Catching Up With: Elise Neal

In 1991, Elise Neal hit the entertainment scene as a dancer and hasn’t looked back since. The now 49-year-old actress has been all over your television and movie screens and these days, you can even catch Elise keeping the peace on “Hollywood Divas.” But that isn’t all she’s up to… JET caught up with the Memphis-bred actress for a conversation about how she’s been, what she’s doing and where she’s headed. 

JET: Elise you’re from Memphis a.k.a. the “dirty south.” What are some of your fondest memories growing up?

Elise Neal: I love the fact that I’m from Memphis. I always go back whenever I can. You know, I just love being a Southern girl. I love the fact that I used to have a yard to play in and I had a very cool upbringing with my mom and my dad there. Memphis will always be that second home in my mind. I love it. There’s nothing like Southern hospitality, Southern cooking. The whole vibe of the South is just really sweet and amazing. We ask lots of questions. We say “Hello” when we walk down the street. We don’t need to know you. I just like that about how I was raised.

JET: You star on Hollywood Divas. While you’re used to being on screen, I imagine it’s different being on a reality television show because you’re not playing a character. How was the adjustment compared to acting? 

Elise Neal: Well it is a little bit of an adjustment. I am a very private person. When I decided to be part of Hollywood Divas, I was feeling a certain way, but I did know that the show needed an anchor and I know that’s why TV One contacted me. You may have a whole lot of different personalities, you may have a lot of things going on with the members of the cast, but you’re always going to need someone to be the anchor and they wanted it to be me. And that’s why I decided to do the show. But also for me, a lot of people don’t know what my real personality is. I’ve been silly. I’ve been quick on my feet and people just don’t really get to hear me speak, I’m always speaking as a different character. And I thought: “This is the time for people to kinda understand who I am.” And that has afforded me so many opportunities.

JET: Aside from Hollywood Divas, you’re a pretty busy woman. You plan to launch a fitness and lifestyle brand among other things. Tell me about these moves you’re making.

Elise Neal: My goal is to have fitness brand apparel that everyone will be wearing. That’s the goal and we’re working on that right now. Those are the things that of course I can’t really talk all the way about until they’re 100% solidified. But that’s where I’m going in terms of the show. Using my brand, using my face to be able to bring something great to the masses. Other than that, what we did on Hollywood Divas was let it be known that you can create your own projects. Outside of that, it made me excited about being a producer. Right now I just co-wrote and produced my own [screenplay] called Timeless. Myself and my writing partner Robin Thede got together and wrote it and I’m so excited about it. I started out in this business as a dancer. The show itself has all of those elements. It’s pretty much a drama with dance, so everything that people know Elise Neal to be about, they will be satisfied by seeing Timeless.

JET: Everyone’s adjustment to fame is different. When did you realize that you were big time? 

Elise Neal: (laughs). I don’t think I’ll EVER have that time. I’m not that girl. I think of people like Rihanna who have that problem. I’m not a Rihanna. When people see me, they call me out by my whole name because I’ve been in so many households for so long people think that they know me almost. It’s a different energy. I get kinda of nervous when people just want to take pictures with me. Years ago, I had stalkers so I get kinda nervous. But most of the time, it becomes a hug and they think they know me and I prefer that!

JET: What do you find most fulfilling about acting?

Elise Neal: Honestly, as me, as Elise, I really do enjoy what being an actor affords you in terms of privacy. I can pretend to be whomever, whatever type of person and I like the fact that the people who are close to me who are in my life, know the little things about me [that] the rest of the world doesn’t. I enjoy that. Kind of like a secret squirrel. I like that.

JET: You’re almost 50 years old and don’t look it at all. I know Black don’t crack, but what’s your secret girl?!

Elise Neal: (laughs). I think anybody, anyone can look great at any age but it just takes dedication. There were times in my life where I’d be in dance class for 4 or 5 hours a day. To devote an hour of workout time has never been a problem for me. But I also feel like it could not be a problem for anyone. You just have to be dedicated to your body and your mind and the way that you want to look. It’s okay to give an hour to yourself to look and feel the way that you want to feel. Also with working out, I’m always in a better mood. The days that I don’t work out, I’m definitely more crabby than on the days that I do. So all around, it’s a good way to feel and look better and have a more positive day.

JET: If you had the chance to command the attention of each and every fan, what would you want them to know about you?

Elise Neal: I really believe in myself and not in a selfish way, but I think that belief that I had to have the power to move away from Memphis, Tennessee at 18 and try my dream, has let me still be in your households now. You have to really believe in yourself that you’re good enough, especially when you’re from a small town. So I really always try to drive that home. Belief in who you are and what you can give to the world no matter what your parents, siblings or school teachers may think is the way to go. Go for it. Follow your dreams unless you’ll always kick yourself.

Want more Elise? Check her out on TV One’s Hollywood Divas. For show listings visit for more info.