Angela Bassett, an Artist Breaking through Barriers

March 11, 2009
Angela Bassett, image from the Heart Truth Red Dress Collection used under creative commons license

Angela Bassett at fashion week for the Heart Truth Red Dress Collection

When I volunteered to write about artists for women’s history month, I thought it would be easy. It turned out to be a huge learning experience, and it was harder than I thought. My artist who breaks through barriers is actor and producer, Angela Bassett. Bassett grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, raised with her sister by their mother. Her mother stressed education to her children, and Angela, with the help of a scholarship, attended Yale University. At Yale, Bassett earned a bachelor’s degree in African American studies and a master of fine arts degree. Bassett is married to another Yale graduate, Courtney B. Vance, of Law & Order, Criminal Intent, fame, and they are the parents of twins.

Bassett’s acting career spans nearly 25 years, with appearances in over 30 films and 30 television roles. She is one of the seven African American women ever nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. Bassett made headlines when she stated that she was offered the role in Monster’s Ball (for which Halle Berry won a history-making Oscar) but did not accept it because of its representation of African American females.

Although she did not win an Oscar, she is the first and only African American recipient of the Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for her portrayal of Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It.

My respect for Bassett’s work stems from her portrayal of strong black women in dramas, comedies, action, and even some science fiction; she usually is unforgettable. Bassett’s portrayal of characters that I can relate to as well as people I have read about in history books is largely unrecognized. Rosa Parks, Dr. Betty Shabazz, in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, and Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It, are women who have contributed to America’s history.

Bassett also expanded her career and became a producer in 2001 with a film for Showtime, Ruby’s Bucket of Blood, in which she played the lead character, Ruby Delacroix. You can find her currently playing Dr. Cate Banfield on ER alongside her husband who plays Russell Banfield.

Bassett is a great supporter of children; her focus is diabetes, UNICEF, and in her hometown of St. Petersburg she supports the Royal Theater Boys & Girls Club, which is one of the first all performing arts Boys & Girls Clubs.

Next time you are considering watching a movie, find on starring Angela Bassett; you will be in for a treat.

This post is part of a special Women’s History Month series.

Claudia Richards By:   |   March 11, 2009

Join the Conversation

You must be logged in to post a comment.