrepreneurs to philanthropic actors to, ahem, presidents. 

Here are 20 examples of males who have become successful through a mix of both hard work and dedication. Even when they've stumbled, they've dusted themselves off to become role models for millions.


Image © Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/Corbis

  • Keanu Reeves


    Image © Etienne Laurent/epa/Corbis

    Quietly intense and decidedly un-Hollywood, actor Keanu Reeves gave up part of his sizeable Matrix paycheck so the special-effects and costume-design crew could continue to work on the entire trilogy. He has also been known to give up his subway seat, as seen in a viral video. And he started a cancer foundation, to which he declined to attach his name, inspired by his sister's fight with leukemia. 

  • Junot Diaz


    Image © Claudio Onorati/epa/Corbis

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning author's short stories and novel offer a fresh take on the immigrant experience and coming of age in the Latino community. But Junot Diaz, who is a professor at MIT, has also been an outspoken critic of his native Dominican Republic's mass deportation of Haitian immigrants and Haitian Dominicans, leading the country to revoke a literary honor previously awarded. 

  • John & Hank Green/Vlogbrothers


    Image via YouTube

    The two brothers, John (author of Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars) and Hank, an entrepreneur, run the Vlogbrothers' YouTube channel (2.6 million subscribers and counting), where they break down everything from the Syrian refugee crisis to Boko Haram, delve into science, art, and history, and even present a vlogged version of Pride and Prejudice. Getting youth interested in big issues via their favorite medium: brilliant. 

  • Justin Timberlake


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    He's a successful singer, actor, and businessman, he's never been involved in a scandal other than Nipplegate (in which fellow Super Bowl halftime performer Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction), and pretty much everyone likes him. It may not make for explosive tabloid fodder, but it makes him a pretty safe bet as a role model.

    More from The Stir: Gifts that Give Back: Celebrities' Charities of Choice (PHOTOS)

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson


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    With his snappy clothes and his deep-voiced delivery, he's like the Billy Dee Williams of astronomy, turning legions of TV viewers into astronomy fans through the TV show Cosmos. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who heads the Hayden Planetarium at the American Natural History Museum, overcame discrimination and skepticism to become one of science's biggest and most popular ambassadors. 

  • Michael Phelps


    Image © Eric Gay/AP/Corbis

    Raised by a single mother, the most decorated Olympian in history is a model of focus and greatness, with 18 gold medals out of 22 total. But Michael Phelps is also human, and an example that sometimes you have to fall hard before you can rise above. In 2009, he was photographed with a bong, and in 2014, he entered rehab after a DUI bust led to a suspension from US swimming. He bounced back by giving up alcohol, getting clean, and focusing on swimming. He celebrated his progress on Instagram with a quote by the poet Rumi. "Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself." Wise words.

  • Will Smith


    Image © Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/Corbis

    He transformed himself from a successful rapper who went broke to an Oscar-nominated actor whose films gross over $100 million each domestically. He has donated milions to charity and with his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, he started a private elementary school based on alternative teaching methods.

  • Ricky Martin


    Image © Robb Cohen/Retna Ltd/Retna Ltd./Corbis

    The Grammy-winning singer is beloved around the world, but the single father of twin boys is nearly as well known for his charitable work. He's raised millions through his eponymous foundation, which focuses on educating children and fighting against human trafficking, and he's won as many awards for his humanitarian work as for his music.   

    More from The Stir: 20 Celebrities Who Moonlight as Successful Entrepreneurs (PHOTOS)

  • Russell Wilson


    Image © Stephen Brashear/AP/Corbis

    A devout Christian, Russell Willson prays on-field after every game and recently publicly stated that he and girlfriend Ciara are celibate. The top quarterback also proved critics who said he was too short dead wrong by leading his team to consecutive Super Bowls. Off the field, he donates a considerable amount of time and money to various charities and childrens' hospitals.

  • Stampy/John Garrett


    Image via YouTube

    He hosts one of the top 10 YouTube channels in the world and probably wields more influence over tween boys than their teachers. He's Joseph Garrett, who makes videos of himself playing Minecraft as the character Stampy Cat. He makes as much as $200,000 a month on ad revenues collected on his channel, which boasts 6.7 million subscribers and nearly 5 billion views.  

  • Julian Castro


    Image © Bob Daemmrich/Corbis

    At age 26, he became the youngest ever councilman in San Antonio before becoming the city's mayor. The son of a civil rights activist mother, he was the first to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention in 2012 and was named Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by President Barack Obama. He's widely believed to be a frontrunner for Hillary Clinton's White House run. 

  • Brad Pitt


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    The handsome actor and one half of Hollywood's most high-profile couples is a powerful man in the industry, not only as a box office draw but behind the scenes as a producer (Moneyball, 12 Years a Slave, Selma). But Brad Pitt's most impressive contribution may be his philanthropy. He built houses in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and travels the world to advocate for children and disaster victims.

    More from The Stir: 20 Male Hollywood Stars Who Married Regular People (PHOTOS)

  • President Barack Obama


    Image via © Andrew Harnik/AP/Corbis

    It's hard to overestimate the impact of Barack Obama, the self-described "skinny kid with a funny name" who became the first African American president, the guy who got Bin Laden, and an advocate for LGBT rights. "I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible," he once said. And it's a story for the ages.

  • Robert Downey Jr.


    Image © Kento Nara/Geisler-Fotopress/dpa/Corbis

    The Iron Man has been through hell and back, in a life that was once defined by a deep addiction to drugs that led to jail time. Robert Downey Jr. thanks his wife for helping him dig out of that hole and helping him regain his footing as one of the most bankable, respected, and beloved actors. No wonder the world swooned when he personally delivered an Iron Man bionic arm to an awed 7-year-old boy who was born with a partially developed arm.  

  • Elon Musk


    Image © Stringer/Reuters/Corbis

    The word visionary fits in the case of Elon Musk. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, he's built electric cars and sent spacecraft into orbit and to the International Space Station. Musk, who taught himself computer programming at age 10, hopes to build a colony on Mars by 2040, as well as a high-speed transportation system.

  • Andrew McCutchen


    Image © Frank Franklin II/AP/Corbis

    Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is deeply involved with the city's children's hospital, founded a program for inner city kids, and even cut off and auctioned his dreadlocks for charity. His do-gooder deeds led to him being awarded the Major League Baseball's Roberto Clemente Award earlier this year for exemplary sportsmanship and community involvement.

    More from The Stir: 8 Super Charitable Celebs That Will Shock You (PHOTOS)

  • Michael Sam


    Image © Rick Scuteri/AP/Corbis

    Though he was revered as a college player who was openly gay, Michael Sam knew that trying to break into the NFL would be a different story. He did it anyway, the first openly gay player to enter the draft and celebrate by kissing his then-boyfriend when picked. He was eventually cut and joined a Canadian football outift, leaving to concentrate on a master's degree and step away from what had been a grueling spotlight.

  • Stephen Colbert


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    The onetime host of The Colbert Report and now host of the Late Show is a combination of zany and smart. He had the gumption to roast President George W. Bush to his face in a ballsy White House Correspondents' Dinner performance and is one of the best interviewers on television.  

  • Richard Sherman


    Image © Matt York/AP/Corbis

    Though immensely talented, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman was in danger of having his athletic prowess and inspiring life story be overshadowed by constant trash-talking off the field. Until his son Rayden was born, that is. That "put everything into perspective," says the Super Bowl champ, who pulled himself out of a rough Oakland neighborhood, and is on his way to earning a masters at his Ivy League alma mater, Stanford. "Wisdom comes with age comes with age, picking your battles and understanding what matters and what doesn't."


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