Remembering Natalie Desselle-Reid

Natalie Desselle-Reid passed away on Monday, Dec. 7. after privately battling colon cancer.

By: rē•spin staff
Remembering Natalie Desselle-Reid

Natalie Desselle-Reid passed away on Monday, Dec. 7. after privately battling colon cancer. She was only 53.

Desselle-Reid’s manager, Dolores Robinson, confirmed the tragic news on social media in a touching statement, memorializing the actress and all of her qualities.

“It is with extremely heavy hearts that we share the loss of our beautiful Natalie this morning from colon cancer,” the post read. “She was a bright light in this world. A queen. An extraordinary mother and wife. Her diverse career touched so many and she will be loved forever. Naturally, we are grieving and processing this profound loss and we thank you in advance for respecting our privacy at this extremely difficult time.”

Born and raised in Louisiana, the actress attended Grambling State University, where she developed her passion for theater. She got her start in Hollywood in 1996, appearing in one episode of the long-running sit-com, “Family Matters,” though her breakout role followed the next year when she starred alongside Halle Berry in the ‘97 cult classic, “B.A.P.S..” 

 “B.A.P.S.” followed two waitresses, Mickey (Desselle-Reid) and Nisi (Berry) from Georgia who wind up in Los Angeles to audition to start saving money to open up their dream business: the first combination hair salon and soul food restaurant. They wind up caring for an elderly millionaire and live amongst the rich and famous of Hollywood as “Black American Princesses.” Beyond its cultural impact as a critically acclaimed comedy, Desselle-Reid’s character is widely considered as one of the first plus-size comedic leads in mainstream film that has a romantic storyline, bringing dual representation to the big screen.

Throughout her career, Desselle-Reid captured audiences by expertly transforming into her roles, no matter how big or small. Oftentimes, her roles were part of the big picture during a period of the 90s that some herald as the “golden age” of Black cinema, including her role as Tanika in “Set If Off” and Jenny in “How to Be a Player.” She was part of the ground-breaking cast of the 1997 re-telling of the fairytale, “Cinderella,” starring alongside Brandy and Whitney Houston in a cast that was reveled for its unprecedented diversity at the time. In the 2000s, Desselle-Reid starred in a 66-episode run of UPN’s “Eve” alongside Eve herself, Jason Wintson George, and Ali Landry.

Desselle-Reid’s raw talent shone through her work, impressing Tyler Perry to the point where he didn’t ask her to audition for her role in 2001’s “Madea’s Big Happy Family,” calling her manager instead to ask if she was available on a specific day for the table read, followed by a start date for filming.

While fans of Desselle-Reid may not have known the actress personally, her on-screen performances and presence across social media perfectly encapsulated the type of person her co-stars and peers have lauded her for in their messages of condolence.

Our founder said in her tribute that the second she met her “B.A.P.S.” co-star, she knew their hearts had intertwined in a “connection that was simply unexplainable.”

“Natalie taught us love, joy, and humor through her characters – she could never dim her light, and it was infectious,” Halle wrote. “Natalie represented actual black women, not what black women are perceived to be. For that, she was often underrated, passed over – deprived of the platform she truly deserved. But her light continues to shine through the people who grew up watching her, the people who knew her best and those of us who loved her.”

Desselle-Reid’s legacy is not defined just by the roles she played, but instead by the lives she touched through her diverse career, presence, and words. Friends and colleagues shared an outpouring of loving messages for the late actress to honor her memory with unwavering support, knowing both her cultural and personal impact will live on forever.

“Sunday is the perfect day to refuel your soul and to be grateful for each and every one of your blessings,” the last post she personally left on her Instagram read. “Remember, you are Blessed! Refuel your Soul!”


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