Hollywood’s history of undervaluing and underfunding Black projects is costing it BILLIONS. As previously reported a recent study showed that while Hollywood already makes $148 billion each year in revenues if it could tackle its storied and continued history of racial inequity it would make $10 billion more.
So imagine what would happen if Hollywood not only valued Black projects but specifically valued Black actresses?
Our sistas in cinema and television prove time and time again that their tremendous talent translates to successful series, award wins, nominations, and overall adulation from fans enamored by their expertise. Yet, somehow the flowers they so deserve aren’t always properly laid at their feet.
For Women’s History Month, we’re not only celebrating History-Making Majesties and hosting our W.C.W. [Woman Celebration Wednesday] series, we’re celebrating Black actresses and singing their praises. The ladies we selected are on track to continue their winning streaks in 2021. For a number of them, they have not only acting chops but producer credits, work as activists and they’re elevating themselves to further success in a myriad of other ways.
Last year we highlighted impactful impresarios making waves as social [media] sovereigns, this year, the spotlight’s on women in the limelight.
Lights, camera, action!
In no particular order, here’s BOSSIP’s Bubbling Black Actresses of 2021 list.
She’s a star, how could she not shine?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a name you absolutely need to know if you don’t already. If you’re in tune with the fantastical sci-fi nerdery of the BBC television series Doctor Who then you might have BEEN known that Gugu was something to behold. Perhaps some of you fancy period dramas and got a taste of her talents playing the role of Dido Elizabeth Belle in the British hit Belle. It was that role that landed her a BIFA (British Independent Film Award) for Best Actress. A great many of you probably took note of her in Beyond The Lights where she played lead character, Noni Jean. However, if you’re like us, you really locked into the Gugu Mbatha-Raw because of her performance in the “San Junipero” episode of Netflix’s mind-bending series Black Mirror. It was there where we had to stop and say to ourselves, “Ok, this woman is SPECIAL.” We knew it was just a matter of time before the rest of the world saw it too.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is one of several Black Brits who have proliferated our TVs and movie theaters over the past few years and she is undoubtedly poised to become a face that we see in various roles for years to come. To that end, it was recently announced via Indie Wire that Gugu will be starring alongside another powerhouse actor in David Oyelowo in the HBO adaptation of J.P. Delaney’s wildly popular novel “The Girl Before”. The story is an unnerving psychological thriller that centers Gugu’s character, Jane, as the resident of a gorgeous minimalist home that was designed by Oyelowo’s character and has a very sketchy past.
Like, “the girl before” who lived in the house died? Was murdered? We shall see. But one thing that we can already take to the bank is that Gugu will deliver the goods!
Let it be known that anything that this incredible artist and breathtaking woman is cast in will have our full and undivided attention. We’re just lucky to be alive to watch it all happen.
When Power Book II debuted, fans of the original Power series didn’t know what to expect from Tariq regarding his journey and the story. Well, they weren’t disappointed. As much as fans got to experience a whole different world in the spinoff, they got to know a fresh crop of talented actors too. Enter LaToya Tonodeo, the young star who plays the lead opposite Michael Rainey Jr. on the show.
Fresh-faced LaToya Tonodeo is Los Angeles-born and raised and best known for her role as Diana Tejada on the 50 Cent executive produced show. LaToya may only be 23, but she’s been in the acting game for almost a decade. Starting out as an extra for multiple movies since 2009, Tonodeo finally landed a speaking television role in 2018 on the ABC Family series, The Fosters. That same year she was cast in The Oath, and by 2020, Power Book II would mark the first time she’s landed a lead role and fans are far from complaining.
As Tariq’s love interest in the series, LaToya does have quite a bit of intimate scenes with her co-star, something she’s mindful of. And while her undeniable talent keeps tongues wagging, LaToya told Page Six that she prefers to keep hers to herself. The modest actress actually has a strict “no tongues rule” for her scenes.
“For kissing scenes, I said no tongue,” said LaToya. “I was so nervous about the kissing scenes. We do have an intimacy coordinator there and she is making sure everything is good. We discuss what we do and don’t want to do,” she told Page Six. “So it makes it comfortable, but at the same time, you’re still in your head a little bit.”
LaToya was probably nervous because she’s a spoken-for lady. The actress has an actor boo, “Final Destination 5” actor Arlen Escapeta whom she discusses her scenes with prior to filming.
“My boyfriend is an actor too, so he totally gets it and we discuss scenes prior [to filming] and have boundaries on set.”
Boundaries, booming talent, and Tejada trickery for Tariq.
At the rate that LaToya Tonodeo is moving, we’re anxiously awaiting more of her on our screens.
Even though she’s already got some seriously impressive performances under her belt, Storm Reid is just getting started. At just 17-years-old, she’s made her mark in projects like ‘Euphoria’ and ‘A Wrinkle In Time,’ for which she received Teen Choice Award and NAACP Image Award nominations. After being born in Atlanta, Georgia, she and her family moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career at the age of nine.
Storm has known that she wanted to be an actress since she was three years old, telling her mom, “I want to be on TV, and I want to be a superstar.” She landed her first feature film role opposite Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Michael Fassbender in the Academy Award-winning film Twelve Years a Slave’ in 2013. She went on to appear in TVOne’s films The Summoning opposite Paula Jai Parker and White Water directed by Rusty Cundieff. At the end of 2015, she got her first shot at a leading role in the American Girl movie, Gemma, and the next year, her film Sleight premiered at Sundance, where it was picked up by Blumhouse. In 2019, Reid joined the cast of Suicide Squad, which is set to release later this year.
While she loves acting, the young superstar has ambitions of doing more, with an open invitation from Ava DuVernay whom she affectionately calls “Miss Ava” to shadow her.
“I would want to at least try to direct something. And if I don’t like it, then I can just go back to producing and acting,” she said in an interview with W Magazine. “Miss Ava said when I’m ready, I can always come and shadow her, and she’ll give me all the tips and tricks. I will definitely be taking her up on that.”
Beyond her career in entertainment, Reid always makes sure to use her platform for good. As a very vocal proponent of voting, Reid joined a panel ahead of the 2020 election to talk with Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley about where we, as a country, need to go from here. While she, herself, isn’t old enough to vote, that hasn’t stopped the actress from voicing her opinions on equal rights, the pay gap, white supremacy, and more.
“I’m not really comfortable yet calling myself an activist, so I like calling myself an active-learner, active-thinker, active-listener,” Storm told Teen Vogue. “I try to use my platform to lift people up. I don’t think we all necessarily have to have the same opinion, but I don’t want to waste the opportunity to share mine.”
Teyonah Parris always had Hollywood dreams while growing up in Hopkins, South Carolina so after high school, she moved to New York to chase them. She would end up graduating from Juilliard private performing arts conservatory, the famed institution known as the world’s leading drama, music, and dance school.
From there, Teyonah got her feet wet by landing a small part on the hit show The Good Wife, where she played Melinda Gossett in the “Double Jeopardy” episode. She then went on to land a reoccurring role as Dawn Chambers in the AMC drama series Mad Men and went on to breathe life into Dawn for 22 episodes over the course of three years. Soon, she would have her breakout moment in the 2014 independent film Dear White People as Collandrea ‘Coco’ White opposite Tessa Thompson as Samantha ‘Sam’ White. Her eye-catching Coco performance would lead her to win the Black Reel Award for Best Breakthrough Performance.
It was only up from there.
Teyonah’s breakout performance and undeniable talent would pave the way for her to work with the legendary Spike Lee on his film, Chi-Raq. According to Teyonah, she was shocked when Spike reached out to her directly via email. It was short and straight to the point in true Spike Lee fashion.
“Read this. That’s all it said,” she recalled to The Guardian. “I was going: ‘What is going on? This is Spike Lee, right?’”
Teyonah’s Chi-raq performance as Lysistrata garnered her an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture and she admitted that the role of someone so “bold and aggressive” was empowering.
“Lysistrata is a woman who navigates the world very differently to me,” she told The Guardian. “And she’s comfortable with that, and she’s comfortable using everything – not just her body – to help effect change. But she had to put together a plan. She’s very smart, and she comes from an inner-city and doesn’t look like what we typically imagine the leader of a movement to look like. So it was amazing to tell her story, and to be so bold and aggressive.”
Now, with that nomination under her belt, she would land the lead in Where Children Play, Buffalo Soldier Girl, and star alongside David Oyelowo in Five Nights In Mainwe before playing Miki Howard in her biopic The Miki Howard Story.
Her career continued to bubble with roles in Empire‘, If Beale Street Could Talk, Charm City Kings, The Photograph, and Point Blank but the biggest looks of her career would arrive soon after those projects.
Teyonah scored two career-defining roles; one in Jordan Peele’s Candyman and the other, a dream role that fans actually petitioned for; Marvel superhero Monica Rambeau.
Teyonah previously admitted that she always dreamed of playing Monica but never thought Marvel would bring her to the small screen. Little did she know her dream would come true in 2021’s Wandavision. Luckily, the role of Monica doesn’t end there, she will also star in Captain Marvel 2 slated for release on November 22, 2022. Knowing Marvel, we will probably see her in another project even sooner, as the fan reception to her playing Monica has been nothing but positive, leaving them wanting more of the superstar superhero.
Teyonah’s track record speaks for itself and we can’t wait to see more of the MCU’s latest and greatest new addition.
We’re only three months into 2021 and Dominique Fishback’s sizeable stardom can’t be stopped. The Judas and the Black Messiah actress who just blew out 30 candles on her birthday cake, has already had a momentous year and it’s clear there’s much more to come. After pouring her heart into accurately portraying Chairman Fred Hampton’s fiancee Akua Njeri, nee Deborah Johnson, Dominique saw her name pop-up in not only praise, but the awards show circuit.
For the role that Shaka King personally penned for her, she landed a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and an NAACP Image Award Nomination for NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Breakthrough Role in a Motion Picture. Speaking on Dominique, Daniel Kaluuya told BOSSIP that the chemistry work they did together in Judas was easy because of Dominique’s diligence.
“It was fun, Dominique she’s easy, she cares, she’s a romantic,” said Daniel. “It was tough at first because she was off on another project but we got rapport and spoke and connected as people.”
Also unbeknownst to some, the poem that Deborah read to Fred in the film was personally penned by Dominque herself, a testament to her dedication to her art form and background as a graduate of Pace University with a B.A. in acting where she was the only Black American in her classes.
Not just an actress, Dominique is a playwright and spoken word artist who penned Subverted, a Black identity and inequality play that solely starred herself as a whopping 22 characters. The show became an off-off-Broadway sensation in 2014 and she confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that a filmed version of the play is actually in the works.
Next up, she’ll star alongside Samuel L. Jackson in The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey produced by Apple Studios. Jackson will Ptolemy Grey, a 91-year-old man forgotten by his family, by his friends, by even himself, and while on the brink of sinking “deeper into a lonely dementia” Ptolemy briefly regains his memories and apparently a friend, Robyn, played by Fishback.
Ultimately this baby-faced Brooklynite is leaning into her divine feminine, something she says was amplified while working with and trusting her Judas and the Black Messiah castmates.
Detailing an incident when someone rudely took a french fry from her plate during a cast trip to a bowling alley, Dominique was grateful that Daniel Kaluuya and Ian Duff had her back, zero questions asked, just action and advocacy.
“When you have that trust in somebody, you don’t have to be defensive or on guard, and that’s what I learned personally with Daniel,” she told The New York Times. “We went bowling once, and this white guy decided that he wanted to take a fry from my plate. I don’t know him at all, and he takes a fry from my plate! And before I could speak, Daniel and Ian [Duff, another cast member] snatched the fry from his hand and said, “What are you doing?” They all kind of gathered around me, and that was the first time I could say, “Oh wow, this is what it feels like when you don’t have to advocate for yourself.”
Coming from New York and navigating an industry that often overlooks women and Black women, I don’t want to be hard, I don’t want to advocate for myself — I want to lean more into my divine feminine, where I receive. So it was really nice to have them around me, and it was automatic! I didn’t have to look to them and be like, “So, y’all not gonna do nothing?”
Keep leaning in, sis.
Success, thy name is Dominique Fishback and we love to see it.
Nomzamo Mbatha is the South African stunner who dazzled the diaspora in Amazon’s movie-of-the-moment “Coming 2 America” where she played Jermaine Fowler’s gorgeous love interest “Mirembe” with effortless grace. The moment also marked her U.S. film debut.
“Where do I start?” the South African actress says laughing when asked how she landed the role of Mirembe in an interview with Essence.
“I am in Abu Dhabi. I’m doing some work with the United Nations — as you know, I’m the Goodwill Ambassador for the refugee agency at the U.N. So I’m doing work and we’re shooting this thing and I get a call from my agent and he says, ‘Nomzamo, I need you to be on a flight back to L.A. ASAP.’ You can send in a tape for this project, but being in the room is where you need to be.
“I land the afternoon before the audition and the day of the audition I’m getting my hair and makeup done and I get a call from my manager. Crystal says, ‘Oh my God, you won’t believe this, she can’t see you today. The agent can’t see you today.’ I was like, does she know I’m in America just for her? Make a plan or something!” said Mbatha, laughing.
She eventually connected with casting director Leah Butler for her big audition and the rest is history.
Beautiful AND talented, we hope to see more of the talented media personality, businesswoman, and human rights activist who has nearly 4 million followers on Instagram and countless new fans across the globe.
In the next 5 years, she plans on building a school in South Sudan.
“South Sudan is still very much a war-torn country, and their refugee camp is the most remote refugee camp in the world,” she revealed in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar. So I want to build a school there, and I’m working really hard on doing that.”
While that’s in progress, she hopes to produce even more and eventually join the MCU.
“I’m working on something right now back home, which is going to be an international co-production. So hopefully, I’ll get to produce something that is stemmed from the U.S. And I really want to do a Marvel superhero type of film.”
If you’re anything like us, Quinta Brunson is someone you came to know and love from the internet. The Philadelphia funnywoman first caught our eye with the Buzzfeed sketch series “Girl Who Has Never Been On A Nice Date” in 2014. She’s the girl behind, “He got moneyyyyyy.”
The laughs kept on coming from YouTube and Twitter (where her gifs and memes continue to flourish) but her comedic prowess couldn’t be contained by the world wide web and she’s gone on to write, produce and act in Hollywood. Remember “A Black Lady Sketch Show”? She’s our fave on there. She’s also put her vocal talents to work in animated projects like “Big Mouth” and “Magical Girl Friendship Squad.” What we probably love about her most is that she’s very much aware of current pop culture and represents to us what the future of comedy looks like.
Quinta’s also been vocal about how success for her hasn’t come overnight.
“This industry is about developing and developing and developing,” she told HuffPo in a 2019 interview promoting HBO’s “A Black Lady Sketch Show.” “And then if you’re fortunate, one of the things that you develop actually gets made and if not, your friends will call you to come be in a sketch show.”
Her next phase of development happens to be in the literary realm as a writer. Brunson’s collection of essays “She Memes Well” will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in June. We happened to get our hands on an early copy and thoroughly delighted in her tales of life as a young dancer as well as more mature recollections, like the time her life as a struggling comic led her to a series of sketchy Craigslist jobs. We don’t want to give too much away but trust, she’s just as funny on the page as the screen and we’re excited for her next chapter, whether it’s as an author or an actress.