It’s not too late to plan a family reunion!
We truly believe in the six degrees of separation theory. Somewhere down the line, we all know a friend, who knows a friend, who knows a friend, but in Hollywood, the circles get smaller and the connections run deep. Recently, on July 23rd, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of a true Black film classic, John Singleton’s Poetic Justice. As we relived the onscreen magic of the stellar cast which includes Janet Jackson, Regina King, Joe Torry, and the late, great Tupac Shakur, we waited patiently for one of our favorite scenes in the movie – the family reunion. When Shakur uttered the famous line, ”COUSIN?!,” we all recited in unison.
The nostalgia of it all got us thinking about our favorite industry cousins. The ones we know and the ones you may not know. Of course, we’re probably all cousins, but there are some whose ties are stronger than others. In celebration of the iconic “Cousin” moment, here’s a list of Black celebs whose talent runs in the family. Check out our compilation of legendary familial ties and let us know if you’re claiming a cousin or two!
Janet Jackson & Stevie Wonder
This one caught us by surprise when we first heard but man, what a gene pool! Jackson has discussed the little known familial link on a number of occasions, most recently in her self-titled docuseries. The iconic Jacksons are apparently related to their iconic cousin Stevie Wonder through their mother, Katherine Jackson.
Marsai Martin & Janelle Monáe
We can kind of see the resemblance now! This one caught the fans and the stars by surprise. In 2020, actress/singer Janelle Monáe revealed that she is cousins with actress/producer Marsai Martin. According to Essence, the two made the revelation during a Golden Globes afterparty. MAJOR FLEX!
“I admire so many things about Janelle. My family members would always tell me how we were related, so I was excited when we got to meet and say hello in person,” recalled Martin.
Martin’s mother attended the party with her and upon meeting Monáe, she revealed the surprising familial connections.
“She was naming members of my family, and I was like ‘Oh my goodness!’ I don’t meet many people who know about my small community in Kansas City, Kan. It was the best news because I’m such a fan of [Marsai] and [her] role on Black-ish,” said Monáe.
Yara Shahidi & Nas
Talk about some game changers! Shahidi is already an icon in the making. The Black-ish star is a Harvard graduate, activist, television producer and she even has her own Barbie doll. Shahidi also just made history as the first Black ‘Tinkerbell’ in Disney’s live adaptation. So imagine our surprise when we discovered that she was related to one of the greatest hip-hop artists of our time, Nasir Jones. You heard us right, Nas and Shahidi’s mother are cousins. What a small world. The two regularly shout out each other on social media and often post pics together around the holidays. What a beautiful family!
Snoop Dogg & Brandy Norwood
This one is a fun one and talk about a family dynasty. Everybody is just talented with longevity in the game. Snoop Dogg, a pioneer of West Coast hip hop and entertainment mogul just happens to be related to THEE Brandy Norwood, the golden-voiced R&B singer and hit television star. Even though Snoop’s laid-back style and Brandy’s soulful vibe seem like they couldn’t be more different, they are first cousins and share family roots that go beyond their entertaining skills.
Lenny Kravitz & Al Roker
Lenny Kravitz’s explosive guitar riffs and edgy persona defined rock ‘n’ roll for an entire generation. Millions of Americans have also grown up with “Today” host Al Roker as a household name. Turns out these two trailblazers are second cousins. Yep, Kravitz’s famous mother, hit television star Roxie Roker was the first cousin of Al Roker. Mind blown!
COUSIN?!: Famous Black celebs who are related in real life/Al Roker & celebrity cousin Lenny Kravitz/Photos Courtesy of Al Pereira/WireImage/Getty Images
Gabrielle Union & Saweetie
Beauty runs in the family! Gabrielle Union has been one of Hollywood’s sweethearts for decades now, making waves as an actress, producer and philanthropist. A beautiful woman inside and out, it’s no surprise to learn that the good genes are spread throughout the family, the famous actor related to hit rapper Saweetie. Fans were shocked to know that Union and Saweetie’s father are first cousins.
Damon Dash & Stacey Dash
Call it odd, but the last names were not a giveaway for us back when these legends were running the game. Damon Dash is a successful entrepreneur who got his start in hip hop. Dash was the co-founder of the iconic Roc-A-Fella Records, the label that produced hip hop’s first billionaire, Jay-Z. Simultaneously, his cousin Stacey Dash was making a name for herself on the silver screen, starring in ‘90s cult classics like “Clueless,” and Damon Wayans’ “Mo’ Money.” By the time the industry found out they were cousins, the two were already stars in their own right.
Ludacris & Monica & Ludacris & Richard Pryor
Luda please save some talent for the rest of us! So this one is true Blackness. So you probably already know that music legends Ludacris and Monica are cousins by marriage. The two have been open and honest about their Georgia ties. Monica also happens to be cousins with hit producer Polow da Don but that’s another convo for another day, we digress. Ok back to Ludacris. Recently, we discovered that Ludacris is also related to the late great comedic icon Richard Pryor. According to IMDB, the rapper’s maternal great-great grandparents were also Pryor’s great-grandparents. Ludacris is also somehow related to comedian Katt Williams. Talk about a family tree!
Cory Booker & RuPaul
Now this one is special! RuPaul, a trailblazing figurehead in the LGBTQ+ community, revealed a few years ago that he was related to former Presidential candidate Cory Booker. On an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, he announced Booker as a special video guest, calling the New Jersey Senator his “cousin,” BET reports. While it could’ve just been a heartwarming colloquialism, the two apparently learned of their shared lineage on an episode of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots.” When you see the two side by side you’ll realize that the resemblance is there!
I was today years old when I found out Cory Booker and RuPaul were cousins. pic.twitter.com/phwjd8frIj
— Jakey (@jacobpetkovic) November 12, 2022
Viola Davis & Mike Colter
We were elated to find this out because talk about faves! It turns out, award winning actress Viola Davis is cousins with “Luke Cage” star Mike Colter. That’s right, the Marvel Universe and Shondaland have collided in real life! The two have known of their relationship for years and said their families talk about them all the time and how proud they were. But it wasn’t until 2019 that they actually met in person, ET Canada reports.
When asked what took Colter and Davis so long to meet up, he chalked it up to their very busy schedules.
“We’re just very busy… In L.A. you could be right next to someone, in the same neighborhood, you’re never home; you’re filming somewhere; they’re busy, life happens. And we just never got caught up… I figured we would just work it out, and we connected, and we just made it happen. Took us about a week. We were like, ‘Let’s get some coffee and talk,’ and I met her mom. Good times,” said Colter.
These family connections bring us great joy and remind us of the hereditary greatness in us all. These family members have paved the way for others and created legacies that will last generations. Let this be a reminder to do some digging within your own families. You may be surprised to find out who you’re connected to!
Cover photo: COUSIN?!: Famous Black celebs who are related in real life/(l to r) Janet Jackson, Viola Davis, Ludacris Bridges/Richard Pryor, Janelle Monáe/Photos Courtesy of Janet Jackson/Instagram/Brian Bowen Smith/WalkofFame.com/Bob Riha Jr./Getty Images/Sophy Holland/Getty Images