Lela Rochon Fuqua
Actress | Class of 2000
Lela Rochon Fuqua, known professionally as Lela Rochon, has appeared in nearly fifty movies and television shows, starring alongside some of Hollywood’s elite actors and actresses.
She was born Lela Rochon Staples in Torrance, California, on April 17, 1964, to Samuel Staples and Zelma Staples of Camden, Arkansas. Both of her parents are alumni of Lincoln High School and both attended Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (AM&N), now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). Her father graduated from Arkansas AM&N and went on to own and operate Aladdin Enterprises, a graphic-arts business in California, from 1968 until his retirement in 2002. Her mother became a nurse practitioner at the University of Southern California Medical Center and retired in 2000. Although she grew up in a single-child household, Rochon has an older half-brother named Kenneth. Her parents are of Haitian descent, and she was named for her paternal grandmother.
During her formative years, she spent time in Arkansas with her parents’ families in Camden and at Arkansas AM&N for various alumni functions. She once stated, “Had I not had the upbringing, the morals, and the values that my parents placed within me, I would be lost in Hollywood.” Rochon attended Cerritos High School in California and graduated in 1982. She excelled at competitive sports, particularly track and basketball. She also performed in school productions.
Rochon graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hills, in 1986; she majored in broadcast journalism with minors in sociology and theater. She modeled as a way to help pay for tuition and books, and she landed steady work appearing as a “Spudette” in Budweiser/Bud Light Spuds MacKenzie television commercials. After her college graduation, Rochon had contemplated law school but pursued acting instead.
She appeared in several sitcoms, including The Cosby Show, 21 Jump Street, 227, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as well as dancing in music videos for Lionel Richie and Luther Vandross. Her major film debut was in the small role of “Sunshine” in 1989’s Harlem Nights with Eddie Murphy. She had a steady role during the first season of The Wayans Bros. cable show. Rochon’s breakthrough came when she played the role of Robin Stokes in the 1995 box office hit Waiting to Exhale alongside Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston. In seeking the part, Rochon had wrangled a meeting with director Forest Whitaker, who had already cast another actress. The movie made her a household name. People magazine named her one of the fifty most beautiful people in the world in 1996. She went on to star as Mildred Loving in Mr. and Mrs. Loving, as attorney Nora Stark in John Grisham’s The Chamber, and in Brooklyn’s Finest and Let the Church Say Amen.
Rochon was married to dancer Adolfo Quinines from 1982 to 1987. She married Antoine Fuqua in 1999 and became stepmother to Fuqua’s son, Zachary. Their daughter, Asia, was born in 2002, and their son, Brando, in 2004.
She has received numerous accolades throughout her career, including a Cable/ACE Award nomination, an Image nomination, and an MTC Movie nomination. Rochon returns to Camden often for special events. In June 2015, she served as the keynote speaker for the Dream Girls conference at Connection International Camden Church, where her aunt and uncle are co-pastors.