Angela Bassett Describes Why She Loves Being A Black Woman: “Our Resiliency. Our Truth-Telling. Our Flavor. Our Passion.”
Her voice is measured and she speaks deliberately. When on the phone with Angela Bassett, you slow down your speech a bit, taking in each word and absorbing what was just said. Like her role in Black Panther (and in real life to 12-year-old twins), Bassett has motherly wisdom, speaking with authority, clarity and surety. Undoubtedly, it’s thrilling to be on the phone with this icon, especially at this time, with the conclusion of Black History Month and the beginning of Women’s History Month. Bassett is known as the first African American woman actress to win a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her powerful role in What’s Love Got To Do With It?
That 1993 film about the life of Tina Turner would serve as the foundation for Bassetts’ success. She describes Turner as a “phenomenal talent of a woman in the rock industry” and highlights “the trials that she went through to bring her story to the screen.” The story was so inspiring, and like Black Panther would come to do years later, the movie took on a life of its own. Bassett recollects, “It inspired individuals who were going through domestic violence in their own lives from stories that I’ve heard from various people. It inspired young actresses. They saw themselves on screen, gloriously so in their splendor. They dreamed of careers in this industry and what was possible because they had never seen me before. They were able through me to see themselves on screen and see what’s possible.”
…and what’s possible for Angela Bassett? Well, everything. We’re on the phone today regarding her latest project. She attended Essence Black Women In Hollywood as a special guest of Ford Motors, but the public didn’t know there was a larger partnership behind the meetup. Bassett lent her powerful and recognizable voice as the narrator of two Ford ads that can’t help but make you feel proud to be Black.
The first ad, “We Lead” features the Ford Fusion, Mustang, Explorer, and Expedition against a backdrop of the iconic Detroit Joe Louis Fist and the Los Angeles Crenshaw Mural. You hear Bassett’s voice saying, “We don’t follow. We don’t back down. We don’t need a handout. In fact, we rather lend a hand. We are proud to be depended on. Proud to build upon culture. To be proud of where you came from, you have to be going somewhere.”
Bassett was approached by Ford for this partnership and the synergy was a no brainer. She revealed to Madame Noire, “I found the spots inspiring and very powerful because they showcased the leadership and the strength that I feel is embedded in the African American community. It was a moment and an opportunity for me to highlight that.”
The spot talks about building upon the culture and Bassett has done just that, with her work and legacy serving as a foundation for not only modern-day Black actresses but also Black women as a whole. Whenever you see the star, she is poised, in control, even regal, one might say. She manages to stay grounded by staying rooted in her upbringings and past. “Remembering where I come from. Remembering whose I am. Remembering what it is I’m here to do. You know, I’m a Black woman, raised by a Black woman in a country that doesn’t always recognize the strength, the power, the beauty of the Black woman, but it’s there. I know my history. I know how much we’ve survived and how we’ve maintained in this country and it’s awe-inspiring to me. The resilience pushes me forward,” she tells me in a measured tone. Bassett recognizes the power in numbers, “I not only appreciate what I bring to the table, but I have full appreciation of what others bring to the table.” Her talents helped Black Panther win several nominations that evening an even a few awards. She explained, “A movie of this build to be nominated in categories other than technique, but in the creative categories. Of course, I wanted more, screenwriting and directing categories. But for it to be the first time and receive 7 nominations, it was a glorious feeling and an inspiring moment. It was a moment of possibility. I felt excited because I felt because we had a real shot at going all the way with it. But, >>laughs<< the Academy can only come as far as their able to come.” The shade is subtle but noted.
The second spot is about an Ode To The Builders. “The always-on builders. The never back down builders. The crack of dawn builders.” Whether it’s Madam CJ Walker or Angela Bassett herself, Black women are builders. Angela Bassett divulges to me what she loves about being a Black woman. She proudly states, “Our resilience. Resilience. Our comradery. Our truth-telling. Our flavor. Our passion. All those things make me proud.” And before talking another breath she adds, “And I best be proud because there’s nothing else I can do about it! I best not deny myself but embrace myself.”
In addition to embracing herself, she is doing the same for Black women around her. We discuss who is inspiring her at the moment. She pauses on the question, thoughtfully, before responding, “Anyone who is walking their path and following their dreams. That is definitely Ruthie (Ruth Carter) and Hannah (Beachler). I’m very much inspired by the two of them and they excite me. They don’t do what I do, but they are showing in completeness their God-given gift so it’s very inspiring to me.” Both Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler walked away with Academy Awards for Black Panther. Carter for Costume Design, while Beachler won for Production Design.
What’s next for Angela Bassett? She’s still fully dedicated to her role in 911 that returns to the screen on March 18th, 2019. She does mention that shes’s “weighing out what to do on my hiatus.” Bassett mentions she’s “weighing the possibility of if I want to direct or whether I want to act in the short time I have off.” Whatever it is, she admits she just keeps “trying to say yes to opportunities that excite me.”