What Happened To These Child Stars?

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by Marissa Ellis

There are some child stars that aren’t a mystery…like Jurnee Smollett, who has a bigger career these days than she did as a child star on Full House, and Jaleel White aka Steve Urkel who…well, let’s just say he’s always on the radar. But what about the others who may not be so recognizable to the untrained eye? You may have not realized that certain working Black actors today were child stars of yesterday, or maybe you wonder why certain child stars never rode their talents into adulthood. We’ve gathered just a few cases of child stars to see what they look like now and what they’ve been up to.


Kellie Shanygne Williams (36) played Laura Winslow on the beloved ABC sitcom Family Matters for nine seasons. She acted only in a couple of other projects after the show wrapped in the late 1990s including the ABC show What About Joan.


The Washington DC native married Hannibal Jackson in 2009 and had her first child Hannah Belle in 2010 at the age of 34.

It’s been a long time since Punky Brewster graced the airwaves. The oddest thing about that show is the fact that Cherie Johnson played the character Cherie Johnson. How often does that happen these days?



Since ending her run on Punky Brewster in 1985 and her stint as BFF to Laura Winslow on Family Matters, Johnson has been steadily working small parts.  The actress has exhibited some questionable behavior in years past however. Several topless photos of Johnson circulated on the internet, and Johnson certainly didn’t hide the fact that she was trying to score a Playboy spread. As of last year, the 36-year-old was engaged to Ricky Romance, brother of Raz-B. Apparently, the two were shopping around a reality show about their life together. Obviously, there were no takers.


Myles (Marcus Paulk) played the little brother of Brandy’s character in a show that we truly miss: Moesha.


Now 25, Paulk is doing well for himself. He had a substantial role in the recent film Red Tails and has been steadily acting since Moesha went off the air in 2001. Paulk got caught up in reality show ratchetness, however, when his name got tangled up in a messy affair which unraveled on The Bad Girls Club. Hopefully, he’ll keep his name out of that lane in the future because it’s not a good look for someone wanting to be taken seriously in Hollywood.




Rae’Ven Larrymore Kelly, now 26, made a splash in her role as the young Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” and has been working the television,  film and theater circuit ever since. As a child actress, she also appeared in “A Time To Kill,” with Samuel L. Jackson. She hasn’t gotten her big starring role but we imagine it’s only a matter of time for the hard-working actress.




You may remember Noah Gray Cabey from My Wife & Kids. Or more recently, you may have seen him on Heroes. The professional pianist seems to be winding down his acting activity in the past few years, focusing on his education instead.


On last word, we hear that Gray-Cabey is preparing to enter Harvard in the fall after deferring his admission by a year.

Many people may have not realized that Sean Nelson of The Wood was the same kid who acted in Fresh, the 1994 movie with Samuel L. Jackson. He’s 31 now, and although he didn’t capitalize on his role in The Wood like we thought he would, he has remained active and working, with consistent guest appearances on Law & Order which lasted over ten years.





Zelda Harris has to be one of the most charming child actors to ever have graced the screen. Watching Crooklyn, we wonder what happened to the child who starred in one of Spike Lee’s most popular films. Before Crooklyn, Harris worked for years on Sesame Street. After Crooklyn, however, Harris slowed things down and eventually went to Princeton, graduating in 2007. In an interview with a Princeton publication, Harris said that her lack of activity in acting was due to the fact that there were not many positive roles available to African-American  actresses like herself. Boy, do we believe her.



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