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Elise, Kimberly 1967–

Kimberly Elise 1967


At a Glance


At first glance, it seems like things come very quickly and easily to Kimberly Elise. She met and married her husband within three months; she had their first child within a year of the marriage. She moved to Hollywood and two years later had a starring role in the film Set It Off; she landed an incredible role opposite Oprah Winfrey in Beloved; then moved on to John Q with Denzel Washington. But the road from Wayzata, Minnesota to Hollywood took a good deal of time.

I always knew I wanted to be an actress, Elise said in an Essence magazine article. No one in my family acted but ever since I was little, its all I wanted to do. She was the third child in her family of four children. The family lived in Minneapolis until she was nine. They then moved into the suburb of Wayzata where they were one of the first black families in the neighborhood.

Her suburban upbringing did little for her career. Elise remembered being excluded from parts in school plays because of her race, in spite of being in acting classes. Everybody would say, Whose sister could Kim play? she explained in Essence. But that did not stop her from pursuing a career in movies. She told People Magazine that she had written her local newspaper in Minneapolis to inquire about steps to take for stardom. I wrote a letter to the Fix-It column of the newspaper, she said. They told me all the steps to take. Those steps included getting photos taken to present herself and hiring an agent to secure auditions. And as soon as she graduated high school, she followed the newspapers instructions. She landed a few commercial roles that paid her way through four years at the University of Minnesota as a liberal arts and communications major.

Elise planned to get back into acting after graduation but she took a small detour into family life. She told Essence that two weeks before graduation she met her husband, Maurice, at her fathers employment agency. He was so striking and well-mannered, Elise said. The two became inseparable after seeing each other at a party a few weeks later and married soon after. Within a year, Elise gave birth to the couples first child, AjaBleu. With trying to make family life and motherhood work, Elise placed her plans to be a star on hold for a few years. She performed in local plays and constructed a portfolio that featured a short film she directed and filmed in her loft. The piece earned her a spot at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. In 1994, the struggling family packed everything into a U-Haul, and moved to Los Angeles in support of Elises dreams.

After graduating from the AFI program, the family got by on Elises guest-starring roles. Her determination to make it in Hollywood was tested during this time. Elise recalled pushing for speaking parts to make more money. She had earned a speaking role on LL Cool Js In the House only to learn that her lines were being cut. If my lines were cut, it would mean much less money, she told Essence. We needed every dime. So I went to the director, who was a Black woman, and I explained I had to pay my rent. I asked her to please leave my lines in. And she did.

At a Glance

Born in 1967; daughter of Marvin Trammel (executive search firm owner), and Erma Trammel (teacher); married Maurice Oldham, 1990; children: AjaBleu, 1991, JaelaRose, 1998; Education: University of Minnesota, Bachelors in Liberal Arts and Communications; Graduate of American Film Institute.

Career: Set It Off, 1996; The Ditch-Diggers Daughters, 1997; Beloved, 1998; The Loretta Claiborne Story, 2000; Bojangles, 2001; John Q, 2002.

Awards: 19th Annual Cable Ace Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Movie or Mini Series, for The Ditch-Diggers Daughters, 1997.

Elise s break came when she won the part of a single mother in Set It Off. The film also starred Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Vivica Fox. Elise also remembered the stark difference the movie would soon make in her life. We were so poor. We had our one car, and it had been in an accident, she told Essence. But they still drove the car to the set. We would have to take home food from the set, but then wed fly first-class to press junkets, Elise told Essence.

Elises next role was a breakout performance in the Oprah Winfrey vehicle Beloved. The role literally defined her career. It took my work from acting to being, she explained in Essence. Doing that film, I never thought about anything. I just trusted and allowed Denver to flow. It was a possession. The story focused on the generation of African Americans just after slavery and the effect slavery had on them. Winfrey described Elises performance as an extension of her spirit. Kimberly is an extraordinary human being because of her willingness always to show her grace. Winfrey told Essence. You see that grace in her work, in the attention she pays to it, how she makes everyone who works with her better.

With the success that came her way after Beloved, Elise carefully charted her next steps in acting. I always know right away whether or not something is for me, she told Essence, and I try never to go against that feeling. Her feeling next led her to the Disney film, The Loretta Claiborne Story. The movie was based on Claibornes life and career as a champion athlete in spite of her mental limitations. Elise explained her role in an interview with Jet magazine, I felt a big responsibility to Loretta Claiborne, to Special Olympics, and to people with mental retardation.

She summed up her dedication to acting in the Essence article. It about our ancestry. Its about spirits that are still broken and hurt, Elise explained. And what I know now is that my responsibility, part of the reason that the Creator gave me this assignment, is to help fulfill what wasnt fulfilled before.

Elises next film will pair her with Denzel Washington in John Q. In this film we get to see a Black man and woman who are working together, she told Essence. We dont see that so much in Hollywood. And we see Denise, a wife and mother, holding her husband with one hand and her dying son with the other. She is the glue that keeps the family together, and that is the story of so many Black women.


Entertainment Weekly, November 8, 1996, p. 48; June 26, 1998, p. 24.

Essence, January 2001, p. 40, p. 94.

Jet, January 17, 2000, p. 52.

People Weekly, October 26, 1998, p. 127; December 28, 1998 p. 114.

Variety, November 24, 1997, p. 48.

Leslie Rochelle

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"Elise, Kimberly 1967–." Contemporary Black Biography. . 10 Dec. 2017 <>.

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Elise, Kimberly 1971–

ELISE, Kimberly 1971–

(Kimberly Elise Oldham)


Original name, Kimberly Elise Trammel; born 1971, in Minneapolis, MN; daughter of Marvin (an owner of an executive search firm) and Erma (an elementary schoolteacher) Trammel; married Maurice Oldham (a photographer), c. 1991; children: AjaBleu, JaelaRose. Education: Attended Minneapolis Community College; University of Minnesota—Twin Cities, B.A.; studied directing at American Film Institute, 1995.

Addresses: Agent— Writers and Artists Group International, 8383 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Manager— Evan Hainey, Untitled Entertainment, 8436 West Third St., Suite 650, Los Angeles, CA 90048.

Career: Actress. Appeared on stage with an African American theatre company; worked as associate producer for a public television station in Minneapolis, MN; former member of Northern Warehouse Artist Cooperative. Appeared in television commercials.

Awards, Honors: Annual CableACE Award, National Cable Television Association, best supporting actress in a movie or miniseries, 1997, for The Ditchdigger's Daughter; Fennecus Award nomination, best supporting actress, and Apex Award nomination, best supporting actress in a drama, both 1998, Golden Satellite Award, International Press Academy, best supporting actress in a motion picture drama, Chicago Film Critics Association Award, most promising actress, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, best supporting actress, Image Award nomination, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture, and Black Film Award nomination, Acapulco Black Film Festival, best actress, all 1999, all for Beloved; retrospective of films shown at "A Ritual of Healing," 1999 Juneteenth Film Festival; Black Reel Award, best network or cable supporting actress, and Image Award nomination, outstanding actress in a television movie, miniseries, or dramatic special, both 2002, for Bojangles; Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture, and Black Reel Award nomination, best theatrical actress, both 2003, for John Q; Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a drama series, 2003, for Soul Food.


Film Appearances:

Tisean "T. T." Williams, Set It Off, New Line Cinema, 1996.

Denver, Beloved, Buena Vista, 1998.

Lisa Hill, Bait (also known as Piege), Warner Bros., 2000.

Denise Archibald, John Q, New Line Cinema, 2002.

Michelle Jordan, Woman Thou Art Loosed, T. D. Jakes Ministries/Woman Thou Art Loosed, 2004.

Rosie, The Manchurian Candidate, Paramount, 2004.

Helen McCarter, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Lions Gate Films, 2005.

Film Director:

The Joy of Mama's Recall (short film), c. 1993.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Jeanette, The Ditchdigger's Daughters, The Family Channel, 1997.

Loretta Claiborne, The Loretta Claiborne Story, ABC, 2000.

Fanny May, Bojangles, Showtime, 2001.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

Presenter, 30th NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 1999.

Herself, Essence Awards (also known as The 2003 Essence Awards), Fox, 2003.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

(As Kimberly Elise Oldham) Roulette, "Nanna Don't Play," In the House, UPN, 1995.

Candace Blake, "Black or White," The Sentinel, UPN, 1996.

Estella McKenzie, "Emotional Collateral," Soul Food, Showtime, 2002.

Estella McKenzie, "Falling from Grace," Soul Food, Showtime, 2003.

Jasmine/police detective, "Another Life," The Twilight Zone, UPN, 2003.

Reesie Jackson, "The Fast Track and the Furious," Girlfriends, UPN, 2003.

Reesie Jackson, "The Pact," Girlfriends, UPN, 2003.

Herself, Tavis Smiley, PBS, 2004.

Stage Appearances:

Free to Be You and Me, c. 1981.

Appeared in Enlightenments, Illusion Theatre, Minneapolis, MN; A Raisin in the Sun, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, MA.

Stage Director:

Free to Be You and Me, c. 1981.



Herself, Behind the Scenes of "John Q," New Line Home Video, 2002.



The Joy of Mama's Recall (short film), c. 1993.

Stage Plays:

Adaptor, Free to Be You and Me, c. 1981.

Author of stage plays and stories.



Brentwood, January/February, 2002.

Essence, January, 2001, p. 94; January, 2002, p. 40.

Honey, August, 2000, pp. 70–71.

Movieline, November, 1998, p. 18.

People Weekly, October 26, 1998, p. 127; December 28, 1998, p. 114.

USA Today, October, 1998.

USA Weekend, February 17, 2001.

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"Elise, Kimberly 1971–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . 10 Dec. 2017 <>.

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"Elise, Kimberly 1971–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from