Nia Long: A Versatile and Award-Winning Actress
Nia Long is an American actress who has starred in various films and television shows, such as Boyz n the Hood, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Best Man, and House of Lies. She is best known for her work in Black cinema and has won several accolades, including two NAACP Image Awards and a Black Reel Award.
Long was born in Brooklyn, New York City, on October 30, 1970, to Talita Long, a teacher and printmaker, and Doughtry Long, a high school teacher and poet. Her mother is of Trinidadian descent and she has an older half-sister, the actress and comedian Sommore. Long moved to Los Angeles with her mother when she was seven years old and attended St. Mary’s Academy in Inglewood. She studied ballet, tap, jazz, gymnastics, guitar, and acting. She graduated from Westchester High School in Los Angeles in 1989.
Long’s acting coach was Betty Bridges, the mother of Diff’rent Strokes star Todd Bridges. Her first notable role on television was as Kathryn “Kat” Speakes on the soap opera Guiding Light from 1991 to 1994. She also played Brandi in Boyz n the Hood, a film that portrayed the social problems in inner-city Los Angeles. The film helped Long build her confidence as an actress and introduced her to the world in a way that it was okay for her to be who she is and still find success.
From 1994 to 1995, she played Will Smith’s girlfriend and fiancÃ©e Beulah “Lisa” Wilkes on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She then appeared in Friday, alongside Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, as well as Love Jones and Soul Food. Long is also known for her roles in The Best Man and its sequel The Best Man Holiday, as well as Big Momma’s House and its sequel Big Momma’s House 2. On television, she portrayed Sasha Monroe on the crime drama series Third Watch from 2003 to 2005, and has starred on the Fox drama series Empire and the CBS action series NCIS: Los Angeles.
Long made her directorial debut on Ashanti’s music video “Baby” and Yolanda Adam’s “This Too Shall Pass”. She is developing a feature film that centers on renowned world champion boxer and trainer Ann Wolfe. In addition to her film and TV work, Long’s passion lies in serving her community. She mentors young girls to regain their self-esteem and supports Black Girls Rock, an organization that promotes the arts for young women of color. In 2012, she was named an official surrogate to the Barack Obama reelection campaign.
Long now calls Los Angeles home where she lives with her two sons, Massai and Kez, and her former partner Ime Udoka, an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs.
Some of Long’s upcoming projects include You People, a comedy film about a black conservative who gets adopted by a liberal white family, and The Banker, a drama film about two African American entrepreneurs who hire a white man to pose as the head of their business empire in the 1960s.
Long has been praised for her versatility and longevity in the entertainment industry. She has been described as a “stunning pop culture icon” and a “Hollywood leading lady”. She has also been recognized for her beauty and style, appearing on several magazine covers and lists of the most attractive celebrities.
Long credits her mother for instilling in her a strong sense of self and a love for the arts. She also attributes her success to her faith and her work ethic. She once said, “I think that you make the best with what you’ve got, you know? Sometimes you have very little. And you just always try to rise to higher ground, because you’re going to suffer one way or the other, so you just hope that you have strength and perseverance and good friends and faith, some kind of faith, to endure and move on to greener pastures.”