Everything you need to know about Angela Bassett

Written by on August 15, 2023

Award-winning actress Angela Bassett never fails to impress, whether she’s on the screen, on the red carpet or giving motivational speeches. That’s why theGrio is highlighting her life and talent. Here’s everything you need to know about the star, who celebrates a birthday this week.

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Angela Bassett attends the 2018 Fox Network Upfront at Wollman Rink, Central Park, in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Early life

Angela Bassett was born on Aug. 16, 1958, in New York City. Her parents, Betty Jane and David Bassett, separated when Angela was young, but not before they had Angela’s little sister, D’nette. Until she was almost 5, Angela was raised by her aunt, then her mother took her home with her to Florida, where she lived with her mother and sister. A few years later, she and other Black children in St. Petersburg were part of integration efforts that saw them bused to schools farther from home.

Bassett knew the importance of a good education and was the first Black student from her high school to earn admission into the National Honor Society. While she studied hard in high school, she also became interested in acting after seeing John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”

After high school, she attended Yale University, where she majored in African-American studies, graduating in 1980. She went on to get a master’s from Yale School of Drama. While she was attending Yale, she met Courtney B. Vance, the actor who would later become her husband.

Bassett made her Broadway debut in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” With a later performance in “The Mountaintop,” she earned a Tony Award nomination.

The iconic filmography of Angela Bassett

Bassett’s on-screen career started with small roles on television, including on “The Cosby Show.” She made her film debut with a small part in “F/X,” but it wasn’t until the early ’90s that she started to break out. Her powerful role in “Boyz n the Hood” garnered her attention, and she rose to prominence playing opposite Denzel Washington in “Malcolm X.”

But it was her iconic role as Tina Turner in 1993’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It” that skyrocketed her star and sent her to award shows. That role won her a Golden Globe as well as an Academy Award nomination.

Angela Bassett, theGrio.com
Angela Bassett (center) stars as Queen Ramonda in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” This scene includes (from left) Dorothy Steel as Merchant Tribe Elder, Florence Kasumba as Ayo, Bassett, and Danai Gurira as Okoye. (Photo credit: Marvel Studios via AP)

She went on to have a storied career, playing Black women who were powerful in their own ways, including Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks and even Michelle Obama on an episode of “The Simpsons.” She was steller in films like “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” “Waiting to Exhale,” “Akeelah and the Bee,” “Notorious” and “Chi-Raq.” Recently, she stole audience’s hearts with her award-winning performance as Queen Ramonda in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, portraying the mother of the Black Panther, King T’Challa.

What awards has Angela Bassett won?

Angela Bassett has been recognized for her talent multiple times, though her awards have been almost as famous as her snubs. She was nominated for Academy Awards in 1994 and 2023, for the “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” respectively. She lost out both times, and both losses were largely seen as snubs by fans, especially because those same performances won her Golden Globe Awards. Still, she has said that she holds no grudges, and what’s more, she’s getting an Oscar at last: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which bestows the awards, announced in June that it would present her with an honorary Oscar at this year’s Governors Awards.

She has also been nominated 10 times for an Emmy Award, though she has yet to take one home. She was nominated for a BAFTA for her role in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Though she didn’t take home the BAFTA, she did take home the BET Award for best actress for that same role, her first BET Award win after being nominated 11 times previously. And she has been nominated for four Screen Actors Guild Awards, taking home one award with the cast of “Black Panther” for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture.

Angela Bassett holds the Golden Globe Award she won in January for best supporting actress in a motion picture, for her role in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

By far, the most awards Bassett has received have been from the NAACP Image Awards. She has been nominated for 28 awards at the show, with 16 wins. Her first award was in 1995 for outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture for her role in “Malcolm X.” She went on to win for outstanding lead actress in a motion picture for the following movies: “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” “Waiting to Exhale,” “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” and “Black Nativity.” She won outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture for “Music of the Heart,” “The Score” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” She was honored as outstanding actress in a miniseries or TV movie for “Ruby’s Bucket of Blood” and “The Rosa Parks Story.” She won outstanding supporting actress in a drama series for her role in “ER” and outstanding actress in a drama series for “9-1-1.” In 2023, she was honored with the NAACP Image Award for entertainer of the year.

Angela Bassett uses her platform for activism

Angela Bassett knows that the world is watching her, and she uses the attention focused on her to shine a light on causes dear to her. She is even an activist in the roles she chooses to take. She said at the African American Film Critics Association Awards this year that she will only agree to a role if it humanizes Black women.

She isn’t afraid to speak out when she feels the situation calls for it, such as when she expressed her support for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. And when she does speak out, she is always eloquent. Who could forget her motivational speech at Black Girls Rock in 2019 in which she told Black girls everywhere that they were “destined for greatness”?

14th Annual AAFCA Awards - Show
Angela Bassett, at the African American Film Critics Association Awards ceremony in March, accepts the award for best supporting actress for her role in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Bassett was also named to Time’s Women of the Year list this year because of the strength and grace she shows on and off the screen.

“Women are called upon to be wives, sisters, friends, mothers, community leaders, activists, and we have it in our core to be these things,” she told Time.

Personal life

Although Angela Bassett met Courtney B. Vance at Yale, they didn’t actually start dating until years later, in the ’90s. They were married in 1997 and had fraternal twins, Bronwyn Golden and Slater Josiah, in 2006. Bassett and Vance have been married for 25 years now and are still going strong. They continue to support each other and have even produced projects together.

28th Annual Critics Choice Awards – Red Carpet
Angela Bassett and her husband, actor Courtney B. Vance, attend the Critics Choice Awards in January in Los Angeles. The two have been married for 25 years and have a daughter and a son. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)

Balancing life as a mother, an actress and an inspirational speaker can’t be easy, but somehow, Angela Bassett manages to make it look as if it is. She’s already left a legacy that inspires others, and she’s not done yet.

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