It isn’t always easy for the child of an accomplished performer to pave their own unique way to success. However, Rae Dawn Chong has built an acting career that has lasted for 48 years and counting.
Background Information/Early Life
Rae Dawn Chong’s story begins on February 28, 1961 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She is the daughter of Maxine Sneed and Tommy Chong.
Chong mentions she had an unconventional upbringing and early family life. She was born from a brief encounter between her famous father, comedian Tommy Chong, and her mother.
Chong was then adopted and raised by her paternal grandmother and father’s fiancée without being consulted if they wanted another child. Feeling unwelcomed and like an outsider from the start, Chong faced additional challenges growing up mixed race in Canada during a very racist time period.
With a wounded family history including trauma, abandonment issues, and inappropriate behavior she witnessed early on, Chong says she grew up fractured emotionally despite physical maturity. She describes having to “fake it” as a child to mask the lack of spiritual and emotional foundations. This difficult upbringing informed her worldview and approach to her eventual acting career, where she took diverse roles and developed an activist streak.
Rae Dawn Chong became an actress more by chance than burning ambition. With a childhood immersed in the entertainment world through her father Tommy Chong, she first pursued singing but lacked the skills and voice strength. However, Chong realized she could leverage her cute, charming personality into acting. She began performing on stage from age two, though insists it was genuine enjoyment of audiences versus nepotism that drove this early exposure. Chong started professionally acting after getting discovered singing at a 6th grade graduation.
Rae Dawn Chong’s acting career spans over 30 years, with her first notable role in “The Magical World of Disney” in 1974.
She then appeared in “Stony Island” in 1978 and “Quest for Fire” in 1981, where she played the character Ika.
In 1984, she had a busy year with roles in “Beat Street,” “Choose Me,” “Fear City,” and “Cheech & Chong’s: The Corsican Brothers.”
She also starred in “Commando” alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1985 and had a role in the critically acclaimed film “The Color Purple” the same year.
Chong was in high demand in the middle of the 1980’s, as she played “Squeak” in The Color Purple. The film is a period piece shining a light on African-American life in Georgia taking place in the early 1900’s.
In 1986, Rae Dawn Chong appeared in the comedy Soul Man alongside C. Thomas Howell. The film was controversial for its premise which involved Howell’s character taking medication to appear African-American in order to obtain a scholarship to Harvard Law School. Chong played the role of Sarah Walker, one of the main character’s love interests.
Despite the racially problematic elements of the film’s plot, Chong has said she found the movie to be a “beautiful love story” when she read the script. Her character disapproves of the blackface deception when she discovers it. Chong also noted the film showed consequences for the racist actions and that the main character realizes he has done wrong. Though it brought criticism even upon release in the 1980s, Chong stood by Soul Man as a product of its time that she does not regret being involved with.
In the 1990s, Chong continued acting in movies while also transitioning to more TV roles. She appeared in series like Melrose Place, Lonesome Dove, and films like Tales from the Darkside and Crying Freeman.
After 2000, Chong has worked steadily in both film and TV. Some notable credits include recurring TV roles on That’s So Raven, Mysterious Ways, and films like Jeff, Who Lives at Home.
In this day and age, it is much easier for celebrities to create content to share directly with their fans. Rae Dawn Chong took advantage of this opportunity in the middle of the last decade. She launched a podcast called Only Always, which was designed to discuss topics that never fail to project an element of truth. She had several guests on her show, including her father, other actors and actresses, and beauty experts.
What is Rae Dawn Chong doing now?
Rae Dawn Chong has continued to act in both television and film roles in recent years. In 2022, she appeared in two TV series – Interview with the Vampire as Florence de Pointe du Lac, and We Are Gathered Here Today as Mary Reed. She also voiced the character Sheena Murphy in the 2021 animated TV series Saturday Morning All Star Hits!
Some other recent television credits include American Crime Story in 2021, where she played Betty Currie, and a recurring role as Stacey Mullins on the series 9-1-1 from 2018-2019.
On the film side, Chong starred in the 2021 drama The Sleeping Negro as Black Woman. She also appeared in the 2019 comedy TV movie My Sister Is So Gay as the character Parker.
She is also expanding into writing for television and developing her own projects. Chong wrote a comedy TV show she describes as “timely and important” which she is currently developing and wants to pitch to networks like FX.
(Rae and her son, Morgan Baylis)
Rae Dawn Chong has been married three times. In her first marriage to Owen Baylis, the couple had a son. Chong’s son Morgan Baylis now works for Raytheon Technologies as a Principle Contracts Specialist
Shortly after their on-screen romance in Soul Man, Chong would marry C. Thomas Howell in real life. Their marriage lasted about one year.
Later in life, she would tie the knot with Nathan Ulrich. Her marriage lasted three years, until the couple divorced in 2014.
Mick Jagger Controversy
Rae mentioned in a podcast that she had a sexual relationship with Mick Jagger in 1977, when she was 15 years old and he was 33.
Chong “accidentally blurted out” the admission when she was asked about her appearance in the music video for Mick Jagger’s 1985 track “Just Another Night.”
Chong later clarified her comments and said that the relationship was consensual and that Jagger did not know her age at the time.
“He did nothing wrong. He didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to do." “It was the 1970s, a different era. I wasn’t a victim. I don’t want him to get into trouble about this. It wasn’t traumatizing. I knew what I was doing. I wasn’t an innocent schoolgirl. I always acted a lot older than I was. I was a grown-up at 15.”