It’s hard to believe that little Olivia the adorable and sweet little girl from the 80's hit TV program “The Cosby Show” is all grown up. Today's tweens and teens know her from the Disney show, “That's So Raven” but as her sitcom character would say “oh snap!”… The 22-year old star has jumped onto the silver screen and the movie industry is wrapping its arms around the golden child now considered the most bankable young African American female in Hollywood.
Raven is no stranger to being cast in movies. She had roles in “Princess Diaries,” “Dr. Doolittle 1” and “2” but her latest film, “College Road Trip” is in fact her first leading role on the big screen. Her leading man: veteran comedian and mega movie star Martin Lawrence. “I had to keep sitting back and saying oh my goodness, I can't believe this is happening, “Raven told the L.A. Sentinel this week.”Doing the other movies helped me understand the process and prepared me for this kind of responsibility. I loved it. Loved it and let's do some more.”
The family comedy, which opens this weekend, is about an overprotective dad (Lawrence) coming to terms with the fact his teenage daughter (Raven Symone'), who's about to enter college, is no longer a little girl. Their father/daughter journey to check out Georgetown University turns into the road trip neither will soon forget.
Working with the multi-talented funnyman and box office star Martin Lawrence, Raven knew she had to bring her “A” game. She and Lawrence share a very special skill. They've both been able to convey so much with a simple facial expression or a look. “He's so funny,” said Raven. “It was often hard to keep a straight face while shooting. But having watched and studied him, I knew what I was getting into. I knew what I had to prepare for, and how to react towards him.”
Lawrence applauded Raven for holding her own. “She's great - she's got it,” he said. Not to mention, the married father of three won many cool points with his own girls for being in a movie with their favorite TV star. “I loved everything about it.”
As for relating to her character, a young girl trying to become an independent woman, the role really hit very close to home for Raven. “I can relate to my character a lot because sometimes you may be ready to get away from your family, but your family's not ready to get away from you,” she adds. “Everybody wants to grow up, but you have to realize that parents always think of their kids as that little boy or girl, so you have to help them see that you're growing up and can handle yourself in a respectful manner. “
That's exactly what the real life Raven has done. She's truly a child star who made it big and she did it the right way. At the age of two, she had already been signed by the Ford Modeling Agency, and she soon started doing TV ads for everything from Cool Whip to Fisher Price toys to Ritz crackers to Jell-O.
Not long afterwards, she would join Jell-O pitchman Bill Cosby on his popular, Emmy-winning sitcom, working her way into America's heart as adorable Olivia. She subsequently appeared on TV series such as “The Fresh Prince”, “Hangin' with Mr. Cooper”, “My Wife and Kids” and “The Cheetah Girls” before landing her own show on the Disney Channel, “That's So Raven.” She has millions of little girls all over the world reciting her TV character's favorite line, “Oh snap!”
Singing since she was 4, Raven has also enjoyed quite a musical career, releasing her first CD, Here's to New Dreams, in 1993. And she is currently working on her fourth album, “Raven Symone” which is scheduled to drop this spring and then she's going on tour. As for her music, she describes it as “fun, upbeat and it talks about self-confidence and self-respect.”
She’s truly the Oprah for teens and girls. On her website Raven Symone Presents, the “girl power” advocate has produced several how-to videos showing her young friends and fans how to cook, do cool crafts and even hand wash a bra in minutes. Any TV executive looking at the site has to think, she'd make a perfect fill in for TV's talk show queen whenever “O” is ready to retire. Besides, Raven already has strong name recognition and she too has built an empire worth more than $400 million dollars.
Among her many accolades are seven NAACP Image Awards, including a couple just this year for “That's So Raven”. So what else could this very accomplished little lady want to do with her life? “I want to have a restaurant,” said Raven. “I still have college in my plans.” In fact, she said, “There's still so much more I want to do… so many dreams. I'm definitely taking steps to show people that I'm growing, and hopefully they will be growing with me.”