Growing up, I remember always gravitating toward the melanated ladies in movies, plays, and shows. In one of my favorite movies, Clueless, I didn't want to be Cher, I wanted to be Dion (it's hella weird to like your stepbrother anyway). I never cheered for the Toros, I liked the East Compton Clovers. I couldn't stand Angelica's bad ass, it was #teamSusie every time. And to this day, I've never seen an episode of Friends, but I can certainly quote alllllll of Maxine Shaw Attorney at Law.
I guess you could say in a society where we aren't always in the forefront, I understood at a very young age, that representation matters.
And because of this, I always welcomed a means for celebrating black actresses, specifically rising black actresses under 30. They're the ones to watch for, the ones who will impact the upcoming generations most. They're not as seasoned as the queens Taraji, Sanaa, Phylicia, or either of the Reginas, but they certainly have something to say.
So, from Netflix to theaters, here's a list of black actresses under 30 that we need to know in 2020:
China Anne McClain
China Anne McClain is a ATLien born and raised, and is best known for her roles as little Jazmine Payne in Tyler Perry's House of Payne and China James in Daddy's Little Girls. She also stars as Lightning in the CW's Black Lightning. China may only be 22, but she has been capturing the hearts of viewers for over 15 years as 1/3 of the Disney kid adorable sister trio, The McClain sisters, who are all top black actresses under 30.
And make no mistake, China is all grown up and has now found her niche audience of loyal followers through TikTok.
On working with Tyler Perry:
"When I was working with Tyler Perry, and I've worked with him starting when I was around 7, watching him, I realized that I can be nice—because, like I said, I'm from the south and that's naturally what I want to be. I want everybody to be comfortable. But at the same time, do not change yourself for anybody. I really respect that about Mr. Perry and it's something that I know that he didn't know I picked up from watching him. But his demeanor in general is just, like, he is who he is. And at this point I've adopted that feeling. But at the same time, don't sacrifice my morals, my values, who I am. I don't have to change myself, you know?"
Her most recent venture is starring alongside Adam Sandler for the third time (Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2) in the family comedy, Hubie Halloween. But one of my favorite little known facts about her career is she sings the theme song to Disney show, Doc McStuffins.
Despite the 'rona, McClain is officially back to work and headed to our screens soon.
You can follow her on Instagram at @chinamcclain.
Another black actress under 30 to know is Kiersey Clemons, who recently starred alongside Janelle Monae in Antebellum. She has cemented her place in indie storytelling where she identifies as a part of the LGBTQ community and routinely accepts roles outside of the status quo.
After getting her feet wet on Disney Channel series like Shake It Up and Austin and Ally, her breakout role came in the form as a starring role in 2015's Dope, whose cast also included A$AP Rocky and Zoë Kravitz. Dope also introduced Clemons into the DC Comics Universe. She won the role of Iris West—girlfriend of The Flash, the lightning-fast crime fighter played by Ezra Miller in Suicide Squad and Justice League.
Since, she started focusing on independent films, appearing in Flatliners, The Only Living Boy in New York, and, this year, Hearts Beat Loud and Sweetheart. Now, Clemons captures the essence of roles where she can tell untold stories; roles with social consciousness, however subtle.
Beyond film, she's also waded into social justice, helping lobby for the courts to reexamine evidence in the case of Marcellus Williams, a death-row inmate who has been incarcerated for nearly two decades despite new evidence that could exonerate him.
You can follow her on Instagram @kiersey, where she is happily, unapologetically, her damn self.
When it comes to Marsai Martin, what more needs to be said? Probably leading the pack of black actresses under 30, our favorite shady little sister has managed to pivot her acting gig on Black-ish, into a full-on empire, complete with starring in, and executive producing, her own projects. And for those that aren't exactly sure what this means, sis cuts and signs the check that she deposits. Let that marinate.
Martin tells ET:
"I'm blessed to actually have the platform that I have. Being a Black girl, even in [a] white, male-dominated industry, you have to use your voice. You have to speak your mind for your audience."
And she's making no apologies about her journey, how she arrived, and being herself.
Since emerging on the scene in 2014 at the age of ten, the now 16-year-old actress has racked up a plethora of accolades and awards. Martin has multiple projects in the pipeline, including the animated film Paw Patrol: The Movie (2021) and her second feature film, StepMonster.
Follow her on Instagram at @marsaimartin.
Lovie Simone Oppong
Lovie Simone Opphong. Zora Greenlead. The 21-year-old Bronx powerhouse.
Simone currently plays Tabby in The Craft Legacy, a 2020 reboot of the cult classic thriller The Craft. Out this month, The Craft Legacy is just one of the many projects in which she stars. She's also in the Social Distancing TV series that captures all the highs and lows of quarantining. The series will be streaming on Netflix. Then, there's Starz's Power Book III: Raising Kanan in which Simone plays the love interest of the lead character. Sis, is working, and she is making no attempts to slow down, as her resume also consists of OWN's Greenleaf, and 2019 Sundance Film Festival premiere Selah and the Spades, where she stars as Selah.
Outside of acting, Simone spends much of her time sharing good reads and behind-the-scenes footage.
Follow her at @loviesimone_.
Before she was a rising star on a newly exciting Netflix series, Grand Army, Odley Jean was just a regular Haitian-American girl in Brooklyn, working to make ends meet, and fighting to pursue her dreams. She landed a role as Dom, on the teen drama, a role she is a few years older than, but as it turns out, one she's got a lot in common with.
About the show, Jean tells Teen Vogue:
"'Degrassi' was in the school and the hallways, but also went into the teens' lives at home as well as a lot of social issues. But, I feel like 'Grand Army' lays it all out there and calls everything and everyone out. And it's up to us to dissect and have conversations. It's not spoon-fed to you."
As Refinery29 puts it, "Ten seconds. That's how long it takes to know that Odley Jean is going to be a star." Amen.
You can follow her on Instagram @odley.jean.
Fans, such as myself, first got to know Raven Goodwin after appearing on the hit show Being Mary Jane. Soon after, she was featured in Disney's Good Luck Charlie, and now, she is showing a new side of her otherwise private world. After recently having a baby girl she is stepping back into the spotlight to encourage body positivity and loving yourself with, or without, the weight.
Most recently, Goodwin portrayed Denise Clark-Bradford in the 2020 Clark Sisters biopic, The Clark Sisters: The First Ladies of Gospel. And since, she has been taking over social media with her charm, advocacy, and fitness journey.
Right now, Raven is focusing on being a mommy but be on the lookout for her future impact.
Keep up with Raven on Instagram at @ravengoodwin
"The vision is set. The slate is built. Grateful to my ABC family & excited to join the television landscape to collaborate and push forward the stories of our many intersections."
That's what Yara Shahidi wrote on Instagram to celebrate her new ABC deal for her production company, 7th Sun. 20-year-old Shahidi's, an uber-vocal activist and champion for racial justice and equality, plan is to focus on stories from underrepresented communities and "projects that touch upon themes of history, heritage, culture, and joy," 7th Sun said in a statement.
And if we should be excited that any young, black woman is telling stories their way, it is Shahidi. Her start on Black-ish had such success, that it evolved into successful spin-off, Grown-ish. Since, she's finding her voice as the unofficial spokesperson for the Gen Z's woke culture and she has an impressive collection of mentors all around her: from Michelle Obama, Janelle Monae, and her dazzling mother, Keri Shahidi.
Oh, and she's a student at Harvard. I could go on all day about this queen, but you guys know. So, Yara Shahidi, ladies and gentlemen.
Follow her on Instagram at @yarashahidi.
One random night I was scrolling through all the nothing that was on TV, when i decided to binge watch Little Fires Everywhere. And from the moment I turned it on, I could not stop watching. I stayed up and finished the entire season; it was that good of a show. I loved the themes, the changes in character dynamics. And I loved Lexi Underwood.
Her character, the daughter of Kerry Washington's character Mia Warren, was so pure and genuine in how she approached her role. At a young 17 years old, I was blown away by her promise. On working on the show, Underwood tells Vogue:
"Every day was a masterclass. They made sure everybody else in the scene looked good. One time, Miss Kerry and I were in a scene and it was her coverage but I was giving a strong performance, so she had them stop and turn the cameras around. They taught me how to unapologetically take up space as a young black actress; to speak up if I had an idea or if something didn't seem authentic to my character. We had a voice in the creative process. We never felt like we were kids."
Up next, Underwood will be starring as a Disney princess alongside John Sally for Sneakerella (which we're so excited to see) and has even started a production company.
Keep up with her on Insta at @officiallexiunderwood.
Seventeen-year-old Lyric Ross plays Deja on NBC's hit show, This Is Us, a role she was, of course, excited to get.
And working in most of your scenes with Sterling K. Brown, who let her hold his Emmy award as a bomb affirmation, is something to brag about. She's young but she packs a punch, and she's next up to bat, as she's already been nominated for the prestigous NAACP award to go along with that Emmy. Expect this black actress under 30 to be around for a long time.
Catch up with her on Instagram at @lyricnicoleross!
Dominique Fishback isn't normal. No, I mean it, she is one of the most enjoyable black actresses under 30 to watch. The 29-year-old stars alongside Jamie Foxx in Netflix's Project Power, had gained the respect and attention of others for her role on HBO's The Deuce. You may have also seen her in 2018's The Hate U Give. Still, the Brooklyn-raised phenom is continuously outperforming her own ranks and making her mark as one of the young Hollywood starlets.
Her upcoming role in the Fred Hampton film Judas and the Black Messiah, she will co-star with Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield. She tells Entertainment Weekly:
"I have a lot to say — I'm a writer as well, so I'm ready for people to take me seriously. My essence, my purpose, they're all aligning. From your lips to God's ears."
Keep up with Dominique's journey on Instagram @domfishback.
Feature image by Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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If you haven’t scrolled upon Olivia McDowell's TikTok famous dinner parties, you may need to reconfigure your "For You Page."
What began as a passion for hosting aesthetically themed meals for her closest friends has quickly become a viral sensation. With an astonishing 12 million viewers, women describe Olivia’s picturesque dinner parties as the “dream girls' night,” complete with classy cocktails, beautiful table settings, elegant outfits, and, most importantly, food plated to perfection.
Seemingly reigniting the feminine urge to host fancy dinner parties, Olivia has perfected the finer details. Overlooking the skyline in her beautiful NYC apartment, she never fails to make her signature handmade pasta dishes while simultaneously looking effortlessly chic in the wardrobe of dreams while doing so.
Replying to @nara0630 what should the theme of my next dinner party be? #minivlog #nycliving #dinnerpartyideas #caviarinnewyork
What I love most about hosting intimate dinners for close friends are the connections and relationships that form over food. They don't require a caviar budget with a high-rise apartment, it just takes determination and a little creativity. Watching Olivia’s journey inspires viewers to be a part of a community of positive and uplifting women who share common interests and tastes in food, fashion, and decor. Simply stated, she’s raising the bar of friendship goals.
If you’re aspiring to host a holiday-themed dinner party this season, check out the four tips that will guide you along the way.
Choose Your Theme
Replying to @emz.life.tsv what was your fav part? 🤍 hope this gives you some inspiration to host a fancy friendsgiving too! #hostingtip #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Set the ambiance with a thoughtful theme, which will indeed be your guiding light for less stress during the planning process. Establishing a theme sets the tone for everything else to fall in place, such as menus, table design, and presentation. For example, a holiday-inspired dinner party is a perfect occasion for elegant all-white decor paired with draped table cloths, pillar candles lit atop luxe holders, floating floral arrangements, and, for a personal touch, handwritten place settings.
Utilizing free resources such as Canva for menu templates and creating a “Dinner Party” moodboard via Pinterest is perfect for gathering dinner inspiration for themes, decor, and recipes for the special occasion.
Simplify the Menu
How to host your own pasta making dinner party — part 1: pasta making from scratch 🤍 Hosting dinner parties has become my favorite thing to do this year. More goes into it than you expect, the prep, planning, guestlist, tablescape, etc. but it’s always worth it in the end. What do you guys want to see next? #hostingtips #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Don’t overcomplicate the menu. A simple dinner party formula to use as your guide to making sure your guests leave full of food and joy is appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. As a starter, assemble an aesthetic spread that your guest can nibble on while awaiting the main course with starters such as bread, cheese, jam, nuts, and fruit. A simple salad will do, complete with a light dressing right before your entree. For a main dish, pasta recipes always go a long way and also allows your guests to interact with one another, which leads to McDowell's third dinner party hosting tip.
Include an Interactive Element
Replying to @itstai.tv 🖤 #girlhood
To break the ice and encourage guests to get to know one another, introduce interactive elements to the evening. Moments of interaction allow everyone to connect, like capturing content for social media or memorializing the essence of the night through fun Polaroids. Olivia also encourages her guests to participate in the pasta-making dinner process as a group, or if hosting a brunch, her friends indulge in building their own coffee bar as an opportunity for forming connections and conversation starters. Group board or card games are also great for laughs and healthy competition to help get the vibes flowing.
Don’t Forget the Dress code
Replying to @samantha_mendiz when all of your friends are the main character 🖤🥂 #dinnerparty #nycfashion
Tis’ the season for glamour and sparkles, so why not go all out with a super chic dress code? You can’t have a picture-perfect holiday dinner party without the coordinating attire to match. When planning, make sure to make the required attire specific yet broad enough for a range of personalities and preferences to comfortably partake while looking stunning doing so.
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Featured image by Justin Lambert/Getty Images