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KOKOnista Of The Day: Sanaa Lathan Is A Celebrated Hollywood Legend Championing Diversity In Films

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Sanaa McCoy Lathan is an award-winning American actress leading the call for more diversity in Hollywood.

Sanaa Lathan was born in New York City. Her first name means “art” in Swahili. Her mother, Eleanor McCoy, was also an actress and dancer who performed on Broadway with Eartha Kitt.

Sanaa Lathan photographed by Shaughn and John for Variety in Los Angeles on March 11, 2016.

Her father, Stan Lathan, worked behind the scenes in television for PBS, as well as a producer on shows such as Sanford & Son and Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam. Her brother is Tendaji Lathan, a well known DJ. She attended Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics.

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She graduated from UC Berkeley, with a bachelor’s degree in English. She then attended Yale University and earned a master’s degree in drama.


Following her training at Yale, where she studied and performed in a number of Shakespeare plays, Lathan earned acclaim both off-Broadway and on the Los Angeles stage. Encouraged by her father to make Los Angeles her professional base, she found early television roles.

As a voice actress, from 2009 to 2013, she voiced Donna Tubbs in The Cleveland Show and in all concurrent and subsequent Family Guy appearances. She has starred in many films, including The Best Man (1999) and its 2013 sequel, The Best Man Holiday. Her other film credits include Love & Basketball (2000), Brown Sugar (2002), Alien vs. Predator (2004), Something New (2006), The Family That Preys (2008), Contagion (2011), and Now You See Me 2 (2016).

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On stage, Lathan was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance on Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun and starred in 2010 in the all-black performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Novello Theatre in London.

Photo Credit: Getty

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