Angela Bassett is a well known African American actress and director. She was born in New York in August 1958 to Betty Jane and Daniel Benjamin Bassett. Her ancestors adopted the name of Bassett after William Henry Bassett, who was a slave who adopted the name of his former master. Shortly after Bassett’s birth, her mother had a second child, a daughter named D’nette. Bassett was sent to live with her aunt who loved her and took great care of her. Later, her parents separated and she moved to Florida to live with her mother and sister.
She attended high school where she was known to be one of the most intelligent and hardworking students, not only amongst the African American populace but in her entire year. Besides making good grades, she also participated in extracurricular activities such as debating, student government, drama club and choir. She was the first African American at her school to be admitted to the National Honor Society. After high school, she participated in a cultural enrichment program for underprivileged youth. She then attended Yale University where she completed her B.A. in African American studies in 1980, and later attended Yale School of Drama to receive a Master of Fine Arts in 1983. She was the only member of her family to have a graduate as well as post graduate degree. Her family did not support her decision to study drama but Bassett stuck by her decision.
After a few odd jobs, Angela Bassett moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting as a full time career. Her official film debut was in the 1986 movie “FIX” in which she played the role of a news reporter. Her next big role was “Boyz n the Hood” in 1991 for which she received good reviews and then Malcolm X in 1992, in which she played the role of his wife Betty Shabazz. She felt that it was an important and relevant role and despite mixed reviews by critics, she was happy with her performance and received an Image Award for it. The same year, she played the role of Katherine Jackson in “The Jacksons: An American Dream”. Bassett had always been a fan of the The Jackson 5 during her childhood, and despite the negative image of the family at the time, and people trying to dissuade her from accepting the character, she took on the part. She was rewarded for her perseverance and the series received a positive reviews.
Her breakthrough and most memorable role was of Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do with It” in 1993. She met the singer, whom she greatly admired, and tried to emulate her character and appearance. Her performance was widely acclaimed by fans and critics alike, and she received several awards and accolades including being the first African American woman to win a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and an Academy Award nomination. Her other roles during the 1990s and 2000s include “Vampire in Brooklyn”, “Strange Days”, “Waiting to Exhale”, “Strange Days”, “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”, “Music of the Heart”, “The Score”, “Sunshine State” and “The Rosa Parks Story” (for which she received an a nomination for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie).
Angela Bassett is married to the actor Courtney B. Vance with whom she has two children. She is an active philanthropist and supports several charities.