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New Orleans Data News: A Phenomenal Woman

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The title of one of the signature poems of the late great Maya Angelou is entitled “Phenomenal Woman.” At this year’s, Jazz Fest while sitting backstage waiting for the legendary Stevie Wonder to hit the stage, Data News Weekly had the opportunity to speak with Actress Vanessa Bell Calloway, a woman who is every bit of phenomenal. She is timelessly beautiful, intelligent, graceful and talented, as she is looking casually chic on this warm day in the month May. She is alluring and exudes an elegant yet down to earth aura. Calloway has had a career spanning several decades on the stage, silver screen and television. She’s earned eight NAACP Image Award nominations; winning the “NAACP Theater Award for Best Actress” for her critically acclaimed role as Zora Neale Hurston in “Letters From Zora.”

My Love Affair with America’s Most Interesting City

Speaking enthusiastically, she says, her connection to the Crescent City runs deep, “I love New Orleans; I have been coming here for years. My husband Dr. Anthony Calloway, both of his parents are from New Orleans and his best friend is here. We’re also very good friends with Marc Morial who served two-terms as mayor and we attended both of his inaugurals. Continuing speaking of the City’s unique character and flavor she says, “New Orleans is my favorite City in the U.S., when I am here I feel like I am on an island, it is a City that is so special and so different from the rest of the country.”

On Being Black and Successful in the Entertainment Industry

Over the years, she’s played countless roles and is one of the most in demand character actresses in the business. Vanessa is best known for her roles in the box office smashes “Coming to America,” “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, “Biker Boyz “, “Love Don’t Cost A Thing”, “Daylight,” “The Inkwell”, “Crimson Tide”, “The Brothers”, “Cheaper By The Dozen” and she’s also voiced the lead female role in the animated feature “Bebe’s Kids”. Calloway is currently starring in Bounce TV’s new hit one-hour drama “Saints & Sinners” as the matriarch Lady Ella Johnson. Talking about her recent projects she says, “Right now I am starring in ‘Saints & Sinners’ on Bounce TV I am Lady Ella, the lead character and our second season we’ve just completed and waiting to do our third. I am always staying busy; I am directing now as well, I directed an episode of ‘Saints and Sinners,’ I also have my own content on the web, ‘In the Company of Friends’ and ‘Cooking and Hooking Up’ which are my own projects that I conceived, directed and created.”

In the entertainment industry where many are hailed as the next big thing today only then to hover into obscurity; Calloway, since her early television appearance in 1985 as Yvonne Caldwell on the ABC soap opera ‘All My Children’ has been a mainstay in the industry playing many memorable roles. A feat not accomplished by many especially someone of color. Speaking of her secret to longevity she says, “The secret to having longevity is to keep working and staying prevalent, stay positive and stay in the moment. It’s like you just must keep working, like anything else we know about life you can’t rest on your past laurels. You must keep moving and keep creating and just being present. I have a lot of people I have to thank for keeping me in the loop, but I also have to say it is my will and determination and belief in myself for staying relevant and being positive and keeping it moving and not being afraid of taking chances; in addition to growing and understanding all aspects of the industry.”

Words that are Key to Living a Great Life

While being successful in business, she’s been successful in other aspects of her life with the role of mother and wife being the one she takes the most pride in. Vanessa has two beautiful adult daughters, Ashley and Alexandra and she has been married to her loving husband Anesthesiologist, Dr. Anthony Calloway for 28 years. She says this is what matters most to her in life, “My family is what gives me meaning and purpose. I love them; there’s nothing I would trade for my family. Any professional accomplishments or awards substitutes for the love, the support and the health of my family and they are first and foremost to me and the rest will work itself out.” On this ending note before Stevie Wonder hits the stage she’s given me these words that are the keys to a great life. Vanessa Bell Calloway, through her example in the show business and living a well-rounded life is the true definition of a phenomenal woman.

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