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12 Facts That Prove Angela Bassett Showed You Who She Is

From the moment Angela Bassett appears onscreen, she commands attention. She has played some of the most iconic real-life women in history, but the world really took notice when she grabbed the mic as legendary performer Tina Turner in the 1993 film, "What's Love Got To Do With It." All of the characters she has embodied have at least one thing in common: strength. Having looked to her late mother, Betty Jane Bassett, as a role model, it seems Bassett brings that strength from her own life and personality to the screen.

Even before she put on the crown to play Queen Ramonda of Wakanda, she possessed an air of regality and authority that was apparent with every move. When she yells for T'Challa to "show him who you are!", it rang through the nation. The New York native is one of the most accomplished women in Hollywood and fans make it a point to keep up with her and all things Bassett. Here is everything you might not know about the 2023 Oscar nominee.

Bassett wanted to marry one of The Jackson 5

Bassett was 12 years old when she got the experience of a lifetime: to see The Jackson 5 perform, which was also her very first concert. And like every other girl in America at that time, she was crushing hard. "I swear they looked right at me and sang the song," Bassett said during a 2022 appearance on "The Kelly Clarkson Show."

She and her girlfriends would daydream about marrying one of the musical brothers. That little girl couldn't imagine that 22 years later, she would portray the Jackson mother, Katherine, in the 1992 mini-series, "The Jacksons: The American Dream." Her performance as the matriarch to the musically talented family even brought compliments from The King of Pop himself. In the same interview with host Kelly Clarkson, Bassett recalled an incident that occurred when she attended the Image Awards: "Miss Katherine walked by ... she stopped and [Michael] turned around and he came back and he was like, 'You were wonderful.'"

Bassett was never average

Throughout her life, Bassett's mother made it very clear that both of her daughters would be going to college. In a piece written by the "Strange Days" star for Oprah.com, she described her "aha moment." Having always been a great student who consistently received As and Bs, Bassett brought home her first C in seventh grade. Bassett wasn't too stressed about it, but her mother found the grade completely unacceptable.

Her mother, who was raising her children as a single parent, "hadn't taken high school seriously" and wanted more for her daughters. Young Bassett tried to reason with her mom by explaining that a C is average, and there really wasn't anything wrong with that, to which her mother replied, "I don't have no average kids." It finally dawned on Bassett that this wasn't necessarily about the letter grade, but about having pride in yourself and your work. She told Glamour in a 2022 interview, "Consider more of yourself, hold yourself to a higher standard, and you'll reach it."

Bassett is a proud Yale alum

It was after a school field trip to see a stage production of "Of Mice and Men" at The Kennedy Center that Bassett found her true calling. James Earl Jones' performance as Lennie struck a chord with 15-year-old Bassett, and she decided that she wanted to act (via Glamour). 

She attended Yale University, earning a BA in African American studies in 1980 and then a Master of Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama in 1983 (via Yale). In 2018, her alma mater presented her with an Honorary Doctorate; now she holds three Yale degrees. Her aunt was worried that Bassett wouldn't be able to make a living as an actress, warning her not to "waste a Yale education on theater." The "Black Panther" star was also concerned about the future of her career. She was under the assumption that the roles she would be limited to would be "the wife of the girl of the friend of the lead." It seems like Bassett exceeded her own expectations.

Bassett and her husband met at Yale

As we have all witnessed many of our favorite Hollywood couples break up, it's always refreshing to see the ones who seem to have a strong and unbreakable bond. Bassett and her husband of almost 25 years, Courtney B. Vance, come to mind as a Hollywood couple that's getting it right.

Bassett first crossed paths with Vance in 1980 while studying at the Yale Drama School. Vance, who was getting his BA from Harvard, "had a beautiful, beautiful girlfriend at the time" Bassett told People in 2023. Bassett was also in a relationship at the time, so the two continued on their separate paths until fate brought them back together 14 years later in Los Angeles. During a 2007 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Bassett reveals that their first date "wasn't memorable." She found Vance to be really nice, but that translated into "kind of boring." Luckily they had a second date, playing golf, that ended up being much more successful.

When sharing some marriage advice with People, Vance compared their marriage to a "rock band." He elaborated by saying, "Talking, communicating and allowing each other to have your own space and then come back together."

Bassett did her publicity DIY

In 1988, after booking several small roles in television series like "Spenser: For Hire" and "Search for Tomorrow," Bassett decided to officially move to Los Angeles (via IMDb). It isn't easy for a young actor waiting for the role that will jumpstart their career. Especially during the time of appointment TV and no internet. Also, being so far from family can be stressful for everyone involved.

Not having a publicist at the time, the Golden Globe winner got creative when sharing the news that she was going to be on TV. She would take thick stock paper and write the TV show, network, time, and date, and mail it to loved ones. "You want to let them know, don't worry so much, look, something is happening. I'm eating!" she recalled during a 2022 appearance on "The Late, Late Show with James Corden." Bassett joyfully stated, "I was proud of what I was doing. And I wanted them to catch it."

Tina Turner did Bassett's makeup

In 1993, Bassett really took the world by storm when she wowed moviegoers with her powerful performance as Queen of Rock, Tina Turner, in "What's Love Got To Do With It." Bassett embodied every part of Turner's being from that "Proud Mary" performance right down to the iconic '80s wig. Every gesture and every fringe shimmy was perfection.

When it came time to get Turner's iconic hair and makeup just right, they went straight to the source. While taking the Badass Questionnaire for InStyle in 2022, Basset confirmed that Turner stepped in near the shoot's end to ensure the look was just right. "She did my makeup and hair in a quarter of the time that their stylist did," the actress chuckled.

Turner didn't just tease a wig when it came time for Bassett to learn how to be the singer. For months, Turner worked with Bassett one on one to get her movements spot on. "She proceeded to go through all the songs that we did in the movie and she showed me, just went through the choreography, " Bassett explained in a making of clip of the film. "I just sat there with my mouth agape."

Bassett took cues from her mother for Waiting to Exhale

When talking about iconic Angela Bassett movie moments, one must absolutely include 1995's "Waiting to Exhale" and her character, Bernadine, setting her cheating husband's belongings on fire. Along with Bassett, the film starred Lela Rochon, Loretta Devine, and the late Whitney Houston. The film follows four friends as they navigate and support each other through life, love, and loss.

In arguably the most famous scene — where Bernadine is reacting to the news that her husband is leaving her — she enters his meticulous walk-in closet, commenting that there are "serial killers less anal." She continues to rant and cuss him out as she snatches his clothes off of hangers and gathers his belongings, dumping them in his beloved BMW. She pulls the car from the garage into the driveway, gets out, and douses the car and belongings in lighter fluid. She lights a cigarette and tosses the lit match into the car, marching back to the house, letting it all burn to the ground.

During an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Bassett explained how her mother helped to conjure up that particular feeling of revenge. "I remember the attitude of my mother growing up. Because she was like, 'I'll fix your little red wagon,'" adding, "It was that feel that I'll get you when you least expect it."

Bassett has a soft spot for Marie Laveau

Any "American Horror Story" fan will recognize Bassett as one of the several actors who come back each season to portray a new character. Appearing in five seasons total, Bassett told Yahoo Entertainment that there was one character she was particularly fond of in the FX series: "My favorite character would have to be the first year that I joined the franchise, and that's Marie Laveau." One of the reasons is that she had the chance to play Laveau in the past as well as in the present day. Having a BA in African American history, the Black icon is also taken with the real-life history of Laveau.

Laveau was a real New Orleans Voodoo priestess in the 1800s. Some accounts of her history mention her as an "evil occultist", but the Black New Orleans community preserves her memory as an herbalist and a healer who would hold spiritual ceremonies in New Orleans' Congo Square every Sunday. At the time, oppressed Blacks weren't allowed to congregate in public, so this act holds significant importance. Knowing this, Bassett was determined to take great care in the way the historical figure was presented.

She received positive feedback from the community, telling HitFix that "they were very embracing." The actress continues to admire Marie, saying "She was an astounding woman in history, especially a woman of color in the 1800s, and the influence that she had."

Bassett played leading women of the Civil Rights Movement

Bassett has managed to transform into some of history's most notorious women for the screen. Having been musical icon Tina Turner, the King of Pop's mother, and mother to Biggie Smalls, one could call her the Queen of biopics. The film legend has also had the honor of telling the stories of three different icons of Black history.

She played the human rights activist and wife of Malcolm X, Dr. Betty Shabazz, in not one, but two films: Spike Lee's 1992 biopic, "Malcolm X," and then again in Mario Van Peeble's 1995 film, "Panther", the dramatized story of The Black Panther Party. In 2002, Bassett disappeared into the role of the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement", Rosa Parks, in "The Rosa Parks Story." Bassett got to spend some time with the real-life Parks and called her a "quiet activist" who was "restrained" but one wasn't to mistake her kindness for weakness (via Allure).

And then in 2013, she starred in the TV movie, "Betty & Coretta," playing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's wife, Coretta Scott King. Along with Mary J. Blige as Dr. Betty Shabazz, Bassett told the story of a friendship born from tragedy.

When parenting, Bassett is the good cop

In 2006, Bassett and her husband welcomed twins, Bronwyn Golden Vance and Slater Josiah Vance. Bassett says her daughter Bronwyn, used to be her "little copycat." She told Vulture, "From the time she was a little one, was always sort of looking to me for the example of what to do and how to be."

Both teens express themselves musically, but her son Slater seems to have leaned more into it than his sister. In 2021, he released his first album, "Journey 2 Forever" (via People), with an EP following the next year. Proud dad Vance bragged about his son's follow-up EP in an Instagram post, wishing him congratulations.

Though both children give their parents plenty to be proud of, it can't be easy raising twins. In an appearance on "The Late, Late Show with James Corden" Bassett explained the differences in how the twins receive each parent. "He is usually pretty calm but he is consistent," she said of Vance. "Right now he's 2,500 miles or so away ... he can still get them to hop to it." In contrast, Bassett says she can be 25 feet away from them and has to use guilt trips and drama. With her parenting style being more of a good cop, she has tried to explain to them, "I am your good time, so you don't wanna mess with me."

Bassett can thank Keke Palmer for Akeelah and the Bee

If you follow anything actress Keke Palmer does, you are aware of her many talents, including impressions. One of the impressions she likes to show off is that of her former "Akeelah and the Bee" co-star.  After 16 years, the pair finally reunited and Bassett got the chance to critique Palmer's performance of her. Bassett had a great sense of humor about the whole thing, even joining along as the two recited lines from "The Jacksons: An American Dream."

As the conversation went on, Bassett reminisced about their time together playing mother and daughter in the 2006 film, "Akeelah and the Bee." "If I recall, I got the role because of you," Bassett remarks. The powers that be asked Palmer who she would like to play her mom and being a fan of Bassett's performance in "What's Love Got to Do with it," she replied, "I want Angela." The two do share a striking resemblance.

Palmer went on to thank Bassett for leading by example of how one should professionally behave on set. The legendary actress also gave Palmer a lesson on crying on cue, teaching her to connect what the scene calls for to her real emotions.

Bassett is committed to fighting the erasure of Black stories

Having conquered so many stories on screen, Bassett and her Emmy award-winning husband are working behind the scenes to bring even more compelling stories to light. The couple started Bassett Vance Productions, where they are "dedicated to finding and developing diverse stories with a strong emphasis on BIPOC voices in front of and behind the camera."

One of their productions, the four-part docu-series, "One Thousand Years of Slavery," examines the truth about slavery around the world. The company worked with The Smithsonian Channel to bring the production to life. "Finding the right partner and audience who share common beliefs and values was absolutely imperative as we navigate a topic that still haunts us decades later," commented Bassett (via Shadow and Act).

In 2020, Bassett Vance Productions signed a deal with MTV Entertainment, with their first joint project being a scripted limited series inspired by the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 (via Ebony). The series tells the story of the wealthiest Black Community, the Greenwood district in Tulsa, and the racism that led to its destruction.