Pam Grier to be Honored at Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit
She’s more than just a pretty face. Black Enterprise’s 2015 Legacy Award recipient, Pam Grier, is a barrier breaker with an extensive resume of kicking down doors that’s as long and plentiful as the number of criminals she’s karate chopped in countless flicks. With over 40 movies to her name, the Golden Globe and Emmy nominated actress is known as Hollywood’s very first female action star. An accolade that for an African American woman, is historic. And for Grier is a triumphant testament to continually fighting and successfully overcoming personal obstacles.
The child of a military officer in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Grier (Born Pamela Suzette) was sexually assaulted at 6-years-old, while at a family member’s home. “It took so long to deal with the pain of that,” she said, in an interview. “You try to deal with it, but you never really get over it."
Channeling this pain into performing with a motivation to succeed, Grier went on to attend UCLA where as a student, she sang backup for Bobby Womack. But it was a job as a receptionist at the American International Pictures (AIP) that led to her being discovered by director Jack Hill. He went on to cast her in films depicting women in prison like 1971’s The Big Doll House and 1972’s The Big Bird Cage. But tragedy hit again when while filming these movies in the Philippines, Grier contracted a deadly tropical disease. Losing hair and vision temporarily, Grier’s recovery took a year. Overcoming the hurdle, she scored a contract with AIP where her career exploded with the blaxploitation craze. Grier went on to be featured in classics like Foxy Brown, Sheba, Baby, Scream Blacula Scream, and her starring debut, Coffy. The box office hit, featuring a vigilante nurse hunting down drug dealers, moved film critic Roger Ebert to say that Grier brought “physical life” to her characters in a way that was missing from other beautiful actresses. The popularity led her to becoming the first Black woman to appear on the cover of MS. Magazine’s August 1975 issue. Despite these successes, Grier remains humble.
“I know I’ve influenced people, and I’m proud of that. But as I see it, I really haven’t done anything. I haven’t saved anybody from a burning building,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 7, 2006. “Foxy Brown actually approached me at the start of her career to ask if she could use the name. I told her, ‘You didn’t need to ask.’ If you’re an independent woman, every woman is Foxy Brown.”
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Monday, March 2, 2015 - Thursday, March 5, 2015
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