See Charmaine From "The Cosby Show" & "A Different World" Now at 57
Karen Malina White played Pam Tucker's best friend on both shows.
The Cosby Show gave multiple generations of actors their big break or, at the very least, their most memorable character. One of those actors is Karen Malina White, who played Charmaine on the last two seasons of the family sitcom and then again on its spinoff, A Different World. Charmaine was the best friend of Pam Tucker (Erika Alexander), one of the Huxtables' distant cousins. But what the character was really known for was her rapid-fire wit, which she displayed at Hillman College. The Philadelphia-born White has racked up tons of other TV credits over the years since, including appearing in one of the most controversial miniseries in recent memory. Read on to find out more.
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She's in the biggest show on Netflix right now.
Before her stints on those sitcoms, White made her film debut in 1989's Lean on Me and appeared in a couple of TV series. After The Cosby Show and A Different World, she continued to work, mostly on TV. She's appeared on Herman's Head, Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, Roc, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, My So-Called Life, Chicago Hope, Living Single, The Shield, Southland, How to Get Away With Murder, Veep, Snowfall, and many other shows.
She might be best known for her starring role on Malcolm & Eddie, in which she played Nicolette, and for voicing Dijonay Jones on Disney Channel's The Proud Family. White's most recent projects include reprising Dijonay for The Proud Family reboot, recurring as Hilda on Bruh, and playing Shirley Hughes, the mother of one of Jeffrey Dahmer's victims in Netflix's miniseries, Dahmer.
She took a break from Hollywood for a heartbreaking reason.
Though White's resume is long and varied, if you look closely, you can see that she took on fewer live-action roles immediately after Malcom & Eddie ended in 2000. In an interview with Comedy Hype earlier this year, the actor explained the low she experienced in the wake of that sitcom. "I took a lot of hits on Malcolm & Eddie, because my character was called 'ugly' a lot. And it pushed my buttons, my personal buttons," White said, adding that those comments fed her childhood insecurities. "…So you show up at your next audition with all that stuff, you show up a little more desperate, you show up [wondering] 'Am I cute enough? Is my hair straight enough? Do I got too much weight?'" The star noted that she "had to work through all of that" before feeling confident going after parts again.
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She was never married to Malcolm-Jamal Warner, despite reports to the contrary.
White dated her Cosby Show and Malcolm & Eddie co-star Malcolm-Jamal Warner, from 1997 to 2005. The couple never married, though some outlets incorrectly report that they did. Warner addressed this in a now-archived interview with Essence in 2009, saying, "I'm not married. People probably started saying that because we were [in a relationship] for seven and a half years. Also, until recently I have always worn a ring on my ring finger. I started wearing my first ring at 13 and by the time I was 17, I realized the significance and just kept it there."
She's especially proud of her Proud role.
White was in attendance at Disney's D23 Expo in mid-September to represent The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, which will be coming back for Season 2 soon. In a red carpet interview she posted to her Instagram, the actor shared that people frequently recognize her voice from the show when she's out and about, and that it was super fans like those who led to The Proud Family being revived. "A whole new generation of kids get to see themselves represented," White raved of the new series. "We push the envelope in terms of conversation and culture, and you know, just showing Black and brown culture. And my nieces, my great-nieces, they get to see somebody who looks like them on TV."
To bring things full circle back to her Cosby Show days, among the comments White received on the post was one from Alexander, her former TV BFF. "Congratulations Karen! And bravo on #dahmer!! You're always excellent! Glad you're in full boom 💥 and bloom 🌸! Xo e," the actor wrote.