Why We Love This Girl

By Teryl Warren

Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Stone, SW PR Shop


As the star of Love That Girl!, the TV One network’s first original scripted program, executive produced by Martin Lawrence, Raphael Saadiq and Bentley Kyle Evans, Tatyana Ali shines as the smart, sexy, independent “Tyana Jones.”

“Tatyana Ali shines?” Well, that’s nothing new. Since shooting the pilot to NBC’s hit sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air at the tender age of eleven, Tatyana has been captivating audiences all over the world.

I first came into contact with Tatyana in the late ‘90’s at the pinnacle of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s success. I was booking celebrity talent for special guest appearances; and, as a fan-favorite of kids and teens, she was a natural fit to emcee my high-profile client’s event designed to inspire inner-city youth. At that time, her mother Sonia, who was a nurse from Panama, was her talent manager. Having worked with everything from A-list megastars to up-and-coming actors, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Tatyana.

In anticipation of working with the young star, I pondered several potential scenarios. “Would the appeal that she exhibits on television translate to a live audience?” “Would she be antsy and get bored easily – as some young performers do?” “Would my non-profit client be able to meet her potential list of celebrity demands?” When all was said and done, I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. She could have been a complete diva. Instead, she was an absolute delight.

“Polite.” “Refreshing.” “Respectful.” These are all words that come to mind when I recollect that experience with Tatyana Ali. It was clear to me, then, that the values that her mother/manager had instilled in her at a young age – things like professionalism, etiquette, graciousness – would serve her well in both her career and in life.

Fast-forward several years later and I’m happy to say that my initial instincts about Tatyana Ali were right. In addition to her role as “Ashley Banks” on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, she has shared the stage and screen with stars and legends like James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Bill Cosby and Naomi Watts – to name a few.

Earlier this year, she won a 2011 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series for her recurring role of “Roxanne” on The Young and the Restless; and she was nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on Love That Girl!

Her production company, Hazrah Entertainment – an effort she runs in concert with her sister Anastasia, now has two successful projects under its belt—the BET web series, Buppies, which has garnered over 5 million views to date and Love That Girl! – and has more projects currently in development. And the list of her credits as a performer goes on and on.

Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Stone, SW PR Shop


So, in this day and age of young Hollywood mishaps and struggling starlets, one has to wonder how Tatyana Ali – who has literally grown up in the spotlight – has managed to remain so incredibly normal. Tatyana’s professional success can undoubtedly be attributed to various virtues like talent, perseverance, hard work, and the like; but when it comes to her success as a woman, there is one factor seems to stand out above all the others: family.

“I am grateful to all my family for all the support and sacrifices over the years,” she’s been quoted as saying.

The support Tatyana Ali has received from her family led to her turn as a political science and Afro-American studies student at prestigious Harvard University. “Before high school ended, I started applying to college. It really wasn’t even a choice because of the brainwashing of my parents.”

Like any other student, Tatyana’s college experience proved invaluable to her personal development. The opportunity to mix and mingle with “regular” folk helped maintain Tatyana’s sense of normalcy, and broadened her own sense of self-awareness. “College was my opportunity to be around my peers, which you don’t get to do when you’re a child actor. And I wanted to be normal and see what else was out there, see what else I was good at. And there are some other things that I’m good at,” she’s said.

The fact that education is a core family value in the Ali household is also evidenced in her sister, Anastasia’s equally impressive pedigree as Brown University grad.

As a graduate of Harvard University, Tatyana Ali completely dispels the myth that physical beauty and intelligence are mutually exclusive. People Magazine recently celebrated that truth by naming her to their coveted “World’s Most Beautiful” list for 2011.

Interestingly, Tatyana’s life seems to imitate her art, as she was quoted in People Magazine as saying, “Ashley [on Fresh Prince] was a smart girl. I prefer [to play] smart women who are really going out for something.”

In recent years, Tatyana has put much of her time and talents to use in an effort to forward the causes of others. Throughout 2008, she was a highly visible surrogate for Barack Obama’s presidential bid. Earlier this year, she participated in CBS’ much-lauded Stand Up to Cancer special. And, as a producer, she is working to foster the careers of other up-and-coming artists. “I’ve always wanted to produce,” she noted. “Our company’s mandate, [for] Anastasia and I, is to bring varied content to the urban space-across the board.”

Though Tatyana Ali often shies away from the title of “role model” it’s virtually impossible for us to not admire her. She epitomizes all of the qualities that we as women, entrepreneurs and philanthropists hold so dear: She is a prime example that “beauty is skin deep” only when we fail to seek beyond the surface. And she challenges us to pursue excellence – leading by example – encouraging us all to demand the very best in everything we do.

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