Inside JETSlideshow

Cover Story: Nia Long on Career, Love and Faith

By// S. Tia Brown

At 42, Nia Long is still easily one of the hottest chicks in Hollywood. But there’s much more to the Brooklyn, NY-born actress than ageless beauty. The woman has talent. And over the past three decades, our community has developed a special affinity for the actress’ signature girl-next-door appeal. But her road hasn’t been paved in platinum. Watching Long, whose major acting debut was in the iconic coming-of-age tale Boyz n the Hood (1991), mature in Tinseltown has been an exercise in both pride and frustration. While she’s sidestepped the scandalous pitfalls that have crippled some of her peers, the career-transforming/straight to A-list roles experienced by others have somehow eluded her. Still, the working mother of two sons (Massai, 12 and Kez, 1) continues to operate by her own rules and rack up fans.


JET:  Everyone’s buzzing about you reprising the role of Jordan in The Best Man Holiday (out November 15). The original was definitely a classic film— but it’s been almost 15 years. Why do a sequel now?

We made magic together— so many people say that to me. And because I love the cast. The film’s director, Malcolm Lee, has been talking about it for some time and finally announced his plan during a recent cast reunion dinner.

JET: Any details you can dish on the movie?

Well, we’re not shooting until late April in Toronto so I can’t say much, but everybody is really excited to revisit our stories and find out what happens next. Where is Jordan now? Did she get married? Did she break up a relationship? It’s like reading a great book; you want to see what the next chapter is.

JET: You’ve been part of several iconic flicks, like Boyz n the Hood and Love Jones, but we hear that acting wasn’t always your dream career?

I wanted to be a pediatrician. One of the most life-changing challenges I experienced growing up was realizing that there simply wasn’t enough money for me to go to college. So I decided to focus on working. I promised that I’d give myself one year from the day I graduated from high school to make moves in the business. I was acting since I was 15, and I really wanted to help my mom, who was struggling.

JET: But your current career path isn’t necessarily the most stable…

That’s very true. Actors only have job security from the time we’re on set until they say cut. But, deep down inside I knew it would work out for me. Luckily, I was also naive. What’s the saying? Ignorance is bliss. I had a wonderful acting coach who didn’t focus on fail-ure, only working.

JET: Speaking of success, you’ve been in a relationship with former pro-basketball player Ime Udoka for almost three years. How do you make it work… especially now that he lives in another state?

Ime and I are very much a family. We’re both committed to being good to each other and being great parents. He operates on faith, and we share that. If not, it would be difficult to maintain with him working as a coach in San Antonio. The challenge is the times when I’m exhausted and here with the kids by myself. I have homework, bath time, dinner, laundry and all the other things that every mother has to do because, in essence, I’m physically a part-time single mom.