Model, Movies, and Most Beautiful

All about Lela Rochon

Isn’t it awesome to be chosen as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world? Lela Rochon was given this title by People (USA) Magazine in 1996. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, tinsel town gave very little opportunity for African- American actresses to shine, except this dusky and sexy beauty with the screen name of Lela Rochon. She starred with Eddie Murphy in 1989’s Harlem Nights, playing the nonsensible role of Sunshine and was in the cast of 1995’s hit Waiting to Exhale with Angela Basset and Whitney Houston. She also starred in many high-budgeted movies. Knowing the life of Lela Rochon could serve as an inspiration for those who are working their way to the top of a movie career.

A Star is born

April 17, 1964 – Many important events happened today: Ford Motor Co. unveiled its latest model, the Ford Mustang, to the public in their pavilion. Shea Stadium opened its gates to sports enthusiasts after a hibernation of 29 months and spending $28.5 M for construction expenses. In this day, too, the Mets played their first game for the season in Shea Stadium. Gerry Mock, the first woman to fly solo around the world, started her odyssey today. And Lela Rochon, nee: Lela Rochon Staples and future superstar was born this day in Los Angeles, California.

Her parents are Haitian-Americans; her mother is Zelma Staples, a nurse practitioner, and her father is Samuel Staples, a business owner and graphic artist. Lela was raised like an only child in their home although she had an older half-brother.

According to her father, Samuel Staples, “Lela was intensely competitive even during her formative years.” She was a star athlete at Cerritos High School, had excellent records in track and basketball and was a favorite performer in school presentations.

1982 – Lela finished High School and enrolled at the California State University, Dominguez Hills, where she eventually earned BA in Broadcast Journalism.

Lela Rochon

1984 to1986 – While she was in college, Lela was one of the “Spudettes” who presented over 20 spots for the famous Spud McKenzie Budweiser/Bud Light TV commercials.

1986 – Lela graduated with a BA in Broadcast Journalism with minors in Sociology and Theatre. She planned to take up Law but because she possessed that wonderful combination of beauty and brain, she was directed to the path of the stars.

On her way up

They said that if you have the looks and you are walking around LA, agents will accost you and offer you a tempting modeling job. Sometimes, these offers are bogus, but many are for real. Lela was approached by an agent and offered two hundred dollars an hour. At this time, such incentive was hard to refuse so she accepted the job and used the money for tuition and books. Her height, 5’9”, with measurements of 34C-23-36 and grace were her assets in modeling. She continued walking on the ramp and also did over two dozen Spuds MacKenzie commercials for Bud Light beer until the late ‘80s. With her income, she was able to buy a place of her own.

 After some time, Lela found commercial and modeling work less challenging and decided to search for work that offered more spiritual satisfaction. Rochon told Aldore Collier in an interview for Ebony, “Maybe I’ve always been too intellectual for it,” she continued by saying, “it was nothing I could see myself doing for the rest of my life”. Discovering that her personality projected well with the camera, she knew that she was destined for a movie career so she started her trek towards stardom.

1983 - A trained dancer, she was in the video Breakin’ Breakin’2 Electric Boogaloo and was later included in Lionel Ritchie music video All Night Long.

1984 - 1985 - While still in college, she landed a part in a TV movie, A Bunny’s Tale, starring Kristie Alley; the story was based on the book written by feminist advocate Gloria Steinem. She also appeared in The Cosby Show in the 1987 episode of The Shower where she played the role of the pregnant friend of Lisa Bonet; fortunately this episode was nominated for an Emmy. Rochon was in the movie Stewardess School and Foxtrap. She was included in two of Eddie Murphy’s blockbuster movies, Harlem Nights and Boomerang (she is Christie).

From the late 1980s and early 1990s, Lela appeared in TV shows 21 Jump Street and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (she is Wendy).

On the top

1995 – It was her friendship with Terry McMillan which gave her the opportunity to audition with director Forest Whitaker for the role of Robin Stokes in the movie Waiting to Exhale. Directed by Forest Whitaker it starred Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine. Based on the novel by Terry McMillan, it portrays the lives of four very different African-American women and their relationships with their men. This film turned out to be a blockbuster which led to numerous offers to Rochon.

Here is the list of some of her memorable films on TV and the wide screen:

1. (1991) Extralarge: Black and White – Rochon played the role of Wendy in this film. The story follows the adventure of Jack Costello, a private detective, in Miami. The film was directed by Enzo Castellari with stars Bud Spencer, Philip Michael Thomas and Friedrich von Thun.

 2. (1992) HBO’s Tales from the Crypt – Lela was Mercedes in an episode of this horror anthology. This American TV series ran from 1989 to 1996 on cable channel HBO. It features hair raising stories that make your blood feel cold.

3. (1992) ROC – Carol was Lela’s character in this movie. Directed by Stan Lathan, this light comedy had stars Charles S. Dutton, Ella Joyce, Rocky Carroll, Carl Gordon, Candy Ann Brown, Ann Weldon and Garret Morris.

4. (1993) The Meteor Man - Lela played the role of Vanessa, the pretty nurse. One night Jefferson Reed gets hit in the chest by a chunk of meteor, just like the Man of Steel. So he can fly, but he's scared of heights. The movie was directed by Robert Townsend, starring Robert Townsend, Maria Gibbs, Eddie Griffin and Lela Rochon.

5. (1993) The Sinbad Show TV series – Lela was Denise. The story is about David who is a foster father for Zana and LJ, and feels lost being very new to the game. He learns much from the children, as they in turn, learn much from him. Its stars were Sinbad, T.K. Carter and Erin Davis. 

6. (1995-1999) WB TV series The Wayans Bros. - She portrayed the role of Shawn Wayans' girlfriend Lisa and appeared in six episodes. The Wayans Bros. is a comedy that was aired from 1995 to 1996 on the WB, starring real-life brothers Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans.

7. (1996) Mr. and Mrs. Loving – She played the role of Mildred “Bean” Jeter; opposite Timothy Hutton in this cable movie. This moving and uplifting heavy drama deals with the effect of interracial marriage in the ‘60s. The director was Richard Friedenberg with stars Timothy Hutton, Lela Rochon, Ruby Dee and Bill Nunn.

8. (1996) The Chamber – Her role was that of Nora Stark, a government aide. This gripping thriller is based on John Grisham's 1994 best seller; The Chamber is the forceful tale of an idealistic young lawyer who is confronted by the dark secrets of his family's mysterious past. It was under the direction of James Foley with stars Chris O'Donnell, Gene Hackman, Faye Dunaway and Lela Rochon. 

9. (1997) Gang Related - She played the part of an exotic dancer by the name of Cynthia Webb. Two cops kill an undercover DEA agent by mistake, and frantically try to cover their tracks by framing a homeless man for the crime. It was directed by Jim Kouf ; starring James Belushi, Tupac Shakur and Lela Rochon.

10. (1997) Legal Deceit – Lela played the role of Sydney Banks who learned the hard way that being ambitious and educated is not the only path to success. The movie was directed by Monika Harris; starring Lela Rochon, Jeffrey Dean Morganand Phil Morris.

11. (1997) TV series The Outer Limits – The role played by Rochon was that of Beth Carter in Season 3. A U.S. science fiction anthology television series, it was originally lasting two seasons in the 1960s, which was revived for a seven season run in the 1990s. There were different directors and actors appearing per episode.

12. (1997) TV series Hangin with Mr. Cooper – Lela was Denise appearing in two episodes as the girlfriend of Mark. This was a story created by Jeff Franklin with Mark Curry, Holly Robinson Peete, Sandra Quarterman and Marquise Wilson.

13. (1998) Why Do Fools Fall in Love - She played the role of Emira Eagle, a schoolteacher. This is a biographical film of the brief but emotional life of R&B/Rock & Roll singer Frankie Lymon. He was part of the famous R&B group Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers which lasted for only a year. Moreover, the film depicted the three women who influenced his life. The movie is directed by Gregory Nava and stars a powerful cast: Norris Young, Marcello Thedford, Paula Jai Parker, Ben Vereen, Lane Smith, Clifton Powell, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., David Barry Gray, Alexis Cruz, Pamela Reed, Paul Mazursky, Larenz Tate, Lela Rochon, Vivica A. Fox and Halle Berry.

14. (1998) Knock Off – Lela played the role of Karen Lee, a corporate vice-president. When she discovered that the Russian mafia terrorists are planning to implant thousands of "micro bombs" in knockoff jeans they are exporting around the globe, Hong Kong-based fashion executive, Marcus Ray, races against time to stop them together with his undercover CIA agent Tommy Hendricks. Directed by Hark Tsui; it had an explosive cast led by Jean-Claude Van Damme, Rob Schneider, Paul Sorvino, Lela Rochon, Carman Lee, Ray Nicholas and Lynne Langdon.

15. (1998) The Big Hit – She played the role of Chantel. Melvin Smiley, a successful young hitman, lives a normal life by day with his Jewish fiancée Pam, but kills for money in Paris' organization under cover of darkness. It was directed by Kirk Wong. The film’s stars were Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Philips, Christina Applegate, Avery Brooks, Elliot Gould and Lela Rochon.

16. (1998) TV Ruby Bridges – Lela was Lucielle Lucy Bridges. Ruby Bridges is an African-American girl who, in 1960 at age 6, helped to integrate the all-white schools of New Orleans. Directed by Euzhan Palcy, with stars Chaz Monet, Penelope Ann Miller, Kevin Pollak, and Michael Beach.

17. (1999) TV The Charlotte Austin Story – Rochon played the character of Charlotte Austin. This TV series was produced by L. Travis, Dennis Johnson and Lela Rochon as executive producer.

18. (1999) Any Given Sunday - Lela Rochon is Vanessa Struthers. This American drama film is directed by Oliver Stone of Love Story fame. It depicts the adventures, trials and success of a fictional professional American football team. Its impressive all-star-cast were: Al Pacino (remember The Godfather), Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quad, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, LL Cool J, Matthew Modine, John C. McGinley, Charles Heston, Ann-Margret, Lauren Holly, Bill Bellamy, Lela Rochon, Aaron Eckhart, Elizabeth Berkley, Marty Wright and legendary NFL players Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor.

19. (2000) Labor Pains – She played the role of Lulu Brown, Sarah’s kooky best friend. Sarah is a New York City columnist who falls in love with Ryan and quickly gets pregnant by him. The poor guy has no idea that he is going to be a father. Meanwhile, Ryan, who is a free spirit, decided to vanish for 8 months. The cast was led by Mary Tyler Moore, Rob Morrow, Kyra Sedgwick and Lela Rochon. 

20. (2000) TV series Intimate Portrait - This presents a biography profile of female entertainers, newsmakers and historical figures. It tells viewers about the subject's achievements, inspirations and private life. Lela Rochon was often featured in this series.

21. (2001) TV Lifetime original series, The Division – Lela appeared as guest star in three episodes playing the role of Inspector Angela Reide. The Division was an American Lifetime Television original series about a team of women police officers in the San Francisco Police Department. It was premiered on January 7, 2001 and ended on June 28, 2004 after 88 episodes. The director was Sarah Pia Anderson and Alan Myerson, with main stars Bonnie Bedelia, Nancy McKeon, Amy Jo Johnson, and Jose Yenque.

22. (2004) First Daughter - She played the role of Liza Pappas. This is an American romantic comedy where Samantha MacKenzie, daughter of the President of the United States enrolls at a college and develops a relationship with another student at the college. The film follows the sensual Samantha as she is given a new sense of freedom during her time away from the White House, and the advantages and disadvantages of her college life and education. It was directed by Forest Whitaker (who was Lela’s director in Waiting to Exhale) with stars Katie Holmes, Marc Blucas, Amerie Rogers, Michael Keaton, and Lela Rochon.

25.. (2006) Running Out of Time in Hollywood - Lela Rochon portrays a 50 year old woman in Hollywood who wants to act again. But who is going to give her a job in Hollywood when she is now too old, too fat, took broke, loaded with so much responsibility and owns too many dogs? But being optimistic, she thinks that she's still 'got it' and nothing is going to stop her! Her characteristics of being fearless, demanding, obsessed, dramatic, smart, sexy, impulsive, courageous, loving, furious and very funny are her assets. This impressive comedy was directed by Catherine Carlen and starring Lela Rochon, Gregory Michael and Sheila Elis.

26. (2008) Fatal Secrets original title: Balancing the Books – Lela played the role of Sharlene. This character-driven suspense drama is about an attractive woman who enlists the help of her two best friends to face a traumatic experience she can no longer deny. She is divorced and successfully self-employed, and seems to have it all – except the right guy in her life. It is directed by Meir Sharonyand starring Dine Meyer, Vincent Spano, Lea Thompson and Lela Rochon.

27. (2009) Brooklyn’s Finest – Lela Rochon appeared in this film as herself. Three unconnected Brooklyn cops ended up at the same deadly location after pursuing entirely different career paths. It was directed by Antoine Fuqua (Lela’s hubby) and starring Richard Gere, Don Cheadle and Ethan Hawk.

 28. (2010) Blood Done Sign my Name – Lela played the role of Roseanna Allen. This drama is based on the true story where a black Vietnam-era veteran is allegedly murdered by a local white businessman who is later acquitted. The plot tells of the role of a local high school teacher and the civil unrest that followed the acquittal. It is directed by Jeb Stuart and starred Michael Rooker, Ricky Schroder, Nick Seacy and Lela Rochon.

Personal Life and Awards

Lela Rochon met break-dancer Adolfo Quinones when she was part of the Breakin and Breakin 2 Electric Boogaloo productions. They were wed on December 12, 1982 and divorced in 1987. In 1998, she became engaged to director Antoine Fuqua and the couple took the plunge on April 9, 1999. The couple is blessed with two lovely kids: Asia Rochon Fuqua, born on July 28, 2002, and Brando, born May, 2004. Lela has a stepson, Zachary from the previous marriage of Fuqua.

1995 - Rochon's performance received critical praise in Waiting to Exhale and she was handed an Image nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture and a MTV Movie nomination for Best Breakthrough Performance.

1996 - Lela was chosen by People (USA) magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world.

2000 – She was voted by the readers of Black Men Magazine as one of The 10 Sexiest Women of the Year.

Lela is a producer with two films: The Charlotte Austin Story (TV movie) as executive producer in 1999 and Fatal Secrets as associate producer in 2008.

Today, Lela Rochon lives happily with her family and is still the beauteous dusky star that started as a spudette and achieved so much in her movie career. Those hopeful who are aspiring to become a star in Hollywood or any other movie capital around the globe; could gain lots of inspiration from the life of the one and only Lela Rochon.