Being in the public eye has its pros and cons, of course, but not to the degree that it has today. In modern society, you can be famous for being famous, and not even contributing much to the world. Dating a celebrity makes you a celebrity, and knowing any celebrity comes with a weird level of notoriety. But there was a time when this wasn't the case. A time where clout wasn't a thing, and rocking whatever God gave you was the norm (no shade to our Queens who've done a lil' enhancement, we love us all).
This rang true particularly in the '90's, when times were...different, or a true time to be alive. More importantly, this was a time when some of our faves graced our televisions, and truly represented for the Black and Brown community. We decided to follow up on a few who championed the culture during a time when society wasn't as progressive as it is today. Keep reading for celebs who held down the '90's. Where are they now?
Ananda Lewis, who is now 47 (what?!!), is an American television host, carpenter, former model, and social activist. She was an MTV veejay from the late 1990s until 2001, when she left the network to host her own broadcast syndicated television talk show, The Ananda Lewis Show. She was a correspondent for The Insider from 2004 to 2005, but since, we haven't heard much from her professionally. She took a break to be a mom to her 9-year-old son, and enjoy the fruits of her labor.
But October 2020, Ananda announced to the world that she had stage 3 breast cancer. In an emotional video, she revealed she had been struggling with the disease for years:
"I am sharing this with you today because it is the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness month and I have been fighting to get cancer out of my body for almost two years. I need you to get your mammograms. Early detection, especially for breast cancer, changes your outcome. It can save your life."
Thankfully, Lewis said she's been able to stop the cancer from spreading throughout her body with natural and homeopathic remedies.
"That's good news, but it's not gone and I still have a lot of work to do."
Today, you can find Ananda on IG passing out healing advice and trying to keep us all fit and healthy.
Kellie Shanygne Williams
Kellie Shanygne Williams is best known for her role as Laura Winslow, the middle-born child of Carl and Harriette Winslow on the television series Family Matters which ran from 1989-1998. After Family Matters, she began acting in the ABC television show What About Joan, and had a few recurring roles on both, Moesha, The Parkers, and Eve. She was also on the Style Network program Clean House for six episodes in 2009, as a substitute host for Niecy Nash.
One of her most recent projects is holiday movie Christmas in Carolina, which her reunited her with fellow Family Matters co-star, Darius McCrary.
Today, Kellie lives a more lowkey lifestyle, as a mom of two, and wife to the CEO of of the IT firm Y-Tech.
Bumper Robinson, 47, worked regularly in the 90's appearing in sitcoms such as A Different World, Living Single, Family Matters, and Sister, Sister. He starred in movies such as The Jacksons: An American Dream, which he says he still receives checks for today. Other than minor voice-overs, Robinson has left the front of the cameras to work behind the scenes, until re-emerging as a standout recurring character on The Game.
Today he dedicates his social media to social issues, and has recently played the role of Broadway on the Kenya Barris-created Netflix show, BlackAF.
On an episode of the hilariously epic Strong Black Legends Podcast, when asked what excites him most about passing the torch to the new era of Black television, he says:
"We own the perspective. There's a difference between being hired to be Black, and being able to be yourself. Black isn't a character. If you put Black people in front of a camera, we're Black, you know. That's obvious. But that doesn't give you the layers. And what I think we're experiencing now is being able to watch us share our layers. And that's invaluable."
Troy the boy! Zelda Harris, 36, is best known as Troy in Spike Lee's 1994 film, Crooklyn. The young actress' career also includes a memorable role in another Spike Lee movie, He Got Game. Harris took a self-imposed hiatus from showbiz and eventually went to Princeton University, graduating in 2007. She later revealed that she left the movie business because there were not many positive roles available for African-American women.
Today, Harris is known for being interactive with her fans on her social media, as she has transitioned from actress to singer. Additionally, in one of her posts, she got candid about her health struggles, revealing that she was frequently in pain following her battle with fibroids.
"This year has been incredible. But through it all, I was fighting pain and discomfort within my own body. After months of trying to use alternative medicine practices to heal, I made the decision to turn to traditional western medicine to get help with my fibroids. That was a HARD decision - and it left me feeling like less of a woman. I had to go through a lot of pain at that stage."
"I learned some things this year. Believe your body when she tells you something's off. Believe others when they mention they feel off. Seek guidance and information from all helpful realms. Try not to carry shame about your body's ailments. Work not to carry shame for your body's ailments. And breathe. Breathe through the pain. Breathe through the fear."
OK, I'm going to go on record and say that Maxine Shaw is probably one of the greatest sitcoms characters in television history. But listen, Erika needs her flowers too because she is a whole legend out here. Erika Alexander, 51, became well known back in the day as the star of the hit show Living Single. She played the hell out of this role and won several awards for it, including two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. Besides starring in that series, in the 1980s, she was cast as Pam Tucker on The Cosby Show.
Needless to say, sis knows a few things about starring in classic television.
Currently, the star creates shows, directs films, and produces television content, and even has a few roles in major films such as most recently, Get Out and Starz's Run the World. She's also living her best single life, as she divorced in 2017 from her husband of 20 years, screenwriter, Tony Puryear.
We expect the see great things from her in the future, whether working with Charlemagne tha God on projects, or making headlines for getting a few "friends" ponytails together.
Many of us recall Reagan Gomez as teenage Zaria on Robert Townsend's '90s sitcom, The Parent 'Hood. But Gomez is a teenager no more, as she has evolved into a beautiful wife and mother and kids who has completely revamped her career. In fact, these days she's actually more at home behind the camera. She did so because, like Zelda, she was noticing a ridiculous trend in available roles for Black women. She told ESSENCE:
"Writing is really important to me. I've been an actress for so long, so I'm used to reading those scripts. I'm used to having to audition for the Black girl who, you know, is dying in five minutes, or the sassy friend. I started writing to create content for roles that I could not audition for, and stories that I could not audition for. So this part of the process, the other side of the camera, is really just a godsend to me. And I think with everything that's happening in our country and in the world, we need stories like this to uplift our people, and especially Black women and marginalized women."
Recently, Reagan publicly paid tribute to her co-star and show mother, Suzzanne Douglas, who passed away at the top of the month. "This is a #SuzzanneDouglas stan account," she wrote on Twitter. Now, Gomez writes and directs Surviving and is creator of the Reaganomics Podcast.
Queen Essence Atkins, in addition to her role in Smart Guy, is known for starring in shows such as Marlon, and Half & Half. She is royalty to the culture as she so graciously is front row in any attempt to speak life into other Black women, which she so infamously did at Sherri Shepard's birthday brunch this year. Over time, we have seen Essence in a variety of shows and movies, most notably Deliver Us From Eva and Are We There Yet?
And now, she has been tapped to start in Viola Davis-produced show, Black Don't Crack, where she reunites with Smart Guy star, Tahj Mowry. Of the show, she wrote on Instagram:
"First day of shooting #blackdontcrack and my very first REEL! I'm having the best time this good Good Friday with @sherrieshepherd & @tishacampbellmartin. Thank you @abcnetwork for this amazing opportunity and @reginayhicks for your vision. So excited @juveeproductions @violadavis #juliustennon @larrywilmore @andrewtwang"
Today, Essence is a mom to her son that she gave birth to in 2011, with ex-husband, Jaime Mendez, whom she famously met on Match.com. So excited for her next chapter!
Karen Malina White
Karen Malina White, 56, is the fast-talking mouth piece, best known for her roles as Kaneesha Carter, in the film Lean on Me, Charmaine Brown on The Cosby Show (1990–1992), Nicolette Vandross on Malcolm & Eddie (1996–2000), and the voice of Dijonay Jones on the Disney Channel's animated comedy The Proud Family.
Her voice and quick wit has gotten her far, affording her numerous opportunities which she can credit her career too. She was dating co-star Malcolm Jamaal Warner for seven years, before ending things in 2007. She currently is not married and has no children. Instead, she has opted to live her best life on her terms.
She has a few projects in the pipeline, as she is gearing up for the reboot of the The Proud Family, as well as a secret project that she hinted at on Instagram in a photo where she's rocking a short pixie cut. The photo was captioned:
"Natural Woman I said yes you can cut my hair for this role."
We can't wait to support!
The whole Wayans family (well, not all of them, but most), got in on the action of In Living Color back in the 90's, one of the sisters of the large family included. Kim Wayans, 58, was a skilled in impressions as well as original characters. She is best known for her four-year stint on the show, and Tonia Harris on In the House (1995–98). Wayans also was in many of the Wayans' productions, and a story editor on her brother Damon Wayans' sitcom My Wife and Kids.
Most recently, while promoting Lena Waithe's Boomerang, when asked what she would tell her younger self, she opened up about her career's journey:
"In my 20s, I was 16. So I was a late bloomer. I was still very much a child when I was in my 20s. I was very much a teenager in so many different ways. Trying to figure out my place in the industry was hard because things are changing now and doors are opening up now. But when I was coming up and looking for opportunities, they would put you in a box, and there are certain things that are asked of you to do as a Black actress, and it really wasn't all that thrilling, all that exciting. Trust your own voice."
Last year, she gave us alllll the nostalgia when she reprised her role as her popular character, Benita Butrell prior to the election. Love to see it!
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