Where Have You Been? Black Actresses Whose Talents Need To Be On The Big-Screen More Often
There are some actresses (i.e,. Halle Berry, Thandie Newton, Kerry Washington) who get all of the glory, and there are some that don’t get nearly as much recognition. Phenomenal acting abilities have gone with a lack of praise while mediocre performances by non-black women are seen as unparalleled (even when they’re just okay…). You can Google lists of top black actresses, and find that while those women are great at what they do, a great deal of them haven’t even had a leading role in years (if at all). Maybe they’ve decided to take a break from acting, or maybe they are just struggling to grab those big roles, but it’s about time that Hollywood is reminded that there are strong black actresses in Hollywood, and these women need to have their faces back in somebody’s movie sooner than later.
Tracee Ellis Ross
She’s the offspring of Motown legend Diana Ross, was a model in her teen years, and played the lead role as Joan Clayton on the hit television show, Girlfriends. Ross has made quiet a splash in Hollywood because of her television roles, comedy and fashion, yet she never had a starring role in a big studio project. The former Reed Between the Lines actress has made an appearance in more than half a dozen movies and she’s made appearances on just as many television shows, but Lord knows she deserves some title roles under her belt.
Second-generation Hollywood royalty, Poitier is best remembered for her long legs, her lengthy beautifully curly tresses and her father. She isn’t, however, remembered for having very many roles. If you pause and glare off into the distance, you may remember her from short stints on short-lived sitcoms (MacArthur Park, First Years, Abby, Joan of Arcadia, Veronica Mars and Knight Rider), and her lead role as Jungle Julia in Tarantino’s Death Proof. As Jungle Julia, Poitier was able to exude confidence, sexuality and charisma–which are qualities that she would undoubtedly be able to carry over to other roles.
Jada Pinkett Smith
Already a household name, Smith has had a number of supporting roles (i.e., The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, The Nutty Professor, Demon Knight, A Low Down Dirty Shame), but in recent years she hasn’t had any starring roles aside from her stint as lead RN on the self-produced sitcom Hawthorne. Her unquestionable talent on-screen over the last 20 years should have secured her has a permanent forefront actress in Hollywood, but it hasn’t.
Two Golden Globes, two Emmys, one Grammy, one Oscar and One Tony, Goldberg is easily one of the most accomplished actresses in the business. During the ’80s and ’90s, she shone as a true star with captivating performances like those in The Color Purple, The Long Walk Home, Ghost, Sister Act, Sarafina! and Corrina, Corrina–easily able to transition from comedy to drama. And, while we still see Goldberg on The View, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen her in a starring performance–aside from For Colored Girls, of course.
Latifah is an actress who constantly surprises her audience with her humor, her heart and her passion. Living Single, Chicago, Set It Off, Bringing Down The House, Last Holiday and Hairspray are just examples of how she’s able to show variety, and surprise onlookers. She often makes appearances as a lead in movies, but hasn’t earned the respect or acclaim that she deserves.
Honestly, no one will ever accuse Ashanti of being the most talented actress, but she does have an undeniable stage presence, capturing attention any time she steps in the frame. She’s made more than a dozen television appearances, and she had a visible role in Coach Carter, John Tucker Must Die, Resident Evil Extinction and The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz, and some of us are looking forward to seeing her in front of the screen a little more. She even has a regular on the new season of Army Wives.
The proficient young actress who captured audience’s attention by appearing on every ’90s television show from Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper to Full House, and by starring in the film Eve’s Bayou, was later featured in films like Roll Bounce, Gridiron Gang, The Great Debaters and, most recently, Temptation. While Smollett has never disappeared from “the scene,” she’s never been in the spotlight–though she definitely should be.
Tia & Tamera Mowry
Sister Sister alums, Tia and Tamera were cinematically attached at the hip for majority of their lives, making cheesy twin features well into their twenties. Tia strayed first, gaining the lead role on the sitcom The Game, and Tamera was soon cast as a doctor on Strong Medicine and was later on a short-lived show called Roommates. The pair’s name recently came back into everyone’s mouths thanks to their reality show Tia & Tamera, and hopefully the spark from reality television success will, again, make them contenders for lead roles. It’s working for Tia so far, as she has just signed on for the Nick at Nite show, Instant Mom.
Fields was often cast as the mean girl in teen dramas during the ’90s and hasn’t made very many television and movie appearances since, except for campy thrillers like Jacked Up, The Call and House Party 4. It’s a shame because with her stunning features and her energetic stage presence, she’d have audiences flocking to the theater.
Symone has been famous almost as long as she has been alive, starring in television sitcoms such as The Cosby Show, Hanging With Mr. Cooper, That’s So Raven and State of Georgia. Also, she’s been featured in a number of movies, which were generally geared toward younger audiences. With that in mind, the young actress still hasn’t won over adult audiences.
Winfrey is well known for a lot of things: talk show host, producer, philanthropist, media proprietor, but her abilities as an actress are often overlooked (i.e. Beloved, The Color Purple, Before Women Had Wings, Native Son, Women of Brewster Place). Winfrey is able to convey loss, struggle and strength with irrefutable ease. It’s a damn shame that she hasn’t been given more opportunities to showcase those amazing skills. But maybe now that she’s done with her talk show she will, since she’s already working on Lee Daniels’ The Butler.
The reigning queen of early ’70s Blaxploitation, Grier has since appeared in films such as Jackie Brown, Escape from L.A., Jawbreaker, and shows like Bones, The L Word and a few other titles, but she’s failed to return to the success of her past years, which I personally think wouldn’t be too hard to do in more serious roles.
Anika Noni Rose
Rose is a Tony Award winning actress who has appeared in features such as Dreamgirls, The Princess and the Frog, For Colored Girls, and the shows The No. 1 Detective Agency, and The Good Wife. And while she has been active on the stage, television and film, she isn’t a household name. Her talent as a singer, dancer and actress, however, should have people belting her name from rooftops.
Thompson has appeared in dozens of television shows including Veronica Mars, Hidden Palms, Heroes and Blue Belle, as well as a number of films (including For Colored Girls), which all showcased her abilities a talented actress with a great deal of personality and range. We’re all looking forward to seeing Thompson making more leading appearances on-screen in the near future.