10 Black Women Stars Who Made it Big and Never Forget Their Communities

by Kimberly Denise Williams

Fabulous events. Detrimental breakdowns. Amazing houses. Horrific relationships. When we hear about celebrity lifestyles, we hear about the superficial, not about the schedules they maintain or how they stay connected to their communities. Outside of awards shows and parties, there are several celebrities who have made it a priority to stay connected to their roots and help others along the way. Featured are ten celebrity black women not named Oprah who have made community connection an important part of their lives.

1. Beverly Bond
Beverly Bond started her career as a model, but gained fame as one of New York’s premier DJs going from the club scene to exclusive events for celebrities. In 2006, Bond founded Black Girls Rock! as an organization to help young black girls develop positive self-images, leadership skills, and to enrich their lives. Today the nonprofit has expanded offering a variety of programs and seminars. Their expansion includes an annual awards show on BET, which showcases a variety of black women around the country who are leaders, innovators, and game changers in their fields. 
Photo: D Dipasupil/Getty Images for BET

2. Tyra Banks
Tyra Banks first emerged as one of the super famous and fabulous models of the 1990s. She followed her modeling career by acting and then took off into personal endeavors including the successful America’s Next Top Model series and her own eponymous talk show. Her business savvy and drive even earned her a spot in a certificate program at Harvard’s Business School. Despite the fact that every episode of The Tyra Banks Show circled back to the model’s life, Banks’s work isn’t all about her. In addition to her consistently bringing awareness to domestic violence, Banks has worked to provide opportunities for young black girls. Among her efforts is work with the Lower Eastside Girls Club of New York, hosting summer camps under the T-Zone Foundation, and funding scholarships for young African American girls to attend her former high school. With continued efforts across the country, it will be interesting to see where her work takes her next.

Photo: s_bukley/Shutterstock.com

3. Tichina Arnold 
Tichina Arnold has had many notable roles but will forever be known as Pam from 90s’ sitcom Martin. The actress is also a strong supporter in the fight against lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease known to be more common among African American women than other groups. Arnold founded the WE WIN Foundation in 2013 along with her sister and lupus survivor Zenay Arnold. The organization provides support via counseling services, financial assistance, and distribution of lupus “survival kits.”

Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images Entertainment

4. Holly Robinson Peete
Holly Robinson Peete’s dad was the original Gordon on Sesame Street. Sharing your father with the world should be considered charity enough. But the actress grew up to share her own talents on movies and shows like 21 Jump Street and Hanging with Mr. Cooper. She also started the HollyRod Foundation with her husband, former NFL player Rodney Peete. The HollyRod Foundation, founded in 1997, addresses the two diagnoses that have most affected Peete’s life: Parkinson’s, which her father had, and autism which her son was diagnosed with. Her charity provides medical, physical, and emotional support to families through designed programs that address Parkinson’s or assistance for families with autism. The organization received notable attention when Peete was featured on Celebrity Apprentice and set a record for the greatest amount of money raised by a charity on the show.

Photo: Dan Steinberg/Associated Press

5. Laila Ali 
Laila Ali is a knock out, literally. The gorgeous daughter of famed boxer Muhammad Ali, has earned her own place in sports history as a boxing champion in her own right. She was the Women’s Middleweight Champion for years with a 24-0 record, 21 of which were knockouts. Ali has also endeared herself to the public through several television appearances including a turn on Dancing With the Stars and other weekly programming. Since leaving the ring, Ali has tossed her hat into helping numerous endeavors, namely ones focused on healthy eating, sports, and children’s advocacy. She also wrote a book entitled Reach!, which encourages young women to pursue their goals.

Photo: Getty

6. Monique Coleman 
Monique Coleman gave young black girls something to sing and dance about when she played the smart, ambitious newspaper editor in High School Musical. Since her High School Musical and Dancing with the Stars days, Coleman has dedicated herself to addressing issues of bullying and self-esteem. Her organization, the Gimme Mo Foundation features videos that teach young people how to use social media for good. As part of her work, Coleman has traveled across the country and to several other countries. Coleman recently shared on Instagram that she will be in a PSA for MusEffect, a nonprofit dance company that focuses on “art with social intention.”

Photo: lev radin/Shutterstock.com

7. Gabrielle Union 
Gabrielle Union is more than just your everyday Mary Jane. Aside from acting on the hit BET show, Being Mary Jane, the actress has starred in several movies including teen movie classics like 10 Things I Hate About You and favorites including Deliver Us From Eva. Union has also lent her voice to numerous causes. She’s served as spokesperson for both Susan G. Komen for the Cure Circle of Promise and Planned Parenthood. Additionally, she can be counted on to address issues of concern within the black community. She was a loud voice pointing out the injustice in the George Zimmerman case. Notably, Union has also shared her personal abuse story on more than one occasion and repeatedly spoken out against sexual abuse. Union is an example of using one’s voice and influence for good.

Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty

8. Jennifer Hudson 
Jennifer Hudson became a star after coming in seventh place on American Idol. Since her reality competition days, the Chicago native has released three albums, acted in nine movies, and became a mother and wife. She won an Oscar for her work in Dreamgirls. Despite all the positivity surrounding Hudson, she came upon her own set of turmoil in 2009 when her sister’s ex-husband murdered Hudson’s mother and brother and kidnapped and murdered her nephew. Following that tragedy, Hudson and her sister founded the Julian D. King Gift Foundation in honor of her slain nephew. The organization collects and distributes school supplies and Christmas gifts to children in the Chicago area. Hudson also supports numerous other charities, has participated in Illinois’ We Day, and received the 2014 People’s Choice Award for Humanitarian of the Year.

Photo: The Associated Press

9. Jada Pinkett Smith 
Jada Pinkett Smith first captured our attention as the smart and fashionable Lena James on A Different World. The well-known actress has also been in films including Set It Off and The Matrix. Jada leads quite the active life as an actress, mother, wife, and musician. Along with her husband, Smith co-founded the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation. Through this organization, Smith has been able to do work that connects her to the community where she grew up in Baltimore, as well as other communities in the United States and across the world. Smith’s support has reached her high school alma mater, Baltimore School for the Arts, Associated Black Charities, and Little Miss African American. Smith has also impressed the importance of charity work on her children, Jaden and Willow Smith.

Photo: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Europe

10. Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys's music has the tone that makes you feel like you can change the world. This everyday superwoman grew up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York and opted out of attended Columbia University to pursue her love of music. On top of being an amazing Grammy Award winning musician, Keys is known for her philanthropic work. She co-founded Keep A Child Alive to combat HIV/AIDS around the world. Their very visible campaigns have led other celebrities to publicly support the organization. They also have very substantial corporate contributions. To date the organization has set up 10 clinic sites, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa and India.

Photo: festival mawazine

Kimberly Denise Williams is a Brooklyn born chatterbox with an affinity for pop culture and chocolate. You can tweet her @kimberlythinks or visit her website: www.kimberlydenisewilliams.com.