The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air first hit the air in 1990, introducing its cast to a worldwide audience. By the time the show ended in 1996, Tatyana Ali, who portrayed Ashley Banks, had become a household name. In a 2015 essay she wrote for Mashable, Ali revealed just how important the show was to her growing up, explaining that there « were episodes where Ashley’s adolescent milestones were also my own, even my first kiss. Those are the ones I remember best. » As Ali literally grew up on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the show’s audience couldn’t help but relate to her character and fall in love with the actress.
Since the series ended, Ali explored several new careers, like a semi-successful stint as a singer that spawned two albums. While the performer still sometimes appears on television, she also started her own business, got married and started a family, and self-released new music. Oh, and did we mention she graduated from Harvard in 2002, and regularly speaks at conferences and events around the country? Though she may not be on primetime TV anymore, she’s certainly not loafing on the couch watching it. Here are some of the reasons that we don’t hear from Tatyana Ali anymore.
She found true love with Dr. Rasberry
Ali’s peak time in the spotlight was in the ’90s, and part of the reason for that probably has to do with her personal life. In July 2016, People reported that Ali married Dr. Vaughn Rasberry, a literature professor at Stanford, after « a little less than two years » of dating. Speaking to People before the big day, the actress revealed, « I’m just excited. All of our family is coming into town! » Ali also happened to be pregnant when she walked down the aisle, which she explained to Entertainment Tonight had a huge impact on how the couple planned the big day. « We want our ceremony to really celebrate our newest blessing! » Ali said.
The actress-turned-singer also revealed to Entertainment Tonight that she met her husband « on eHarmony! » She continued, « It was my first time dating online. We wrote letters for months before we decided to Skype. » Their long-distance love story definitely sounds inspiring, with Ali explaining that she feels as though she’s met her perfect match, as she told ET, he « proposed in the most picturesque clearing. Just the two of us. It was so thoughtful and perfect. We’re best friends. » It’s understandable that Ali took some time out from her career to get married to Dr. Rasberry, and to enjoy starting a family with her other half.
She welcomed her own little Fresh Prince
Having tied the knot while pregnant, Ali then gave birth to her first child in September 2016. The couple named the boy Edward Aszard Rasberry, and Ali shared her joy on Instagram, welcoming the newest member of her family. In October 2016, she posted an adorable photo with her baby along with the caption, « Spending my days learning how to keep up with this little pumpkin. Happy Halloween Everybody!!! » The actress seemed overjoyed about becoming a mother.
Ali wrote a blog post for People in October 2016 describing the awe she felt having welcomed her first child. She explained, « When he sleeps, he leans his chin on his fist, like a tiny thinker. His father does the same. It’s uncanny. And he changes every day. One moment he looks like his father, the next me, the next a grandparent. » The actress also wrote about how precious time had become to her, which could explain why she hasn’t been in the media spotlight as much in recent years. She wrote, « Then I remember to slow down. Time moves quickly on its own; no need for me to push it along. If I can try to remember anything at all in this heaven, it’s to take my time, be present, take it all in, so I can remember everything and live in it eternally. »
Her talk show dreams were silenced
Even though Ali has been out of the spotlight in recent years, she’s still been developing projects behind the scenes. One such project, the actress claimed, bore a striking resemblance to talk show The Real. In July 2016, Deadline reported that Ali sued Warner Bros and Telepictures regarding an idea that she allegedly pitched to executives in 2012. In her suit, which can be read in full online, Ali claimed her talk show idea would appeal to « the younger side of the mid-life/mid-career female population » and would explore « a variety of contemporary discussion topics in a relaxed and informal setting. » According to Deadline, The Real started airing around six months after Ali allegedly pitched the idea to the production company.
However, Ali’s lawsuit was tossed out in February 2017. According to Deadline, « the court ruled that the trade secret laws upon which the actress made part of her claim does not protect ideas. » The Trade Secrets Act protects « intellectual property, » such as « a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. But the court ruled that Ali’s idea wasn’t covered by this particular law. It’s unclear whether she pursued the matter since, but one of the reasons we haven’t heard from Ali as much in recent years could have to do with her legal issues behind-the-scenes.
She graduated from Harvard
After her successful stint on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which ended in 1996, and during her burgeoning music career in the late ’90s, which included an appearance on Will Smith’s Willenium album in 1999, Ali earned a place at Harvard. Per CNN, the actress-turned-singer started at the famed Cambridge, Mass. institution in 1998, before graduating in June 2002 with a Bachelor’s Degree in African-American studies and Government. She’s since reconnected with Harvard students by posing for photos with them after giving the keynote address at a conference for recipients of The Gates Millennium Scholarship, proving just how important her time at the prestigious college was.
Speaking to Chicago Defender in 2014, Ali revealed, « Education has been such an important part of my life and of my family’s life … I feel like I’ve experienced so much since my own graduation [that] I’d like to impart some of the things I’ve learned; it takes real dedication and commitment to get a degree. » Chicago Defender also noted the actress’ commitment to educational organizations including Step Up Women’s Network and Teach for America. While there’s no denying Ali’s impressive scholastic credits, it’s clear that her passion for education definitely took her away from show business and into the realm of academia, at least temporarily.
The Fresh Princess of … Public Speaking?
As a Harvard graduate, Ali is committed to supporting other people, and uses her talents to speak at conferences and organizations nationwide. In 2019, Ali spoke on the « Black Girl Magic » panel at Black Girls Rock Fest, which the organization’s Instagram page describes as « a global empowerment movement dedicated to inspiring, emboldening, and celebrating the awesomeness of women and girls of color. » The actress also announced that she would be the keynote speaker at The Momference in May 2019, which is described as the « premiere conference for magical, millennial moms of color. » Ali may be out of the entertainment spotlight, but she continues to inspire others by using her platform as a celebrity to speak about issues that are important to her.
According to The Pitt News, Ali also gave a talk to The Black Action Society in September 2018 and explained, « What is happening to women and people of color and immigrants right now, it all works together. We have to do it together. And by doing it together, I mean seeing injustices being done to other groups of people, and standing up for them as well. There is strength in numbers. » She also encouraged members of the crowd by saying, « Whatever you want to achieve, put it in front of you. »
She’s looking for her next big role
While Ali never landed another role in a mainstream project like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, that didn’t stopped her from pursuing an acting career alongside her other projects. In fact, she’s at risk of being typecast as a holiday movie queen, having starred in two Christmas movies in 2018 — Lifetime’s Jingle Belle and Hallmark’s Christmas Everlasting — and another in 2017, Lifetime’s Wrapped Up In Christmas. She also had a recurring role on The Young and the Restless between 2007 and 2013, which kept her in the public eye.
However, despite the former Fresh Prince star continuing to act regularly, none of her roles have been very high-profile. With parts in TV movie thrillers like TV One’s Second Sight, and Lifetime’s Deadly Match, Ali seems to have no trouble getting cast, but she’s still awaiting a return to primetime. She did have the chance to rediscover comedy with a starring role in the sitcom Love That Girl!, which ran from 2010 to 2014. But the series was canceled in its fourth season, by which time Ali had already left to pursue other projects.
She’s hoping for another hit
Back in 1998, Ali’s single « Daydreamin' » made it onto Billboard’s Hot 100, peaking at number 6. Even though the track was also certified gold, none of her subsequent singles managed to chart in the US, and they only had minor success internationally. Despite these disappointments, Ali told Vlad TV in 2014 that her music career had been so beneficial to her, saying, « I got to see the world. I toured all over the country with NSYNC which was like every little girl’s dream at the time. Then I toured around Europe with Backstreet Boys and Monica and 98°. It was incredible. »
The singer self-released a new EP, titled Hello, in 2014, but its lead single « Wait for It » failed to chart anywhere. It’s clear that Ali is passionate about all of her artistic endeavors, and that she will continue to pursue her music career on her own terms. But so far, she hasn’t recreated the magic of the ’90s.
She started working behind-the-scenes
Taking her extensive experience in the entertainment industry, Ali moved behind-the-scenes by starting a production company with her sister, Anastasia Ali (above left). The company, HazraH Entertainment, financed and produced BUPPIES, which is described as « the first original web series to present an all African-American cast and BET’s first original web series in November 2009. » Apparently over five million people watched the series, which consisted of ten short episodes. While HazraH’s website proclaimed that with « Tatyana and Anastasia’s first joint endeavor, the sisters hope to usher in a new era of African-American storytelling by targeting the urban digital space, » BUPPIES only ran for one season.
HazraH was also responsible for Ali’s sitcom Love That Girl!, which we previously mentioned ran from 2010 to 2014. However, the company hasn’t announced any new content since either of those projects, and it’s unclear whether the Ali sisters are working on any new projects together.
She’s hoping for a Fresh Prince reboot
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air wrapped in 1996, but the show’s performers formed such a close a bond that they’re still friends even as of this writing. While Will Smith is the most successful member of his TV family, he has regularly reunited with his former co-stars. According to The Knot, Smith joined other members of the cast for a reunion in March 2017, having missed Ali’s wedding to Dr. Rasberry in July 2016. Smith even shared a photo of the reunion on Facebook with the caption, « Lunch with my BFF’s… I missed my Uncle Phil today, » in reference to the fact that the actor James Avery sadly passed away on December 31, 2013.
For Ali, the show was crucial to her childhood, as she told Mashable in 2015, « I grew up on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, literally. It helped raise me. The people involved shaped me in profound ways. I wouldn’t change how I grew up for anything in the world. It was intensely unique. And I get to re-visit it every time I catch a re-run on TV … or a stranger sings me the theme song. » As for whether a reunion could be in the cards, Ali told Hollywood Life in 2011, « I still keep in touch with Will and it would be great to work with him again. The whole cast including Will just talked about doing a reunion. »
She’s excited about the future
While none of Ali’s projects after The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air have been anywhere near as successful as the sitcom, the singer and actress is excited about her career. As she told Chicago Defender in 2014, « I’m comfortable turning down roles in projects I don’t believe in or don’t resonate with. I’m more confident and I think it’s starting to show in my choices. » For instance, the fact that she self-released her second album proves that she’s not afraid to try out new ventures and that she believes in her own work.
As for what’s next, Ali’s Instagram shows just how busy the activist and celebrity is, as of this writing. From recording a podcast for Black Girls Rock, to giving a talk at Black Mamas Matter’s first Black Maternal Health Conference and Training Institute, Ali seems to grab every opportunity that comes her way. With a passion for advocacy and political issues, Ali continues to use her platform to inspire others and influence change, which can only be a good thing. And if a Fresh Prince reboot finally comes along, it sounds as though she’ll jump at the chance.