The 15 Most Beautiful Dark Skinned Black Celebrities of All Time

Vanessa A. Williams
Vanessa A. Williams
Erika Alexander
Erika Alexander
Ericka Dunlap
Ericka Dunlap
Nina Simone
Nina Simone
Phyllis Yvonne Stickney
Phyllis Yvonne Stickney
Naomi Sims
Naomi Sims
Brenda Sykes
Brenda Sykes
Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson
Beah Richards
Beah Richards
Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill
Gabrielle Union
Gabrielle Union
Judy Pace
Judy Pace
Grace Jones
Grace Jones
Waris Dirie
Waris Dirie
Alek Wek
Alek Wek

Pure Majestic Blackness

There is an old adage that the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice. However such was always not the case for dark skinned Black women in Hollywood nor in general American society for that matter. The dark skinned Black woman was oftentimes demonized and viewed as the most inferior of them all. She was given into caricatures of her race and womanhood.

She was viewed as the ultimate threat to European-American society. She was considered to be too ethnic and racial for European American tastes. She was and still is unassimilable unlike her light skinned counterpart. She is the diametrically opposite of the blonde haired, blue eyed, and fair skinned American prototype of womanhood. While the fairer woman represents the true essence of femininity, she represents a more darker version of femininity. Oftentimes, this darkness is viewed in a negative light.

The dark skinned Black woman more or less represented the antithesis of the fairer feminine ideal. She was viewed as unfeminine. In the media, she was often exaggeratedly sensualized in an intense negative way. Besides this gross exaggeration of her femininity, she was portrayed as highly dominant and menacing. Many times, the dark skinned Black woman was seen as a sexless female.

In this Eurocentric century, the dark skinned Black woman was not considered to be attractive and beautiful. The concept of beauty was often reserved for the lighter complected. Even though some inroads were made in the late 1960s regarding the more positive status of the dark skinned Black woman in this society in the entertainment media , she is still considered more negatively as a woman than the lighter complected woman.

As of the present time, dark skinned Black women have a difficult time succeeding in the entertainment business. Actor Denzel Washington advised his daughter, Olivia, that as a dark skinned Black woman, she had to be a quadruple threat just to get into the door and survive in the business. Being dark is still viewed as a liability in this business. Lighter skinned Black actresses are more likely to be hired than darker skinned Black actresses. If they are hired, it often is in stereotypical and other negative roles. The situation is only a little better for dark skinned Black models. However despite the arduous situation, there are some dark skinned Black celebrities who rise to the occasion and shine. Here is my pick of the 15 most beautiful dark skinned celebrities of all time in descending order.


(15) Vanessa A. Williams (May 12, 1963- )- This Brooklyn born beauty is an actress and producer. She became a member of the New York City Opera's Children Chorus at 11 years of age. As a child, she worked in television commercials. She also worked in theatre in plays including Sarafina. She also appeared on The Cosby Show (1984). Her breakthrough movie was Candyman(1992).

She was in the television series Melrose Place (1992) and Murder One(1995) for which she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. She also starred in movies including Mother(1996) with Albert Brooks, Debbie Reynolds, and Lisa Kudrow. Her work in television movies included Incognito(1999) and Playing With Fire(2000). Her breakout television series was Soul Food(2000) for which she received an NAACP Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series. She also produced works such as Dense(2004), a short television movie.


(14) Erika Alexander(November 19, 1969- )-This beauty began her career by appearing in The Cosby Show from the period of 1990 to 1992. She went on to appear in the Long Walk Home(1990) with Whoopi Goldberg, In 1992, she was in the movie, Going to Extremes.

Her breakthrough role was in the television series, Living Single(1993-1998). She was in the movie Deja Vu(2006) with Denzel Washington. In 1998, she starred in the television series Mama Flora's Family. She was in many subsequent television series such as Judging Amy(2001), Street Time(2002), and Suits(2012). She is currently working on a movie, The Magic City, to be released in 2014.


(13) Ericka Dunlap(December 29,1981- )- This Floridan beauty was the1st Black woman to be crowned Miss Florida(2003). She subsequently was crowned Miss America(2004), being the 7th Black woman to be such. She is currently a Public Relations Specialist and has formed Jewel Consulting. She is continuously broadening her entrepreneurial interests.


(12) Nina Simone(February 21, 1933-April 21, 2003)-This North Carolinian artiste is an arranging and recording artist. She was known as the High Priestess of Soul. Besides her prodigious musical talent, she was a Civil Rights Activist. She studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.

She performed as a nightclub singer to pay for her private lessons. Her first recording was Little Girl Blue(1958). She went on record Forbidden Fruit(1960), Nina at the Village Gate(1962), and Sincerely Nina and Pastel Blues(1965).

Her subsequent works included Silk & Soul(1967), Nina's Black(1985), and A Single Woman(1993). She earned two honorary degrees in music and the humanities from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College. She received an honorary degree from Curtis Institute who denied her admission in her youth because of her race. She died in her sleep after a long bout with cancer in 2003. She was honored posthumously by being indicated into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.


(11) Phyllis Yvonne Stickney( d.o.b. unknown)- This Arkansas dynamo is an actress, author, businessperson, comedienne, and producer. She was performed with the Last Poets, an avant garde recording group of the early 1970s. She starred in various television series and movies.

Her work included the television miniseries, The Women of Brewster Place(1989), the movies Jungle Fever(1991), Malcolm X(1992), What's Love Got To Do With It(1993) with Angela Bassett, The Inkwell(1994), and How Stella Got Her Groove Back(1998) with Angela Bassett and Whoopi Goldberg. She also performed in Great Performances in the 1991 televised play The Colored Museum. She is busy doing work in varied media outlets such as comedy.


(10) Naomi Sims(March 30, 1948-August 1, 2009)-This Mississippi-born beauty was a model, businessperson, and author. She was also the 1st Black supermodel. She won a scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She also took nightly psychology classes at New York University, also located in New York City.

Her attempts to obtain modelling jobs was thwarted by racism. Her breakthrough came as a photographer's model. Her 1st work was in a 1967 New York Times' fashion supplement magazine. She then went to Wilhelmina Cooper in search for more modelling work and shortly she was earning $1,000.00 weekly. She was a highly successful Black model while in her teens.

In the late 1960s throughout the early 1970s, she graced the covers of many fashion and popular magazines. She was the 1st Black model on the cover of Ladies Home Journal magazine in November 1968. The next year, she was on the cover of Life Magazine. In 1972, she turned a role in the movie Cleopatra Jones because she felt that the movie negatively portrayed Blacks.

She subsequently retired from modelling in 1973 and went into business. Besides her business, she wrote 5 books which include All About Beauty for the Black Woman. She ultimately died of breast cancer in 2009.


(9) Brenda Sykes(June 25, 1949- )-This Louisiana beauty was an actress who worked in movies and television during the 1970s. She was discovered on The Dating Game. Her movies included The Liberation of L.B. Jones(1970), Black Gunn (1972), and Cleopatra Jones (1973). She worked in numerous 1970s television series such as The Streets of San Francisco, Good Times, Police Woman, and Executive Suite. She has retired from acting and leading a nondescript life in Southern California.


(8) Cicely Tyson(December 19, 1933- )-This renowned New York beauty is a prodigious stage, film, and television actress. Before her foray into acting, she was a fashion model for Ebony magazine. She acted in television series such as East Side/West Side, the acclaimed 1960s series. She also was in the soap opera, The Guiding Light. She was in the play The Blacks by Jean Genet.

Her early movies included A Man Called Adam(1966), The Comedians(1967), The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter(1968), Sounder(1972) for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, and The River Niger(1976). Intermittently, she starred in the acclaimed 1974 television movie, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. For her inspirational and otherworldly performance, she received 2 Emmy Awards.

Her subsequent work included Fried Green Tomatoes(1991) and Hoodlum with Lawrence Fishbourne, Vanessa L. Williams, and Queen Latifah. She went to star in the movies Diary of a Mad Black Woman(2005) for which she received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, and Madea's Family Reunion(2006). Her latest work is The Help(2011) with Viola Davis and The Haunting in Georgia which will be released in 2013.



(7)Beah Richards(July 12, 1920-September 14, 2000)- This Mississippi born grande dame was a renowned actress of stage, film, and television. In addition to that, she was a poet, playwright, and author. In 1955, she was in the off-Broadway show, Take A Giant Step. Her other Broadway shows included Purlie Victorious, The Miracle Worker, and A Raisin in the Sun. A decade later, she was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the play, The Amen Corner.

She appeared in movies such as Guess Who's Coming to Dinner(1967) for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Her other movies included In The Heat of the Night and Hurry Sundown(1970 ), The Great White Hope(1970 ) with James Earl Jones, and Beloved(1998) with Oprah Winfrey, Thandie Newton, and Danny Glover. She also appeared in television series including Sanford and Son(1972-1977), Frank's Place(1988), and The Practice(2000). She received 2 Emmy Awards for her work in the latter two television series. She subsequently died from emphysema in 2000.




(6) Lauryn Hill(May 26, 1975- )-This New Jersey born beauty is a singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress. She worked with the rap group, the Fugees, before branching out on her own. She worked in the soap opera As The World Turns. She also had a part in the movie Sister Act 2, Back in the Habit (1993, Restaurant (1998), and Man in Wood which is to be released this year. Her recordings included The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill(1998), Everything is Everything(1999), and Khulami Phase (2010).


(5) Gabrielle Union(October 29, 1972- )-This Nebraskan beauty is an actress and former model. She was a high school athlete, participating in various sports such as basketball and running. While attending college, she interned at the Judith Fontaine Modelling & Talent Agency to earn extra college credits. Because of her beauty, she was asked to model which was quite expeditious in paying off her college loans.

She had bit parts in movies such as 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) and Love& Basketball(2000). Her other movies included Bring It On (2001), Deliver Us From Eva and Bad Boys II (2003), Breaking All The Rules(2004), and the Honeymooners(2005). Her latest movie is Think Like A Man(2012). Her television work during the period from the 1990s-2000s included guest starring in Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Grown Ups, Friends, and Ugly Betty. She was nominated and received various awards including the MTV, Black Reel, and the NAACP Image Awards.


(4) Judy Pace( June 15, 1942- )-This Californian beauty is a stage and movie actress. Her television work included 1960s and 1970s programs such as One Life to Live, Batman, Bewitched, I Spy, The Mod Squad, Peyton Place, The Young Lawyers, and Sanford and Son. Her movie work included The Thomas Crown Affair and Three in the Attic(1968), and Cotton Comes to Harlem and Up In The Cellar(1970). Her latest work was a television movie, Sucker Free City (2004).


(3) Grace Jones(May 19, 1948- )-This fierce Jamaican-born beauty is an actress, singer, and model. Before her foray into singing and acting, she was a high fashion model. She became a singer in the late 1970s, her first recording was Portfolio in 1977. Her subsequent recordings included Fame(1978), Muse(1979), Warm Leatherette(1980), Slave to the Rhythm(1985), and Inside Story(1986). Her latest recording is Hurricane (2008).

She starred in such movies such as Gordon's War(1973), Conan the Destroyer(1984), View to a Kill(1985), Vamp (1986), Boomerang(1992), and Chelsea on the Rocks(2008). Her television work included Styx(1978) and Shaka Zulu: The Citadel(2001). She was either nominated and/or received numerous awards such as the MTV, Grammy, Saturn, and Q awards for her varied body of work.


(2) Waris Dirie(born 1965)-This Somalian-born beauty is a model, author, actress and humanitarian. She was discovered in London, England by Terrance Donovan, a photographer. She initially did calendar modelling but later progressed to doing ad modelling for companies such as Chanel, Levis, L'Oreal, and Revlon.

In 1987, she appeared in the movie, The Living Daylights while doing runway work in London, Milan, Paris, and New York City. Her work appeared in magazines such as Elite and Vogue. She became an advocate for women's rights. In 1998, she released the book, Desert Flower. This led to subsequent books. She was nominated Peace Ambassador for the year of Peace and Security by the African Union in 2010. For her humanitarian work, she received numerous awards.


(1) Alec Wek(April 16, 1977- )-This Sudanese beauty is a renowned supermodel and outspoken advocate for refugee rights. In 1995, she was discovered in a London outdoor market by a Models 1 scout. She gained attention by appeared in a video for Golden Eye by Tina Turner. She started a modelling career and went on to become one of the top fashion models.

In 1996, she signed with Ford Models. She was selected as Model of the Year in 1997 by MTV. She was the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle in 1997. Besides modelling, she is a handbag designer. Her bags are called "Wek 1933", her inspiration was her father's brief case. She is intensely active in humanitarian causes, including issues which affect refugees. Now you have my synopsis as to who are the most beautiful, dark skinned celebrities of all times. They combine beauty, grace, intelligence, and talent. The darker the berry, the more beautiful indeed.

© 2013 Grace Marguerite Williams

More by this Author


Comments 34 comments

alwaysamber 3 years ago

Great hub and beautiful ladies!


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Thank you so much for your response. It is greatly appreciated.


Dee42 3 years ago

Great hub! I just adore Cicely Tyson.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

To Dee42, thank you so much for your response.


vibesites profile image

vibesites 3 years ago from United States

Beautiful ladies indeed! Grace Jones is an exceptional beauty both in face and build. Voted up and interesting, beautiful, awesome. :)


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 3 years ago from Northern California, USA

These are all truly gorgeous women. I remember Brenda Sykes being the first black woman that I truly admired. Then, Erika Alexander. They were my idols growing up. Gabrielle Union caught my attention when her family moved to a neighboring city. She was so "up and coming". Of course, we all followed her career. This is a nice tribute to beautiful dark skinned women.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Thank you so much MarleneB. Your response is very appreciated.


paxwill profile image

paxwill 3 years ago from France

Very beautiful tribute to a class of actresses who are often passed over in Hollywood.

Kerry Washington has a very beautiful face, do you consider her dark-skinned? It is hard to tell with most celebrities since everyone gets whitewashed with camera filters, even white actresses look more porcelain-skinned than they are in real life. Personally, I think Cicely Tyson has had too much plastic surgery on her face, I prefer a naturally aged beauty. But she's kept her body in great shape!


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Paxwill, it is a shame in this postmodern era, darker skinned Black actresses, although highly talented, are oftentimes passed over for acting roles. Also, if they are considered for acting roles, it is oftentimes stereotypical and in the urban film genre. By the way, thank you for your eloquent response to this hub.


EGBourne profile image

EGBourne 3 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Nice post


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Thank you so much for your comments and for stopping by.


ladydeonne profile image

ladydeonne 3 years ago from Florence, SC

I truly enjoyed and learned much from this hub. Beauty comes in all colors. I wonder if the day will ever come when we all come to know that we are all connected. We all are ONE. We all are made in the image of God...the Universe...Buddha...Allah....the Higher Power.....et al.

The women you presented to us were all beautiful! Thanks for a wonderful post.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

You are extremely welcome.


Rad Man 3 years ago

Thanks for the read, and once again I agree with everything you said/wrote. It's hard to believe we are still having these issues.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Rad Man, thank you for stopping by and responding.


ssmith17 profile image

ssmith17 3 years ago from Barboursville, WV

I also think Aisha Tyler is gorgeous! Good pick with Gabrielle Union!!


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Thank you for your response. Aisha Tyler is indeed gorgeous.


seanorjohn profile image

seanorjohn 3 years ago

You have highlighted some real beauties. I particularly love the picture of Alek Wek. Could you add a picture of Tina Turner. She is such a beautiful personality as well as being drop dead gorgeous. Voted up and beautiful.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

I have a picture of Ms. Turner in my hub relating to celebrated beauties who are 70 years of age and older. Please check that hub out. Thank you for stopping by and responding.


platinumOwl4 profile image

platinumOwl4 3 years ago

My heart is for Lauryn Hill. From the time she recorded mis-education of Lauryn Hill she has been my favorite. This does not take away from the other beauties.


jimmyglaughlin profile image

jimmyglaughlin 3 years ago from Colorado

Great list! Keep adding to it, this list could go on forever!


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Thank you for your response, it is greatly appreciated.


IslandBites profile image

IslandBites 3 years ago from Puerto Rico

Nice hub.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Thank you so much for stopping by and for your response.


Abluesfornina profile image

Abluesfornina 2 years ago

Cicely Tyson actually becomes more beautiful the older she gets along with Patti Labelle who is stunning in her 70's. Erica Alexander and Gabrielle are also two of my favorites though they are all beautiful. Nice hub. Thank you.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

You are very welcome.


applejacket 10 months ago

If you are truly naming the top 15 black actresses of all time then you failed to name Eartha Kitt, Dorothy Dandridge and Hallie Berry. They would definitely be on my list.


limpet profile image

limpet 8 months ago from London England

Got to agree about EARTHA KITT.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 8 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Thank you for stopping by, it is greatly appreciated.


Carolina 6 months ago

This is awesome and they are gorgeous. I like the article. This is my new discovery. The new fake ultrasound design from fakeababy. It is a lot of fun working on this funny new stuff.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 6 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Thank you Carolina. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this article. Dark skinned women are so overlooked in Hollywood. I just want to state that our dark sisters are indeed beautiful.


Carolina 5 months ago

They are all gorgeous! It is not so surprising. Please let me share this new fake ultrasound design from fakeababy. It is an amazing product that helps us laugh so hard all day.


limpet profile image

limpet 2 months ago from London England

I like seeing Grace Jones beating up men at karate.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 2 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

Grace Jones is indeed awesome. Thank you for stopping by.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working