How Does Hometown Pride Work?

Have you ever heard of someone famous who seems a little familiar, and then you realize that they are your age and grew up in your hometown?

That happened to me twice recently. I have this feeling of “hometown pride” despite not knowing these two people at all (and it’s a complete coincidence that we grew up in the same area at the same time), so I’m trying to understand it.

The first person is Constance Wu of Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Rich Asians fame. She’s my age, and she went to high school at Douglas Freeman High School in Virginia. I played against their soccer team a few times each season.

The second person is Jenny Han. She’s a bestselling author, and a movie, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, recently release on Netflix to rave reviews (it’s great). She went to my high school, graduating a year before me. I vaguely remember her, but I don’t think we knew each other personally.

I love that these two people are successful and are creating amazing content. But I also feel this sense of hometown pride for them: yay, Richmond, Virginia!

But I don’t quite understand it. Why does the place where you grew up have any impact on how you feel about that area? I could understand it if the place itself had a specific, formative impact on me or them, but that’s not the case. They’re literally just two random people who randomly happen to grow up near where I grew up.

I would also understand if it was a “I knew her when…” situation, but I really didn’t know either of these people. I’m sure I crossed paths with Jenny a number of times (I attended a small magnet school), but I don’t remember.

Yet I’m rooting for them because of our shared, completely coincidental location. And maybe that’s okay. It’s not hurting anyone, I’m happy for them, and for some reason it feels good to have that very loose connection.

What do you think? Is there someone your age from your hometown who has made it big? Have you examined your sense of hometown pride for them?