Actress Nia Long has said she will “always be an island girl”. Quick to kick off her shoes, she feels more at home strolling along the blue waters ringing island beaches than bathing in the limelight flash of the paparazzi. Yet, she artfully dovetails her carefree manner with a confident on-set professionalism and a strong work ethic, as evidenced by her long string of awards.
Nia Long needs a lot of room on her mantle to display the many accolades she has earned that testify to her craftsmanship in acting. In 1998, Long was nominated for the Black Film Award’s Best Actress nod in “Love Jones”; in 2000, she won the Acapulco Film Festival’s Black Star Award: Star of the Year; and in 2005, she was nominated for the BET Comedy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Theatrical Film. Long was nominated three times for a Black Reel Award, winning the Best Actress nod in 2000 for her portrayal of Jordan in “The Best Man”. Five times over, she has been nominated for Image Awards, winning twice for Outstanding Actress in a Television Drama, and once for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. Long has taken home multiple NAACP Image Awards, and has numerous nominations to her credit. She most recently won the Best Actress award at the 2014 Acapulco Black Film Festival.
Lithe and lovely, she earned a spot in People magazine’s list of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World for 2000. Fifteen years later, her beauty continues to radiate.
Add to her model looks and pop-star successes her role as a dedicated mother to her two boys, her dedication to mentoring others, and her charming, down-to-Earth sensibility – a rare and disarming quality in Hollywood. The final product is a complete person that is beautiful, inside and out.
Solid Roots Support Success
Her given name, Nitara, means “having deep roots”. The American-born actress with a heritage rooted in Trinidad, Barbados, and Grenada, is a well-grounded woman with a solid understanding of what really matters in life. From that firm foundation, Long strives to inspire others through her art, as well as through her words and deeds.
Her long journey began with minor appearances in television shows in the ‘80s, and then stepped up a notch with her notable role of Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s girlfriend, Brandi, in 1991’s “Boyz n the Hood”. Not long after, Long clinched the part of Will Smith’s love interest in the popular ‘90s TV show, “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, winning the role over competitor Jada Pinkett, another actress of Barbadian descent (who would later become Smith’s wife). Long shone in the role of Zora in 1993’s “Made in America,” in which she again starred opposite Will Smith.
In following years, she appeared in numerous television shows, including “Judging Amy,” “Boston Legal,” and “The Cleveland Show.” Long’s talents on the silver screen include movies such as “Alfie,” the Sandra Bullock mystery drama “Premonition,” and the “Best Man” series of films.
Last year, Long starred in the feature film, “The Single Moms Club,” which is reportedly being spun into a TV show for the Oprah Winfrey Network. Long also appeared in the role of smart and savvy attorney Billie Page in “The Divide,” a critically and popularly acclaimed series which began airing this summer. Long’s current projects include the upcoming 20th Century Fox action comedy, “Spy,” due for release in spring of 2015, and “The Best Man Wedding,” slated for a 2016 release, in which Long again reprises her role of Jordan.
Long’s talents lie not only before the camera, but behind it, as well. Her first turn in the directorial chair was in 2002, for the music video “Baby,” by Ashanti, followed by the 2005 video for Yolanda Adams’ “This Too Shall Pass.” Turning her attentions toward bigger projects, Long is now developing a feature film about Ann Wolfe, deemed by many as the hardest-punching, best-fighting athlete ever to be found in the world of women’s boxing. (Long, herself, boxes to keep fit.)
Mentoring Young Lives
A prolific Hollywood career is not all that occupies Long’s time. Not seeking fame as its own reward, she recognizes that true satisfaction in the business of acting is attained by appreciating and going after the art, not the fame.
Yet, that fame enables Long to serve others in unique ways. Since 2009, she has been deeply involved in the HerShe Group, an organization dedicated to helping girls in the foster care system grow and develop from adolescence into a solid adulthood, where anything can be possible for their futures. HerShe Group is Long’s favorite charity, and she is directly involved with the program participants, providing mentoring guidance, giving inspiring talks, and simply spending time directly with the girls. She has confided in the girls her own difficulties which she overcame as she was growing up, and how she turned those obstacles into successes. Sharing that wisdom and spending precious time with adolescents who might otherwise not receive personal attention serves to groom these young ladies into becoming confident women who know who they are and what they can achieve in life.
She’s serious about building self-esteem and training and educating young people. Long has supported Black Girls Rock, an arts organization for young ladies of color. In 2012, she co-hosted the first annual American Black Film Festival Strikes for Education, a celebrity bowling event sponsored by Cadillac, HBO and the SAG/AFTRA union. The organization’s goal is to raise funds to direct to underprivileged youth, educating them and giving them the tools they need to succeed in the film industry, whether that’s behind the lens or in the movie studio executive suite.
Nia Long: The Journey Continues
Whether it’s through a filmed performance, as a producer/director, or mentoring others to become all that they can be, Long’s trademark kindness and confidence leaves its imprint as her signature. It’s easy to see that Nia’s long journey still has many future successes ahead of it.