To call Nia Long an ageless beauty would be an understatement.
But as the Black Hollywood icon celebrates her 50th birthday, it’s clear she’s aging backwards. Whether on screen, on the red carpet or on social media, Long’s flawless skin and radiant smile is always front and center. She’s had a hold on our hearts for over 30 years.
At ESSENCE, we’ve seen Long’s forever glow up from her very first cover in 1993. She appeared with Will Smith, her onscreen boyfriend from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But as the years went on, from her first solo cover in 2000 to her sharing her children with us in 2012, there’s been one constant with this proud Brooklyn-born star: her beauty comes from within.
During Long’s guest appearance on Yes, Girl! Podcast, cohost Charli Penn made sure to acknowledge the impact the actress and producer has had on Black women. She told Long in the episode: “I thank you for always choosing roles that no matter what your character is doing, we see some part of ourselves, or our friend, or our sister in those roles. And I think growing up with that made us feel more comfortable being whatever one of those people or Black women was inside of us. And I just want to thank you for that, because it’s really special to Black women.”
Long received the love. “That is like the most amazing compliment that I have ever received. And I… You’re going to make me cry,” said the actress, whose early roles in love jones, The Best Man and Soul Food solidified why Black women are her number one fans. “I worked my ass off for that. I want that for us. Because I know how difficult it is to maneuver in this world looking the way we do, speaking the way we do. And all of it is beautiful. But the pressure to have to adjust who we are to be accepted, wears on your self-esteem. It wears on your confidence. It wears on your sense of knowing who you are and your truth.”
She continued: “What I think is great about right now, is we’re really in a time where we get to be whoever we want to be and who we really are. And there’s a big fight ahead of us to keep battling and to keep using our voices and to keep being as Black as we want to be and to stand for Breonna Taylor and to commit to ourselves in a way that our ancestors committed to themselves, to push forward.”
As Long celebrates her 50th turn around the sun, we take a look back at how she’s been shining from day one. Happy birthday Nia Long!