“I don’t think something is a failure if you put your all into it. I’m a big fan of the saying, ‘Nothing beats a failure but a try.’”
While it is no mystery that women of colour still continue to battle racism on the work front and struggle to find suitable roles, Regina King is taking Hollywood by storm with her infectious and commanding on-screen presence. The actor boasts of numerous awards and accolades such as four Emmys, a Golden Globe as well as an Academy Award, challenging prejudices and age-old notions about Black women never being able to find their footing in the showbiz. King’s determination and talent has helped hurtle her career in a positive direction, and she has steadily clambered from being a part of the supportive cast to grabbing main roles. On her 50th birthday today, or as Regina would like calling it as “half a century”, we take a look at this extraordinary performer’s career graph and how she, like Cynthia Erivo, managed to forge a path for the women of colour, in a truly inspirational sense.
Born to working-class parents in Los Angeles in 1971, King witnessed her parent’s divorce almost eight years later. King’s younger sister, Reina, grew up to be an actress as well in talent that runs through their close family unit. Although it took quite some time for King to flourish, she started her life in the film industry early with the role of Brenda Jenkins on 227 in 1985. The show had a successful five year run before coming to an end in 1990. King, who had a very close-knit family, would be accompanied by her mother, aunt and sisters to the sets, a factor that King often attributes her success to her supportive personal life.
Regina’s waltz into stardom was no cakewalk. After 227, King had to undergo a lot of hassle to maintain her position in Hollywood. While the aspirations for equal pay never crossed her mind, King never considered herself “powerless”, though she did confess: “But I didn’t think that I was powerful.” Soon enough, she started starring in films like Boyz N The Hood, Poetic Justice, Higher Learning, Friday and more before experimenting with genres by enacting in films such as Jerry Maguire, Miss Congeniality 2, A Cinderella Story and others.
King soon starred in ABC’s anthology series American Crime, a project which won her two of the four Emmys to her name. She bagged the first one for the role of Aliyah Shadeed in the first season and won the second won for paying Terri LaCroix in the following season. In 2018 and building on the momentum of success, King starred as a grieving mother of a black teenager in a Netflix series named Seven Seconds which won her the third Emmy. While 2020 has been a cursed year for all, King has won the fourth Emmy for her outstanding lead performance in HBO’s Watchmen as her stock continues to rise.
However, despite the aforementioned accolades, it would be King’s Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning role in Barry Jenkins’ 2018 film If Beale Street Coul Talk that remains her most celebrated moment. The movie saw her playing the role of Sharon, the lead protagonist Tish’s mother; Tish’s boyfriend Fonny had been alleged to have raped a woman and Sharon takes it on herself to follow the survivor to Puerto Rico to uncover the truth. The depth of emotions displayed by King in her role as Sharon, along with the raw sensitivity of a mother trying to support her daughter and her paramour, is moving to say the very least. Jenkins, who hit the jackpot with his Academy Award-winning film Moonlight, brings out the issue of systemic racism and violence perfectly and King’s incredible portrayal transcends direction in its originality, vulnerability and tenderness.
Regina King, relentlessly pushing for more artistic development, has also ventured into the realms of direction and production. She is fearless and works hard with the enthusiasm of a newcomer despite spending nearly 30 years in this draining industry. With each passing day, she seems to get bigger and better. Devoid of the aggression and complacence of a perennial over-achiever, King’s humility shines through when she stares in disbelief at people who compliment her. King’s admirable run in the industry greatly inspires many who are trying to make it big yet fear marginalisation based on terms of skin colour and sex. Aware of the pay disparity that still plagues Hollywood, this feminist icon is a passionate advocate of the Time’s Up movement and feels strongly about women getting equal pay as that of their male counterparts.
King, who turns 50 today, is more excited than ever at the prospects this new milestone is going to bring to her life. This superb woman seems to age in reverse and has no intention of slowing down in her career, one which is zooming towards the pinnacle of success and acting as an inspiration to the people of colour all over the world. As British Vogue quoted her saying, “I feel like I’m so much more interesting now, as a soon-to-be 50-year-old woman, than I was at 25. I can bring so much more to the table. I think that’s the same for all people.” King, who derives continual inspiration from Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren, plans to celebrate this new milestone in her life by releasing her directorial debut film One Night in Miami which she is extremely excited for as it resonates with her fully, signifying yet another crowing moment in a career like no other.
“My mother was a single mom, and most of the women I know are strong.”