Archive for the ‘actors’ Category

Idris Elba

Idris Elba (1972- ) is a British actor best know for playing a cold-hearted drug dealer, Stringer Bell, on the HBO television show “The Wire” from 2002 to 2004.

On this blog at the end of 2009 he was voted the sixth most gorgeous man in the world. One commenter said he was “pure dark sexual chocolate”. Essence magazine named him one of the ten hottest men on the planet in 2004 and 2005. He made the cover of their bachelor issue in 2009. In 2007 People magazine named him one of the 100 most beautiful people in the world.

His American accent is so good that people are surprised when they find out he is British. But Hollywood has little interest in black characters with British accents – just ask Thandie Newton.

He was born in East London to African parents. His father was from Sierra Leone and his mother from Ghana. His uncle was a DJ who played music at Sierra Leonean weddings and christenings. While his uncle slipped off to chat up a bridesmaid he would leave Elba in charge. By 14 Elba was old enough to travel with uncle across England as a DJ. By 15 he was a DJ in his own right.

In his early twenties he started trying out for parts on British television. He played several supporting characters but did not become known in Britain till he got a steady part on “Family Affairs” in 1997. After a point, though, he saw there was little future for him in Britain: America had a much bigger black audience and therefore more and better characters for him to play (since blacks are mostly limited to playing “black” characters).

So he came to New York and worked as a DJ while he looked for work as an actor. It was hard. First there was his accent. Then his marriage broke apart and he was living in his brown Chevrolet Astro van for eight weeks. He got some small parts and in 2001 even played Achilles in Shakespeare’s “Troilus & Cressida” (the New York Times said he had the right “graceless egomania” for the part).

Then his fortunes turned: in 2002 he hit the big time as Stringer Bell in “The Wire”, playing one of the baddest gangsters in what some say is the best police show America has ever produced. While he loved playing the Machiavellian Stringer – the character was deep even if he was cold-blooded and narrowed by his drivenness – he was glad to see Stringer as a character come to a bad end.

Since the “The Wire” he has appeared in several films, like “Daddy’s Little Girls” (2007) with Gabrielle Union, “American Gangster” (2007), “RocknRolla” (2008) and “Obsessed” (2009) with Beyonce. In 2009 he appeared in six episodes of “The Office”, a British television comedy made American by NBC – which required him to speak with an American accent!

He has a daughter, Isan, born in 2002 to his now ex-wife. He has a house in Atlanta to be near his daughter.

– Abagond, 2010.

Update (2019): Idris Elba married beauty queen Sabrina Dhowre. She was Miss Vancouver 2014:

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James Franco

James Franco (1978- ) is an American actor. He played Daniel Desario on the television show  “Freaks and Geeks” (1999-2000) and Harry Osborn, Spiderman’s best friend, in the three Spiderman films (2002, 2004, 2007).

On this blog he was voted the seventh most gorgeous man in the world in 2009, just ahead of Paul Newman. It is not just this blog either:

  • 1996: Palo Alto High School: “Best Smile”
  • 2004: People magazine: 50 Hottest Bachelors
  • 2009: Salon.com: Sexiest Man Living

Salon also named him one of ten men “who might just inspire the rebirth of Jewish male cool“.

He says he is only Jewish “technically” – you know, because his mother is Jewish. He was not brought up Jewish. Still, he hopes to have his bar mitzvah in his thirties. His mother’s family is from Russia, his father’s from Sweden and Portugal.

He has wanted to become an actor ever since his shy, buck-toothed youth when he saw “My Own Private Idaho” (1991), directed by Gus Van Sant, one of his heroes, and “Beverly Hills, 90210” (1990-2000). He thought acting would be kind of cool. Cool enough to get his teeth straightened. And to drop out of university: he left UCLA after his first year to study acting for 15 months under Robert Carnegie at Playhouse West.

He landed a part as a freak on “Freaks and Geeks”, a high school comedy that NBC half-heartedly ran on television for the 1999-2000 season. Some loved it, especially television reviewers, but the masses apparently prefer their high school characters to be beautiful and as deep as spit – like on “Beverly Hills, 90210”. NBC killed it after 18 episodes.

His big break came in 2001 when he starred in “James Dean”, a straight-to-television film made by TNT. He got so into character that he picked up James Dean’s smoking habit! But it also got him a Golden Globe and the notice of the great and good of Hollywood, like Robert De Niro. He has been working steadily ever since.

He tried out for the lead part in “Spiderman” (2002). He lost to Tobey Maguire, so he wound up playing Spiderman’s best friend, Harry Osborn. The Spiderman films were maybe not as good as “Freaks and Geeks” (certainly not according to voters at IMDb.com) but hugely successful nonetheless in terms of ticket and DVD sales.

In 2008 he appeared in “Milk” about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. He played Milk’s boyfriend. The great part of that is that it was directed by none other than Gus Van Sant. The not-so-good part is that he had to kiss Sean Penn, who played the lead. Franco said it made him feel uncomfortable.

He went back to UCLA, at last, and got his degree. There he studied writing under Mona Simpson, the blood sister of Steve Jobs. After UCLA he studied writing and film in New York at NYU and Columbia. While there he acted in “General Hospital”, the soap opera, for the 2009-2010 season. He played a character named Franco.

In 2010 he is set to play Allen Ginsburg in the film “Howl”.

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Paul Newman

Paul Newman (1925-2008) was a Hollywood actor and sex symbol, from the 1960s and early 1970s. He was married to Joanne Woodward for 50 years.

On this blog at the end of 2009 he was voted the eighth most gorgeous man in the world – over a year after he died at age 83!

His best films (those receiving an IMDb rating of at least 8.0):

  • 1958: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  • 1961: The Hustler
  • 1967: Cool Hand Luke
  • 1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • 1973: The Sting

The first he did with Elizabeth Taylor, the last two with Robert Redford, both Hollywood sex symbols in their own right. He is known for playing anti-heroes. He was acting almost right up to the end of his life.

His name was put up for an Oscar for best actor eight times, but only won once, for “The Color of Money” in 1987. Some say his acting got better with age – the Oscar nominations seem to bear that out.

He was born the son of a Cleveland shopkeeper. Both sides of his family come from Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Hungary, Poland). Like his father but unlike his mother he is Jewish.

In the Second World War he wanted to be a pilot and fly planes but his colour blindness prevented him. He almost fought in the battle of Okinawa but the pilot of his plane got an ear infection and they stayed back. Everyone else in their detail died in battle.

After the war he went into acting, at first on Broadway and television and then in Hollywood films. He did terribly in his first film, “The Silver Chalice” (1954), but then did well two years later in “Somebody Up There Likes Me” (1956) – a part he got through the death of James Dean. Soon he was starring opposite Elizabeth Taylor. His acting was not as good as, say, Marlon Brando’s, but his good looks made up for it.

In 1958 he starred with Joanne Woodward in “The Long Hot Summer”. That year he divorced his first wife of nine years and married Woodward. He has three children by each wife. In 1960 he and Woodward moved to Connecticut.

In 1978 his only son died of a drug overdose at age 28.

Newman was a race car driver. He came in second at Le Mans in 1979.

He used to make salad dressing as a Christmas gift. It caught on and in 1982 he started selling it under the brand name Newman’s Own. He later branched out into spaghetti sauce and popcorn. Since Newman was not interested in getting rich, he gave the profits to charity – education, health, the environment, disaster relief, etc. He joked that Newman’s Own brought in more money than his acting ever did (true).

In 1988 he started the Hole in the Wall Gang, a free summer camp in Connecticut, between New York and Boston, for children who are dying or who have spent a long time in the hospital.

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Angela Bassett in “Waiting to Exhale” (1995) in her most iconic scene.


Angela Bassett (1958- ), an American actress, is perhaps the best black female actress alive in Hollywood. She is both more beautiful and far more talented than Halle Berry, the only black woman so far to win an Oscar for best actress. Bassett has played Tina Turner, the wife of Malcolm X (twice) and the mother of Biggie Smalls.

Some of her films:

  • 1991: Boyz N the Hood
  • 1992: Malcolm X
  • 1993: What’s Love Got to Do with It
  • 1995: Waiting to Exhale (pictured above)
  • 1995: Strange Days
  • 1998: How Stella Got Her Groove Back
  • 2006: Akeelah and the Bee
  • 2008: Meet the Browns
  • 2009: Notorious

I already knew who she was by the time she appeared in “Malcolm X” but apparently it was playing Tina Turner a year later in “What’s Love Got to Do with It” that made her name with mainstream American audiences.

She lost the lead in “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” (1999) to Halle Berry. She turned down the lead in “Monster’s Ball” (2001) because of how it shows black women – and because she does not do nude scenes. Halle Berry took that part and went on to win an Oscar for best actress.

Angela Bassett was born on the very same day as Madonna: August 16th 1958. She was born in Harlem but her mother soon moved to St Petersburg, Florida, where she grew up in public housing.

In 1974 she saw James Earl Jones in “Of Mice and Men” on a school trip to Washington, DC:

I just sat there after the play, boo-hoo crying, weeping. I couldn’t move, and I remember thinking, “My gosh, if I could make somebody feel the way I feel right now!”

From that moment she began to think about becoming an actress.

She got a scholarship to Yale. After getting her degree in African American Studies, she studied acting at the Yale School of Drama. She had to unlearn her Southern accent. There she met Courtney B. Vance, whom she would one day marry.

After Yale she acted in some television ads, the soap opera “Guiding Light” and two August Wilson plays. Then her friend Larry Fishburne helped her to land a part in “Boyz N the Hood”. She played the mother of the main character – but to her she was playing her own mother. That got her noticed as a serious actress in Hollywood.

In 1993 she starred opposite Fishburne in “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, with her cast as Tina to his Ike. She broke her hand during shooting – but that only helped her to play Tina Turner even better. Tina Turner did her make-up and taught her the dance moves. One reviewer said that Bassett, “captures the erotic youthquake that was Tina Turner in the ’60s and early ’70s”.

In 1997 she married actor Courtney B. Vance. He played her husband when she appeared in the last season of “ER” (2008-2009). They have a boy and a girl: Slater and Bronwyn, both born in 2006 by means of a surrogate mother (Bassett was 47 at the time of their birth).

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Gina Torres (1969- ) is an American actress. She starred in the television shows “Firefly” (2002-2003) and “Cleopatra 2525” (2000-2001), but in general she plays a supporting character in science fiction & fantasy or FBI agent sort of shows, like “Hercules”, “24”, “Alias”, “Standoff” and two of the Matrix films. You can see her now in “FlashForward” which is an FBI science fiction show!  She is tall, pretty and does her own stunts. Oh, and she can sing opera too.


gina18Those who do not watch those sort of shows might remember her as the wife of Chris Rock in “I Think I Love My Wife” (2007).

Off stage she is the wife of Larry Fishburne, another serious black actor. They married in 2002 and had a daughter, Delilah, in 2007. They live in New Rochelle, New York just north of New York City

She is tall, thin and has beautiful eyes and beautiful lips! Her natural hair seems to be Type 3. She is as tall as a model: 5 foot 10 (1.78 m). And as tall as her husband!

At first I thought she was Nuyorican. She is in fact from New York – she was born in Manhattan and grew up in the Bronx – but her parents came from Cuba, not Puerto Rico. Her father was a newspaper typesetter.

Her parents loved Latin jazz and so did she. She wanted to be a singer – and had talent: she got into La Guardia High School for the Arts in New York. She sang opera, jazz and gospel. She wanted to go to university and had the grades but her parents did not have the money.

So she went to Lincoln Center and did office work hoping to get noticed. She did. That led to stage acting (“Dreamgirls”, “Antigone”, “Blood Wedding” and others) and, in time, to television. From 1995 to 1996 she played Magdelena on the soap opera “One Life to Live”.

She got her start as an action character on “Xena: Warrior Princess” in 1997. She only appeared once, but that led to a regular part on “Hercules” (1998-1999) and then to two seasons of  “Cleopatra 2525” (2000-2001) where she was one of the three main characters. That led to parts on the Matrix films and primetime shows.


You have to have a spirit of warrior in you. You’re going to be facing battles as a woman in this industry and a woman of color. You have to be prepared to face battles of respect and pride and sexuality, and you can’t tire of fighting.

How Larry Fishburne won her heart: the Wikipedia says they met on the set of a Matrix film. Not true: they met and dated years before. One of their dates was during the New York blizzard of 1995: all the snow of one winter fell in one day. And they were outside having a snowball fight in Fort Tryon Park! Then they sat down on a bench overlooking the Hudson River. Sitting there knee-deep in snow he pulled out his harmonica and serenaded her.


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linda40Linda Harrison (1945- ) is an American actress. She is world-famous, though not by name, for one part in one film where she spoke no lines at all: she played Nova, Charlton Heston’s girlfriend in “Planet of the Apes” (1968). She was also in “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” (1970) where she said just one word: “Taylor!”, the name of Heston’s character.

linda43I think she is one of the most beautiful white women ever. I was reminded of her when I was on Zaius Nation the other day.

She grew up in Berlin, Maryland on the Delmarva Peninsula. In the early 1960s she won a string of beauty contests in Maryland, becoming Miss Maryland in 1965 – and coming close to winning Miss USA.

In 1965 she came to New York to become a model and maybe an actress. She did a screen test for 20th Century Fox and landed a seven-year contract!

In 1966 she played a cheerleader twice on the television show “Batman” and was in a Jerry Lewis film, “Way… Way Out”.

linda04In 1967 she was in “A Guide for the Married Man”: she appears for five minutes with blonde hair but says no lines. She also became the first woman ever to play Wonder Woman for television (the show failed).

In 1968 she was in “Planet of the Apes”. Again no lines, but this time there was a good reason: her character lives in a world where apes talk and humans do not!

linda06About playing Nova she says:

I felt very intuitive that my particular personality and nature were like Nova. Automatically, I’d say that’s about 80% of the part. The director, the producer and the writer talked with me about her, and they described her as “sub-human.” We hadn’t really had an actress play “sub-human” before. Nova’s not like Raquel Welch’s character in “One Million Years B.C.” (1966). She was more primitive because of the apes’ suppression. We played it by ear and experimented. It was really a moment-to-moment thing.

The trope is Nubile Savage, kissing cousin of the Jungle Princess.

linda51In 1969 she played a regular character on the television show “Bracken’s World”, which was cancelled in the second season. About this time she made the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine and became friends with editor Helen Gurley Brown.

Also in 1969 she married Richard Zanuck, a producer whose father ran Fox. After “Bracken’s World” Harrison dropped out of sight to become a mother to two sons, Harrison and Dean. She divorced in 1978.

She later appeared in some other films, like “Airport 1975″ (1974) and “Cocoon” (1985), but nothing to top Nova.

She almost played Roy Scheider’s wife in “Jaws” (1975). Her husband produced “Jaws” and wanted her for the part, but unfortunately he was overruled by the head of Universal who put in his own wife instead.

Harrison appeared briefly in Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of “Planet of the Apes” as Woman In Cart.

These days you can still see her at science fiction conventions!


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Aaliyah Haughton (1979-2001), better known as just Aaliyah, was an American R&B singer who sold 24 million records worldwide and was an up-and-coming Hollywood actress. She died eight years ago today at the age of 22 in a plane crash. She called her singing “street but sweet”. As one fan at her funeral put it, she was beautiful both on the outside and on the inside.

Her number one songs on the American R&B charts:

  • 1994: Back & Forth
  • 1996: If Your Girl Only Knew
  • 1996: One in a Million
  • 1998: Are You That Somebody?
  • 2002: Miss You

I mainly remember her for these (their chart position in parentheses):

1998: Are You That Somebody? (#1)

2001: More Than a Woman (#7)

2002: Rock the Boat (#2)

Aaliyah was born in Brooklyn but mainly grew up in Detroit. Her mother gave up being a singer so that she could bring up Aaliyah and her older brother, Rashad. (Despite their Arab names, they seem to be Catholic.)

Aaliyah had singing lessons from an early age, took part in school plays and at age 11 appeared on the television talent show, “Star Search”:

Aaliyah in Star Search

1990: My Funny Valentine

She lost, but later that year she performed with Gladys Knight in Las Vegas and a year later got her first record deal. You see, her uncle was married to Gladys Knight and managed R. Kelly! Kelly wrote and produced Aaliyah’s first album, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” (1994).

It came out when she was 15 and produced a number one hit, “Back & Forth”.  But she was not the only 15-year-old girl with a number one hit that year: Brandy had one too: “I Wanna Be Down”.

That summer Aaliyah and R. Kelly got married! They both deny it but there is a marriage certificate. Aaliyah put down her age as 18, not 15. Her parents had the marriage annulled because she was underage.

After that Aaliyah and R. Kelly parted ways. She went to Atlantic Records where Timbaland and Missy Elliott wrote and produced her second and third albums: “One in a Million” (1996) and “Aaliyah” (2001).

She graduated from high school in 1997 and then went into acting, her second love. She appeared in “Romeo Must Die” (2000) opposite Jet Li  and in Anne Rice’s “Queen of the Damned” (2002).  At the time of her death she was set to appear in the Matrix films and was on a level with the likes of Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba and Zoe Saldana in terms of the sort of parts she was getting.

Flying back to Florida from the Bahamas on August 25th 2001 after doing the video for “Rock the Boat”, the plane went down right after take-off and blew up. She and seven others on board died instantly. The plane was overloaded.

At her funeral in New York her body was taken to the church in a silver casket inside a glass carriage pulled by horses. At the end of the funeral they let 22 white doves fly into the sky, one for each year of her short life.

– Abagond, 2009, 2015.

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Meagan Good (1981- ) is an American actress and beauty. She was named for an NAACP Image Award for playing Cisely Baptiste in “Eve’s Bayou” (1997). But despite her beauty and talent, she mostly winds up playing supporting characters. She has yet to play the lead in a film that makes it big.

meagan1She is one of four children of a Los Angeles police officer, growing up in Canyon Country north of the city. She is part black, Cherokee Indian, Puerto Rican and Jewish. Her father’s father came from Barbados.

She started acting at age four in television ads. In her very first ad she had to skate but did not know how! She was in ads for Barbie, AT&T, Pringles, Burger King, etc. But it was not till much later, when she saw Danielle Harris in “Halloween 4” (1988) and “Halloween 5” (1989), that she knew she wanted to be an actress.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s she guest starred in over a dozen television shows, like “Moesha”, “The Steve Harvey Show” and “Touched by an Angel”.

She started getting into films too. When she was hired for “Eve’s Bayou” she was just 16 and pretty much unknown. But after that she started getting steadier television work: she was Nina on “Cousin Skeeter” (1998-2000) on Nickelodeon and Katie on “Raising Dad” (2001-2002) on the WB. She was Vanessa, Junior’s girlfriend,  for five episodes of “My Wife and Kids” in 2003 but then was suddenly replaced by Brooklyn Sudano for reasons unclear. After that she gave most of her attention to film acting.

She has been in some well-known films, but almost always as a supporting character. None of the films she has starred in has been a big hit, though some have done well, like “Stomp the Yard” (2007). She has yet to take off as an actress.

Her dream come true would be to play Aaliyah:

I really, really want to do Aaliyah’s life story; I was a huge fan of hers. I think she’s such a positive role model. She really kind of handled the industry with such class and such respect for herself. Even though there are things that you may have heard, here or there, the way that she handled it and the way that she was, was just so classy and so beautiful.

She has also been in music videos, like 5o Cent’s “21 Questions” (2003) and has made the cover of King magazine, entering the whole video vixen world through her acting, which is the opposite way of how most do it.

She is much better known for her looks than her acting. It is not too hard to find websites that have over a thousand pictures of her!

She has black hair, high cheekbones, thick lips, beautiful eyes and a thin but nice figure. She is 5 foot 4 (1.63 m) tall. Her measurements are 36-24-34 (91-61-86 cm) and has a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of 0.71.

According to at least Internet rumour she has dated Jamie Foxx (he denies it), Joseph Gordon, Nick Cannon, Ty Hodges, Thomas Jones and Soulja Boy.


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mercyMercy Johnson (c. 1982- ) is an actress in Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry. She has been in more than 70 films, the best known of these being “The Maid”, “Kill the Bride”, “Last Kiss” and “My Heart Your Home”. She is good at playing crying women.

She is known for her sex appeal: she has a great figure. The press often calls her “dark-skinned”.

She does not always dress well. She says, “I’ll rather sponsor a child than spend 180,000 nairas on a designer bag.” Yet even when she first tried out for a part in a film she showed up with bedroom slippers on her feet!

She seemed to have come out of nowhere and, well, she did: she did not know anyone in Nollywood. She did not even have any training. She just showed up at the national theatre, trying out for part after part till she got one. She just kept at it, never giving up:“I knew what I wanted and I had to go for it.” It was that or computer school, like her father wanted.

She says her success is simply a matter of hard work and the favour of God, which gave her talent.

Her first film was “Moving Train” (2000). Her big break came two years later when she got the lead  in “The Maid” (2002).

Despite all that, and despite having acted in high school plays, she never wanted to be an actress! Instead her aim was to be like Genevieve Nnaji, the top actress in Nollywood, whom she admires (and has since worked with). She still has a ways to go.

She is known for her kissing on film. She feels nothing when she does it – for her it is just make-believe, part of her work, which she wants to keep separate from her feelings.

In 2008 she was buying up property. Partly to put her millions of nairas into something, but partly to buy land for what she calls the House of Mercy, which will be a home  for unwanted or parentless children.

She used to sell water on the streets of Lagos. She can prove by marks on her legs from the many times she fell down in the gutter.

She was born the fourth of seven children – four girls, three boys – in Satellite Town, Lagos. She had a strict Christian upbringing. Because her father was an officer in the navy she spent part of her childhood in Calabar. She was the apple of his eye and loves to talk about him. Yet she will not talk about her mother – or her current boyfriend. She hopes to get married by 2010.

She went to Lagos State University for an English degree but did not complete her studies.

She is a homebody who likes to play Monopoly at home rather than go out dancing.

In 2009 the Nigerian press, which sometimes just makes up stuff, says she was going with singer D’Banj and fought over him with Rukky Sanda. Both of them deny it up and down when asked.


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FatouN'DiayeFatou N’Diaye (1980- ) is a French actress and model who was born in Senegal. She is not the dancer of the same name. Since 2001 she has appeared in both French film and television. Her best film to date is probably “Nha fala” (2003) though “A Sunday in Kigali” (2006) seems to be better known.

She was born in Saint-Louis in Sengal. Her native language is Wolof. When she was eight she left Senegal with her mother to live in France.

In 1997 at age 17 she was discovered by photographer Oliviero Toscani, who is famous for the United Colors of Benetton ads. He urged her to become a model. She is tall, thin and pretty

She is 5 foot 10 inches tall (1.78 m) and her measurements are 31.5-23-35 (80-58.5-89 cm), giving her a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of 0.66.

She did do some modelling, but her heart was set on acting. She wanted to go to drama school,  but then director Daniel Vigne asked her to play the lead in a made-for-television film he was making – even though she had no acting experience!

She spent  a few days with an actress who taught her the tricks of the trade and then did her best.

The film was “Fatou la Malienne” (2001). It was the true story of a woman from Mali who lived in France but was forced to get married. It got her noticed: 8 million people in France saw it.

After that she worked with the famous French actor Charles Aznavour. She loves jazz and he was able to tell her about all the jazz greats that he once knew.

In 2002 she had a small part in “Astérix et Obélix : Mission Cléopâtre”, starring Monica Bellucci. It was her first experience of a big film production.

In 2003 she starred in “Nha Fala” (“My Voice”), directed by Flora Gomes. It is a Portuguese-French-Luxembourger musical comedy (yes) set in France and Cape Verde.  It is in both French and Portuguese Creole.

She plays a mixed-race character who comes from a family where the women die if they sing. When she leaves Cape Verde for France she promises her mother that she will not sing. Not only did she forget her promise, she became a singer! People were amazed at how well she could sing. She came back to Cape Verde to prepare for her funeral – but she did not die!

N’Diaye says the film is about expressing yourself. Some see it as a metaphor for colonialism, about how trying to be white goes against being your true self – which is why her being mixed-race is important.

In 2006 she played the female lead in a French-Canadian film, “Un dimanche à Kigali” (“A Sunday in Kigali”). It is abouat a man who comes to Rwanda and falls in love with a woman there. Separated by the genocide he tries to find her.

Her next leading part was in “Tropiques amers” (2007), the first French television series about slavery in the French Caribbean. It is a historical drama set in Martinique in the late 1700s.

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Note: Some of this post might not be strictly true: most of what is written about her is in French and my French is not very good! So corrections are welcomed.

Aïssa Maïga (1975- ) is a French actress who was born in Senegal. She is not just charming, beautiful and talented, she is also the highest-paid black actress in France and a regular at Cannes.

Some of her films:

  • “Les Poupées Russes” (2004) made her name in France. She plays the lover of Romain Duris.
  • “Paris, je t’aime” (2005) – she starred in this. See below for a bit of it I found on YouTube. Watch all the way to the end.
  • “Il faut quitter Bamako” (2006) showed that she can write and direct as well as act.
  • “Bamako” (2006), almost the same name as her own film, is probably her best performance to date. She played a bar singer, who always seems to be pictured as crying. Danny Glover was an executive producer, by the way.

As beautiful as she is, she is almost completely unknown in the English-speaking world. She does not even have an article in the English Wikipedia as of June 2009. I had seen her face before on the Internet, but I had no idea who she was until a commenter on this blog, Asha, brought up her name. Thanks, Asha!

Maiga was born in Dakar in Senegal. Her father, a journalist, came from Mali. Her mother is half Senegalese, half Gambian. The family moved to France when she was four. Her father died when she was eight.

After high school she did not know whether to study sociology or theatre. But then one night she saw “L’important c’est d’aimer” with Romy Schneider and knew she wanted to be a comedienne. So she chose theatre. A few months later, though, she dropped out of school and became a waitress. She thought the courses were heavy on theory, light on practice.

Her aunt, it turns out, was a comedienne and was able to train her. At 17 Maiga was acting in a musical comedy, “La nuit la plus longue”, something she did for three summers.

In 1996 she got her first part in a full-length film, “Saraka Bo”. It is a police drama that takes place in a black part of Paris. That led to parts in police dramas on television, something she did for years, but it also got her noticed by directors, like Claude Berri.

In 2005 she appeared in “French Beauty”, a television show that asked some of the great beauties of French film, like Bardot and Deneuve, what it is like to be a beautiful French woman.

Blacks in French film: Just like in Hollywood, most of the few parts there are for blacks play to stereotypes. But on top of that blacks are often seen as foreigners in France even when they grew up there, just like Asians in America.

She lives in both France and Senegal. She has two sons by her one-time boyfriend, Stephane Pocrain.


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DavidCarradineDavid Carradine (1936-2009) was an American actor best known for playing the lead in the television show “Kung Fu” (1972-1975) and Bill in “Kill Bill: Vol. 1″ (2003) and “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” (2004). He is a famous example of Hollywood’s racist practice of yellowface – using white actors to play Asian characters. He was found dead last week in a Bangkok hotel.

Carradine was not one bit Asian. And when he was on “Kung Fu” he knew nothing about kung fu or Eastern philosophies – that came later. He was just an actor making a living. Even the writers on the show were white Americans. The Buddhism, if that is what you call it, was watered down too.

“Kung Fu” was a new twist on the tried-and-true shoot-em-up cowboy Western: the hero was not a cowboy with a gun but a Buddhist monk who knew martial arts. Somehow he always avoids getting shot dead.

Bruce Lee came up with the idea and wanted to play the lead. Hollywood thought he looked too Asian: Asians only played supporting characters. So they gave the part to Carradine, who had played the lead in another television Western, the short-lived “Shane” (1966). They named his character Kwai Chang Caine and said his mother was Chinese and his father was white American. They made up the difference with stereotype and make-up.

White American stereotypes about Asian men were such that it was hard to make one the hero of a television show. That is still true. Yet you could not simply throw out the stereotypes either: then the hero would not seem “Asian enough” to white people.

The answer was to have a white man play the Asian hero: he would play to stereotype to “seem Asian” and yet he could go beyond the stereotype when the story required it without it seeming strange. It is why you have white samurais, like in “Shogun” (1980) and “The Last Samurai” (2003).

The show has entered the American bloodstream: my children know the phrases “young Grasshopper” and “snatch the pebble from my hand” but do not know where they come from.

“Kung Fu” showed the racism that Asians faced in America in the 1800s – while helping to strengthen it in the 1900s.

The yellowface thing still goes on. Carradine himself was still at it in 2006 when he did an ad for Yellow Book.

After “Kung Fu” Carradine appeared in over a hundred films. A few were good but most went straight to video and were beneath even his middling talents. He appeared in the 1990s remake of “Kung Fu” on TNT but his star did not rise again till one of his fans from the 1970s grew up and became a famous Hollywood director: Quentin Tarantino.

To Tarantino’s credit he did not make Carradine play an Asian in “Kill Bill”. He had read Carradine’s autobiography, “Endless Highway”, and wanted him to play himself: an offbeat white man who loved martial arts.

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zoe-saldana-1-0509-lgZoe Yadira Zaldaña Nazario (1978- ), better known as just Zoe Saldana, is an American actress. She plays Uhura, miniskirt and all,  in the “Star Trek” film that just came out. She was also in “Drumline” (2002) and “Guess Who” (2005). She will be in James Cameron’s  “Avatar”, due out in December 2009.

In 2008 Maxim, the men’s magazine, said she was one of the hottest women in the world (#42) and People magazine the year before said she was one of the most beautiful. She says her beauty does not come from anything physical:

Look at me. I’m skinny, I have a big nose, no tits and no ass, but in a room full of beautiful women, I would still leave with the most gorgeous guy.


Saldana is no Trekkie: when she played one in “The Terminal” (2004), she got the Vulcan hand sign wrong. Before doing the “Star Trek” film she had never even seen the 1960s television show that it is based on. But she did get to meet Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura back then. Nichols gave Saldana her blessing. Saldana sees Uhura as being “very elegant and stoic”.

Saldana was born to Dominican parents in New Jersey. The Wikipedia says her mother is Puerto Rican, but her own website says she is Dominican.

She grew up in a mixed neighbourhood in  Queens in New York City, speaking both Spanish and English. At nine her father was killed in a car accident and a year later the family moved to the Dominican Republic. She won a scholarship to one of the top dance schools there and studied ballet, jazz and Latin dance. She came back to New York at 17 and studied theatre. Her stage acting in New York got her noticed by Hollywood.

ZoeSaldanaWhenever she goes to the Dominican Republic, the press asks her if she American or Dominican. She says she is a mujer negra, a black woman. When they tell her no, she is trigueñita, light brown, she answers, “I am a black woman.”

When Esquire magazine asked her “that fucking question”, as she puts it, the one about her ethnicity, she said, “I’m Dominican, Lebanese, Indian, Irish, Jamaican. But I hate going into that. I just say, ‘I’m from Queens.’ ”

Her name was put up for an NAACP Image Award for her part in “Guess Who”. She played the female lead, a black woman who brings home her white boyfriend, Ashton Kutcher,  in a reverse remake of the Sidney Poitier film,  “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967).

She played a female pirate, Annamaria,  in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003), but she did not appear in any of the other “Pirates” films.

The actresses she looks up to are Salma Hayek, Whoopi Goldberg and Angelina Jolie.

She wants to win an Oscar: “I’m not going to be like, ‘I just want to be known for my work.’ No, I want that golden statue on my shelf.”


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Iniobong Edo Ekim (1982- ), better known simply as Ini Edo, is one of the top actresses  in Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry. Her first film was “Thick Madam” (2003). She has been in over a hundred films, just 30 in 2007 alone. Some are on YouTube as of this writing (May 2009). Nollywood films are cheap, straight-to-video affairs, not grand Hollywood productions.

According to this blog she is the eighth most beautiful Nigerian actress. She has beautiful eyes, but lacks the figure of an Omotola or the all-round good looks of Genevieve Nnaji.

Although she loves acting, has acted since she was a child in church and at school, and even though she studied theatre arts at the University of Uyo, she did not see herself becoming an actress! She was thinking of going into law or television. Nollywood at that point had not yet taken off. But one thing led to another and she found herself acting in a film. Both she and others were pleased with how well she did.

Well, her father was not so pleased, not at first. He wanted her to get her degree first. And besides, she was just 19 at the time, a young woman. To become a film actress meant going to a city far away where she knew no one. He was afraid people would take advantage of her. But it all turned out well in the end: a film director saw her talent and took her under his wing and looked out for her like a father. And she did get her degree too, from the University of Calabar, though it was not easy to balance acting with her studies.

Some actresses feel like they have to sleep with the producer to get ahead. She thinks that does not work in the long run, not as well as hard work and talent. Men came on to her all the time when she was single, but she did not let them turn her head: she knew what they all were after.

ini03In November 2008 she got married to Philip Ehiagwina, a businessman.  Nollywood actress Rita Dominic came to the wedding. Edo had a second wedding in February 2009 in America, in Houston, Texas, where her husband is based.

Their relationship had been in the newspapers: not just because Edo is one of those people that newspapers like to write things about, true and untrue, but also because Ehiagwina had already been married, to Ruth Okoro, a Nigerian-American model and actress. Okoro made his leaving her for Edo ugly and public, both of them saying terrible things about each other. If Okoro is to be believed, Ehiagwina is a heartless, untrustworthy character.

Ini Edo is an Ibibio from Akwa Ibom state in the south-east, not far from Calabar. Her mother was a teacher and her father, a church elder. She had a strict upbringing, the second of four children, three girls, one boy.

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Gloria Reuben

gloriareubenGloria Reuben (1964- ) is a Canadian actress. She played Jeanie Boulet on the television show  “E.R.” from 1995 to 1999. In 2000 she went on tour with Tina Turner as a backing singer. She has been in films like “Timecop” (1994), “Nick of Time”  (1995) and “Feast of All Saints” (2001). Currently in 2009 she plays Roz on “Raising the Bar” on TNT on Monday nights.

On “E.R.” she played the first regular character on television who was HIV-positive. The producers had promised her character would not die. But in 1999, when she got burnt out and told them she was leaving the show, they wanted her character to die. She said no: how would that affect all those viewers who are HIV-positive? She got her way.

She went from playing an HIV-positive character on television to someone who speaks out against AIDS. It is, even now, the number one killer in America of black women ages 25 to 34.

Before she became an actress she was a beauty queen and a model. In 1986 she became Miss Black Ontario. Her mother and father are both from Jamaica, but because her father is white some said she did not represent the black experience. When asked about that in 2008, she noted that some say that Obama is “not black enough”.

One time when an interviewer kept calling her “African American” she got upset and said she is not African American but Jamaican Canadian.

Modelling led to acting. In 1988 she left Toronto, where she grew up, and went to Los Angeles. She made enough from appearing in television ads, like for Luvs Diapers and Nestle’s Sweet Success, that she could work full-time at becoming an actress.

In 1996 People magazine named her one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world. According to this blog she is the eighth most beautiful black woman in the world.

Even in her 40s she is still beautiful. A man in line at Fedex told her that she looks like a young Gloria Reuben – not knowing that he was talking to Gloria Reuben herself!

It is her eyes mainly that make her beautiful, but her lips, her thick, black hair and cheekbones help too.

Although she is famous as an actress, music is her first love. She started learning to play the piano at age five, joined rock bands when she got older and in time studied music and ballet at the Royal Canadian Conservatory.

She had always wanted to be a singer. So when she met Tina Turner backstage one time and Turner asked her if she wanted to go on tour with her as a dancer and backing singer, she jumped at it. It was one of the greatest experiences of her life. Later she came out with some songs of her own. One of them is a strangely laid-back cover of Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing”.

In 1999 she moved back to the East Coast, to New York – she missed the winters! – and got married to television producer Wayne Isaak. She lives there still with her husband. No children as far as I know.

– Abagond, 2009.

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