If there’s one element of Blaxploitation films that made them work it was all the bad-bad soul sisters kicking butt, talking jive and looking fine. This next list highlights a few of the biggest names and foxy fros that helped define an era in black film.
The original Foxy Brown, soul sister number one, Pam Grier, is an icon of the blaxploitation genre. Her sultry legacy turned boys into men and defined “Hot black woman” for a generation. Amazingly, she may have faded into blaxploitation history were it not for Quinton Tarantino’s, Jackie Brown.
Vonetta played love interest to Richard Roundtree aka Shaft aka the most acclaimed blaxploitation movie ever or at least its sequel, Shaft in Africa. She hit it big in the cult classics, Blacula and Hammer, going on to star in many other films including opposite Clint Eastwood. She had all the makings of an onscreen diva and the brains of a righteous thinking woman, saying “That label [blaxploitation] was used like racism, so you don’t have to think of the individual elements, just the whole.”
Judy got her start in the 60s but graced the screen in the blaxploitation gem Cotton Comes to Harlem, based on a Chester Himes novel. She earned consistent screen time on a number of TV shows during the 80s and 90s and shared screen credits with Anthony Mackie and Spike Lee in Sucker Free City.
In the 70s, Nicholas earned her acting stripes in Blacula and The Soul of N****r Charley but unlike many actors from the blaxploitation heydey, she didn’t fade into obscurity. She completed a six-year run on In the Heat of the Night before dropping her critically acclaimed first novel, “Freshwater Road.”
Cleopatra Jones, herself, Dobson was a 6’2″ beauty. That’s probably what landed her the role as Cleopatra, a model secret agent. Tamara didn’t get much work following the the 70s and passed at age 62 from complications related to illness.
Starring in Ganja and Hess (1973), arguably one of the most original stories in blaxploitation genre, Clark played the smoking Ganja, a character that wasn’t all that different from Bella of the Twilight series. Marlene went on to star in less memorable parts including Enter the Dragon and
Indeed, Jeannie was the October Playmate of the Month back in 1971, eye candy for an entire generation. Her blaxploitation film credits include TNT Jackson and Black Gunn.
Were you familiar with some of these lovely ladies before you read this list? What are you favorite blaxploitation films?