We chose Maria Howell for Fearless Friday because she is possibly one of the most under-rated actresses in Hollywood, yet she has never mumbled one disgruntled word. We see her face all over film and television, yet she doesn’t always garner as much spotlight as others. But Maria keeps pushing forward with ease and grace. It is our honor to feature her as this week’s heroine.
Who can forget the scene in “The Color Purple” when the choir sang, God Is Trying To Tell You Something? It was one of the most pivotal parts of the movie. Have you ever wondered just who the choir soloist was? Well, wonder no more. Meet Maria Howell.
Just who is Maria Howell?
I am just a loving person, caring, nurturing, simple, practical, smart woman. I care about life and things that matter [like] relationships. I’m a faithful, God fearing woman. One word to describe me is love, because everything I do comes from a place of love. Even if I don’t agree with it, I step back and make sure I’m coming from a place of love. I didn’t say I was perfect (chuckle).
Life before and after “The Color Purple”
I had a whole other life before this career. I went to school to be a doctor (pediatrician or administrator). During this season, the “Color Purple” came about. I love performing, but I didn’t necessarily see myself out front. I just wanted to be in a band, playing an instrument (metaphorically speaking). I just wanted to be involved. I’m kinda shy and introverted. I don’t need everyone else’s opinion to tell me who to be.
I couldn’t begin to compare the excitement of being in a movie, especially“The Color Purple”. I was a featured extra and thought my scene would end up on the cutting floor. I didn’t realize that it was such a pivotal scene until I saw the movie. You can imagine my relief. (LOL) And although I was very excited, I was so into singing at that time, that acting took a back seat for a while. I didn’t have an agent, so I took acting classes a few years later and managed to balance the two.
Because of the choir scene, people assumed that I only sang gospel. I was also singing Jazz and R&B – opening for Nancy Wilson, Najee, Ray Charles. In 1995, I moved to Japan and the world was my oyster [for my style of singing]. I’ve had an amazing singing career. I love to put a gown on and perform. I didn’t aspire to be like anyone in particular, simply wanted to be classy. I have a pure audience for my music, it may be a smaller faithful audience and I’ve been cool with that. Singing and acting have each allowed me to do the other.
Are you where you thought you would be 10, 20 years ago?
Yes, this where I thought I would be 20 years ago…singing and acting. There was never this one thing that said, “Oh you made it”. I operate by asking “am I doing what I love?” It’s not all about career. It’s about life and other things that matter too. Can I look at myself in the mirror at night and sleep peacefully? Yes.
If you could spend the day with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Oh, that’s a hard one and I don’t get stumped that much. Nancy Wilson. I’ve opened up for her and was able to spend time with her too. Because of where she is in life, all the ups and downs of being a woman in this industry, Nancy is and always has been classy. I know there’s more to her than what we see. I just want to know what she has inside of her that helps her maintain.
It wouldn’t be a BLF interview without talking about love. Who has Maria’s heart? Someone has my heart, but I’m so protective of that person because in this day and age, people want to know so much. It’s [the relationship] one of the few places I can go for refuge. I respect him, and he has a wonderful spirit; just amazing. I put no one before God, but he’s pretty special.
Relationships need…friendship, mutual respect, and time.
I’ve been married before. Psychologically, when you put a label on someone/thing, whatever it is in your head about the label can bring out what you believe about the label. You need to put in the time. Pay attention to people’s backgrounds, habits, etc. – it can make a difference. Learn what it is you need and makes you happy first. I learned my love language. Love that book. It is on point.
My mom and dad were a tag team. They had 6 children. They incorporated us and let us be involved. They posted the meal plan and everyone had a role. Because of their work schedules, mom started the meal; dad finished it. I know what teamwork is. It may be more manageable if you marry someone with the same thought pattern. If not…
We couldn’t play my mom and dad against each other. Being the oldest, I was very strong willed. But my parents were a strong team. Me: “Momma won’t let me…” My Dad: “Don’t talk about my wife.”(LOL)
The happiest moment in your life
There have been many happy moments in my life, but one moment that made me feel “soul” happy is the day I got baptized. I was 13 years old. It made me feel like, “I’m going to be happy the rest of my life”.
Do you have any regrets?
(Laughing) They might be regrets, I just call them something else. Not big, big regrets. I don’t have children. I regret I didn’t get to have the family I hoped for. But I have so many young people in my life, so I’m good. (smile)
That I hadn’t been so trusting as a young person – that more than the children thing. I wish I had had a little bit more foresight. I should have spoken up more for myself. My dad used to say, “Don’t take no wooden nickels, Baby Girl.” I want to see the good in people. I got burned a few times because I didn’t speak up for myself; I didn’t know better. Life is too short. Just treat it with respect. Treat people with respect. Find that place inside where you can be happy.
Fun Facts About Maria
My friends say that in my next career I should be a comedian.
I love cartoons. They keep me light; uplifted. I watched them with my grandfather until he died. Cartoons and board games keep me young(er).
I’ve been a nostalgic movie watcher most of my life. I like old black and white movies. I’m an archivist; I like to know the history behind the movie.
Any final thoughts for our readers?
I learned early in life to keep balance. You can live your life, but I believe everything in moderation. Just be nice. Treat people the way you want to be treated. It’s really rewarding. It takes discernment; know who to help and when to help.
For those who don’t know me, thanks for joining the journey. For my fans, thanks for your [unwavering] support. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Maria has worked with some of Hollywood’s best. Tyler Perry in “Daddy’s Little Girls”; Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”; Regina King in Lifetime Television’s “Living Proof”; and Chris Rock, Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, just to name a few.
This fall, Maria plays Grace, a woman who is strong and smart (like herself) in NBC’s “Revolution”. Maria describes the show as “sci-fi without the aliens”. The role is crucial in that Grace knows something about the worldwide blackout that happened 15 years ago and she has access to electricity. But that’s all she’s saying. “Revolution” airs Monday’s at 10pm beginning September 17th.
As if that wasn’t enough, Maria landed the role of Seeder (Rue’s mentor) in the second “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” which comes to theaters in November 2013.
Because of the special place “The Color Purple” has in my and my sister’s heart, it was truly an honor for me to get to know Maria. She is truly a class act. I felt like I was shooting the breeze and catching up with an old friend.
For the latest and greatest on Maria, check out her website www.mariahowell.com.