(Photographs by Max Abadian, Emily Kitching for AB+DM, and Tim Hunter)

You know them, you love them, but did you know that these famous American actresses all have Caribbean mothers? These women gave birth to America’s biggest superstars of primetime television and the big screen. From Jamaican scandal star, Kerry Washington’s “fierce lioness” to Jada Pinkett Smith’s rocky relationship turned eternal bond, read on to learn a little more about the most inspiring celebrity mother-daughter relationships in the industry.

Kerry Washington’s love for Jamaican mom

Celebrity mother-daughter relationships
Image courtesy of People Magazine

You know her as Olivia Pope on Scandal, but mother Valerie Washington knows Kerry Washington as her only child and personal pride and joy. Although a lifelong resident of the Bronx, Valerie’s parents were born in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica but moved to New Yord long before her arrival. Valerie Washington and her husband raised their daughter Kerry in a comfortable middle class home in Bronx, New York, but they eventually sent her to a private all girls school on the Upper East Side.

Growing up, Valarie had dreamed of her daughter going off to law school and passing the bar, however she mainly wanted Kerry to succeed and choose a career she was passionate about, something not offered to Valarie in the 50s who was encouraged to become a teacher despite earning a degree in science. Although proud of her daughter, Valarie originally was scared of the thought of Kerry becoming an actress. These two might be one of the closest celebrity mother-daughter relationships that we have profiled. They are very close now, with Kerry describing her mother as the “fiercest lioness in my pride.”

Jada Pinkett Smith’s difficult road with mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris

Celebrity mother-daughter relationships
Image courtesy of Essence

As far as celebrity mother-daughter relationships go, Jada Pinkett Smith’s mother and fellow “Red Table Talk” host, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, have had one of the most complex. Banfield-Norris was born in Baltimore in 1953 and grew up as “black middle class” with Jamiacan roots on her mother’s side. Banfield-Norris had Jada in high school at the young age of 17, having had a short lived marriage to Robsol Pinkett Jr., Jada’s father. For most of Pinkett Smith’s early life, her mother struggled with addiction issues and was at the peak of a heroin addiction when she graduated from nursing school at Coppin State University.

The two have since mended their relationship though, becoming co-hosts of now famous talk show “Red Table Talk ” with Pinkett Smith’s own daughter, Willow Smith. “Red Table Talk” addresses multigenerational topics about sex, racism, and drugs, covering hard conversations and showing vulnerability and realness. Banfield-Norris has been in recovery for 29 years and opened up about her addiction with a powerful, tearful conversation with her daughter on the show during a 2018 episode that further emphasized how much their relationship has grown.

Zoe Saldana and “hero” Asalia Nazario

Best known for her work in the 2009 Sci/Fi blockbuster hit, Avatar, and popular Marvel movies including Guardians of the Galaxy, Zoe Saldana’s career speaks for itself. Born in New Jersey to Caribbean parents of Dominican and Puerto Rican origins, her mother, Asalia Nazario, moved her three daughters to the Dominican Republic to live with their grandparents in a safer environment after her father died in a vehicle crash. After spending her early years in the DR, her family moved back to the states, residing in New York with Nazario, who supported all of her children’s dreams.

In 2014 Saldana started a web series titled, “My Hero,” which featured stars opening up about the personal heroes in their lives. Possibly the most wholesome of our celebrity mother-daughter relationships is Saldana’s; the pilot episode was dedicated to her own mother in which she recalled childhood memories of cooking alongside her mother, and a tearful thank you for the way Nazario protected and nurtured her family despite facing adversity. Saldana and her two sisters are still extremely close to Nazario and love to treat her to spa days whenever they can.


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