10 Gifted Black Actresses Under 35 Forging New Paths in Hollywood

The new acting talent today is no longer allowing Hollywood to move the goalpost away from them. This is seen through the refreshing wave of talent and diversity in recent years. So many young, Black actresses under the age of 35 have been at the forefront of this shift as well. Being an actor is hard enough right now, but being Black and female certainly adds another layer of complexity. Still, these talented women have not only been making their mark in the film and television industry but are also pushing the boundaries and redefining the norms. 

The 10 women in the following list are known for their undeniable skill, but beyond acting, they are also insistent upon making room for other Black aspiring actors and advocating for them whenever they can. Here’s a look into some of the remarkable young Black actresses under 35 who are taking the entertainment world by storm.  

10. Sierra McClain: A Beloved Actress, Singer and Big Sister

Sierra McClain, born on March 16, 1994, is an accomplished actress and singer recognized for her talents and performances in the entertainment industry. She is widely known for being the oldest of the McClain sisters trio, which includes her sisters, China Anne McClain and Lauryn McClain. Together, they make the musical group known as The McClain Sisters. The trio also starred in Tyler Perry’s movie Daddy’s Little Girls in 2006 when they were just between the ages of 8 and 12. 

In terms of her independent acting, Sierra McClain has made notable appearances in various television series and movies, with roles in shows like Empire, where she portrayed Nessa Parker, a talented singer within the series’ storyline. Her performances in Empire highlighted her acting range and musical abilities, allowing her to showcase her talents in both acting and music. Most recently, McClain has starred as Grace Ryder in the TV series 9-1-1: Lone Star.

9. Raven Goodwin: More Than Just Her Disney Channel Role

Raven Goodwin is a talented American actress known for her versatile performances across television and film. Born on June 24, 1992, in Washington, D.C, Goodwin gained early recognition for her role as Ivy Wentz in the Disney Channel series, Good Luck Charlie. Her recurring role as the bubbly and spirited best friend of the main character was overall characterized by the typical goofy, Black best friend trope. However, her portrayal of Ivy showcased her comedic timing and warm on-screen presence, earning her a dedicated fan base. Audiences that criticized the writing of the character were still able to find enjoyment and comfort in Goodman’s presence. 

Beyond her Disney Channel role, Raven Goodwin has continued to build a diverse acting career, appearing in various TV series and movies. She has showcased her skills in both drama and comedy, featuring in productions like Being Mary Jane, The Clark Sisters: The First Ladies of Gospel, and Smilf. Goodman’s roles showcase that she is a multifaceted actor who cannot be boxed into one category. Expect more projects soon from Goodman, including the drama film Lola James. 

8. Logan Browning: Young Actress Turned Netflix Star

Logan Browning, born on June 9, 1989, is a talented actress recognized for her dynamic performances across television and film. Browning initially gained attention for her role as Sasha in the Nickelodeon series Summerland. Coincidentally, she is also known for her role as Sasha in the infamously nostalgic 2006 movie, Bratz: The Movie. However, she achieved widespread recognition for her portrayal of Samantha White in the Netflix series Dear White People. Her performance as a biracial activist and radio host navigating racial tensions and identity struggles earned critical acclaim. It showcased Browning’s depth as an actress and her ability to embody complex and thought-provoking characters.

Apart from her success in Dear White People, Logan Browning has shown her range in other projects, including her role in the horror-comedy film The Perfection. Here she played a talented cellist traumatized by various sinister encounters after meeting fellow musician, Charlotte. Browning’s specialty has proven to be her ability to take on challenging and multifaceted roles with finesse.

7. Ajiona Alexus: An Up-and-Coming Versatile Talent

Ajiona Alexus is a talented young actress with diverse performances in television and film. The actress was born on March 16, 1996, in Tuskegee, Alabama. She first gained attention for her role as Sheri Holland in the hit Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Her portrayal showcased her ability to tackle complex characters and deliver emotionally charged performances. Her success in such a heavy-premised show earned her recognition among audiences and industry professionals.

Beyond 13 Reasons Why, Ajiona Alexus has showcased her versatility in various other roles. These include her portrayal of Livvie in the drama series Light as a Feather and her performance in the film Breaking In alongside Gabrielle Union. She also appeared in the television series Empire and took on the role of a young Taraji P. Henson in the film Acrimony. Her acting skills have allowed her to take on diverse roles and establish herself as a promising talent in Hollywood.

6. Coco Jones: A Star Throughout the Years

Coco Jones, born on January 4, 1998, is a talented American singer, actress and songwriter. She first gained recognition for her powerful singing voice and stage presence, and she was a finalist on the Radio Disney competition, “N.B.T. (Next Big Thing).” Jones is also famously known for her acting. Her first big role is one that captured the heart of many young, Black viewers: the Disney Channel original movie Let It Shine. Her portrayal of Roxanne Andrews in the film was well-received, and she demonstrated her acting skills alongside her singing talents. 

Jones has taken her career to new heights recently with new projects in her respective fields. She starred in the role of Hilary Banks in Bel-Air, the 2022 adaption of the popular sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She also furthered her music career with the hit single “ICU.” Her journey in the entertainment industry continues to evolve, and Jones remains a talented and multifaceted artist who has a promising future ahead.

5. Kiersey Clemons: Hard Worker On/Off Stage and Everything in Between

Kiersey Clemons is a rising star in the world of film and television, known for her versatile acting skills and unique sense of style. Born on December 17, 1993, in Pensacola, Florida, Clemons gained recognition with her role as Diggy in the critically acclaimed coming-of-age film Dope in 2015. Her standout performance in the film earned her widespread praise, and she quickly became known for her engaging on-screen presence.

Clemons’ presence in TV and film has continued to evolve since that breakout role. This year alone she has starred in roles for The Flash, Somebody I Used To Know, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, Praise Petey, Swarm, and more. Producing is another talent of hers, with a handful of movies under her belt including a new one coming soon titled, The Young King. 

Beyond acting and producing, Clemons is known for her outspoken advocacy for diversity and representation in the entertainment industry. She has been a vocal proponent of inclusivity in Hollywood, pushing for more opportunities for underrepresented communities. Her undeniable talent, coupled with her commitment to positive change, has made Kiersey Clemons a respected figure in Hollywood and an inspiration to many aspiring actors like her.

4. Dominique Thorne: Actress With an Iron Heart

Dominique Thorne is a promising actress from New York City born on November 5, 1997. She is beginning her career in acting with less than five released projects to her name. However, the acting roles already in her repertoire show she is a force to be reckoned with. Her most notable character so far has been the role of Riri Williams in Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Thorne became a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with her brilliant and charismatic character. She is set to reprise her role as Riri in the upcoming Disney+ series Ironheart, as well as a new Avengers movie set to release in 2027. 

Thorne’s casting as Riri Williams not only signifies her talent but also a chance to see more representation for Black fans of this massive franchise. Her character is a great mix of unapologetically being herself while not falling prey to the typical trope written for Black characters. Riri is a young, Black superhero character who is relatable to many other Black teens, but is also a genius inventor. Thorne has already seen success with her involvement in the MCU and will likely receive more now that she is officially on board. 

Besides Marvel, however, Thorne also appeared in minor roles in other films before her breakthrough. These films included the Oscar award-winning films If Beale Street Could Talk and Judas and the Black Messiah. Get used to seeing Thorne’s name as she has proved she has what it takes to be a part of the biggest of productions at the beginning of her career. 

3. Halle Bailey: The People’s Princess

Halle Bailey is a beloved singer and rising actress whose name has taken over the 2020s. Born on March 27, 2000, in Atlanta, Georgia, longtime fans know Bailey as part of the musical duo with her big sister, Chloe Bailey called Chloe x Halle. The sisters first gained recognition for their mesmerizing performances on YouTube as kids. Since then they have released two studio albums including the 2020, critically acclaimed album Ungodly Hour. Chloe x Halle also starred in the TV show Grownish together. Halle’s stunning voice, often described as soulful and angelic, has made her a standout in the music industry. It has also led her to a new title in her career: Disney Princess. 

Bailey made headlines when she was cast as Ariel in Disney’s highly anticipated live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Her delicate, yet powerful vocal abilities and princess-like speaking voice are what made her critics and audiences fall in love with her performance. Bailey was met with a polarized mix of support when it was announced she would take on the role of Ariel. Many made racist comments about the color of her skin. Despite this commotion, she showed that she embodies what it means to be a princess on and off screen, and aimed to uplift little, Black girls watching her in the process. 

Bailey is not stopping her acting journey at the big feat of Disney Princess. She is starring as Nettie in the new adaptation of The Color Purple. Look out for more from Bailey on the big screen as well as solo music following the release of her debut single, “Angel.” 

2. Marsai Martin: Big-Time Youngest Movie Producer

Marsai Martin is a young, Black actress and producer who has made an impressive impact on the entertainment industry at a remarkably young age. Born on August 14, 2004, in Plano, Texas, she first gained nationwide recognition for her portrayal of the witty and sassy Diane Johnson in the popular ABC sitcom Black-ish. Her performance on the show showcased her exceptional acting abilities, earning her critical acclaim and establishing her as one of the brightest young talents in Hollywood.

At just 14 years old, she became the youngest executive producer in Hollywood history when she conceptualized and starred in the film Little (2019). This comedy, a modern twist on the classic Big, allowed her to shine not only as an actress but also as a visionary producer. Marsai Martin’s incredible achievements and her promising future in the industry have made her a role model for aspiring young talents and a beacon of hope for increased diversity and creativity in Hollywood. Expect to see new projects from her, including the podcast series adaptation of the YA book Free to Fall.

1. Keke Palmer: A Star Who Will Always Stay in Her Bag

Keke “keep a bag” Palmer is a dynamic and multi-talented actress, singer, and television host who has captivated audiences since she was a child star. Palmer was born Lauren Keyana Palmer on August 26, 1993, in Harvey, Illinois. She made her acting debut in the critically acclaimed film Akeelah and the Bee in 2006, where her incredible talent and poise at a young age garnered widespread recognition. Over the years, Palmer has continued to impress with her diverse roles in both film and television, including her portrayal of Marty in the hit musical Grease: Live and her powerful performance in Jordan Peele’s sci-fi horror film Nope.

Apart from being an acting star, Palmer is celebrated for her versatility as an entertainer. She has released her own music, with singles like “Bottoms Up” and “Enemiez,” and just recently dropped her newest album Big Boss. Palmer’s infectious personality has also led her to shine in the world of hosting. Here, she has taken the reins of popular daytime talk shows like Strahan, Sara and Keke. As if she could not be more accomplished, Palmer has famously taken on the biggest job yet: motherhood. She gave birth to her baby boy, Leo on February 25, 2023. 

Palmer’s energy, charisma, and ability to connect with a wide range of audiences is how she became synonymous with “keeping a bag.” Her ability to stay centered in the spotlight throughout an almost 20-year-long career shows that the only person who can stop Palmer is herself. 

These 10 young black actresses are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the plethora of female black talent that is taking Hollywood by storm these days. They ride on the cusp of other iconic black actresses who paved the way for them and these actresses here will continue to break through barriers.

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