Sister to Keenan Ivory, Damon, Shawn and Marlon, comic actress Kim Wayans came to prominence as one of the key cast members of her famous brothers' groundbreaking, sketch series "In Living Color" (Fox, 1990-94). Parodying stars like Grace Jones and Whitney Houston, Wayans stood out in an already scenery-chewing comic troupe. The majority of her work in the 1990s came courtesy of family projects like "A Low Down Dirty Shame" (1994), "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood" (1996) and "The Wayans Bros." (The WB, 1995-99). The talented sister also appeared in non-family projects like "In the House" (NBC, 1995-96; UPN, 1996-99), but returned to the fold with writing, producing and directing duties on Damon's "My Wife and Kids" (ABC, 2001-05). In a switch from the norm, Wayans essayed a breakthrough performance in Dee Rees's drama "Pariah" (2011) playing the fierce mother of a Brooklyn teen who questions her sexuality. Although audiences enjoyed her traditional work with her family, Wayans proved that she was equally adept in drama as she was in comedy, paving the way for new career opportunities.
Born Oct. 16, 1961 in New York City, Wayans hailed from one of the largest showbiz families, counting Keenan Ivory, Damon, Shawn and Marlon Wayans among her siblings. Raised in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, Wayans attended Wesleyan University on scholarship and wrote a book of short stories as her senior thesis. Following her older brothers Keenan and Damon to Hollywood in 1987, she soon began performing stand-up comedy at clubs like The Improv before landing a bit part in Robert Townsend's "Hollywood Shuffle" (1987). She followed that up by landing recurring roles on "A Different World" (NBC, 1987-1993) and "China Beach" (ABC, 1988-1991). As always, she could always depend on her siblings for work, as her brothers grew ever more prolific. Wayans played a nightclub singer in their Blaxploitation parody "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" (1988) and achieved a low-key stardom as a member of their groundbreaking, African-American-powered sketch series "In Living Color" (Fox, 1990-94). Although overshadowed by the showier antics of her co-stars, including her brothers and a young Jim Carrey, Wayans still scored with parodies of pop culture figures like Grace Jones and Whitney Houston as well as creating memorable original characters such as Benita ("I ain't one to gossip, but.") Butrell and a hard-of-hearing waitress.
Again, she notched small, colorful roles in her brothers' films "A Low Down Dirty Shame" (1994) and "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood" (1996) as well as voicing the mother on their animated series "Waynehead" (Kids' WB!, 1996-97). She landed a recurring role on the sitcom "In the House" (NBC, 1995-96; UPN, 1996-99) and when the series switched networks, she joined the cast as Tonia, a business partner of former professional athlete Marion Hill (LL Cool J). She guested on "The Wayans Bros." (The WB, 1995-99) and took a supporting role in the gender-bending basketball comedy "Juwanna Mann" (2002). The actress moved behind the camera to serve as a writer, producer and director on brother Damon's sitcom "My Wife and Kids" (ABC, 2001-05), collecting two BET Comedy Award nominations. She also earned producer and acting credits on Keenan's "Thugaboo: Sneaker Madness" (Nickelodeon, 2006) and "Thugaboo: A Miracle on D-Roc's Street" (Nickelodeon, 2006).
After a brief turn in the family's gross-out parody "Dance Flick" (2009), Wayans surprised audiences and critics when she nailed a powerful supporting role in a non-family production, the wrenchingly powerful drama "Pariah" (2011). Written and directed by Dee Rees and produced by Spike Lee, the film told the tale of Brooklyn teenager Alike (Adepero Oduye) who is beginning to explore her homosexuality. Wayans delivered a masterful performance as Audrey, Alike's exhausted, ferocious mother, who struggles with her daughter's journey. Critics and audiences alike were forced to reappraise Wayans's artistic potential after her amazing work, and she was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress, Best Breakthrough Performance and Best Ensemble by the Black Reel Awards, as well as earning additional award momentum.
By Jonathan Ross
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Moved to L.A.
Feature film debut, bit part in Robert Townsend's "Hollywood Shuffle"
Landed a recurring role on the NBC sitcom "A Different World"
Played a nightclub singer in "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka", directed by brother Keenen; also served as production assistant
Featured in the ensemble of sketch comedy series "In Living Color" (Fox) alongside brothers Keenen, Damon, Shawn and Marlon
Featured in the action comedy "A Low Down Dirty Shame," written and directed by brother Keenen
Landed a recurring role on the series "In the House" (NBC), made a series regular when show moved to UPN
Wrote several episodes of the ABC sitcom "My Wife and Kids," which starred her brother Damon
Appeared in the basketball comedy "Juwanna Mann"
Played a featured role in the TV-movie "What News?" (TBS)
Made a dramatic turn as the mother of a gay teen in the drama feature "Pariah," directed by Dee Rees