Karyn Parsons visits the school


Jasmin Taylor

Karyn Parsons sits down with Kwame Alexander for an innovative conversation in front of a crowd of faculty, students and parents.

Jasmin Taylor, Staff Writer

“In west Philadelphia born and raised…” 

There are few people who – if they haven’t watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a sitcom that graced TV screens from 1990 to 1996 – at least know of it or the theme tune. Starring alongside Will Smith, actress Karyn Parsons played a ditzy model-like character, Hilary Banks in the show.

Parsons was invited to ASL by Innovator-in-Residence Kwame Alexander to speak to different groups in the community March 3. 

Parsons began the day by speaking to the Middle School during their morning assembly about living an authentic life and pursuing multiple careers, and the High School advanced acting class. 

Kleidi Likola (‘21), a student in Advanced Acting, said that Parsons sharing stories about her career as an actress was inspiring because she used every opportunity possible to get acting experience and refine her craft, such as reading plays and doing acting workshops as a teenager. 

“[Parsons] said nobody goes into the acting industry for stability,” Likola said. “Everyone goes into it because of the love they have for drama, for theater, for the arts. There is no guarantee you will make a lot of money, or that you will become successful, but if you truly love acting, then you will find this job is amazing.”

Parsons also touched on her acting career during an innovative conversation (ICON) hosted by Kwame Alexander for the school community in the evening from 6:30 to 8:30. 

This was the second ICON of the year, where Alexander guides his guests through a series of topics by asking thought-provoking questions about their life experiences and careers.

Parsons began by reading a passage from her first book How High the Moon, the story of a young girl growing up in the south of the U.S. during the Jim Crow era and her discovery to reconnect with her parents. Through laughter and some tears, Parsons explained why she loves acting and writing, her journey on The Fresh Prince, how the passing of her mother inspires the characters in her books and her writing process. 

Following the conversation between Alexander and Parsons, which also included her talking to the audience, members of the audience were invited to ask questions directly to Parsons. 

Additionally, copies of Parsons’ and Alexander’s novels were on sale before and during the ICON, and they were both available to sign books and take photos after the event. 

Since being on The Fresh Prince, Parsons has starred in many other movies and television shows, and also created a line of animated films about unsung black heroes named Sweet Blackberry.