Waiting to Exhale
“This is the most exciting film for black women since ‘The Color Purple’ and I'm a part of it!” Lela Rochon (on her role in “Waiting to Exhale”)
African-American actress Lela Rochon acquired critical acclaim and prominence with her breakthrough role of Robin in the surprise hit “Waiting to Exhale” (1995), which was directed by Forest Whitaker. She is also known for playing roles in such films as “Harlem Nights” (1989), “Boomerang” (1992), “Any Given Sunday” (1999) and “First Daughter” (2004, again directed by Forest Whitaker). On the small screen, Rochon had a regular role on the sitcom “The Wayans Bros.”(1995), a recurring role on “The Division” (2001) and guest roles in a number of series, including “The Cosby Show,” “21 Jump Street,” “Tales from the Crypt” and “The Outer Limits.” She has also acted in several TV movies, most notably the heartwarming drama “Mr. and Mrs. Loving” (1996).
Rochon was voted one of People magazine's “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” in 1996 and one of Black Men Magazine's “10 Sexiest Women of the Year” in 2000. The Los Angeles native has been married twice. After her marriage to break-dancer Adolfo Quinones ended in 1987, she married director Antoine Fuqua in 1999. The couple has three kids named Asia, Brando and Zachary (from Fuqua's earlier relationship).
Childhood and Family:
Lela Rochon Staples was born on April 17, 1964, in Los Angeles, California, to Zelma and Samuel Staples. She graduated from Cerritos High School in Cerritos, California, in 1982. She then attended California State University in Dominguez Hills, California, where she received a BA in broadcast journalism, with minors in theater and sociology. Lela is a trained dancer.
On December 12, 1982, Lela tied the knot with break-dancer Adolfo Quinones, whom she met on the production of “Breakin” and “Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.” They divorced in 1987. More than a decade later, in 1998, she became engaged to director Antoine Fuqua, whom she married on April 9, 1999. The couple welcomed their first child, daughter Asia Rochon Fuqua, on July 28, 2002. Their son Brando was born in May 2004. Lela also has a stepson named Zachary from Fuqua's previous relationship.
Blood Done Sign My Name
Lela Rochon entered show business when she was in college when she was featured in a music video for Lionel Richie called “All Night Long” (1983). From 1984 to 1986, she appeared in a series of beer commercials. A skilled dancer, she was an extra in the musicals “Breakin” and “Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo” (both 1984). Her first real acting job arrived when she landed a small role in the television film “A Bunny's Tale” (1985).
After completing her studies in 1986, Rochon could be seen making her feature acting debut in “Foxtrap” (1986), a low budget action drama starring and directed by Fred Williamson. Later that same year, she appeared in the comedy “Stewardess School,” by writer/director Ken Blancato. Rochon returned to TV by making guest appearances in such shows as “The Facts of Life,” “What's Happening Now,” “The Cosby Show” (all 1987) and “Amen” (1989) before working with Eddie Murphy in the blockbuster comedy “Harlem Nights” (1989), where she played Sunshine.
The 5' 9” beauty opened the new decade with episodic roles in the TV series “21 Jump Street,” “227,” “1st & Ten” (all 1990), “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1991), “Roc” and HBO's “Tales from the Crypt” (both 1992). She also supported Bud Spencer in the action TV film “Extralarge: Black and White” (1991) and rejoined Eddie Murphy for the successful comedy “Boomerang” (1992), in which she played Christie. In 1993, she appeared as Vanessa in Robert Townsend's fantasy “The Meteor Man.”
1995 saw Rochon in the season regular role of Shawn Wayans' girlfriend, Lisa, on The WB sitcom “The Wayans Bros.” She left the show after six months in order to focus her energy on movies. She then experienced her screen breakthrough as Robin Stokes in the Forest Whitaker directed “Waiting to Exhale” (1995), based on a novel by Terry McMillan. Costarring with Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine, Rochon's performance received critical praise and she was handed an Image nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture and a MTV Movie nomination for Best Breakthrough Performance. The film became a hit in Hollywood.
After the success, Rochon was flooded with many offers. In 1996, she landed her first starring role in a TV film, “Mr. and Mrs. Loving,” where she was paired with Timothy Hutton to play a Southern interracial spouse in the 1960s who was incarcerated for crossbreeding. Also that year, she was cast in the Chris O'Donnell and Gene Hackman starring “The Chamber” (1996), which was adapted from the John Grisham book of the same name and directed by James Foley. Rochon further showcased her versatility with roles in “Gang Related” (1997, opposite James Belushi and Tupac Shakur), Hark Tsui's “Knock Off” (1998) and the biopic “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” (1998, with Halle Berry and Vivica A. Fox). She also starred as Sydney Banks in Monika Harris' thriller “Legal Deceit” (1997), had a small role in the action comedy “The Big Hit” (1998, starred Mark Wahlberg), played the mother of the main character in the ABC TV film “The Ruby Bridges Story” (1998) and portrayed Vanessa Struthers, the girlfriend of Jamie Foxx's Willie Beamen, in Oliver Stone's “Any Given Sunday” (1999).
Entering the new millennium, Rochon costarred with Kyra Sedgwick and Rob Morrow in “Labor Pains” (2000). She then joined the cast of the Lifetime original series “The Division” in the recurring role of Inspector Angela Reide (2001). After a short break, she returned to feature films in 2004 in the romantic comedy “First Daughter,” which starred Katie Holmes. The film marked Rochon’s reunion with “Waiting to Exhale” director Forest Whitaker. Two years later, she teamed up with John Diehl and Gregory Michael to star in the dramatic film “Running Out of Time in Hollywood.”
Lela recently portrayed Roseanna in the drama “Blood Done Sign My Name” (2010), which was directed by Jeb Stuart and co-written by Tim Tyson (wrote the book) and Jeb Stuart. Her costars in the project included Michael Rooker, Rick Shroder and Lee Norris, to name a few.