Dubbed “one of Hollywood’s up-and-coming leading ladies,” by Jet magazine, LisaRaye, born Lisa Ray McCoy, never intended to become an actress. Born September 23, 1967, in Chicago, Illinois, she was the only child of successful hotel proprietors. She was raised watching her father and mother managing their hotel, and assumed one day she would take her place alongside her parents, helping them with their hotel, and maybe even one day running one of her own. Unfortunately, it wasn’t something that really interested her. “I knew I’d work in my father’s business even though I hated it,” LisaRaye told Upscale. Because she really did not know what else she could possibly do with her life, she went to college at Eastern Illinois University to study hotel management. It was while she was there, studying things she felt she already knew from having watched her parents doing them for years, that she started modeling.
Modeling was something that LisaRaye was good at, and that she enjoyed. “I like the all-eyes-on-me type of thing,” she told Jet. And she certainly seemed to be having an early success, showing up on the covers of such publications as Brides Magazine, Ebony, Being There, and After 5, as well as appearing in advertisements for Johnson Publishing Company’s Supreme Beauty Products. She was worried about what her parents would think about her sidestep from the hotel business, but her parents were very supportive, and LisaRaye started modeling more and more. It wasn’t until her father’s early death, however, that she seriously started thinking about what she wanted to do with her life and came to grips with the fact that she did not want to run hotels for a living. When she found out that she was pregnant, LisaRaye started to take her modeling career seriously and really start working on it. “After I had Kai,” she told Upscale, “I started taking life seriously. I knew I had to set a strong example for her.” And her new serious frame of mind definitely paid off. Within a short span of time she was getting more and better work, and it wasn’t long before she was hired as the spokeswoman for Courvoisier Cognac. She also appeared in Tupac Shakur’s video, “Toss It Up.”
It was her hard work and the success of her modeling career that eventually led to her screen debut. Her modeling brought her to the attention of long-time Spike Lee producer Monty Ross who offered her a part in the 1996 film, Reasons, that he directed. “Reasons was my acting start,” she told Upscale, “Although the
Born Lisa Ray McCoy on September 23, 1967, in Chicago, IL; parents, hotel proprietors; children: Kaienia. Education: attended Eastern Illinois University.
Career: Modeled during college; actress: Reasons, 1996; The Player’s Club, 1998; The Wood, 1999; Rhapsody, 2000; Love the Way, 2000; The Cheapest Movie Ever Made, 2000.
Addresses: Home—California. Agent— Lynn Jeter, Lynn Allen Jeter & Associates, 8530 Wilshire Blvd., #404 Beverly Hills, CA 90211, (323) 933-8007,E-mail: [email protected]
film didn’t get distribution, because of his contacts, Ross was able to show the film to everyone in Hollywood, and they all wanted to know who the fresh face was.” Ross, impressed by her acting in Reasons, advised LisaRaye to visit Hollywood during the TV pilot season. Fresh from the excitement of her first feature film, which she very much enjoyed making, she decided to go. Although she was not hired for any of the new pilots airing that season, LisaRaye quickly realized that she had found her new home. She felt instantly that the fanfare and excitement of Hollywood were perfect for her, and so she returned to Illinois to pick up her daughter, Kaienia, and then moved from Illinois to the sunny coast of Southern California.
Once there LisaRaye managed relatively quickly to obtain guest spots on shows such as Martin, In the House, The American Way, and the TV movie The Father Clements Story. This brought her even more vividly to the attention of important Hollywood moguls and led to her first big role as Diamond/Diana Armstrong in the 1998 film The Player’s Club. The New Line Cinema movie, directed by Ice Cube, told the story of a young single mother who takes on a job as a stripper to pay her way through college. LisaRaye’s performance was dubbed “persuasively feisty” by Variety, and was received favorably. It was this part that paved the way for LisaRaye’s grand entrance into the first glimmerings of Hollywood stardom.
Her next film, The Wood, gave LisaRaye the chance to show another of her various acting hats, this time playing a young bride whose fiance has a severe case of the wedding jitters. LisaRaye told Jet that she was attracted to the film because of the writing and because she would have the opportunity to play a character completely different from the sexy stripper she portrayed in The Player’s Club. Given the opportunity to stretch her acting legs, LisaRaye rose to the occasion and managed to attract positive attention in a film primarily about the friendship of her movie fiance and his male childhood friends.
After The Wood, LisaRaye was offered the opportunity to act in several other films. Among these was the movie Love the Way, which LisaRaye finished filming in early 2000. Love the Way is about a young woman who breaks up with her boyfriend to go find love somewhere else, only to meet up with her exboyfriend’s best childhood friend. LisaRaye plays the woman’s best friend. She told the Gene Geter Web Site that this part interested her because it was, yet again, a new one for her. “This girl doesn’t care about how she looks and she’s comical, but in a sense, she keeps her friend in check.”
Next, according to LisaRaye’s official web site, she was slated to start filming a movie called Civil Brand, a film about abuse in women’s prisons. And that is most definitely not the end of LisaRaye’s raid of Hollywood. On the horizon there are two more movies scheduled for release: Rhapsody and The Cheapest Movie Ever Made. Things have been going very well for the hotel proprietor turned model turned actress, and there is plenty more to come. LisaRaye told Jet that she would love to do action films (Pam Greer is one of her idols.). She would also love to work with Jada Pinkett Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne, Spike Lee, and Angela Bassett. Whatever she does, however, she definitely wants to continue acting as long as she enjoys what she’s doing. “When I don’t have a ball and all of this stops being fun for me,” she told ,fv;5Jet, “then I’ll say I don’t want to do this anymore.” For a woman who admitted that she “gets a lot of love” from her fans, it is to be hoped that that day is a long time coming.
Jet, August 9, 1999, p. 38.
PR Newswire, June 20, 2000.
Upscale, May, 2000, pp. 32-33.
Variety, April 13-19, 1998, p. 28.
—Catherine Victoria Donaldson
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