Voting in this round has now closed. Check out the Sweet Sixteen round here!

After a wild day one of Texas Monthly’s Ultimate Texas Celebrity Bracket, we’re moving on to round two. Our first round saw dominant performances from some of the expected players—Willie, Matthew McConaughey, and Simone Biles all coasted to victory—and some shocking upsets. (Thomas J. Henry knocked off Elon Musk!) It was an exciting day, teaching us a lot about what stars Texans are passionate about—whether it’s as stans or haters. 

For today’s voting, the surprising number of low seeds who’ve advanced—a group that includes Kacey Musgraves, Erykah Badu, Jesse Plemons, Carol Burnett, Sheryl Swoopes, Brittney Griner, Thomas J. Henry, Aaron Franklin, Kinky Friedman, and Tina Knowles—will face some of the most beloved figures walking around Texas today: Willie, Selena Gomez, McConaughey, Tim Duncan, Nolan Ryan, Kelly Clarkson, and Mark Cuban among them. Let’s see how things proceed as we vote on who’ll advance to the sweet sixteen. 

Texas Monthly Celebrity Bracket: Round 2
Illustration by Max-o-matic

Who Rocks Texas?

Willie Meets Kacey

Kacey Musgraves (10) pulled off an upset in round one, easily dethroning Miranda Lambert in her first head-to-head competition. That’s a big achievement, and it’s probably going to be the high mark for Kacey in this bracket, as she draws Willie Nelson (1), one of her favorite artists, who won his first-round contest against Tanya Tucker by nearly ninety points. Surely Willie would rather smoke a joint and play some songs with all of these ladies than compete with them for your affection, but we will expect him to coast to victory in round two as well.

Dallas Face-off

The great Erykah Badu (14) scored the first major upset of the bracket, unseating Houston megastar Travis Scott in a laugher. Badu is an all-timer, with a collection of bangers that goes back three decades, and in recent years she’s become a bigger touring draw than she’s ever been. She hasn’t put out a proper album since 2010, though (and even her 2015 mixtape is nearly a decade old), so she’s got stiff competition from one of the most fiercely relevant artists on the planet in Selena Gomez (5), who survived a neck-and-neck race against Leon Bridges to enter round two.

Hot George Summer

George Strait (4) and Megan Thee Stallion (6) both sailed past the competition in round one, but their head-to-head meeting in round two is likely to be a tougher matchup: King George is a semiretired legend with a classic appeal, secure in his legacy but no longer at the peak of his cultural relevance. (His last single, 2019’s “The Weight of the Badge,” didn’t even crack the top forty on the country charts.) Megan, meanwhile, has released fewer singles in her seven-year career than Strait has produced number one  hits. A contest between a living legend and one of the most popular artists working today, this one could go either way. 

Demi Takes on the Queen Bee

Round one treated Demi Lovato (8) kindly, as she dispatched El Paso’s favorite son, Khalid, with ease. She’s running into what may be a brick wall in round two, though, as she faces off against the one and only Ms. Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter (2). Beyoncé has one of the most fiercely motivated fan bases in all of pop culture, though her first-round showing revealed some potential cracks—her victory over rising country star Charley Crockett wasn’t nearly as dominant as her stature might suggest. It’s possible the Beyhive simply hasn’t weighed in yet, but they may need to show up to counteract a potential anti-Beyoncé backlash. 

Hollywood, Texas

How Big Do You Like Your Personalities?

Matthew McConaughey’s (1) round-one success against young Stranger Things star Sadie Sink seemed inevitable, but the margin of his victory—more than eighty points—suggests that there’s little backlash against a star (and author, and college sports mascot, and motivational speaker, and potential gubernatorial candidate) who has long risked being overexposed. McConaughey is known for his huge personality, and it seems we like that about him. 

His round-two opponent, Jesse Plemons (10), is known more for disappearing into roles than for dominating news cycles—but his easy victory in the first round over his more tabloid-friendly counterpart Glen Powell suggests that y’all like that about him too. We’ll see if humility or swagger is the more valued trait in this round.

Living Legend Face-off

Longview native Forest Whitaker (5) proved his appeal by knocking off Taylor Sheridan, the Yellowstone boss (as well as the creator of its associated spin-offs, plus Mayor of Kingstown, Tulsa King, Special Ops: Lioness, and Landman, the forthcoming adaptation of the Texas Monthly podcast Boomtown). Whitaker’s credentials as an actor, an activist, and a producer are unimpeachable, giving the five seed an edge against one of Hollywood’s most prolific and popular creators. In round two he’ll face another living legend: ninety-year-old San Antonio native Carol Burnett (14). Burnett’s variety hour, The Carol Burnett Show, premiered on CBS in 1967, when Whitaker was just six years old, and her career has earned her seven Emmys, a Grammy, and a 1969 special Tony Award; she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor by Barack Obama; she also won the inaugural Carol Burnett Award at the 2019 Golden Globes, which has bestowed lifetime-achievement honors on a television creator in three ceremonies since. And she’s still at it—you can catch her in the new Apple TV+ show Palm Royale alongside Kristen Wiig, Ricky Martin, and Laura Dern.


The man from San Saba, Tommy Lee Jones (4), emerged victorious over Phylicia Rashad in round one. He may have a tougher challenge in round two, as Owen Wilson (6) similarly dispatched Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez by more than 45 points in his first matchup. Jones has the edge in terms of experience, but Wilson is widely beloved for his “frat pack” roles in the aughts, possesses indie cred from his many collaborations with Wes Anderson, and spent many more hours as the best part of a Marvel project than Jones has. This one could go either way. 

Bridget Jones Meets Ray

Renée Zellweger’s (8) decisive round-one victory over Dakota Johnson suggests that there’s a strong constituency for the star who was born and raised in Katy, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, and went on to give iconic performances in Jerry Maguire, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago, Cold Mountain, and Judy over the next two and a half decades. She’ll need to rally her fans to hold up against her next opponent, as East Texas native Jamie Foxx (2) has loomed just as large over Hollywood, across roughly the same time frame—with a music career to boot.

Sporting Life


Simone Biles (1) delivered the most dominant performance in the first round, against Raquel Rodriguez, defeating the WWE star by a massive 91 points. That bodes well for the greatest gymnast ever to put on a leotard, but she’s got some fierce competition in round two: the great Mia Hamm (7), whose career on the soccer pitch is unmatched by any other American player. Hamm is a true legend of the sport, someone American soccer-loving girls and boys across two decades had posters of in their bedrooms—but if there’s one thing Simone Biles is known for, it’s beating every challenge placed before her. 

Okay, but Who’d Win One-on-One?

Tim Duncan (5) had a surprisingly easy time dispatching Houston Astros great José Altuve in round one. Perhaps even more surprising, given how football obsessed Texans are, his opponent this time—Texas Tech legend and all-time WNBA great Sheryl Swoopes (14)—had a similarly easy time against Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. We can already safely assume that our readers are more invested in women’s basketball than the stereotype says—now we’ll see if she can keep up with the Big Fundamental.

Can Brittney Griner Charge the Mound?

Nolan Ryan proved his icon status in round one by easily dispatching East Texas native and Texas Tech great Patrick Mahomes, whose Texanness may be eclipsed because he’s earned most of his fame for events performed in Kansas City. (Or wherever one of the three Super Bowls he’s won were played.) To move on, Ryan will have to take on another native Texan whose college greatness—this time at Baylor—made her an NCAA legend, before she launched her pro career elsewhere: Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner. Griner won her round-one contest by the thinnest margin possible; when the votes across, Instagram, and X were tallied, she edged out Houston Texans quarterback C. J. Stroud, 818 votes to 817. She’s also got quite a history of overcoming adversity, but the Ryan Express is a formidable challenge.

Ricky vs. Luka

Luka Dončić (2) is one of the biggest stars in the NBA, and part of the Mavs’ unusual tradition of building the team’s identity around a Central European immigrant. His round-one victory over track superstar Sha’Carri Richardson isn’t a shock—the NBA occupies a lot more cultural real estate than track and field, at least outside of the Olympics, and those are still a few months away. 

Football season, meanwhile, is well behind us, but it’s also sort of never not football season, and Longhorns legend Ricky Williams (8) is one of the most iconic Texans to ever set foot on the gridiron. He’s also thirteen years removed from his playing career, though, and hasn’t suited up for Texas since 1998. That didn’t stop him from dispatching Johnny Manziel in a proxy battle between UT and A&M—now we’ll see how he does against one of the NBA’s top talents.

Bring On the Wild Cards

American Idol or Cinderella Man?

For the first time in the (admittedly short) history of Texas Monthly’s March bracket, we have a sixteenth seed advancing to the second round: San Antonio personal injury lawyer Thomas J. Henry (16) overcame one of the most famous men in the world, Elon Musk, in the first round of voting by an astonishing 35-point margin. Now the question is: Does Thomas J. Henry have a posse, or has Musk’s reputation grown as rusted and corroded as a Cybertruck that has spent two days driving through the rain? To find out if this is the Henry hive at work or just Elon animus in action, we’ll watch him face off against Kelly Clarkson (7), who enjoyed a dominant victory of her own against fellow daytime talk show host Jenna Bush Hager. 

Smoked Shark Meat?

Mark Cuban’s (5) first-round victory over Kendra Scott was impressive, but not as impressive as the trouncing that barbecue titan Aaron Franklin (14) gave in the first round to podcaster Joe Rogan. Rogan is one of the more divisive figures in American culture, though, and it seems likely that Texas Monthly readers land on the side of the divide that’s not particularly enthusiastic about the host. But Franklin is an icon in his own right—you don’t get hungry tourists to spend all morning in line for brisket if you’re not cooking up something special—and may have been buoyed not just by antipathy to Rogan but by enthusiasm for his own contributions to the culture. We’ll learn more when we see how he fares against the Dallas Mavs owner. 

Who Are Two People Who Have Never Been in My Kitchen?

In another round-one upset, Kinky Friedman—the cigar-chomping self-styled Jewish cowboy who has, among his many activities, occasionally moonlighted as a Texas Monthly columnist—defeated celebrity self-help speaker and podcaster Brené Brown by a significant margin. For his next trick, he’ll have to take on a true social media powerhouse: Ms. Tina Knowles, mother of Beyoncé and one of the world’s truly great Instagrammers. 

Trill Shiplap

Bun B (8) may not have led millions of yoga enthusiasts from around the world in downward dog, but between his stature as a Houston icon, his verse on “Big Pimpin’,” his growing Trill Burgers enterprise, and his general vibe as someone we’d all like to hang out with, he coasted to a first-round victory over the woman who gave us Yoga With Adrienne. Can he advance to the sweet sixteen against Waco’s most beloved product, Chip and Joanna Gaines? We’ll have to see, but we wouldn’t count him out.

Featured image credits: Beyoncé: Kevin Mazur/Parkwood via Getty; Biles: Jamie Squire/Getty; Cuban: Brian Fluharty/Getty; Duncan: Jim McIsaac/Getty; Foxx: Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty; Gaines: Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic via Getty; Gomez: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty; Hamm: Mark J. Terrill/AP; McConaughey: Lloyd Bishop/NBCUniversal via Getty; Musgraves: Tim Mosenfelder/FilmMagic via Getty; Nelson: Paul Natkin/WireImage; Ryan: Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty; Wilson: Monica Schipper/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty

Bracket image credits: Biles: Tom Weller/picture alliance via Getty; Beyoncé: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP; Longoria: Christopher Polk/Variety via Getty; Nelson: CBS Photo Archive/Getty; Cuban: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty