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Catching Up with Nia Long

Updated on September 29, 2018
Rachelle Williams profile image

This article is a part of my Melanin Arts series, which is dedicated to the achievements and contributions of artistic people of color.

From Boyz n the Hood (1991) and Friday (1995) to The Best Man (1999) and Big Momma's House (2000), we feel like we "know" Nia Long. She is a black actress who started out on a daytime soap opera, but ended up a Hollywood star, similar to the paths of Meg Ryan, Demi Moore, Julianne Moore and John Stamos.

Long is often grouped with a couple of other black actresses that Hollywood used to shuffle around back in the day, that includes Regina King, Gabrielle Union and Sanaa Lathan.

Instead of finding new black actors for the roles that needed to be cast, it seems they kept dipping into the same pool. It's all good though, because this is how we came to know and love each one of them, and in this article, we'll look back and catch up with the beautiful Nia Long.

Nia Long as Kat Speaks on The Guiding Light
Nia Long as Kat Speaks on The Guiding Light

We first met Nia Long back in 1991, when her young adult character, Kat Speaks stormed into the Guiding Light fictional town of Springfield, immediately hated and then subsequently blackmailed her father's fiance.

We gained more exposure to her as Brandi in Boyz n the Hood (1991), Whoopi Goldberg's daughter, Zora in Made in America (1993) and Ice Cube's clean cut love interest, Debbi in Friday (1995).

By the time she showed up as Lisa, Will Smith's love interest on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air we were well familiar with seeing her beautiful face. After her memorable stint with Will Smith, she guest starred in a few minor television roles during the late 1990s, from ER to Moesha.

1997 was a good year for Nia Long, because her breakthrough performances in Love Jones, opposite Larenz Tate and Soul Food, opposite Mekhi Phifer, established her as serious actress and a genuine sex symbol.

Love Jones (1997) went on to become a cult classic, so much so, that if you were to ask many black people who grew up in the 80s and 90s, "Whats your favorite love story?" they would likely say, Love Jones.

The next few years for Nia Long flew by, then when 1999 came to pass, she was cast as Jordan Armstrong in The Best Man. By this time, we were well familiar with and thoroughly in love with Miss Nia Long.

The Best Man featured an ensemble cast of her peers that read like a who's who in black Hollywood list, it included Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Terrance Howard, and relative newcomers, Sanaa Lathan and Regina Hall.

The film seemed to cement Nia Long's place in black cinema to a point where she no longer needed to prove herself, she was "in" and there was no going back. Everything that she's done since that time has just been what is "expected" of her to do as a black actress, and quite honestly, as simply an actress overall.

Perhaps her most noticeable film roles in recent history have been her two turns in the Big Momma's House franchise, opposite comedian Martin Lawrence, and her two turns on the Are We There Yet? franchise, opposite actor/rapper, Ice Cube.

Her more recent projects have been on television, where she has been all over the place, from Third Watch and Big Shots to The Cleveland Show, The Divide and Dear White People.

Last year in 2017, she did a turn as Giuliana on the smoking hot drama Empire, which features a predominantly black cast, and is headed up by Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson. However, this is one project that hasn't gone so well for Long, as there was rumored tension between she and Taraji. Hopefully, this is just a product of the Hollywood rumor mill, more than likely it was a small incident that got overblown into a giant mess in order to pull attention to the show...

Fans of the show already knew Long's character was probably not going to last, because Taraji's, Cookie Lyon is queen B, and no weapon formed against her seems to prosper on the show...

Nia Long and her boys, today her oldest son Massai is 18, and Kez is 8.
Nia Long and her boys, today her oldest son Massai is 18, and Kez is 8.

In her personal life, Nia Long is the half sister of actress/comedienne Lori Ann Rambough, professionally known as "Sommore." Atlanta area poet/writer, Doughtry "Doc" Long is their father, and although the two are biologically related, they weren't raised together, and they reportedly aren't close, but very cordial.

She has two sons, one from actor Massai Z. Dorsey, and another from Nigerian NBA basketball player, Ime Udoka. She has been engaged to Udoka since 2015, but have been together for over eight years.

Currently, Nia Long is appearing in the TV series NCIS: Los Angeles as Assistant Director Shay Mosely, and she recently completed work on a film called Life in a Year (2018) alongside Cuba Gooding, Jr. The film focuses on the last year of life for a dying teenager...this should be good, and we look forward to seeing this and much more from Nia Long.


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