Home Editor's Picks Black Women in Hollywood You Should Know

Black Women in Hollywood You Should Know

by Lynise Olivacce & Sekhena Sembenu

Black women have been the blueprint in the entertainment industry for years and their legacy carries on today through notable Black women of this generation. From iconic filmmakers to legendary singers, here are only, a few, of the many Black women who are trailblazers and continue to make strides globally making us proud.

Tracee Ellis Ross

Photo Courtesy of Tracee Ellis Ross / Instagram

Photo Courtesy of Tracee Ellis Ross / Instagram

In a league of her own, Tracee Ellis Ross is a shining light in Hollywood. Although known as the daughter of the iconic singer and actress Diana Ross, she has made her own mark on the industry with iconic roles such as Joan Carol Clayton on the 2000 sitcom “Girlfriends” and everyone’s favorite mom Bow Johnson on “Black-ish.”

Off-screen, Tracee has ventured to strut the runways, designing clothes and developing a curly, coily and textured hair care line known as Pattern Beauty. If not already evident, there is nothing she can not do. She will forever be our favorite rich auntie!

Ava DuVernay

Photo Courtesy of Ava Duvernay / Instagram

Photo Courtesy of Ava Duvernay / Instagram

Ava DuVernay is an Academy Award nominee and is best known for her films, “When They See Us,” “13th,” “A Wrinkle In Time,” “Selma,” and most recently “Origin.” The multi-award-winning director picked up a camera only at the age of 32 and has furthered and exposed the truth through her craft worldwide.

DuVernay has broken barriers in Hollywood, her work has educated others on the harsh realities that Black and brown communities face both in the past and present. Realities such as mass incarceration rates being disproportionately made up of predominately Black and brown men, the macroaggressions that Black people face, and historically the experience of how Black people faced the times of segregation and fought to overcome it.

If you haven’t watched her films, we certainly recommend doing so.

Issa Rae

Photo Courtesy of Issa Rae / Instagram

Photo Courtesy of Issa Rae / Instagram

Now, I understand sometimes it can be hard for us to watch pieces about the unfortunate reality and issues that we have to face as Black people. But Issa Rae, co-creator of the HBO original series “Insecure” and founder of Hoorae Media Color Creative Raedio, shows her viewers how Black people do not have to be confined to the perspective of how society conventionally sees us. She illustrates through her hit series that, although important, shows do not always have to be surrounded by Black struggle. Even before the take-off of her show “Insecure,” she had a short series called “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl and Friends” on YouTube.

However, she is mostly known for “Insecure,” which chronicles a young Black woman, Issa Dee, played by Rae, and her best friend Molly, played by Yvonne Orji, and their experiences as two young Black successful professionals living in the Bay Area of California, navigating life through relationships, success and family, with their other good friends Tiffany DuBois, played by Amanda Seales, and Kelli, played by Natasha Rothwell. Rae’s talent for comedy shines through the NAACP Award-winning and Emmy-winning series from the adventures that Black women and men can resonate with. “Insecure” is now streaming on Netflix, Max, Hulu, Apple TV and more for everyone to watch.

Danielle Brooks

Photo Courtesy of Danielle Brooks / Instagram

Photo Courtesy of Danielle Brooks / Instagram

Danielle Brooks is an Academy Award-nominated actress and Grammy Award-winning singer best known for her powerful portrayal of Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson in the comedy-drama series “Orange is the New Black.” Brooks’ portrayal brought a different perspective to maneuvering the challenges that life behind bars brings, which earned her well deserved recognition.

In 2023, Brooks took on the role of Sofia in “The Color Purple,” a role she had originated on Broadway, delivering a stellar performance and soulful vocals that landed her a 2024 Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Brooks is one of a kind and is not shy in utilizing her platform to advocate for diversity, inclusion and body positivity in such a rigid industry that tends to pigeonhole Black women. Through her craft, she continues to lead by example for future generations.

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter

Photo Courtesy of Beyoncé / Instagram

Photo Courtesy of Beyonce / Instagram

A BAWSE. “THAT GIRL.” A lot of people love her. A lot of people hate her, but I am not sure why – I think because she is a highly successful Black woman who has a major influence. A billionaire at that. But what’s better than one billionaire? Two! She is also married to the rapper Shawn “Jay Z” Carter. The Carters created a joint album entitled “EVERYTHING IS LOVE” back in 2018, which embodies Black excellence and Black love. Beyoncé is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, business owner, director, dancer – if I were to go on about the many things the most awarded Grammy winner does, there would be endless a credit log in the middle of this listicle.

Nonetheless, not only is she an entertainer, but she is also the founder of a haircare line, Cecred, which was just recently released on Feb. 20 for everyone to experience, no matter their hair texture. From “Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé,” her homage to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the recent creation of her album “RENAISSANCE” encompassing disco and the highly anticipated country album “Cowboy Carter,” she is advantageously highlighting Black culture and reclaiming what was originally founded among the Black community.

Halle Bailey

Photo Courtesy of Halle Bailey / Instagram

Photo Courtesy of Halle Bailey / Instagram

Halle Bailey is a Grammy-nominated singer, writer and actress who is making her mark in the entertainment industry, inspiring young women all over the world. She is predominantly known for being one half of the musical duo Chloe x Halle with her sister Chloe Bailey.

The duo rose to fame after their infamous Beyoncé cover of “Pretty Hurts.” Soon after, Beyoncé waisted no time signing them to her label, Parkwood Entertainment. Together, they have released an EP and two albums that landed them Grammy nominations. Halle has also taken her singing talents solo and released her debut single, “Angel,” in 2023 which at no surprise earned her a Grammy nomination.

And if being behind the mic was not enough, it is safe to say we are still recovering from her incredible portrayal of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.” Halle made history as the first Black woman to star as a princess in a Disney major live-action film. And it was about damn time! For little girls worldwide to see a princess that looked like them and know that they too can be a princess was groundbreaking and a healing moment for the inner child in us adults now.

With her exquisite vocals, stellar acting and magnetic stage presence, there is no doubt Halle will continue to shake up standards in Hollywood.

This Women’s “Her” story Month and after, take some time to learn from these brilliant women and sit back in awe of their talent.

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