Award-winning actress and occasional music video director Nia Long was born on October 30, 1970 in New York City. Of Trinidadian descent, she trained in dance, gymnastics, guitar and acting during her childhood, but she and her mother—who held two Master’s degrees—struggled financially when they moved to Los Angeles. She began acting in the late 1980s, playing occasional guest roles. She made her big break when she joined the cast of the daytime soap Guiding Light, from 1991 to 1993.
Long’s got a bigger break that year, when she joined the cast of the comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She played the role of Lisa Wilkes, the girlfriend of Will Smith (Will Smith) who persuades him to abandon his womanizing ways. The two madly fall in love with each other and constantly attempt to get married, but in the two times they actually were at the altar, they stop as they both have doubts. She played the role until 1995.
Long then continued to appear on several films, appearing in Love Jones, In Too Deep, Stigmata, The Secret Laughter of Women, Big Momma’s House, The Best Man and Alfie, among others. She also played the occasional television guest role, including a recurring role in Judging Amy in 2001. In 2003, she joined the cast of the police drama Third Watch; she took on the role of Sasha Monroe, a police officer who turns out to be an IAB officer working undercover. She stayed until the series’ finale in 2005; her performance earned her two NAACP Image Awards in 2004 and 2005. She then had a stint in the short-lived drama Big Shots.
Long has also appeared in and directed several music videos. She directed the music videos for Yolanda Adams’ “This Too Shall Pass” and Ashanti’s “Baby”; she appeared in the latter, as well as on Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky.”