WAMU 88.5 : News

Actress Daphne Reid Broke Barriers Before Her Big Break

Play associated audio
Daphne Reid, smiling from the red carpet at the Emmy's in 1990.
Daphne Reid, smiling from the red carpet at the Emmy's in 1990.

A barrier-breaking actress from a popular 90's sitcom now has her own news show in Virginia.

Actress Daphne Maxwell Reid is perhaps best known as Will Smith's Aunt Viv from "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air." Years before black family sitcoms like "Fresh Prince" became mainstream, Reid found herself breaking racial barriers in pop culture.

In the 1960s, when she arrived at Chicago's Northwestern University, she wasn't prepared for what she found.

"I was walking into one of the most racially divided areas of the country," says Reid. "It was 5,000 students, and I was one of 36 black students who were on that campus."

Reid is that infuriating double-threat of smart and beautiful, so when her college roommates convinced her to run for homecoming queen, she, of course, won, becoming Northwestern's first black homecoming queen.

"They announced the court and the four girls walked out one by one and they were applauded and you could hear the applause, and then they announced the queen and when I walked out there was a hush that came over the audience," says Reid. "They could not believe it, and they didn't applaud. So I hiked up my skirts, walked off the stage and walked back to my dorm room."

Reid's victory made the cover of Jet magazine in an article about black queens at white schools. Not long after that, she broke another barrier.

"I was walking down the street and on the newsstand, there I was being the first black woman on Glamour magazine," says Reid.

Today she's host of a TV program on the campus of Virginia State University and touring with her book of photography called Doors. Reid maintains that for each of her accomplishments, she was simply in the right place, at the right time.

"I didn't know the importance of all the little things that were happening in my life," says Reid. "I didn't know that I was the first this and the first that and the only this and that, I was just living my life."


Heroic Women In Strong Poses: Serena Williams, Amy Schumer In Pirelli Calendar

"Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman." — that's how comedian Amy Schumer sums up this year's Pirelli calendar.

High-Sodium Warnings Hit New York City Menus

The city is the first in the nation to require a sodium warning on menu items containing 2,300 milligrams of sodium or more. The rule applies to chain restaurants with 15 or more locations.

Paris Climate Talks Face A Familiar Hurdle — American Politics

The U.S. and China are the world's two largest polluters, but in both countries, the will to do something about climate change is lower than the rest of the world. In the U.S., there's a party split.
WAMU 88.5

Computer Guys And Gal

Another year is coming to a close and the Computer Guys And Gal are here to discuss this year's biggest technology news, including the growth of virtual reality and the "Internet of Things."

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.