As one of her generation’s top actresses, Angela Bassett has been seen in numerous stage productions, countless television shows, and iconic films. Bassett began her film career in the 1980s, after earning two degrees from Yale University. Since then, she's built her career around playing some of the most celebrated, pioneering women of twentieth century, including her intense portrayal of Tina Turner in the biopic “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”
Over the course of her career, Bassett has amassed many of her industry’s top honors. She is the recipient of a Golden Globe Award and eleven NAACP Image Awards; was nominated for an Academy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, six Emmys, and nine BET Awards; and holds a coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For her directorial debut, the Whitney Houston biopic “Whitney,” she was nominated for a Directors Guild of America Award. Bassett recently appeared in the blockbuster film, “Black Panther,” earning her praise from new fans around the globe. Besides acting, Bassett is also a celebrity ambassador for UNICEF, is a supporter of programs for the arts, especially for youth, and has been involved in recent campaigns for the Democratic Party.
Much of Bassett's success as an actress can be traced back to her student days at Yale University. With the assistance of an academic scholarship, she showed up in New Haven wanting to major in theater, but was sternly warned by a family member not to "waste your Yale education." Things changed for Bassett during her junior year when she found herself on the brink of failing one of her classes because it didn’t ignite her passions. Although she finished in 1980, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in African-American studies, Bassett had already made up her mind to follow her heart. So, she immediately enrolled in Yale's School of Drama. While there, she studied under the renowned stage director Lloyd Richards, who cast her in two Broadway productions. In 1983, Bassett received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale.
Since departing, Bassett has returned to her alma mater at least twice to receive honors. In 2018, the award-winning actress and Black Panther matriarch was back on campus to add another distinction to her already impressive credentials. During the university's 317th commencement ceremony, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Yale President Peter Salovey, who applauded the talents which had turned her into a role model for younger women. More recently, in 2020, Bassett also received that year's Yale Undergraduate Lifetime Achievement Award (YULAA) presented by the Yale College Council (YCC). It is the only award in Ivy League history that is selected and administered entirely by students.
"My days on campus..." said Bassett, reflecting on the importance of one’s formative college years, "the experiences, the relationships formed, the triumphs, the challenges are such a big influence on who I have become in the ensuing years since that spring of 1980."