1. Whitney Houston
Sorry folks, I couldn’t do it -- Bruce might be the ostensible choice for state mascot, but what about the celebrities who are DL ride-or-die New Jerseyans? And so, I offer up the top spot to the late, great, Whitney Houston, who posthumously turned out to be the proudest Jersey celeb of all. Houston was born in Newark and raised in East Orange, and even after she became the biggest diva of all, she still lived in New Jersey. According to the pastor of the Newark church she attended growing up -- and where her funeral was held -- Houston occasionally came back after she became famous to sing at Easter Sunday services. She didn’t live too far away, after all: in 1987, the same year her eponymous album came out, she built a 12,500sqft house in Mendham that reportedly was architecturally inspired by Newark Airport (if that’s not state pride, I don’t know what is). She famously married Bobby Brown at a wedding on the estate, and after she died in 2012, a superfan bought it. Governor Chris Christie flew New Jersey’s flags at half-staff when she died, and though he was widely criticized, he defended his decision by calling her a “daughter of New Jersey.” Houston’s spirit literally lives on in the Garden State: she’s buried in a cemetery in Westfield, which, full disclosure, is this author’s hometown.