When I was a little girl, my parents took extra measures to reinforce the beauty of Blackness to me and my younger sister. They even told me my name, Shamika, meant African princess (why they lied, I don’t know). We would curl up on a removable couch cushion on the floor beside their bed and watch movies like “B.A.P.S.”
Nisi (Halle Berry) with a spiffy gold grin and Mickey (Natalie Desselle-Reid) with gravity-defying hair, were unapologetic Black girls who ascend the social and economic ranks to inherited luxury. The film, which stands for Black American Princesses, became a staple. I watched it so much I memorized the lines, the dance sequence and the perfected Mickey’s classic line “Boo Yow.” I wanted their 90s updo with waterfall curls, the white-rim glasses and gold hoop earrings. I saw myself in both Nisi and Mickey.
Today, the world mourns the untimely death of the B.A.P.S star who lost a silence battle to colon cancer. She was 53. Actress Holly Robinson Peete confirmed the late comedienne’s death on Twitter.
Just absolutely decimated by this news…
Actress Natalie Desselle, a bright shining star passed away this morning. I got to know her when my mom was managing her.
She will be so missed…sending out prayers to her children and husband.
Rest In Peace, Sweet Girl🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/BsyltHxKRG
— Holly Robinson Peete😷🥰 (@hollyrpeete) December 7, 2020
It was only four days ago, Halle Berry posted a nostalgic clip of she and Natalie in their B.A.P.S costumes filming a promotional skit on Rodeo Dr. It’s unclear if Halle knew her former co-star was sick, but she is devastated by the loss. “I’m in total shock. completely heartbroken. gonna need a minute,” she wrote on social media. Natalie was more than Berry’s sidekick, she was unapologetic, ghetto fabulous and represented for curvy women who wore animal prints despite size-exclusionary fashion rules. She was a body positivity role model before plus size Black women were given starring roles in Hollywood.
In an unreleased 2019 interview, I caught up with B.A.P.S director Robert Townsend, who revealed people thought he was “crazy,” at the time, for attempting to shoot a movie starring two Black women in flamboyant costumes and now their iconic fashions resurge every Halloween as Black women seize the opportunity to play their favorite characters. “When we were shooting the movie people were like Robert you’re crazy,” he revealed to me. “You’re giving Halle Berry gold teeth, blonde hair. You have these crazy costumes… and then when I see Halloween people dress up like them. It’s amazing.” He admitted he and Halle Berry sometimes laugh over how well the movie has aged. “She called me and was like, ‘People still love this movie.’”
B.A.P.S became a cult classic for its over-the-top costumes, which were visions from legendary Black costumer designer Ruth Carter. Carter took to Twitter in 2019 to share her inspiration behind the the B.A.P.S wardrobe.
Day 3: B.A.P.S
BAPS was so over the top it became a cult classic! @halleberry’s rubber jumpsuit was designed after I read the bathroom scene. I wanted to create a costume that once it was confronted w/ water would become a very funny & slippery performance. #28daysofcostumedesign pic.twitter.com/tKJA2X8ccD
— Ruth E Carter (@iamRuthECarter) February 4, 2019
Natalie went on to bring her comedic genius to films like How To Be A Playa, Cinderella, For Your Love and Eve. According to a GoFundMe account tweeted by Holly Robinson Peete, Natalie was working on a B.A.P.S tour– the stage adaptation of the classic film. “Natalie was excited and ready to bring her iconic role as “Mickey” back to audiences across the country,” it read. All proceeds will go to her husband Leonard and three children.
Rest in peace.
‘B.A.P.S’ Star Natalie Desselle-Reid Gave Us Body Positivity Before A Movement Existed
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