Angela Bassett on 'knowing your worth' as a Black woman in Hollywood: 'It's good to be paid'
Oscar-nominated actress Angela Bassett’s career continues to set Hollywood ablaze — and it’s not stopping anytime soon.
In a new interview with InStyle, the Yale-educated thespian and fashionista opens up about the illustrious roles she’s played (like Rosa Parks, Betty Shabazz, Tina Turner and the Queen of Wakanda in Black Panther), how she’s embracing aging and what it means to fight for your worth as a Black woman in Hollywood.
“I’ve never been motivated solely by money or fame,” she explained. “For me, it's always and only been for the joy of following my dreams. That's what makes me feel alive.”
“Now, it's good to be paid,” clarified Bassett, who last year became one of the highest paid actresses on television for her starring role in 9-1-1. “That is one thing that I've said to myself since early on in my career. I mean, I literally would say, ‘I want to work in roles that can change me and change the conversation. I want to work consistently. And I want to be paid fairly.’ It's about knowing your worth and standing on it. Being in positions and places where your worth is appreciated is a good thing.”
“I’m glad that it can influence others,” she added. Still, “there is a bit of me that's from a generation where we don't talk openly about things like that. But I understand what generation this is today.”
Part of that influence, Bassett noted, is supporting other women — especially Black women — when they reach further milestones.
“I love to support my sisters, and I cheer for them,” the 9-1-1 star said. “I cheer for their successes. I cheer for the mark they make and every effort they make. We are a reflection of each other. I've always been that actor who gets excited to see other actors at auditions. Because a lot of times you might find yourself as the only Black woman, or one of a few.”
Looking at Bassett’s resume, it’s hard to believe that at one point in her life she experienced severe imposter syndrome while attending Yale School of Drama (where she met her husband, actor Courtney B. Vance).
“I would literally stand in front of my mirror and give myself a good talking-to,” she said of that time. “I’d say, ‘How long do you want to be overwhelmed? Will 10 minutes serve? Fifteen?’ And I would answer, ‘Yes, all right. Well, have your pity party, but then after that, wash your face, comb your hair and go do what you need to do.’ And I guess that was my way of therapizing myself in that moment.”
Bassett's ageless beauty is also something she's known for, which can also add pressure. But despite the hoopla about her looks, she hates it when people say, “You look good for your age.”
“I think when we take care of ourselves, we do look good for our age, whatever age that is, you know?” she argued, adding of her routine, “I don't really wear makeup if I don't have to. I'm trying to just keep healthy skin that I don't need to cover up. Of course, I have things that I deal with, like hormonal changes and melasma. But I feel like so much of who we are is on the inside. So if you're stressed, it shows, and it shows in your skin.”
Whatever she's doing, it's clearly working. But for the actress whose “true love” is the theater, being the highest paid anything was never the goal.
“It's so much more than I ever dreamed of,” she reflected on her career, which now includes a production company, Bassett Vance Productions, which she started with her husband.
For Bassett, her happiness lies in the journey. Not the destination.
“There's a part of you that recognizes that you're held up in a position to inspire,” she said. “It's wonderful to be in a position to provide opportunity to the marketplace and to the screen, large and small. We both started out as simply actors, but as you continue and get stronger with experience, you take the opportunities, and you're grateful.”