Actress Raven-Symoné was born on December 10, 1985, in Atlanta, Georgia. After the child actress got rejected from a role in the film Ghost Dad (1990), which featured Bill Cosby, the legendary comedian cast her as Olivia, the step-granddaughter of Dr. Cliff Huxtable (played by Cosby), on The Cosby Show. Raven-Symoné continued to cater to a family friendly audience thereafter, appearing in films like Dr. Dolittle and series like Disney's That's So Raven (2003-2007). More recently, in 2013, the actress made her Broadway debut, starring in the stage adaptation of Sister Act.
Early Life and Career: 'The Cosby Show'
Famed actress and singer Raven-Symoné Christina Pearman was born on December 10, 1985, in Atlanta, Georgia. Raven-Symoné got her start in the entertainment industry when she was just 2 years old, after making appearances in advertisements for popular brands such as Jell-O and Cool Whip, in addition to getting signed as a miniature model with Ford.
Raven-Symoné continued down the path to stardom. After unsuccessfully auditioning for a role in the 1990 film Ghost Dad (she didn't get the part because producers thought she was too young), the film's star, legendary comedian Bill Cosby, cast the young actress in his hit television series, The Cosby Show (1984-92); she played Olivia Kendall, the step-granddaughter of Dr. Cliff Huxtable (played by Cosby), on the show from 1989 to 1992, appearing in 64 episodes. Raven-Symoné's on-screen charm appealed to audiences, and her Cosby performance led to another sitcom role in 1993: America continued to watch Raven-Symoné grow up on camera as Nicole Lee on Hangin' With Mr. Cooper (1992-97).
Early Music Career
In addition to acting and modeling, Raven-Symoné embarked on a music career during her childhood, becoming the youngest artist to sign with MCA Records in 1993. That same year, she released her debut album, Here's to New Dreams. Despite the backing power of hip-hop artist Missy Elliott, who worked with Raven-Symoné to produce the young singer's first album, Here's to New Dreams flopped and MCA Records, in turn, dropped Raven-Symoné from their label. She would not return to her music career until several years later, after entering the next phase of her life in the spotlight as a Disney star.
Disney Teen Queen
After a few small parts, including playing Stymie's girlfriend in The Little Rascals (1994), her theatrical film debut; and Charisse Dolittle in 1998's Dr. Dolittle, Raven-Symoné became a major asset to the Disney brand. After appearing in yet another supporting role in the Disney Channel movie Zeon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999), the network, impressed with her performance in the film, asked Raven-Symoné to audition for the lead role in a new Disney series. After blowing producers away during her audition, Raven-Symoné was promptly cast as the star of That's So Raven (originally entitled Absolutely Psychic).
Raven-Symoné's time on That's So Raven marked the beginning of her career as a highly regarded performer. The show premiered to rave reviews and high ratings in 2003—setting the tone for other Disney stars who used the network as a launching pad for their careers, including Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez—and had garnered several honors, including two Emmy Award nominations, by the time it ended in 2007. Additionally, That's So Raven was the network's first original series to reach 100 episodes.
Raven-Symoné worked on other projects with Disney while That's So Raven ran its course. She played a supporting role in the Disney film The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) alongside actress Anne Hathaway, and starred in the made-for-TV films The Cheetah Girls (2003) and The Cheetah Girls 2 (2006), among other parts. Her work as one-fourth of the all-girl group the Cheetah Girls revived Raven-Symoné's music career; she signed a recording contract with Hollywood Records, owned by Disney. Though Raven-Symoné's R&B-infused 2004 album, This Is My Time, greatly surpassed her debut studio release, it failed to achieve much critical or commercial acclaim, peaking at No. 51 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Following the finalé of That's So Raven in 2007, Raven-Symoné's acting career began to slow down. In 2008, she starred with Martin Lawrence in College Road Trip, which premiered at No. 2 at the box office, and—keeping her family friendly image intact—began doing voiceover work for Disney's Tinker Bell video series.
In 2011, Raven-Symoné appeared in her most mature TV role yet, starring as Georgia Chamberlain on the series State of Georgia. Though the show looked promising for the young actress, it was canceled after only one season. Raven-Symoné went on to make a dramatic change in her career, transitioning from the screen to the stage. She made her Broadway debut as Deloris Van Cartier—a part originally played by Whoopi Goldberg—in the 2013 stage adaptation of Sister Act.
Raven-Symoné's personal life has remained out of the public eye for years, though the actress has spent the majority of her life in front of the camera. When The National Enquirer reported that Raven-Symoné had moved in with openly gay model AzMarie Livingston, the actress addressed the rumors on her Twitter page, writing: "I'm living my PERSONAL life the way I'm happiest. I'm not one, in my 25 year career to disclose who I'm dating. and I shall not start now. My sexual orientation is mine, and the person I'm datings (sic) to know. I'm not one for a public display of my life."
Raven-Symoné made headlines for her personal life once again in 2013, when, after the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act was announced, she tweeted: "I can finally get married! Yay government! So proud of you." Afterward, she released a public statement to E! News, saying, "I am very happy that gay marriage is opening up around the country and is being accepted. I was excited to hear today that more states legalized gay marriage. I, however, am not currently getting married, but it is great to know I can now, should I wish to."
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