With a star turn in Spike Lee’s new critically acclaimed movie, Chi-Raq, Teyonah Parris is just getting started
Her breakout role was as Dawn Chambers, Don Draper’s secretary, in Mad Men. She followed that with the part of Coco Conners in the 2014 social satire Dear White People, before joining the cast of Chi-Raq, along with Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson and Samuel L Jackson.
Teyonah grew up in a small town in South Carolina in the US. She was the rst black student to win her school’s annual beauty pageant, and went on to study acting at New York’s prestigious Juilliard School.
Chi-Raq tells the story of a group of women withholding sex from their partners until the men agree to stop the increasing gang violence in Chicago. While the lm has received some criticism for making light of gun violence in the US, director Spike Lee has emphasized that it’s a satire and not a comedy. he lm is the rst original production for Amazon Studios, and was released on the video-on-demand platform Amazon Video (not yet available in South Africa). Teyonah was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress for her role as Lysistrata, who instigates the sex strike.
Next up for Teyonah is the title role in The Miki Howard Story, charting the life of the R&B singer. ‘As a young actress, I strive to be the woman Hollywood didn’t show me when I was growing up,’ she says. While there’s no news yet about when Chi-Raq will show in South Africa, there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot more of Teyonah.