Role Model Extraordinaire
I often wondered what happened to the terrific actress who played Aunt Vivian on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” back in the 1990s. Fortunately, Daphne Maxwell Reid agreed to my request for an e-mail interview. These days she is a Renaissance woman, respected artist and designer, and education activist. Working from her home in Virginia, and still happily married to pioneering television actor/producer/writer/director Tim Reid (“WKRP in Cincinnati,” “Frank’s Place”), she is living proof that a passion for creativity and a dedication to hard work can ensure a lifetime’s worth of success.
Reid’s impressive accomplishments include: being the first African-American woman to appear on the cover of Glamour magazine; her fine art photography that’s admired throughout the world; her popular Daphne Style clothing line; and her fascinating “Grace +Soul & Motherwit” cookbook. She also serves as host of Virginia Currents on PBS and is a spokesperson for Virginia State University, an historically black college, where she helps with outreach to students of color. A thoughtful, inspiring, and fascinating professional with over five decades of experience, Daphne Maxwell Reid continues to demonstrate that mastering a new skill is always possible for an artist with a generous spirit and self-determination.
I am very happy that this extremely busy woman took time to answer my questions below.
Question: You have a remarkable background in TV work, so I was wondering -- when did you first decide to be an actress?
Answer: I was probably born wanting to be noticed, so what better way was there than to act!
Question: What were the obstacles you faced regarding acting as a career?
Answer: As an actor, you have to be chosen. I like a bit more control over my life, so I kept busy doing creative outlets that kept me humming
Question: What do you consider your big break on TV and why?
Answer: Robert Conrad casting me in my first television series “The Duke” -- and becoming a mentor to me. I arrived in LA with another job, and the ability to secure representation. It was a great start.
Question: What was most satisfying about your work on TV?
Answer: Being able to influence people by showing them an honest portrayal of someone they could be
Question: How did your famous Glamour magazine cover come about?
Answer: While attending Northwestern, I was discovered by Eileen Ford and asked to join her agency.I was modeling in NY while going to school and was mentored by a woman named Amy Greene. Amy lined up photo shoots for me and did so on this occasion. It was just another photo shoot, not a "cover try." It took about 15 minutes and then I went back to school. I was surprised that I saw myself at the news stand that October!
Question: Why did you decide to specialize in fine art photography?
Answer: I was encouraged to pursue becoming a photographic artist by some friends who had seen travel photos that I shared with them. I took the leap at age 60, and began the journey of discovering what a photographic artist was, and what I would do with my art. It led to gallery shows, prints for sale, note cards, calendars, 4 books that I published with my photographs, and a licensing deal for some of my photos. I continue to pursue the journey that has enriched my life with insight and the ability to share my ideas of noticing the details of one’s life. I concentrate on doors, as I find they are a metaphor for life: curiosity, adventure, opportunity and purpose
Question: What is your favorite recipe in your published cookbook?
Answer: My mother’s waffle recipe
Question: What’s the most important thing you would like people to know about you and your work?
Answer: I would like folks to follow my lead, and live their lives with joy, purpose, and integrity, as I have tried to do.
In my opinion, Daphne Maxwell Reid is a role model extraordinaire!
(Photo: Daphne Maxwell Reid)