Black History Month Special: Black Entertainers Then And Now


In celebration of Black History Month, 4 Your Excitement is taking a look back at some of Hollywood’s best black entertainers in history and up and comers who are making a name for themselves in the business as we speak. Young and old, these entertainers have found their way into our homes and hearts, and continue to be a shining example for entertainers everywhere. Because there are just too many great entertainers to choose from, this list highlights just a small fraction of the most inspirational men and women of black entertainment from then and now.

Women of Television and Film

Then: Whoopi Goldberg

Photo courtesy of

An actress well know for her work for nearly three decades, Whoopi Goldberg has proved herself with a range of work from her best known early role as Celie in The Color Purple (1985) to co-hosting the daytime television show The View. She landed her very own Oscar after her performance in Ghost (1990), and has continued to receive numerous awards and nominations since. Goldberg has even landed herself a few roles in the world of fandoms. In the late 80’s and 90’s she appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation as Guinan alongside Captain Picard and his crew. In 2012, she guest starred on the FOX favorite Glee as Carmen Tibideaux, who gave  Rachel a run for her money when she auditioned for NYADA.

Now: Lupita Nyong’o

Photo courtesy of

Lupita Nyong’o proves that all greats have beauty and brains. Many know her from her break-out role in the Golden Globe winning biopic 12 Years a Slave, in which she won the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. She’s now in the running for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in the upcoming Academy Awards next month. What you may not know about this star is that she’s got a degree in film and theatre studies from Hamilton College, and received an M.F.A. from the prestigious Yale School of Drama. Her upbringing in Mexico and Kenyan culture has also led her to become fluent in Spanish, Swahili, and Luo in addition to English. In recognition of her talent, Essence magazine recently chose to honor her with the Best Breakout Performance award for their 2014 Black Women in Hollywood event.

Men of Television and Film

Then: Denzel Washington

Photo courtesy of

It’s no lie that this actor’s career took “Flight” over thirty years ago, but he’s still been dazzling silver screens everywhere to this day. Coming just behind acting great Sidney Poitier, Washington became the second black male to win an Oscar in 1990 for his role in Glory. He won his second just eleven years later for playing Det. Alonzo Harris in Training Day. Since then, we’ve seen him in hits such as Man on Fire, Inside Man, and American Gangster. A little known fun fact: these movies may not have been so fortunate to have Washington star in, because he planned on being a journalist just before he changed his mind to become an actor. Luckily, he did pursue acting, and eventually earned himself honorary doctorate degrees from both Morehouse College and the University of Pennsylvania.

Now: Michael B. Jordan

Photo courtesy of

Don’t let the name confuse you. He’s not basketball extraordinaire, Michael Jordan, but he is becoming a extraordinaire of his own in the acting world. From a young age, he landed himself roles on hit shows like The Sopranos and The Wire. Recently, one of his best performances came from the 2013 film Fruitvale Station, where  the horrors of police brutality were captured by the real-life story of Oscar Grant. This year, Jordan starred co-starred with fellow hottie Zac Eron in the Valentine’s Day flick That Award Moment. Next year he’ll be gearing up to play Johnny Storm in Marvel’s reboot of the Fantastic Four film franchise.

Women of Music

Then: Diana Ross

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Detroit, Motor City, or Motown. Whatever you may call it, the city’s produced many legendary recording artists including the soulful Diana Ross. From an early age, Ross sang with her all-female group, The Supremes, producing number-one hits such as “Baby Love” and “Stop! In the Name of Love.” The group’s ups and downs ultimately inspired the 2006 hit film Dreamgirls which was loosely based on Ross’ time with The Supremes. After leaving the group in the 70’s, Ross pursued a solo career as well as a career in acting. She appeared in films such as The Wiz and Mahogany during her time as an actress. In recognition of her 40 years worth of contributions to the musical world, Ross was presented with a Kennedy Center Honors in 2007, and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

Now: Emeli Sandé

Photo courtesy of

This musical talent from across the pond is absolutely fabulous. The 26 year old artist is of Zambian and English heritage, and spent a majority of her life in Scotland and England. After her first studio album in February 2012, Sandé’s career took off. In the summer of 2012, she received the honor of performing in both the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Summer Olympics. In 2013, her roaring 20’s inspired cover of Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love,” was featured on the Jay-Z produced “Great Gatsby” soundtrack. As part of their celebration of their 5th annual Black Women in Music event, Essence magazine paid tribute the Brit musician in LA last month. At the celebration, Sandé performed some of her best singles including “Next to Me” and “My Kind of Love.”

Men of Music

Then: Stevie Wonder

Photo courtesy of

This singer/songwriter Motown legend  who signed to the record label of the same name, has been in the music business for well over 50 years. Not letting his disability of blindness get in his way, Wonder started as a child prodigy and perused music at just 11 years old. Since his first signing, he’s produced numerous great soul and funk greats including “Superstition,” the collaborative “Ebony and Ivory” with Paul McCartney, and “Singed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours).” Wonder, who began his career cover songs from musical phenomenon Ray Charles, has received 22 Grammy wins throughout his lifetime, and a special Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. Just recently, Wonder was seen in an epic performance of “Get Lucky” at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards with Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, and Nile Rodgers.

Now: Kendrick Lamar

Photo courtesy of

One of the best rappers on the horizon is straight outta Compton. Though Kendrick Lamar, who’s hailed from the same neighborhood as rappers Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, experienced the negatives of the gang-world growing up in a “Mad City,” he channeled his energy and experiences into creating the songs that we know today. His major label debut album, appropriately titled “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City,” featured singles such as “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and “Poetic Justice” that tell the narrative of his life as an innocent kid growing up in the rough streets of Compton. The album, which was well received by critics, earned him six Grammy nominations for 2013 56th Annual Grammy Awards including Best Rap Album and Album of the Year. Lamar was  also featured in a stellar performance at the Grammy’s just a few weeks ago, rapping alongside the alternative rock group Imagine Dragons on their single “Radioactive”.