A familiar face is joining the cast of The Voice this season, and we are so excited to see him do his thing. In case you missed the news, John Legend will join veteran coaches Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine for season 16. To celebrate his Voice debut, we’ve rounded up 16 fascinating John Legend facts, ranging from his birth name to how he met his wife, Chrissy Teigen. We’ve also got some tidbits about his career, early aspirations and more.
If you already knew all of these legendary facts (see what we did there?), pat yourself on the back — you must be a John Legend superfan! We suspect his already massive fanbase will only grow once he joins The Voice, so let’s all take a moment to appreciate where he’s been and how far he’s come before tuning in to the season premiere on Monday.
1. His birth name wasn’t “Legend”
Legend was born John Roger Stephens on Dec. 28, 1978, in Ohio. His two children, Luna and Miles, have his last name, though Teigen opted against taking it when they got married. Why? Because he didn’t even keep it, according to her tweet about the choice.
2. This is how he chose his stage name
“John Legend is a nickname that some friends started calling me, and it kind of grew into my stage name,” he told MTV News in 2008. “‘Legend’ is something that I never would have chosen for myself originally. It grew to the point where more people in my circle would know me by that name than by my real name. I had to make a decision.”
3. In 2018, he became the first black man to complete an EGOT
no Grammys for us today. john got and EGOT and egot lazy pic.twitter.com/fRdcXtbFVR
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) February 10, 2019
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Before tonight, only 12 people had won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony in competitive categories. Sirs Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice and I joined that group when we won an Emmy for our production of their legendary show Jesus Christ Superstar. So happy to be part of this team. So honored they trusted me to play Jesus Christ. So amazed to be in such rarefied air. #EGOT
Not only was he the first black man to achieve an EGOT, he was also the youngest. At 39, Legend took home an Emmy (alongside Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim Rice, who also achieved EGOT status with this win) for coproducing Jesus Christ Superstar, Live in Concert. At the time, he had a Tony, 10 Grammys and an Oscar, for his song “Glory” from the 2014 film Selma.
4. As a kid, he wanted to be a musician or…
In 2014, Legend told Us Weekly, “As a kid, I wanted to be a musician but also aspired to be Andy Griffith’s lawyer character, Ben Matlock.”
5. He was popular in high school
Legend also revealed to Us Weekly that when he was in high school, he was “student body president and prom king. Chrissy laughs when I bring this up!”
6. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania
According to CNBC, Legend studied English and African-American literature at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated magna cum laude in 1999. He also sang in an a cappella group on campus, though he took a job with Boston Consulting Group after graduating: “I had followed the path that the Penn graduate was supposed to take, but I didn’t fall in love,” he explained during his 2014 commencement speech at his alma mater. “I couldn’t shake my passion for music.”
7. One of his first jobs was singing at weddings
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12 years ago today, I met the man of my dreams. And 5 years ago today, we got married. We have two babies and some pups and a life I am grateful to have. My everything, I love you and am so proud of the story we’ve created. But you are an asshole for releasing your @nbcthevoice news on my target launch day for real
Speaking to Us Weekly in 2014, Legend revealed, “I was a wedding singer as a teenager.” He put those skills to use when he performed at his own wedding to Teigen in 2013, and again at Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s wedding in 2015. He’s also done surprise appearances at fans’ weddings.
8. He once played piano for Lauryn Hill
In a 2017 interview with Makers, Legend said he met Lauryn Hill through a member of his choir, Tara Watkins. “[Hill] was working on the music [for her solo album], and Tara invited me to come one Saturday and just hang out with Lauryn in the studio and introduce myself and just kind of see what happened,” he said. “During a break, Tara encouraged me to play a song or two for Lauren, and Lauren liked what she heard and asked me to play piano on ‘Everything Is Everything,’ which ended up being a pretty big hit.” He admitted that when the album became popular among his school peers, it was exciting to be able to say he had even a small part in the album’s creation.
9. He got his big break working with Kanye West
In 2016, Legend opened up about his various mentors, including his grandmother and Kanye West, in an interview with Spin magazine. Then, in 2018, he told Insider how he and West met and started working together: “My roommate was like, ‘You gotta meet my cousin, Kanye. He’s working on Jay-Z’s album. He’s working with all these guys from Roc-A-Fella [Records].'” The pair worked on songs together and then, after West got his own record deal, he helped Legend sign with Columbia Records in 2004.
10. His film debut was a 2005 thriller
Legend told Us Weekly in 2014 that his first-ever paid acting gig was as one of Kyra Sedgwick’s paramours in the 2005 flick Loverboy, about a woman who’s obsessed with having the perfect child.
11. He loves to read
Earlier this month, Legend told O magazine about his documented love of nonfiction books, like Steven B. Oates’ 1982 biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Let the Trumpet Sound. “I started developing a social conscious when I would read biographies about people like Dr. King and other leaders who put themselves on the line to make big change happen,” Legend said. “I always thought about myself and what it meant to live a good, impactful life, and how it was important for me to use whatever platform I had to make a change.”
12. He met Chrissy Teigen on the set of a music video
Legend and Teigen met on the set of his 2007 music video “Stereo,” in which she played his love interest. After the shoot ended, the pair went back to Legend’s hotel room, ate food from In-N-Out and then hooked up, according to a 2014 interview with Teigen and Cosmopolitan.
13. Even his wife thinks he looks like this animated PBS character
When social media users started noticing that Legend looks like the PBS animated aardvark Arthur, Teigen immediately started trolling her husband about it via tweets and Instagram posts. He was a good sport about it, though, and did a hilarious Google Duo ad with Teigen where he dressed like the character. He even has “No relation to Arthur” in his Twitter bio.
14. He prefers a simple meal prior to performing
— John Legend (@johnlegend) April 3, 2014
During a fan Q&A on Twitter in 2014, Legend revealed that his typical pre-show meal consists of half a rotisserie chicken and some steamed vegetables. In 2018, he told Cooking Light that this is still his routine: “It’s just a roasted chicken with some vegetables. It’s very simple. I like it nice and juicy and flavorful. It makes me feel like, ‘I’m ready to go sing now.’”
15. He’s a philanthropist
In case you missed it, founder @johnlegend delivered his keynote address from #ASUGSV18 last week about the ways that businesses, educators, and civic organizations can build pathways for success across the country. Watch his full speech here: https://t.co/zUPgcwZLVo
— Show Me Campaign (@showmecampaign) April 25, 2018
One of Legend’s many philanthropic efforts is the Show Me Campaign, which works through programs including Harlem Village Academies, Teach for America, Teach for All and New Profit to elevate teachers, end the school-to-prison pipeline and address systemic issues in the U.S. criminal justice system that disproportionately impact poor people and minorities.
16. He really loves being a dad
In case Legend’s constant social media posts about his kids aren’t sweet enough, he’s also totally willing to share diaper duty with Teigen and he includes both Luna and Miles in big announcements, which is adorable.
Don’t forget to catch Legend when he joins The Voice. Season 16 premieres Monday at 8/7c on NBC.