From Teen Actress to Oscar Winner: Regina King’s Rise to Success

The 2019 Oscars were a pivotal moment for actress Regina King. She took home the first Oscar of the night for Best Supporting Actress for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk.

Though this was King’s first Oscar win, she has been a powerhouse in the acting industry for decades. Let’s take a look back at her rise to fame.

The beginning

King’s first major role was as Brenda Jenkins on NBC’s show 227 back in 1985 when she was just 13.

She continued acting on the show for years and eventually dropped out of college to focus on acting.

“Once I was in college, about – maybe the end of my first semester of my sophomore year, I realized that college just was not my jam and that I felt like I was learning more on set,” she told NPR in 2016. “And I think a lot of that had to do with – I was working while I was in college. I was on 227, so I didn’t get a chance to really be immersed in the culture of my school.”

From there, her career gained traction and she was able to break into film as well. She then landed the role of Craig’s sister Dana Jones in the comedy Friday alongside Chris Tucker and Ice Cube.

King continued to make her mark on the acting world, appearing in Jerry Maguire, Enemy of the State, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Mighty Joe Young, Down to Earth, Daddy Day Care, Legally Blond 2: Red, White & Blonde, A Cinderella Story, Ray, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, and many more.

Most recently, King has starred in the television shows, Southland, American Crime, and the movie If Beale Street Could Talk.

King has credited her wide range of roles to her team refusing to allow her to be put in a box.

“The good news for me is that I have an amazing team behind me, and they’ve been with me for 20 years now – almost 20 years,” she told NPR. “And they have seen me as an actress, not necessarily just a black actress. So I have been lucky enough for them to see me that way.”

Her team went after roles that may not have been traditionally cast with people who look like King.

“And they have pursued things that were written white, and I ended up getting them,” she continued. “Southland was not written for a black woman. Legally Blonde 2 wasn’t written specifically for a black woman. Year Of The Dog was not written for a black woman, but they read those scripts and they approached those writers and those producers and, cut to, I was doing those films. I think I’ve been lucky in the regard to have a team that sees me as an artist.”


Despite winning her first Oscar in 2019, King is no stranger to coming out on top. She has won three Primetime Emmys, an African American Film Critics Association Award, a BET award, a Golden Globe award, and many others.

When King won her Oscar, she was quick to thank her mom.

“Mom, I love you so much,” she said on the stage. “Thank you for teaching me that God has always been leaning in my direction.”

She also thanked the people behind the scenes, including James Baldwin who wrote the novel that If Beale Street Could Talk was based on.

“To be standing here representing one of the greatest artists of all time – James Baldwin.” she continued. “James Baldwin birthed this baby and Barry [Jenkins] nurtured her, surrounding her with so much love and support. So it’s appropriate to be standing here because I am an example of what it looks like when support and love is poured into someone. God is good, all the time.”

Read more:

 How Much is ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Actress Regina King Worth?

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