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Featured Story - Garcelle Beauvaix 
Garcelle Beauvais
By: Pascale Etheart Taddeo

Growing up in Haiti, Garcelle Beauvais never expected to become a model and an actress.“  I wanted to be a journalist.  I didn’t know you could take pictures for a living.  I didn’t know people paid you because you’re cute.  It never dawned on me.”  At the age of 7, Beauvais, who is the youngest of seven siblings, moved to Boston with her family.  When she was about to turn 16, the family moved again, this time relocating to Miami to flee Massachusetts’ frigid weather.  Soon after moving to Florida, Beauvais’ exotic looks became difficult to ignore.  At 5’9, she was frequently told to consider going into modeling.  She gave it a try and watched her life get steered on a path she had never before considered.“  I thought I was going to come to LA to UCLA and go to journalism school,” she said during a phone interview on her way home in Los Angeles.  Instead, Beauvais became a Ford Model in New York, appearing in campaigns for Avon, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and Clairol, along with catalog appearances for Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom.  As her career blossomed, Beauvais appeared on the cover of Ebony and Essence magazines, and she did the runway couture shows of Calvin Klein and Isaac Mizrahi. 

Before long, Beauvais was also making her mark as an actress.  She made her first appearance on television playing a rape victim on “Miami Vice. ” She was then cast as Dr.  Huxtable’s nurse on “The Cosby Show. ” She also had parts on several other television shows including “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Dream On,” “Hangin' with Mr.  Cooper,” “Family Matters,” as well as Aaron Spelling's television show, “Models, Inc. ” More recently, Beauvais became widely recognized for her starring role as Francesca “Fancy” Monroe in “The Jamie Foxx Show,” on the Warner Brothers network.  Today, she can be seen regularly, playing assistant district attorney Valerie Haywood on the ABC network’s popular police drama “NYPD Blue. ” Beauvais, 36, has had her share of success in motion pictures as well.  She has played numerous roles in a variety of movies including Coming to America” (1988), “Every Breath” (1993), “Wild Wild West” with Will Smith (1999), “Double Take” with Orlando Jones (2001), “Second String” with Jon Voight (made for TV 2000), and “Bad Company” in which she starred opposite Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins (2002).  Currently she is working on several different projects.  She has signed on for another 22 episodes of “NYPD Blue. ” She recently completed an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for HBO.  She has also done a series of one-minute movies for NBC, and she was just offered a part on “Barber Shop 2,” which will start shooting in September.“  Things are good,” she said.“  I can’t complain, but then I could. ”

Her success hasn’t always come easily, and she said it continues to be challenging to get coveted roles.“  There’s always rejection in the industry.  That’s just the way it is,” said Beauvais.“  For whatever reason it’s not personal, but it’s hard not to make it personal. ” When offering advice to young people interested in pursuing acting as a career, Beauvais believes it’s never too early to learn.“  It’s important to really learn the craft,” she said.  Whether it is through an acting school, or by doing little plays at home, school, or with a community theater, Beauvais said it is critical to get some training and “get proper technique. ” But she also warns that success in acting requires a lot of determination.“  It’s really important to persevere because let me tell you, there’s a lot, a lot of rejection no matter what level you’re in,” she said.“  You just have to have thick skin and persevere. ”

In the future, Beauvais said she would love to have her own television sitcom, which would allow her to spend time with her family.  She also wants to direct at some point, and hopes to eventually have a talk show.“  I would like to be able to do that, and also be at home,” she said.  Though Beauvais enjoys making movies, she said she doesn’t want to be too far from her loved ones.“  I don’t really want to be away from my family, if I can say that,” she admits. ” Despite her success on television and on the big screen Beauvais hasn’t written off her interest in journalism completely.“  That’s always my first love because I love talking to people,” she explained.“  I’m curious about life and people. ” To pursue her dream, she is looking into doing a talk show either by herself or with others. 

When asked about the negative portrayal of Haitians on the recently released action thriller Bad Boys II, Beauvais said she auditioned for the movie but didn’t get the part.  As a result, she wasn’t ready to watch it yet.  The movie, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, is a sequel about two narcotics detectives with the Miami Police Department, who are fighting crime and illicit drugs.  The film earned $88. 5 million at the box office during its first two weeks, yet it includes negative stereotypes about different ethnic groups, most notably about Haitians.  Knowing Will Smith as she does, and having worked with him in the past, Beauvais said the derogatory images of Haitians must have been an oversight.“  He is really a nice guy,” she said.“  I can’t imagine that he would do that blatantly.  I really, really can’t,” she said.“  But still, somebody should have caught it in editing,” she added.  Beauvais believes that black actors, directors and producers have a certain responsibility regarding the works they release.“  That’s why I have been very picky about the jobs that I take,” she said.“  I’m not going to play a hoochie mama.  I’m not going to play any roles that are going to degrade me, or not look right for my son.  I think it’s my responsibility for that, in terms of what I choose to do. ” Beauvais admits that having a recurring role on “NYPD Blue,’ which she calls her “day job,” allows her the freedom of being selective about the roles she chooses.“  If I were just starting out, maybe I’d do those things, but I don’t know.  Right now I don’t think I would. ”

In addition to her busy career, Beauvais is mother to 12-year-old Oliver.  She has been married to theatrical agent Mike Nilon for two years, and hopes they will have more children.  Despite all of the many demands in her life, Beauvais still makes time for causes that are important to her.  Recently she traveled to Washington D. C.  to advocate for Haitian refugees who have been detained indefinitely after arriving in Miami.“  I took my son with me, which was really great for him to see,” she said.“  We went up to Capitol Hill and we spoke in front of a forum just to show them the different ways that the Haitians and the Cubans are treated. ” Beauvais said acclaimed Haitian author Edwige Danticat was also there.  Together they discussed the disparities that currently exist and the need to get a bill passed to prevent double standards in the way Haitian refugee cases are handled.“  The fact that Haitian families are being separated, some are going to Krome [Detention Center], some are going to motels, it shouldn’t happen,” she said.  With most of her family living in the United States, Beauvais doesn’t get to travel to Haiti much.  Nevertheless, she said she would love to go back to visit, and hopes to have an opportunity to do so in the future, since Essence Magazine is interested in doing a photo shoot there.  Staying connected with her Haitian roots has always been important to Beauvais, she explained.“  That’s why I’ve never shied away from saying I was Haitian from day one,” she said.  Throughout her modeling career, Beauvais said she met many models who would try to conceal their Haitian heritage, and instead identified themselves as being part Spanish.“  I never thought it was a bad thing to say.  I was proud of being from Haiti,” she said.“  My family is Haitian.  My son is half Haitian.  It’s part of who I am. ”