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Caribbean American Actor Nia Long Redefines Her Success in Hollywood

Actress Nia Long wearing a black hat and cardigan sweater.

Nia Long Photo/Instagram

Caribbean American actor, director, and producer Nia Long has graced the screen for over three decades. From her early days on the soap opera Guiding Light to her memorable roles in classic films, Long has proven to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of entertainment. The Brooklyn-born actress represents a tapestry of Caribbean ancestry via her mother, who was born in Trinidad, and her grandmother, who was born in Grenada.

The year 2000 showcased Long's versatility as she delved into comedy with the hilarious Big Momma's House, co-starring alongside Martin Lawrence. By the early 2000s, she was well on her path to achieving household recognition, taking on diverse roles, including the queer classic If These Walls Could Talk 2. Her performance in the TV movie 1972 earned Nia Long a well-deserved nomination for an NAACP Image Award.

Long's ability to seamlessly transition between gritty dramas and comedic roles was evident in the success of "Big Momma's House," a commercial hit that grossed $56 million at the box office. However, she had a desire to take on more serious roles. This was fulfilled when she joined the cast of the NBC crime drama Third Watch in 2003, where she played NYPD officer Sasha Monroe, until the series finale in 2005.

Being a Black Woman in Hollywood

Despite her success, Long faced racism in the industry, with false claims circulating about her turning down a role in the 2000 Charlie's Angels reboot. In a candid interview with Yahoo Entertainment, she debunked the rumors, attributing the decision to ageism and racial bias.

"I go and I audition and, first of all, I was so excited to meet you...and it went really well," she recalls. "So, I go and I audition, then you go home and you wait and you hope to get the response, which is, 'You're going to get the job.' I didn't get the job. It's OK, it happens. But the feedback was, 'My eyebrows were too sophisticated and I looked too old next to Drew.' And I was like, 'What?' It just was an odd way of saying you didn't get the job."

Long highlighted the lack of diversity in the film and expressed gratitude for choosing Big Momma's House, where Martin Lawrence sought to elevate Black performers.

Since then, Long has stepped into more diverse roles. She even served as an executive producer for the first time in her first thriller, Fatal Affair in 2020. She told Variety Magazine. “For the first time in my career I felt heard,” I felt like I was being respected for my ideas and that I was heard.”

Closing 2023 on a High Note

Nia Long closes out 2023 with two significant projects: Netflix’s romcom You People and the mystery thriller, Missing. She also received the 2023 NAACP Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Television Movie for The Best Man: The Final Chapters and was honored by Reel Works, an organization that works to empower the next generation of creatives, during the non-profit’s 22nd annual ChangeMaker Gala in May for her iconic and legendary film and television roles.

As Long continues to navigate the complexities of fame, the four-time NAACP Award winner challenges societal expectations placed on Black women to remain strong against all odds. Her resilience, talent, and commitment to authenticity make her not only a Hollywood icon but also a trailblazer inspiring change in the industry.


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