On January 24th 1979, Tatyana Marisol Ali was born to Sonia, who was a nurse from Panama and Sheriff Ali, a retired police officer from Trinidad. At the age of four, she started singing and got a taste of fame when she begged her mother to take her to an audition for "Sesame Street" (1969).
She went on to perform in many productions in her native city, New York, including the Broadway show, "Fences", with James Earl Jones and, later, Billy Dee Williams, and the off-Broadway show, "Orfeo del Campo". When she was seven, she appeared on "Star Search" (1983) and won twice, receiving a four-star rating when she appeared for a second time. At the age of eleven, Tatyana moved from New York to Los Angeles for her breakthrough role and to established her career. Most of us know her as Will Smith's cousin, "Ashley Banks", from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (1990).
While filming "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (1990), she also had interesting side projects, including guest roles in television shows such as "The Cosby Show" (1984), "The All New Mickey Mouse Club" (1989) (aka "The Mickey Mouse Club"), Kyno's "Storytime" (1994), "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" (1991) and the television movie, Mr. Foster's Field Trip (1994). During this time, she grew up in front of the public and sang in several episodes of "The Fresh Prince", most notably her rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and the original song, "Make Up Your Mind". Her co-star, Will Smith, was so impressed he asked Tatyana if she would consider doing this for real. Tatyana began preparing for her singing career during the last year of the show as she began training her vocal chords, recording demos and publicly performing on television and in various informal live concerts. Her performances on "The Fresh Prince" actually helped her build a fan base that anxiously waited for her first album launch. On the 25th of August, she released her album, "Kiss the Sky", and her single, "Daydreamin'". Her single was certified Gold within weeks of its release and it quickly rose into the Billboard 100 Hot Singles, where it peaked at number six for two weeks. Tatyana also contributed to major movies such as Crocodile Dundee II (1988) and Eddie Murphy Raw (1987). Since then, she has had large roles in two movies, Fall Into Darkness (1996) (TV) and Fakin' Da Funk (1997), a feature film from 1997. She has also guest-starred in several sitcoms, including "In the House" (1995), and had a cameo role in the film, Kiss the Girls (1997). She also went to Harvard and graduated with a degree in Anthropology in June 2002. She is now working on her new album, as well as starring in more movies.
Appeared on "Star Search" (1983), beating her opponents several times.
Touring with the "All That and More Music Festival" 
Started in showbiz at the age of four-and-a-half on the classic children's show "Sesame Street" (1969), most notably when she said her name into a C.M. I. Fairlight synthesizer that was being played by Herbie Hancock.
Appeared on "Star Search" (1983) in 1987 and was Junior Vocalist Champion.
Mother is Afro-Panamanian; father is from Trinidad of East Indian descent.
Graduated from Harvard University in June 2002 with a degree in Afro-American history and government.
Attended The Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California.
Has two younger sisters, Kimberly and TV producer Anastasia N. Ali.
Admires Oprah Winfrey.
Her favorite book is The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
Some of her hobbies are gymnastics, swimming, dancing, and singing.
She graduated from Marymount High School in Los Angeles, California.
Released her first CD, Kiss the Sky, in 1998 and released music video's for Boy You Knock Me Out, Daydreamin and Everytime to promote her debut album Kiss The Sky in 1998.
Ranked #74 in VH1 100 Top Child Stars in 2005
Can speak Spanish fluently and say some phrases in Hindi.
Still has contact with her "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (1990) co-stars.
Is still good friends with Will Smith.
Has posed in King's Magazine twice.
"After that episode, I would meet people on the street and they'd ask me 'When is your album coming out?' This was before I'd even thought about pursuing a record deal" (After her singing performances on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air)
"Will never told me he was doing this, but I think he kept distance to let me explore and really feel like it was mine - and not like someone was holding my hand." (On making her album Kiss The Sky)
I always want to entertain people and sing and dance.
Believe in yourself and your talent 100% and never let anyone discourage you from following your dream.
"I found it challenging, but a lot like I expected. A lot of independent study. It was weird at first because I think everyone thought maybe that I thought I was some sort of diva. It took a couple weeks before anyone got the nerve to talk to me and word got around that I was normal. I used to get stopped for little interviews and starting meeting people." (On going to Harvard)
"I never set out to be one, but I guess parents like it because I am dedicated to school. With being on Disney, a lot of young people look up to me and I'm becoming more aware of it, especially because of all the responses I get." (On being a role model)
"I was only eleven when we filmed the pilot. I didn't really expect anything to come out of it. I mean, the idea of a rapper being a star on a sitcom just wasn't heard of" (On "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (1990)).
"Working with Bill Cosby was incredible. That was the show. It was the only show that they filmed in New York, as far as I knew, at that time, and I was lucky to be a part of that" (On being on "The Cosby Show" (1984)).
I believe in fate, I believe in hard work, and I feel like if I just keep marching, the path will kind of appear before me. Talking about her future
I am grateful to all my family for all the support and sacrifices over the years.
I'm very, very good at time management. That's been a real big benefit.
Will Smith said if I ever need some help, he was there for me.
Videos are more like photography. It's not as much about trying to tell a story as it is creating images.
When I was 18, I was at the set for my video, and I felt really responsible. I'm used to being part of an ensemble.
It took me two weeks to decide to do the tour instead of going right back to school. An album is short-lived and college is four years.
I even lived on campus to get the college experience. I had five roommates and I still keep in touch with them while I'm on the road.
I had short hair for a while, but I ended up loving it.
Before high school ended, I started applying to college. It really wasn't even a choice because of the brainwashing of my parents.
Being on Disney, a lot of young people look up to me.
If you don't have fun with what you are doing, then it's not worth doing at all.
I'm going to go to school. It doesn't matter what the outcome is as long as I did it. I can say I did it.
I'm doing a play, a musical. The musical follows the Mamma Mia concept. It's my first LA theater project.
I was very blessed to be asked to be a part of it, so subject not even having to do with it, I wanted to do it. - On making Glory Road
I wanted to go to school because I had been in entertainment for so long, I wanted to socialize with people my age. I wanted to explore other fields and see what else was out there, but after sitting at my computer and being in the library you know that bug kind of. I graduated early because I wanted to get back out and do what I like to do.
Right now I prefer film. I like being totally immersed in a world for a few months and living some place for a while and I think this is because of music too, having been on tour with a group of people. I like the intensity of it.
I'm almost done with it. I started recording it a year ago. I was really scared-even with my first album, I was really hesitant about doing it because at that time JLo hadn't come out yet and an actor turned singer seemed so corny. But while I was at school, people would stop me and be like "Are you coming out with a new album? I really liked the first one." And I was like, "Really? I wanted to." And I was writing while I was in school. I love music. So I started about a year ago. We're almost done.
Why do I have to choose? Sure, I love to record. I love being in the studio but no. I love to sing for people. I'm making an album so I can perform my songs, you know? Shoot, I don't know why do I have to choose?
In music, you don't need an award. I mean in acting you don't need an award, either, but in film you do your work and then it's sent out to people in theaters all over the place and you have no idea how people feel about what you're doing. Okay, so maybe if you need to know you're doing well, you get an Oscar and you know, well, I'm entertaining people. But music, you know if you're entertaining people because they either get up and dance with you or they don't. - On Awards in show business
College was my opportunity to be around my peers, which you don't get to do when you're a child actor. And I wanted to be normal and see what else was out there, see what else I was good at. And there are some other things that I'm good at. - On not falling into the child star trap
Sure, they did, but they also did that to the Latin scholars across the hallway and the number-one math student who was walking down the street. In Harvard, everybody was extraordinary in the town that they came from. When you get there, nobody is more extraordinary than anyone else. - On being approached in college for being famous
I do get jacked up. I'm known more for lighter stuff, obviously for comedy, but this is really very dramatic. And my character experiences a lot of violence and gets caught up in a situation where she has to fight for her life. - On making the movie Hotel California
It's not my goal. But it certainly stretched me as an actor. That's why there's something about the art itself, and performing, that I truly love. That still drives me. I've been in this business for 24 years, so there are a lot of things that I know intuitively. If I'm in the position to bring up an incredible writer, director or producer, I'll do it in some way. - On evolving as an actress
I've always wanted to produce. Our company's mandate, [for] Anastasia and I, is to bring varied content to the urban space-across the board. Our first project is a Web series called Buppies, which touches on black Hollywood and has a little bit of a Sex and the City and Entourage vibe. It's about the characters, both women and men, figuring out who they are. - On her production company Hazrah entertainment
It's kind of like the Wild West out there, and not just for black Hollywood. In a traditional sense, things look bad-there are people out of work, shows aren't going up and a lot of films aren't being made, because of the fear of actors going on strike. But I think it's a real fertile time to stake your claim. With things up in the air, it creates new space for people who are trying to break through, business-wise. - Her thoughts on Black Hollywood
I found my voice with this album, The Light. I can never stop singing. Remember, I recorded my first album [1998's Kiss the Sky, MJJ Music] when I was 16, and other people wrote most of the songs. I really wanted the next album that I did to express who I am. And the only way I can do that is to write it myself. So in that sense, I found my voice. - On her second album The Light
I've been working as a surrogate for his campaign. Surrogates can be politicians, actors, musicians or private citizens-anyone who volunteers in the campaign. Since the Iowa caucuses, I've been going to colleges and speaking to students, not just about Obama but about the importance of participating in the process. The notion that one vote doesn't matter really is a lie. - On working on the Barack Obama campaign
Just because people have done us wrong doesn't mean we should give up. One of the reasons I did volunteer was because I was pissed at what happened in 2000 and in 2004. It made me cry. I needed to be hands-on and help, so I signed up to volunteer. You can't let the past dictate the future. This is a fight worth fighting. - On why she volunteered to support the Barack Obama campaign
I actually studied political studies and Afro-American studies in school, which was my major. I'm very interested in politics privately, but I think that each individual should be politically active. It's really important because politics affects your everyday life; it affects how much we pay for gas. Hello? Those are the things you're voting for in the booth, and I think people forget that. The next big fight is to get people to come out in the general election against McCain.
(June 2002) Graduated from Harvard University with a degree in government.
(March 2005) Currently working on her new album
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