You’ve seen them in action and are left wanting more – there’s no denying the impact Black actresses from the 90s had on the iconic era in film and television. But with the endless entertainers from the 90s bringing love and light into our homes, it’s hard to name a handful of people who contributed significantly to the vibrant 90s.
We’ve aimed to do just that, collecting a list of the top 10 iconic Black actresses that 90s-era film and television brought us. From icons like Angela Bassett to legends like Halle Berry, here are some notable entries for the Black actress 90s trailblazers.
1. Angela Bassett
Out of the many Black actresses that the 90s brought us, one of the most iconic is Angela Bassett. As a powerhouse Black actress 90s media brought us, Bassett boasts memorable roles in movies like Boyz n the Hood (1991), Malcolm X (1992), What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993), and How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998), among many others.
Bassett is known for her portrayals of strong, resilient, and endearing Black women, such as her iconic role as Betty Shabazz in Malcolm X and her uncanny Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It. Her commitment to showing authentic and unfiltered Black women and their rich, engaging lives has more than earned her a spot on our list! With a couple of Oscar nominations and plenty of awards under her belt, Bassett is undoubtedly a beloved addition to Hollywood.
2. Jada Pinkett Smith
A household name for a reason, Jada Pinkett Smith rose to stardom in several iconic roles throughout the 90s and 2000s. One of her most memorable roles in the 90s is her portrayal of Lena James in the sitcom A Different World (1991-1993) – however, Pinkett Smith has no shortage of memorable roles in the 90s, ranging from appearances in The Nutty Professor (1996), Set it Off (1996), and Scream 2 (1997).
With numerous wins, such as the NAACP Image Awards, a Daytime Emmy award for her talk show Red Table Talk, and an Essence Black Women in Hollywood award, there’s no denying Jada Pinkett Smith’s massive impact on the industry!
3. Jenifer Lewis
Another trailblazer as a Black actress 90s performer is Jenifer Lewis, known for an expansive career with over 300 appearances in film and television under her belt. While you might recognize her from more recent appearances like her role in Black-ish (2014-2022), Lewis got her start in the 90s with hit roles like Sister Act (1992) and guest appearances in popular shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1991-1996) and Moesha (1999).
After a fulfilling career on Broadway, Lewis migrated to film and television, where she made her mark on viewers in the 90s through her portrayals of complex and compelling Black women. Her successful career since the 90s only shows Lewis’s enduring impact on film and television.
4. Regina King
Regina King is well-known for her many roles where she represents powerful Black women in various walks of life. While she landed her first iconic role in the 80s with the series 227 (1985-1990), King rose to prominence during the 90s with many iconic roles, such as her parts in Boyz n the Hood, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996), and Jerry Maguire (1996), among many other parts.
A powerhouse performer, King has received one Oscar win in her career and has been nominated and recognized by several other award institutions, such as the Critics Choice Awards, Primetime Emmy Awards, and NAACP Image Awards. Her contributions to Black film and television in the 90s cannot be overlooked for their major impact.
5. Queen Latifah
Another household name on our list is Queen Latifah, whose impact in film and television spans far beyond the 90s and is still felt today. This singer-songwriter and actress has endless talents contributing to her thriving career as a Black actress 90s performer.
Among her iconic 90s roles include guest appearances in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and prominent roles in Jungle Fever (1991), Set it Off, and Living Single (1993-1998). Her singing career, while flourishing, hasn’t distracted her from her natural acting ability and career – and we’re grateful for that!
6. Whoopi Goldberg
Starting the 90s off on the right foot with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for her performance in Ghost (1990), Whoopi Goldberg has made some of the most significant contributions to Black-led cinema and television since the 90s. Many claim that Goldberg was one of the highest-paid actresses in the 90s for her iconic roles like The Long Walk Home (1990), Made in America (1993), and Corrina, Corrina (1994).
She landed an NAACP Image Award nomination for her incredible work in Ghosts of Mississippi (1996) and has received many other acknowledgments of her thriving career, including a BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, and People’s Choice Award.
7. Nia Long
We can’t overlook Nia Long’s contributions to the industry when discussing the most notable Black actresses from the 90s who defined this era. As a three-time NAACP Award winner, there’s no overstating how iconic Long’s career has been to Black film and television.
Known for roles like Boyz n the Hood, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Friday (1995), Soul Food (1997), and Love Jones (1997), Long has made an incredible impact on the industry by portraying some of the most interesting and complicated Black female characters that the 90s produced. Her contributions make her one of the most important names of this era – and one to keep watching out for as her acting career continues flourishing.
8. Vivica A. Fox
With an exciting career in both acting and producing, Vivica A. Fox contributed to some of the most iconic Black films that the 90s offered. Getting plenty of attention for her stellar performance in the film Independence Day (1996), Fox is also known for film and television roles like Out All Night (1992-1993), Set it Off, Soul Food, and Getting Personal (1998).
Her star power only grew in the 2000s and 2010s, when she starred in several films and series and continued making a name for herself as a trailblazer for Black women in film and television. Fox’s enduring impact continues shining today – and we can’t wait to see what else she can bring to the table!
9. Vanessa Williams
Known for being the first Black Miss America winner in 1984, Vanessa Williams has surpassed that title to embark on a thrilling acting career. Her career gained significant traction in the 90s when she starred in numerous roles, like a guest appearance in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and leading roles in Hoodlum (1997) and Soul Food. Williams is undeniably one of the biggest names in the industry for Black actresses, and her success stories only show the impact she’s had in Hollywood since her career first began.
10. Halle Berry
No list of each iconic Black actress 90s film and television brought us is complete without mentioning Halle Berry and her many contributions to the industry. While her career spans far beyond the 90s, some of her most iconic roles and the parts that thrust her into the spotlight occurred during this period.
Parts like Strictly Business (1991), The Flintstones (1994), and Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1998) cemented Berry as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, and her subsequent roles continued proving Berry’s merit as one of the most memorable performers of her era.
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