Then and Now: Checking In on Former Westchester Residents Who Reached Stardom

Finding stardom after leaving home

Usually, you only hear people ask, “Where are they now?” about the formerly famous—those who have somehow fallen out of the spotlight. Not so for Westchester alums. Once our grads leave the nest, the answer to “Where are they now?” is often: a place of prominence. We check in with a few

Matisyahu ➊
Where he was then: The then-Matthew Miller’s family moved from Berkeley, California, to White Plains—though he never graduated from White Plains High School, having fallen into drugs. (He eventually completed high school in Bend, Oregon.) He shocked the music world when he gained a following as an Orthodox Jewish reggae rapper (a surprising combination, indeed). His second album, Youth, hit No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Where he is now:  Trying his hand at acting. At the end of the summer, he appeared in The Possession, a horror film that puts a Jewish twist on the traditional exorcism story. Though reviews were mixed, Roger Ebert wrote that the film “creates believable characters in a real world” and “Matisyahu makes a sympathetic exorcist.” But he hasn’t abandoned music: This year’s album, Spark Seeker, reached No. 19 on the Billboard 200. He’s also backed off his devoutness, declaring himself no longer Orthodox and shaving his beard.

Bruce Jenner âž‹
Where he was then: Sure, everyone remembers Jenner’s gold-medal decathlon win during the Montreal Olympics, but where was he before that? Right here. Jenner was born in Mount Kisco, and his family later moved to Tarrytown; he attended Sleepy Hollow High School. They moved again—to Sandy Hook, Connecticut—when Jenner was a junior, but he stayed with a friend so he could finish out the football season before joining them.
Where he is now: As if you have to ask. We know that, from time to time, you succumb to Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the reality show about his family and stepfamily. The seventh season of this show wrapped up this past August.

Mark Meatto ➌
Where he was then: The Hackley grad (’96) studied filmmaking and philosophy at Harvard, where he graduated with honors. He went on to apprentice for some well-regarded documentary filmmakers, most notably Ross McElwee, whom he worked with on 2003’s Bright Leaves.
Where he is now: Touring with his own documentary. Meatto directed How to Grow a Band, a documentary about the mandolin-, fiddle-, and banjo-playing band The Punch Brothers. But he hasn’t forgotten his roots—in August, he took the film to the Jacob Burns Film Center, where he did a Q&A with WFUV’s Rita Houston.

Max Greenfield âž
Where he was then: We’re probably not the first to tell you that, as a young Dobbs Ferry native, Greenfield had a Saturday Night Live-themed bar mitzvah—comedy stardom must’ve been inevitable. He graduated from Dobbs Ferry High School in 1998 and went on to pursue an acting career.
Where he is now: Hanging out with Zooey Deschanel. The actor has landed the scene-stealing role of Schmidt on FOX’s New Girl, which was one of the most successful network debut sitcoms last season. He even was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, going up against the formidable cast of Modern Family. (He lost to Eric Stonestreet, but we still love him.)

 Photo Copyright ©2012 Disney XD

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Ben Schwartz ➎
Where he was then: He split his childhood between Riverdale and Westchester, briefly returning to the county after graduating from Union College in 2003. In an interview with Carson Daly, he described his post-college schedule: “I would wake up at six in the morning, I’d write monologue jokes for two or three hours, then I’d go to work, be a page. I’d sleep in the security office, because those guys were amazing to me, and then I’d do my second shift as a page. Then I’d go to UCB and take a class and then I would watch every show I could from eleven to one. When I was still living with my family—when I’d just moved out of college—I would have to go back to Westchester and take the last train home. And if not, I’d go home and write. I’d sleep for maybe four hours and do it every single day. It may have been the best time in my life.”
Where he is now:  All over your television, doing shows for all ends of the audience spectrum, from the kid-friendly Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja (for which he supplies the voice of Randy Cunningham) to the very adult House of Lies. (Our favorite character is still Jean-Ralphio of Parks & Recreation.) He’s also a writer, and his joke-writing for the 2009 Academy Awards earned him an Emmy statue.

Benh Zeitlin âž
Where he was then: Though originally from Sunnyside, Queens, Zeitlin moved to Hastings-on-Hudson, where he lived with his folklorist parents. He graduated from Hastings High School in 2000 before
moving on to study film at Wesleyan University.
Where he is now: Cleaning up in the movie biz. His first feature film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, swept the film-festival scene this year, winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, the Golden Camera award at Cannes, and an Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival, among others. We wouldn’t be surprised if the Oscars follow suit.


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