Paula Jai Parker is an American comedian, actress, director, singer and composer, whose ticket to fame was her roles in “Friday”, “Hustle & Flow” and Disney Channel’s “The Proud Family”.
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Early life and family
Paula Jai Parker was born on August 19, 1969 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Her father died when she was three – his last words to her as she sat on his lap before falling into a coma were to take care of her mother, which she is being tried to do. Her mother remarried to a wealthy real estate agent and they lived in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where Paula’s life became more interesting. Her stepfather was arrested for double selling property, and she was nearly kidnapped by those her stepfather scammed, but luckily her school foiled the plot and called her parents.
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The would-be kidnappers lost interest in her and turned their attention to the couple; they beat them with a gun and took valuables from their home.
From the age of five, Paula was molested by her junkie stepbrother, and when she told her mother about it, they decided to leave. They had to sneak out of the house because her mother was apparently also abused by his stepfather. Instead of reporting it to the authorities, her mother went to big gangsters for help, who were friends with Paula’s father, and arranged it their way.
Later, her stepfather was charged with double sales and sentenced to federal prison. Instead of being beaten, her mother bought another company that sold plastic sleeves, and was successful, making them rich in Cleveland.
Paula first went to an all-white local high school, but in 12e In class, she transferred to a more diverse public school and graduated from there. Paula then graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Howard University in Washington DC
After college, she moved to New York to pursue an acting career, but ended up performing in several nightclubs. She had the opportunity to perform live for a year in “The Apollo Comedy Hour” at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.
In 1994, her first dramatic role in an HBO anthology series, “Cosmic Slop,” earned her an acting award from the Cable ACE Award for the episode “Tang.”
A year later, she was offered the iconic supporting role of Joi, the joking girlfriend in the hit comedy film ‘Friday’ starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. A string of small roles followed in several films, including “Tales from the Hood” produced by Spike Lee in 1995, “Get on the Bus” in 1996, directed by Spike Lee, and “Why Do Fools in Love” in 1998, featuring Halle Berry and Vivica A. Fox.
On television, she appeared as a guest on several TV shows, before being included in the regular cast of “The Wayans Bros”, taking on the role of Monique which she played for 13 episodes from 1995 to 1996. Paula also became a regular series on the comedy show produced by Dirk Clark, “The Weird Al Show”, as Val Brentwood with popular comedian Weird Al Yankovic for 13 episodes in 1997, and in 1999 she was on the comedy series “Snoops” as Roberta Young for one season.
Paula proved to be a role model in her craft and became a quintessential supporting actress who starred in both television and movies. However, she landed a major role in Disney Channel’s animated series “The Proud Family”, in which she voiced the role of Trudy Parker Proud – Mama Bear of the Proud Family. She was part of the show from 2001 to 2005.
She had recurring roles on some TV shows, and the most notable were in “Side Order of Life,” a drama series that aired on the Lifetime Channel in which she played Stargell Grant in 2007 for seven episodes; “True Blood”, a horror fantasy series that aired on HBO in five episodes in 2013 as Karen; and “Ray Donovan,” a crime drama series broadcast on Showtime in which she was Sylvia Starr for five episodes in 2016.
Paula has also appeared in several films, and some of her notable ones were “Phone Booth” with Colin Farell in 2003 which grossed nearly $100 million worldwide, “Ray” with Jamie Foxx in 2004 which grossed $125 million worldwide. , and “Hustle & Flow” with Terence Howard in 2005, in which she played the role of Lexus, which earned her a nomination for the Women Film Critics Circles Award for Best Comedy Performance and Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Movie.
From 2015 to 2016 she participated in the reality tv series‘Hollywood Divas’, which followed the lives of five African-American celebrities, and her life was chronicled over three seasons.
It aired on the cable channel TV One, also featured in the reality show were Golden Brooks, Countess Vaughn, Elise Neal and Lisa Wu.
Paula was last seen in two ongoing web series that began in 2019: “Crown Lake,” in which she plays a recurring character, and “A House Divided” as a regular series.
She married Forrest Martin, an actor-writer, in December 2004, when she was only months into filming the movie “Hustle & Flow”, on which her husband worked as an intern after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. . The couple have a son to whom they have given the very long name Onederful Vanglorious Jaxon N’Krumah Martin.
- In one of the episodes of “Hollywood Divas”, it was revealed that Paula and her family were homeless throughout the filming of the reality TV show; she lived in an extended stay hotel with her son and husband. She sold her house in 2007 with the intention of buying another one, but the writers’ strike halted most of the filming in Tinseltown.
- She relied on food stamps given by the state when she was broke. Paula said it was a humbling experience, and some people were shocked when they recognized her.
- Paula had a breakup with Golden Brooks, one of the other actresses on the show ‘Hollywood Divas’, who accused Golden of flirting with her husband. When they argued, Golden laughed at Paula’s accusation and told her she wanted a man who works. Apparently, Paula is the breadwinner of the family and her husband is constantly dependent on her financially.
- In 2008, she launched an after-school acting bootcamp and workshop for kids in California. She scheduled it when she wasn’t filming.
She is 1.59 m tall and weighs 58 kg. She is of African American descent, and has black hair and black eyes.
Authoritative sources estimate Paula’s net value around $150,000, as of June 2020.