The Top Ten Greatest and most Underrated Black Actresses.

Kendall Rivers
6 min readJan 21, 2021


You know Dorothy Dandridge, Dihann Carroll, Lena Horne,Halle Berry, Zoe Saldana, Nia Long, Jada Pinkett Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Basset, Regina King, Viola Davis, Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson, Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o etc. All iconic and beautiful black women who kill it in every film and are huge names in Hollywood and especially Black Hollywood. But there are five wonderfully talented black actresses that I feel, although constantly working and mostly well known, still don’t get enough of the glory they so richly deserve. These are my top ten greatest and most underrated black actresses.

10. Lark Voorhies.

The object of every young black boy in the 1990’s affection, Lark was iconic on Saved By The Bell and became a consistent 90’s star who popped up on everything from sitcoms Martin and In The House to the popular soap Days of Our Lives and well received BET original movie Fire & Ice alongside Kadeem Hardison of A Different World fame.

9. Wendy Raquel Robinson.

Wendy starred in two classic hit sitcoms for The WB and UPN then CW and BET, The Steve Harvey Show and The Game. Wendy is one of those rare gorgeous leading ladies who could also be hilarious, quirky and not afraid to do physical comedy.

8. Terri J. Vaughn.

She took the world by storm as Lovita Alize Jenkins on the hit 90’s sitcom The Steve Harvey Show. Terri’s another hilariously funny woman who also happens to be fine as all get out and had created one of the funniest and most iconic sitcom characters ever in sassy and street administrative assistant Lovita. She’s gone on to do other projects like All of Us and Meet The Browns but has stepped away from acting for behind the camera and has directed quite a few BET Christmas films.

7. Loretta Devine.

She’s been on everything you have ever watched at some point. This amazingly funny and talented beautiful woman has lit up the screen from Waiting to Exhale to Kingdom Come to The Carmichael Show and deserves far more acclaim and certainly more awards then she gets.

6. Marla Gibbs.

You grew up with her on The Jeffersons and 227 as Florence Johnston and Mary Jenkins, and if you’re lucky you have seen her on stage and listened to her popular Jazz album “It’s Never Too Late.” This woman is one our great pride and joys as well as one of the funniest people on the planet and can deliver a one liner like no one.

5. Jasmine Guy.

An actress so versatile in her craft that she could play the snooty southern princess Whitley Gilbert with perfection even though she’s so far apart from the character it would shock you. Jasmine Guy was denied any Emmys back in the Different World days but no question in my mind that this gorgeous and skilled actress deserved every Emmy or Golden Globe under the sun. She’s not just a legend because of Whitley Gilbert, though. She’s been apart of such classics as Spike Lee’s School Days and Eddie Murphy’s Harlem Nights as well as put out some great albums in the 1990’s. A woman of many talents that sadly gets overlooked from time to time.

4. Anna Maria Horsford.

She is best known for three particular classics: Thelma Frye from Amen, Dee Baxter from The Wayans Bros, and Craig’s mom from Friday. But this woman has been apart of so many movies and television shows, she’s a true veteran in the industry and deserves her props, especially for playing to perfection Thelma Frye on Amen, a role which should’ve at least earned her multiple Emmy nominations if not win a few.

3. Kim Fields.

Best known as Tootie from The Facts of Life and Regine Hunter on Living Single, Kim has been making audiences laugh for several decades and along with her mother Chip Fields and sister Alexis Field, pioneer black women being heavy hitters in front of the camera and behind it. After Living Single she’s put full time into directing and has directed many television shows such as Kenan and Kel, Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, Taina and The Rickey Smiley Show. Kim was one of the first young black girls on television in a major role so many young black girls grew up idolizing her and many young black boys had serious crushes on her(including this author) so for that alone Kim Fields deserves more recognition as the icon she is.

2. Phylicia Rashad.

Best known as Clair Huxtable, Phylicia was America’s Mom in the 1980’s and in recent times has also become a fixture in the Rocky spin off Creed films as Adonis Creed’s mother. But she’s become more versatile in her roles that just as a iconic mother. You will often catch her playing stone cold villains like in Empire or Tyler Perry’s Fall From Grace. She’s such a part of television history and yet I still feel doesn’t get as much credit or praise as she should for just exhibiting such intelligence, beauty, wit, grace, humor, warmth and strength into her iconic roles as well as being as scary, cold and cunning in her more villainous roles. Phylicia is one bad lady and still looks as amazing as ever.

  1. Alfre Woodard.

Of course who better to get the number 1 spot than the ever so perfect Alfre Woodard who has been in the game for a long time and isn’t slowing down. I couldn’t possibly list all of her screen credits due to such a high amount but this queen has dominated television, film and stage and yet I still feel like she doesn’t get as much light shined on her accomplishments as she should. I mean, this is the woman who has been nominated and won more awards than even some of the other best out there. Just look at this crazy list:

She’s so talented that she’s even won Emmys for guest spots on such classic and prestige dramas as Hill Street Blues, LA Law and The Practice.

Alfre is a true legend who despite all the accolades and critical acclaim isn’t talked about in the same length as the more superstar black actresses like Halle Berry or Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson etc. but in my humble opinion she’s just as talented and definitely more seasoned then any of them and deserves more recognition for that.

Some of my favorites and I’m sure yours weren’t on this list but this is such a huge topic I’m sure I’ll be able to make another list with ten more brilliant underrated black actresses. ‘Til next time!



Kendall Rivers

Kendall is a screenwriter who’s a huge fan of classic tv and movies. He enjoys creating good stories and characters.