In case you haven’t noticed from some of my previous articles, I LOVE the 1990s and early 2000s. The culture of these periods were and still are classic. This was the time where (unambiguous) natural beauty was appreciated the most. Natural African features were celebrated. In terms of makeup, less was more. All body types were uplifted: short, tall, full-figured, thick, thin. Today, I decided to have some fun instead of diving deep into a serious topic or story. I’d like to shed some light on some of the most underrated black beauties of the 1990s and early 2000s. These are women that I feel don’t get enough credit for who they were. It could be because they didn’t work as much in the industry after their prime, developed an illness, or we just don’t hear much about them anymore. In other instances, some of them simply just don’t get enough credit and may still be working on music/films/shows. *Disclaimer: This is not a “Where are they now?” list and the brief descriptions aren’t mini biographies. I may focus a lot on a stand out character that each woman portrayed. Be sure to check out their current work.
Grace Jones (May 19, 1948)– Boomerang was my introduction to this gorgeous Jamaican-American model. She’s an astonishing actress and her performance in Boomerang as Strange` was incredible. Along with acting and modeling, she sings, writes (songs), and produces music.
Malinda Williams (September 24, 1970)– Alicia from The Wood was and still is such a dope character. Williams’ roles were often great supporting characters; she also had major successes with her starring roles. She was part of the main cast for the hit Showtime series, Soul Food. Her role as Bird was fun, intriguing, multifaceted, and is highly memorable. She’s been in some music videos and is a television producer. Williams was a definite it girl in the 1990s.
Maia Campbell (November 26, 1976)– Who doesn’t remember this face from the 1990s? Maia Campbell was everywhere during those days. She’s probably most known for her role as Tiffany in the sitcom, In the House. She co-starred in Seventeen Again alongside Tia and Tamera Mowry in 2000. Trippin’ is an underrated film that Campbell starred in in 1998 with Deon Richmond. Campbell can even be seen in some videos as the leading lady.
Erika Alexander (November 19, 1969)– Her most memorable role to date is Maxine Shaw on the sitcom Living Single. Maxine was intelligent, opinionated, spontaneous, funny, and all about women’s rights. Although she was depicted as masculine (which was unfortunate), she had her fair share of men that she would entertain. She was a highlight of the show. Alexander’s smile has always been captivating to me and she’s beautiful. Alexander is also an author, business woman, activist, and producer.
Lil’ Mo(Cynthia Karen Loving, November 19, 1978)– During the height of Lil’ Mo’s career, her style was deemed as “ghetto” to those who didn’t understand the way that she expressed herself. Moreover, they didn’t understand the way some black women expressed themselves. She was told to cover up her tattoos, but today, it’s common for R&B artists, particularly women to have tattoos. I actually wanted tattoos because of Lil’ Mo (still do)! She was known for rocking blue and red hair. She did this tastefully and I thought her sense of style was rather dope. Lil’ Mo’s singing range is mind blowing.
Angell Conwell (August 2, 1983)– In today’s world, having a curvy body is what’s hot: big butt, small waist, hips, and big breasts (big thighs apparently aren’t as praised in part due to the popularity of plastic surgery). These body characteristics have always been recognized in the black community. Angell Conwell, to many, was the epitome of this, along with her beauty overall. Her role as Andrea in That’s So Raven was my introduction to her. Kim in Baby Boy was a small role, but a highlight. She’s been in other films and TV shows as well.
Erin Leshawn Wiley– Her most notable character is probably her least likable. In 1993, Wiley portrayed Ilena in Menace II Society. The role contributed to the demise of the main character, Caine, along with other factors. Aside from the character, Wiley is a beautiful person. She’s an activist, actress, author, and producer.
Foxy Brown (Inga DeCarlo Fung Marchand, September 6, 1978)– Not only is Foxy Brown an underrated beauty, but she’s an underrated rap artist. She had huge success with her first two solo albums, Ill Na Na and Chyna Doll (both went platinum). Black lipstick was popular in the 90s. She wore it often and well.
Countess Vaughn (August 8, 1978)– The ‘90s would be incomplete without the fascinating character Kim Parker of The Parkers. Although Kim wasn’t the smartest friend of the bunch, her creative talents made up for it. She designed clothes, dressed to perfection, and could SANG!! Her sense of humor was out of this world. She’s gorgeous. Vaughn made Kim. Vaughn deserves her flowers. Aside from acting, she sings and is a reality personality.
Tichina Arnold (June 28, 1969)– It always confused me when Martin would make jokes about Pam’s looks or compare her to animals (colorism undertones). I always thought that Pam was pretty, and her fashion sense was bomb. Tichina Arnold is Gorgeous. Granted, it was a TV show. Her comebacks helped make the show what it was (Martin Sitcom, 1992-1997). Tichina Arnold has a great singing voice outside of acting.
Tracey Cherelle Jones (December 27, 1970)– I remember her memorable (and arguably iconic) role as Dashiki in Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. She had several guest star roles and minor roles in several films and sitcoms: Baby Boy, The Players Club, The Wayans Bros., Getting By, and The Jamie Foxx Show just to name a few.
Patra (Dorothy Smith, November 22, 1972)– Her popularity stemmed from her success as an alluring reggae/dancehall singer. Patra is Jamaican and represents her culture very well. Everyone loved her and will continue to do so. Her style was so unique.
N’Bushe Wright (September 7, 1969)– I vividly remember her portrayal as Nikki Barnes in the urban classic, Civil Brand. Nikki was no-nonsense, fearless, and in my opinion, fierce in spite of the prison circumstance. Wright also had roles in other classics including Dead Presidents, Zebrahead, and Fresh along with roles in several television shows/series.
Rose Jackson (September 14, 1966)– In 1995’s Dead Presidents, Jackson portrayed Juanita Benson. The character may have had flaws, but Jackson delivered a performance to remember. Based on her roles, Jackson’s characters are typically soft in nature.
Suzzanne Douglas (April 12, 1957-July 6, 2021)– It felt amazing seeing a beautiful, graceful woman in such a positive role. Douglas’ role as Jerri Peterson in The Parent ‘Hood was inspiring because she was well educated, classy, loving, and nurturing. She managed to take time out for her children at any moment. Douglas’ other roles were positive for the most part and based on interviews that I’ve seen, she appeared to be an outstanding individual within herself.
Vanessa Estelle Williams (May 12, 1963)– Williams’ role as Maxine in Soul Food the series was nurturing. She was a devoted wife and mother who still wanted something for herself outside of family: art, poetry, a chance to make a difference in the lives of women. It was nice to see this character flourish. I also loved how she embraced her natural hair by wearing locs that complimented her effortlessly.
Alysia Rogers (June 19, 1975)– Boyz ‘N the Hood centered around… well… boys. They were the main focus, but the women in their lives rounded everything out and provided some balance. Rogers’ character, Shanice, played a significant role in Ricky’s life. Their son, along with his mother and closest friend were important, too. In my opinion, Rogers’ most memorable role was Damita in 1992’s Class Act. The character was no-nonsense, knew exactly what she wanted, funny, and was popular.
Natalie Venetia Belcon (April 5, 1969)– Belcon’s character Jo Ann Morgan was Carlton’s first in an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. This may have been only a guest appearance, but it was one that she’s most known for. Carlton was mesmerized by her beauty, unfortunately, she broke his heart in the end. With the exception of her hilarious, drunk role in Woo, most of her roles were sophisticated and bright.
Tasha Scott (July 16, 1972)– Scott’s singing voice knocked me out. She guest starred on the sitcom The Parent ‘Hood as Theresa and co-starred on the series South Central as Tasha. Her talent was undeniable.
Aunjanue Ellis (February 21, 1969)– I’ve only seen a few of her films. However, she is another actress filled with range. She’s earning her accolades although she’s been acting for years and is well deserving of it. I didn’t think she’d be considered “underrated” due to her stellar performances in movies. But it’s only recently that Ellis has gotten more breakout roles.
Society repeatedly tells us that we aren’t beautiful and aren’t worthy. It’s easy to allow those beliefs to get to you. It’s easy to internalize the negativity. It’s okay to not like certain things about yourself, it’s even normal. However, at some point, you have to learn to not stay in that sulking place forever.
Black women, we are a very beautiful group of people. Although I’m paying homage to celebrities, everyday black women are unique, worthy, and special. Notice the simplicity in many of the women mentioned, but they were still considered pretty. This is because it doesn’t take much for us to look good. It’s perfectly fine to enhance your look by switching things up. Embrace your hair, embrace your features, and love the skin that you’re in no matter what society says. What are your thoughts on this list? Would you like a part two? If you made it to the end, thanks for reading!
Happy Black History Month!