Raven





Actress and singer

Born Raven-Symone Christina Pearman, December 10, 1985, in Atlanta, GA; daughter of Christoper (a manager) and Lydia (Gaulden) Pearman.

Addresses: Agent —International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211-1934.

Career

Model, 1986-89; appeared in television commercials for Cool Whip, Ritz Crackers, and other products, 1986-89. Recording artist, 1993—. Television appearances include: The Cosby Show, 1989-1992; A Different World, 1989; The Muppets at Walt Disney World (movie), 1990; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, 1992; Queen (miniseries; uncredited) 1993; Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, 1993-97; Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (voice), 1995; Space Ghost Coast to Coast, 1997; Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (movie), 1999; My Wife and Kids, 2001; The Proud Family (voice), 2001; Kim Possible (voice), 2002; That's So Raven, 2002—; The Cheetah Girls (movie), 2003; Kim Possible: A Sitch in Time (movie; voice), 2003; Zenon: Z3 (movie), 2004. Film appearances include: Little Rascals, 1994; Doctor Dolittle, 1998; Dr. Dolittle 2, 2001; Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, 2004; Fat Albert (voice), 2004.

Awards: Young Artists Award for Exceptional Performance by a Young Artist Under Nine, for The Cosby Show, 1991; Image Award for Outstanding Performance in a Youth/Children's Program, for That's So Raven, 2004.

Raven

Sidelights

Although most child stars fade in popularity as they get older, Raven is one of the few whose fame has grown through the years. She began her career as a three year old on the hit television sitcom The Cosby Show, continued to act on the show Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, and since has branched out into film roles and recording contracts, largely with Disney, which considers her to be its next big star.

Born Raven-Symone Christina Pearman in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1985, Raven is the daughter of Christopher Pearman, who continues to work as her manager, and his wife, Lydia. Her parents signed her up to model before she was two years old, and she was so successful at it that they decided to move to New York City, the hub of modeling and television commercial work. Raven was soon acting in commercials. Although she was young, she had a quick mind and the ability to memorize lines. She and her parents liked to watch The Cosby Show, starring Bill Cosby and featuring an educated, middle-class African-American family, the Huxtables, living in Brooklyn. Raven observed the girl playing the youngest daughter, Rudy, and as her father told Douglas C. Lyons in Ebony, often said, "I can do that. Why can't I be on The Cosby Show ?"

Raven did audition for a role in the Bill Cosby film Ghost Dad, but instead, he offered her a role on the show. She began appearing on the show during its sixth season in 1989, playing a toddler named Olivia, the stepchild of the second Huxtable daughter, Denise, who had married Martin, a naval officer. Raven was a hit with viewers, and did so well in this role that she stayed until the show's final episode in 1992. She told CNN.com's David Haffenreffer that because she was so young when she did the show, the details of her work there are "fading very slowly. The one thing I do remember is working with the people and how wonderful they were to me and I was very fortunate to go onto a set at such a young age with so many veterans in such a wonderful atmosphere. It was something good to start the business off at."

Raven told Jessica Shevlin and Katie Nappi in the Houston Chronicle that she still sometimes sees reruns of The Cosby Show. "It's kind of cool seeing yourself that young. I'm not able to remember much of it, so it's kind of like looking at someone else." She commented to Michael A. Lipton in People, "I'll always be known as a Cosby kid. And it doesn't bother me. I get to keep that fan base."

In addition to her acting aspirations, Raven also wanted a singing career. She told her father about her dream, and he began looking for a deal for her. Eventually he found one, and when she was five years old, Raven signed with MCA, the youngest artist ever to join the label. She released her debut single, "That's What Little Girls Are Made Of," in 1993 as part of the LP Here's to New Dreams, which featured a medley of R&B, pop, and dance tunes. In Jet, a reviewer commented that the album was "getting a lot of airplay."

During the early 1990s, Raven made appearances in various television shows, including The Muppets at Walt Disney World, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Queen, and Space Ghost Coast to Coast. In 1993 Raven won a part on the sitcom Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, playing Nicole, the daughter of Cooper's cousin. At the time, the seven-year-old Raven told a Jet inter-viewer, "I love this show. It was the second show that I saw and wanted to be on." She added, "There are a lot of great writers and producers on this show." She also said that her character was different from the one she played on Cosby : "For one, I'm a lot older here. Olivia was a lot younger. Olivia has grown into Nicole. I'm in a new city and trying to learn new things."

In 1994, Raven made her debut on film in a remake of the 1930s series Little Rascals, playing Stymie's girlfriend. She continued to work in the latter half of the 1990s, providing her voice for the role of Goldilocks in the animated television series Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child in 1995. In 1998 she appeared in the film Dr. Dolittle, which starred Eddie Murphy playing a vet who can talk to animals; she played one of his daughters. She appeared in the same role in the film's sequel in 2001.

When Raven released her second LP, Undeniable, in 1999, it did well enough to earn her an opening spot for the teen pop band N'Sync's tour. However, while she was on tour, she still had to complete her schoolwork. As she explained in a Jet interview, her parents warned her, "You can be in the business all you want but you better graduate with honors." She continued to juggle acting and schoolwork when she landed a role on the animated series Kim Possible, providing the voice of Monique. When she got this role, she dropped "Symone" from her name, using only "Raven."

In 2002, she landed a major role when Disney chose her to star in her own sitcom, That's So Raven. The series featured Raven as a psychic teenager who can see a few seconds into the future, but no farther, an ability that gets her into various wacky situations. Raven told CNN.com's Haffenreffer, "It has a lot of physical comedy." The series soon had 1.9 million viewers each week, and Raven was considered to be Disney's next famous face, according to Disney Channel entertainment president Rich Ross, who told Nicholas Fonseca in Entertainment Weekly, "We expect her to be a big star for this company." Fans of the show, many of whom were children, believed wholeheartedly in the show's premise that she was psychic, and as she told a Jet interviewer, "Little kids are coming up to me asking me, ' What's my future?' I [tell them], 'I'm not really psychic.' And they are like, 'No, what's my future?' And I am like, 'OK, you are going to have a good future.'"

In addition to working on the television show, Raven also appeared in a Disney television movie in 2003: The Cheetah Girls. The film told the story of an all-female pop group that hoped to make it big by winning their high-school talent contest. In Daily Variety, Laura Fries wrote that the film "aspires to be a culturally diverse morality lesson disguised as musical fantasy. Instead, it's a diva training film." She also panned the movie's unmemorable plot, noting, "The pic is all about the hair, the look, the attitude. And like hungry cheetahs on the prowl, teen audiences will probably eat it up." However, she noted that the film "does have a few things going for it, namely Raven, an appealing and versatile young actress who has charm and skill."

Raven also sang on the film's soundtrack—which eventually went platinum despite the critics' comments about the film. She was thinking about enrolling in culinary school after she graduated from high school, but she also had more film roles in her future. She was slated to appear in a remake of a 1976 film, Sparkle, about a singing group that resembled the Supremes. It was originally supposed to star singer Aaliyah, but was temporarily shelved when that singer was killed in a plane crash. Raven was cast as the youngest in the three-sister group, which would undergo conflict and tragedy in their pursuit of success. She planned to watch the original version only once, she told Entertainment Weekly 's Fonseca, "Just to make sure I'm on the right track. I don't want to follow in anybody else's footsteps." She would do all her own singing in the film.

Disney also planned to have Raven star in All American Girl, a feature film about a girl who inadvertently rescues the president of the United States. In the film, she would play a part that was originally written for a white girl; the script would be adapted to reflect an African-American sensibility. The film was slated to be released in 2005. Raven also planned to release another album, with the aid of a variety of producers, which would feature hip-hop, alternative, and neo-soul tracks. She told Entertainment Weekly 's Fonseca that she was influenced by a wide range of performers: "I listen to everything from Jay-Z to Bjork to Avril Lavigne to Mary J. Blige."

In addition to her onscreen film roles, Raven found work providing voices for animated productions. Having worked on the television show Kim Possible, she provided the voice of Monique for the television movies Kim Possible: The Secret Files and Kim Possible: A Stitch in Time. She also provided the voice of Danielle in Fat Albert, released in 2004.

In 2004, Raven graduated from high school, but she was immediately bored by the lack of work to do and the abundance of free time. Nevertheless, she told CNN.com's Haffenreffer that she was "still having fun. I just turned 18 in December. So I'm having a wonderful time being a teenager. I'm just sitting back and enjoying it all." In addition to her acting, she contributed to the CD Disney Mania 2. She told Haffenreffer that the success of the Disney CDs came from the public's "familiarity with the songs and the people singing the songs." On September 21, 2004, Raven released the album This Is My Time, which included a mix of pop and R&B songs. She co-wrote five of the songs.

Raven is still thinking about going to culinary school, but only when her busy schedule subsides. "I don't want to worry about skipping spaghetti class because I have to make a movie," she told Michael Moses in Teen People. She has also thought about moving into the fashion world, with her own line of clothing. She told Julee Greenberg in WWD, "I would do it for girls who are built like me. When I shop for myself it's very hard to find clothes. I'm curvy and there should be more clothes out there for curvy girls." For now, Raven plans to concentrate on acting and singing. She told Entertainment Weekly 's Fonseca, "I'm very comfortable with what I do. I like entertaining people and making them laugh."

Selected discography

Here's to New Dreams, MCA, 1993.

Undeniable, Crash, 1999.

(Contributor) Disney Mania 2, Disney, 2004.

This Is My Time, Hollywood, 2004.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Black Biography, vol. 44, Gale Group, 2004.

Periodicals

Daily Variety, August 15, 2003, p. 8; August 18, 2003, p. 5.

Ebony, May 1990, p. 106.

Entertainment Weekly, October 17, 2003, pp. 42-43.

Houston Chronicle, November 27, 2003, p. 2.

Jet, July 5, 1993, p. 61; November 8, 1993, p. 58; September 8, 2003, p. 60.

People, May 20, 2002, p. 140; October 18, 2004, p. 46.

Teen People, February 1, 2004, p. 93.

WWD, August 7, 2003, p. 12.

Online

"Getting the Scoop on Disney TV's Raven," CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com (August 30, 2004).

"Raven," Internet Movie Database, http://www.imbd.com/name/nm0712368/ (August 30, 2004).

"That's So Raven," TV Tome, http://www.tvtome.com/tvtome/serlet/ShowMainServlet/showed-8257/ (August 30, 2004).

—Kelly Winters



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