The Grammy-winner tells PEOPLE he plans to announce his candidacy for president of Haiti this week

By Marisa Laudadio
Updated August 04, 2010 07:10 PM
Credit: Dennis Van Tine/Abaca

Ronald Reagan did it. Clint Eastwood, too. And the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is currently serving as governor of California.

Now Grammy-winning hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean is hoping to become the next successful entertainer-turned-politician. Jean tells PEOPLE that this week, he plans to announce his bid to become the next president of Haiti, which will choose a new leader in November.

“The suffering of the people of Haiti, the youth of Haiti – which is the majority of the population – can’t take another five years of the corruption that’s been going on for the past 200 years. This is why I’m running,” Jean tells PEOPLE.

Haiti-born Jean, 37, who is married to designer Marie Claudinette and has a 5-year-old daughter, Angelina, moved to New York when he was 9 years old, and found fame as a member of the Fugees before launching a career as a solo artist and founding the charity Yéele Haiti in 2005.

He says he made the decision to run for president following the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the island nation, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving millions more homeless.

“[My platform] has four pillars: education, job creation, instilling security into the culture, and, how do we get our agriculture back?” he says.

Politics Is a Combat Sport

Jean says he’s prepared for detractors who will undoubtedly question the constitutional legality of his run, bring up alleged past financial improprieties within his aid organization and criticize his perceived lack of political experience.

“Politics is a combat sport, so I expect nothing less than to be attacked everyday,” he says. But the focus, says Jean, should be, “how we help get the Haitian people out of this mess.”

Jean says he is qualified to run for president and can prove he meets the requirements – that he’s lived in Haiti for five consecutive years, owns property there and has never been a citizen of another country, among others.

Plus, he defends his aid organization – which has been criticized for making payments to businesses owned by Jean and a board member and for having administrative expenses higher than comparable charities – saying, “Yéle Haiti has been transparent this year. We brought in a great accounting firm and have a new CEO.”

Hopes for the Future

But how will a hip-hop musician be accepted on the world stage as a candidate for head of state? “People have to understand I was [a UN Goodwill] ambassador for a couple of years. And my charity, being a [non-governmental organization], I have learned a lot,” says Jean.

Although his music career is on hold for now – his last solo album, Haitian Experience, is scheduled for a December release – he knows people will look to his musical past and wonder what he’s doing in politics.

“Automatically, when people first see me they re going to say, Isn t that the guy from the Fugees?’ ” says Jean. “But I’m hoping that next they’ll say, ‘Okay. He knows what he s talking about.’ ”

Tell us what you think about Jean’s political aspirations.