Obscure Black C-Listers: Melissa De Sousa
According to everything we know about how Hollywood works for black women (to the extent that it works at all), Melissa De Sousa should be at least a B-lister. Of Panamanian descent, De Sousa attended New York’s High School of Performing Arts and trained to be a dancer. Her career started in the early nineties with her dichotomous appearances in a CBS Schoolbreak Special and a brief stint as a video vixen (Guy’s “Let’s Chill” and TKA’s “Crash”). She then guest starred in a handful of sitcoms, including a rare double appearance on Living Single as two different characters, a phenomenon that is almost exclusive to black sitcoms and the Law and Order franchise. She had recurring roles on short-lived productions like Valley of The Dolls, Damon, and The $treet that gave her visibility in both black and mainstream households. Her most recognizable role to date, and one that has perhaps typecast her a bit, was as the domineering bougie princess Shelby in 1999’s The Best Man. In fact, De Sousa claims the Shelby character has even followed her around in her personal life and caused men to call her a bitch in the street. Since The Best Man, De Sousa has appeared on One On One and Second Time Around (black stuff), and done a few movies that really weren’t the best, including 30 to Life, which was pretty horrible, and A Good Man is Hard to Find, which was even worse than a movie with a title like that has any business being. Melissa De Sousa has stated in interviews that she’s choosy about her parts and likes to fall in love with a script, which is what many low-key actors claim. Be that as it may, my question is, after all of the training and exposure, after so many movies, as such a pretty woman especially for her age (she is 41), and, I’ll come right out and say it, having a nice body and being light-skinned in Hollywood, why doesn’t Melissa De Sousa get more work? What’s the difference between her and, say, Sanaa Lathan? The Black C-Lister mystery rears its ugly head again.