By Valerie Whitney
Special to the Daytona Times
When actress Janet Hubert first read the script for “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire” it noted that the prototype for the role of Aunt Vivian was a “Denise Nicholas type,” which in industry lingo meant a fair-skinned Black woman.
When Hubert showed up at the audition, Nicholas was among those there vying for the role.
But in the end, it was the darker-skinned Hubert who got the job. She recalled jumping up and down on the bed in her hotel room in celebration.
“It was an amazing ride,” Hubert, 58, said, about her work on the television show during a speaking engagement Nov. 6 at Bethune-Cookman University during a “My Black is Beautiful” luncheon. She was invited to tell her story as part of a women’s empowerment summit organized by a coalition comprised of campus administrators, faculty and students.
Aunt Viv replaced
The show, which catapulted Will Smith to stardom, ran from 1990 to 1996. Hubert, however, appeared only three years. She was fired from the show in 1993 after failing to agree on a new contract. Actress Daphne Reid, who born a closer resemblance to Nicholas, replaced Hubert in the role.
Few of the students at the B-CU luncheon were born when the show was on the air but thanks to re-runs most of them easily recognized Hubert.
“We were excited that she could be here because she is amazing and extremely humble,” said Autre Howard-Morgan, a member of the organizing committee.
Student Jacques Carter was among the many students who lined up to take a photo with Hubert after her presentation. “My heart was shaking,” Carter said, about meeting the actress.
Meanwhile, Hubert said there were a lot of people, especially Blacks, who questioned the initial decision to give her the part because her skin tone. She said she is convinced that what won over the producers were the intangible qualities that she bought to the role such as her movements and ability to communicate without speaking.
My Black is beautiful
“I feel and have always felt that my darkness is part of my beauty,” she said. “I celebrate my blackness, so celebrate yours because they are going to call you what they want anyway.”
Since leaving the show she said her life has been challenging, thanks in part to social media. “The Internet is a wonderful thing but it can be a Pan dora’s box,” she said, noting that, among other things, she has been falsely accused of stalking Will Smith. For the past 11 years, she said, her health has been her primary concern. She recently sued her insurance company so that she can continue treatments for neck problems.
Hubert has also spoke on bone health and worked with the surgeon general office on ways to educate young girls on nutrition, on Capital Hill. She has also toured schools throughout New York to promote programs to stop bullying. Additionally, Hubert is starting a professional theater school in Connecticut and has produced her own woman show title “From Broadway to TV…Now Back to Me” and performed it throughout the country.