Actress Raven dropped the “Symone” from her name when she emerged as one of the Disney Channel’s newest stars. Her sitcom for the cable network, That’s So Raven, debuted in 2003 and prompted industry-watchers to compare Raven to famous television comediennes from Lucille Ball to Hilary Duff. Though just over 18, the actress was already a veteran performer, having charmed audiences as the preschooler Olivia, the youngest resident of the Huxtable household, in the hit NBC sitcom The Cosby Show during its final three seasons, from 1989 to 1992. With the Disney job, she was pleased to be working once again on such a positive, multicultural series. “I just want to represent my people well,” she told Essence journalist Heather Keets Wright. “I’m not going to be ghetto on the show. I don’t want people to think that’s all we can do.”
The actress was born Raven-Symone Christina Pearman on December 10, 1985, to Christopher Barnard and Lydia Pearman of Atlanta, Georgia. She was modeling before her second birthday, and proved such an early success that her parents decided to relocate the family to New York City when she landed a major contract for television-commercial work. Despite her young age, Raven was adept at memorizing lines, and when she watched The Cosby Show —for several years in the 1980s the top-rated sitcom on broadcast television—she identified with the youngest daughter, Rudy, in the Bill Cosby series about a Brooklyn family. As Christopher Pearman, Raven’s father, recalled in an interview with Ebony writer Douglas C. Lyons, his daughter “would always say, ‘I can do that. Why can’t I be on The Cosby Show ?’”
Raven eventually landed an audition for a part in a Bill Cosby film, Ghost Dad, but was offered a recurring role on his hit show instead during its sixth season. She made her Cosby debut in 1989 as the newest member of the family: a toddler named Olivia. In the program, Olivia was introduced as the stepdaughter of the second Huxtable daughter, Denise, who had recently married a naval officer named Martin. Raven proved an adorable addition to the series and stayed until its final episode in 1992.
Raven had ambitions for a recording career as well, and signed with MCA when she was five years old, becoming the youngest artist ever signed to the label. Her debut single, “That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of,” was released in 1993, the year she turned eight, as part of the LP Here’s To New Dreams. That same year she was cast in Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, another toprated sitcom, as Nicole, the young daughter of Cooper’s cousin. She made her film debut in 1994 in the remake of the 1930s series Little Rascals, playing Stymie’s girlfriend. In 1998 she was cast in the Eddie Murphy comedy, Doctor Dolittle, about a man who can communicate with animals. Raven played Charisse, one of the beleaguered doctor’s two daughters, and she reprised the role for the 2001 sequel.
Raven had a hit with her second LP, Undeniable, released in 1999, and she even opened for the pop band N’Sync on tour. She balanced a busy career with schoolwork back home in Atlanta. Her parents allowed her to work, she explained in an interview with Jet, but cautioned, “‘You can be in the business all you want but you better graduate with honors.’” By the time she
Born Raven-Symone Christina Pearman on December 10, 1985, in Atlanta, GA; daughter of Christopher Barnard and Lydia (Gaulden) Pearman.
Career: Model, 1986–89; appeared in television commercials for Cool Whip, Ritz Crackers, and other products as a child, 1986–89; actress, 1989–; recording artist, 1993–.
Memberships: American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; Screen Actors Guild.
Awards: Young Artists Award for exceptional performance by a young artist under nine, for The Cosby Show, 1991; Image Award for outstanding performance in a youth/children’s program, for That’s So Raven, 2004.
Addresses: Agent —International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211-1934.
became the voice of Monique on the popular animated kids’ television series Kim Possible, she had dropped the “Symone” from her name.
Raven received star billing under her new name when she signed with Disney to do her own sitcom, That’s So Raven, which premiered in January of 2003. Within weeks the series about a psychic teenager and her comic escapades was pulling in 1.9 million viewers weekly, and she was hailed as the Disney Channel’s next Hilary Duff, star of the hit “tween” series and feature film Lizzie McGuire. Disney executive Rich Ross told Entertainment Weekly that Raven’s show surpassed expectations at the network. “Lizzie was on for a year and a half before it exploded,” Ross explained to writer Nicholas Fonseca. “Raven was on for six months. We expect her to be a big star for this company.” That assertion seemed borne out by her young fans’ behavior when they spotted Raven in public. “Little kids are coming up to me asking me, ‘What’s my future?’” she told Jet. “I [tell them], ‘I’m not really psychic.’ And they are like, ‘No, what’s my future?’ And I am like, ‘OK, you are going to have a good future.’”
Raven’s Disney deal also came with a television movie that premiered in August of 2003, The Cheetah Girls, about an all-girl pop group hoping for stardom. She sang on the soundtrack to the project as well, and was planning on making another solo record soon. Done with high school and contemplating culinary school, she was looking forward to more film roles as well. She was slated to star in a remake of a 1976 film about a Supremes-like singing group, Sparkle, that originally starred Irene Cara and Lonette McKee. An updated version, with Whitney Houston as one of the executive producers, had long been in the works, and Aaliyah was once pegged for the starring role before her death in a plane crash. Raven planned to watch the original, she conceded to Fonseca in Entertainment Weekly, but only once. “Just to make sure I’m on the right track,” she told the magazine, “I don’t want to follow in anybody else’s footsteps.” Disney also offered her the lead in a planned feature film, All American Girl, about a teen who inadvertently rescues the U.S. president.
Despite the years that have passed since the Cosby Show went off the air, many fans still recognize a grown-up Raven from her days as the preschooler Olivia. She told Jet that she always remembers the advice Bill Cosby gave her: “‘Stay professional and always stay sweet,’” and admitted she still catches syndicated Cosby Show reruns occasionally. “It’s kind of cool seeing yourself that young,” she told Houston Chronicle writers Jessica Shevlin and Katie Nappi. “I’m not able to remember much of it, so it’s kind of like looking at someone else.”
Here’s To New Dreams, MCA, 1993.
Undeniable, Crash, 1999.
Little Rascals, 1994.
Doctor Dolittle, 1998.
Doctor Dolittle 2, 2001.
Cheetah Girls, 2003.
“That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of,” MCA, 1993.
“Raven Is the Flavor,” MCA, 1993.
“With a Child’s Heart,” Crash, 1999.
The Cosby Show, NBC, 1989-92.
Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, ABC, 1993-97.
(Voice) Kim Possible, Disney, 2002—.
That’s So Raven, Disney, 2003—.
Daily Variety, August 18, 2003, p. 5, 8.
Ebony, May 1990, p. 106.
Entertainment Weekly, May 1, 1992, p. 20; April 30, 1999, p. 95; October 17, 2003, p. 42.
Essence, October 2003, p. 148.
Houston Chronicle, November 27, 2003, p. 2.
Jet, July 5, 1993, p. 61; November 8, 1993, p. 58; September 8, 2003, p. 60.
Palm Beach Post, July 13, 2003, p. 5J.
People, May 20, 2002, p. 140.
Teen People, February 1, 2004, p. 93.
WWD, August 7, 2003, p. 12.
Full name, Raven–Symone Christina Pearman; born December 10, 1985, in Atlanta, GA; daughter of Christopher and Monica (some sources say Lydia) Pearman.
Addresses: Agent—ICM, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Publicist—Marleah Leslie & Associates PR, 8370 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 210, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.
Career: Actress, composer, and singer. Worked as a model; appeared in public service announcements called Express Yourself.
Awards, Honors: Young Artist Award nomination, outstanding performance by an actress under nine years of age, 1990, Young Artist Award, exceptional performance by a young actress under nine, 1991, Young Artist Award nomination, outstanding actress under ten in a television series, 1993, all for The Cosby Show; Young Artist Award nomination, best youth comedienne, 1994, Image Award nomination, outstanding youth actor/actress, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1996, both for Hangin' with Mr. Cooper; YoungStar Award nomination, best performance by a young actress in a miniseries or made–for–TV film, 1999, for Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century; Image Award nomination, outstanding youth actor/actress, 2002, for Dr. Doolittle 2; Black Reel Award nomination, television: best actress, 2004, for The Cheetah Girls; Young Artist Award nomination, best performance in a TV series (comedy or drama)—leading young actress, Teen Choice Award nomination, choice TV actress—comedy, Image Award, outstanding performance in a youth/children's program, 2004, all for That's So Raven; Blimp Award, Kids' Choice Awards, favorite TV actress, 2004.
(As Raven–Symone) Stymie's girlfriend, The Little Rascals, Universal, 1994.
(As Raven–Symone) Charisse Dolittle, Dr. Doolittle, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1998.
(As Raven–Symone) Charisse Dolittle, Dr. Doolittle 2 (also known as DR.2 and DR2), Twentieth Century–Fox, 2001.
Voice of Monique, Kim Possible: The Secret Files (animated), 2003.
Princess Asana, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Buena Vista, 2004.
(As Raven–Symone) Voice of Danielle, Fat Albert, Twentieth Century–Fox, 2004.
Television Appearances; Series:
(As Raven–Symone) Olivia Kendall, The Cosby Show, NBC, 1989–1992.
(As Raven–Symone) Nicole Lee, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, ABC, 1993–1997.
(As Raven–Symone) Voice of Monique, Kim Possible (animated; also known as Disney's Kim Possible), The Disney Channel, 2002—.
Raven Baxter, That's So Raven (also known as Absolutely Psychic), The Disney Channel, 2002—.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
(Uncredited) Queen (age 5), Queen (also known as Alex Haley's Queen), CBS, 1993.
Herself, I Love the '80s (documentary), VH1, 2002.
Television Appearances; Movies:
(As Raven–Symone) Nebula Wade, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, The Disney Channel, 1999.
Galleria Garibaldi, The Cheetah Girls, The Disney Channel, 2003.
Nebula, Zenon: Z3, The Disney Channel, 2004.
Television Appearance; Specials:
The 56th Annual King Orange Jamboree Parade, NBC, 1989.
Time Warner Presents the Earth Day Special, ABC, 1990.
Night of 100 Stars III, NBC, 1990.
(As Raven–Symone) Young girl, The Muppets at Walt Disney World, NBC, 1990.
Comic Relief IV, HBO, 1990.
The Chipmunks Rockin' through the Decades, NBC, 1990.
The 17th Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 1991.
(As Raven–Symone) Herself, Muhammad Ali's 50th Birthday Celebration, 1992.
The Last Laugh: Memories of the Cosby Show, NBC, 1992.
Family Night, syndicated, 1992.
The Winans' Real Meaning of Christmas, syndicated, 1993.
Jim Thorpe Pro Sports Awards Presented by Footlocker, ABC, 1993.
Hollywood Christmas Parade, syndicated, 1993.
ABC Saturday Morning Preview Special, ABC, 1993.
Growing Up Funny, Lifetime, 1994.
The 26th Annual NAACP Image Awards, NBC, 1994.
Herself, The ABC Saturday Morning Sneak Preview, ABC, 1995.
Presenter, The Fourth Annual Trumpet Awards, TBS, 1996.
All–Star T.G.I.F. Magic, ABC, 1997.
Voices of Princess Olivia and Zoe, The Princess and the Pauper: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 2000.
(As Raven–Symone) Herself, VH–1 Where Are They Now: Former Childstars (documentary), VH1, 2000.
(As Raven–Symone) Herself, NBC 75th Anniversary Special (also known as NBC 75th Anniversary Celebration), NBC, 2000.
(As Raven–Symone) Herself, The Cosby Kids: The E! True Hollywood Story (documentary), E! Entertainment Television, 2001.
The 3rd Annual Family Television Awards, CBS, 2001.
Herself/Olivia Kendall, The Cosby Show: A Look Back, 2002.
Herself, The Nick at Nite Holiday Special, 2003.
Voice of Monique, Kim Possible: A Stitch in Time (animated), The Disney Channel, 2003.
A Merry Mickey Celebration, ABC, 2003.
The 2003 Teen Choice Awards, Fox, 2003.
Real Access: Hot 24 in 2004, Noggin, 2004.
Presenter, Nickelodeon's 17th Annual Kids' Choice Awards, Noggin, 2004.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Appeared as herself, Mike's Super–Short Show.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
(As Raven–Symone) Olivia, "Forever Hold Your Peace," A Different World, NBC, 1989.
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, NBC, 1991.
(As Raven–Symone) Claudia, "Vying for Attention," The Fresh Prince of Bel–Air, NBC, 1992.
(As Raven–Symone) Soul Train, 1993.
(As Raven–Symone) Voice of Goldilocks, "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (animated), HBO, 1995.
(As Raven–Symone) Herself, "Piledriver," Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Cartoon Network, 1997.
(As Raven–Symone) Charmaine, "Mom's Away: Parts 1 & 2," My Wife and Kids, ABC, 2001.
(As Raven–Symone) Herself, Oh Drama!, Black Entertainment Television, 2001.
(As Raven–Symone) Voice of Stephanie, "Seven Days of Kwanzaa," The Proud Family (animated), The Disney Channel, 2001.
Herself, "NBC All–Stars Edition," Weakest Link, NBC, 2002.
The Wayne Brady Show, 2003.
Herself, "The Haunted Mansion," Movie Surfers, 2003.
Guest co–host, The View, ABC, 2003.
Herself, "AFV's 300th Episode: Part 2," America's Funniest Home Videos, 2003.
Guest judge, Star Search, 2003.
Herself, "VH1's One Hit Wonders Presents: Star Treks," One Hit Wonders, 2003.
Contestant, Weakest Link, NBC, 2004.
Herself, "New Disney Soundtracks," Disney 411, 2004.
Herself, 106 and Park, 2004.
Herself, Good Morning America, 2004.
Herself, TRL, MTV, 2004.
Also appeared as Maryanne Greene, "Code Name: Electric Haircut," Fillmore!; Alexandria Quarry, "Field Trip of the Just," Fillmore!; herself, Live with Regis and Kelly; herself, Real Access; herself, "Stage Moms and Dads," Showbiz Moms & Dads; Lutisha, "First Sight, Second Thought," The EN; herself, The Weekenders; in Storytime, PBS.
A Mother's Prayer, 2000.
Here's to New Dreams, 1993.
Also contributed tracks to That's So Raven Soundtracks; The Haunted Mansion Soundtrack.
Television Theme Songs; Series:
(As Raven–Symone) That's So Raven (also known as Absolutely Psychic), The Disney Channel, 2002.