Actress Essence Atkins Welcomes Baby Boy at Age 39

We remember her from roles on shows like “The Cosby Show” and “Smart Guy,” but even this 25-year veteran actress couldn’t prepare enough for the role she recently took on.  Fan favorite Essence Atkins speaks with Andwepresent about life as an actress, wife, and new mom.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Essence Atkins grew up with an appreciation for the arts.  Pursuing a dance career in her early childhood, she admits that she never had a desire to pursue acting.  “It just was not what I was focused on.  It was just one of those things where I tried and met with success the first time out and it opened my eyes to a whole new possibility,” she admits.  Her first audition landed her a guest-starring role on “The Cosby Show” at age 14. “I had an agent right away because it was the number 1 show in America. It unlocked the possibility for me to pursue acting very easily.”

Essence moved to Los Angeles five years later to pursue acting full time.  It was while auditioning for a pilot for “Diva,” produced by Quincy Jones, that she learned the greatest lesson of her career.  Essence recalls Mr. Jones pulling her aside and reassuring her: “A train leaves the station every ten minutes.”  While she knew she had not landed that role, she was comfortable in knowing that something else was going to happen for her.  “Literally a few weeks later, I was casted in an NBC pilot, ‘Sunday In Paris’,” she says.  Although the pilot was not picked up, Essence knew that another train would take her career to another level.

Throughout her career, Essence has drawn inspiration from living legends, including Sidney Poitier, Debbie Allen, Diahann Carroll, and James Earl Jones.  “I think we have a legacy of people who have gone before us and there is such a wealth of knowledge to draw from.  It’s up to us to open our eyes and access it,” she says.  She advises aspiring youth, regardless of their field of interest, to work hard first.  “I think a lot of the focus is on the partying, on the celebration itself.  That should only happen once you actually put the time in.  Other than that, it’s just like, what have you done to be celebrating?”  She contends that it is important to reward oneself, only after the work has been done.  That self-discipline has allowed her to maintain her success over the years.

Along her professional journey, Essence has had starring roles in films including “Deliver Us From Eva”, “Dance Flick”, “Preacher’s Kid”, and “ How High”.  Her television credits include starring roles in “Smart Guy”, “Half & Half”, and “Are We There Yet?”, which just returned to TBS for its third season.

With the return of “Are We There Yet?”, she is able to shift her focus from filming three episodes each week to a full-time baby schedule, full of baby classes and changing diapers, and she’s enjoying every minute of it.  “I’m at this place in my life where I recognize that I am ready to surrender my agenda to someone else,” she tells of becoming a wife two years ago and now welcoming her first child at the age of 39.  Essence and her husband, Jaime Mendez, welcomed their first son this holiday season.  The proud new mom tweeted, “Found it…our 1st baby, a beautiful healthy boy, was born on Christmas Day! #Blessing.”

Essence welcomes the opening up of her film schedule to spend time with her newborn baby, Varro Blair.  She’s content in not knowing exactly when her film schedule will pick back up.  “ I feel like I can really allow the baby to dictate what happens.  I’ve waited almost 40 years for this moment and I’m going to relish in it.”

Stay updated on Essence Atkins via twitter: @essencesays.



  1. Anonymous says:

    Great article! I love her as an actress.


  2. Donna Howard says:

    Great article Erica keep up the good work.


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