Meet Hollywood’s Black Best Friends

She's black, smart, female and usually "sassy." And her primary function in a movie is to act as the main (white) character's conscience, offering advice no one asked for at the exact moment it's needed. The Root takes a look at some of Hollywood's reigning BBFs.

Image 1
  • Viola Davis in 'Eat Pray Love'

    Viola Davis in 'Eat Pray Love'

    In Eat Pray Love, Davis’ Delia plays boss and best friend to Julia Robert’s Liz, a lady with serious travel lust. “I get it: It’s your life raft right now, just like a couple of years ago when you were consumed with being the perfect wife,” announces Delia matter-of-factly when Liz skips town for a year. Delia, who is not a character in the memoir on which the recently released movie is based, serves as the good angel on Liz’s shoulder whose advice she never takes.

    Captions by Helena Andrews

    See more on The Root

  • Kerry Washington in 'Save the Last Dance'

    Kerry Washington in 'Save the Last Dance'

    With a Chicago accent that’s more Brooklyn than South Side, Kerry Washington plays Chenille, the street-smart teen mom who becomes Julia Stiles’ ghetto Sherpa in 2001’s Save the Last Dance. But when Stiles’ Sara falls in love on the dance floor with Chenille’s brother Derek, the soon-to-be doctor, Washington says “stuff”: “Here you come, white and right, and you take one of the few decent men left.”

  • Zoe Saldana in 'Center Stage'

    Zoe Saldana in 'Center Stage'

    Before she was a big-and-blue Na’Vi, Zoe Saldana was a ballerina in this film from 2000, playing the bad girl in tights, Eva, whose back talk almost costs her her dream. Between gum pops, Eva manages to find the time to mentor the way-less-talented main character, Jody, whom she protects from the ruthless dancing queen Maureen. Defining quote: “What, did you go to a special bitch academy or something?”

  • Queen Latifah in 'The Bone Collector'

    Queen Latifah in 'The Bone Collector'

    Although officially Denzel Washington’s caretaker in this 1999 film, Queen Latifah as Thelma the nurse does a great job of Mama Bear-ing everyone from the tiny Angelina Jolie to the brusque Ed O’Neill by using the word ass a lot. As in, “If you have a problem you can fire my ass,” and “[My mouth] may bite your ass if you don’t stop aggravating my patient.” Cute.

  • Regina King in 'Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous'

    Regina King in 'Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous'

    In 2005’s Miss Congeniality 2, Regina King pulls her hair back into a ponytail to play Sam Fuller, Sandra Bullock’s unlikely bodyguard. Her official role as Bullock’s actual protector kicks up the BBF trope a notch. Defining quote: “You didn’t just call me ‘sister,’ because I don’t recall seeing a little skinny-ass white girl around the table growing up.”

    See More on The Root

  • Jennifer Hudson in 'The Secret Life of Bees'

    As Dakota Fanning’s maid/primary care provider/co-conspirator, Rosaleen is a follower. She does get to tell off a group of racists when she tries to register to vote. Her “Sophia in Color Purple” moment, of course, costs her. But it’s still a sweet score for the BBF in this 2008 flick. Defining quote: “I know you can’t understand. Apologizing to those men would have just been a different way of dying. Except I had to live with it.”

  • Wanda Sykes in 'Monster-in-Law'

    Wanda Sykes in 'Monster-in-Law'

    Nothing can go wrong if you’ve got Wanda and vodka. The comedienne plays assistant/life coach Ruby to the crazed Viola (Bridget Fonda). The 2005 movie’s promo trailer gave audiences that tired line with Ruby holding a bottle of champagne, saying, “We’re gonna need something stronger than this.” Snore. Ruby stood up for exhausted BBFs everywhere when she finally read Viola the riot act: “I am sick. I am sick, sick, sick of your s***. And when I’m not sick, I’m tired. I am sick and tired!”

  • Gabrielle Union in 'Running With Scissors'

    Gabrielle Union in 'Running With Scissors'

    In a surprise indie role that doesn’t have her playing an overworked, undersexed lawyer-investigator or whatever, Gabrielle Union makes a brief appearance in Augusten Burroughs’ 2006 memoir-movie about hilariously damaged people. As speed-freak manic depressive Dorothy, Union gets to “play a lesbian — finally.” In an interview she said, “The L Word wouldn’t have me, so thank God Annette Bening did.”

  • Whoopi Goldberg in 'Girl, Interrupted'

    Whoopi Goldberg in 'Girl, Interrupted'

    Whoopi Goldberg as nurse Valerie Owens plays den mother to a bunch of crazy white girls in 1999’s Girl, Interrupted. With a perfectly modulated voice reminiscent of her recurring role as bartending therapist Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Nurse Val enunciates the quintessential defining quote: “It’s all well and good to tell me all this, but you gotta tell some of this to your doctors.”

  • Rachel True in 'The Craft'

    Rachel True in 'The Craft'

    In one of the first BBF roles to specifically mention race (Remember that “I don’t like Negroids” line?), Rachel True, in all her curly-haired glory, departs slightly from the stereotype with the naive Rochelle in this 1996 film. Never sassy, Rochelle is sweeter than the other three witches but gets bitchy by the closing credits. Defining quote: “She doesn’t want to be white trash anymore. I told her, ‘You’re white, honey! Just get over it.’ “

  • Now What? Join The Root!

    Now What? Join The Root!

    Have an opinion on what you just read? Register so you can comment and receive The Root‘s newsletter.

    Just want to read more? Check our top stories.

Comments