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Rae’Ven Kelly Continues To Honor Tina Turner’s Legacy

The Hollywood actress reflects on her roles in iconic films and shares her upcoming projects.
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Rae’Ven Kelly, known for her early, profound roles in Hollywood classics like “A Time to Kill” and “Ghosts of Mississippi”, and for portraying a young Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, continues to build her legacy in the film industry. Following the passing of the iconic Tina Turner on May 24, tributes and memories have flooded in, reminding Kelly of the deep impact Turner had on her own life, both personally and professionally. Now, as she forges her path, Kelly is making significant strides in front and behind the cameras, keeping Turner’s empowering spirit alive.


Rae’Ven Kelly talks about the relationship she had with the pop icon with Zenger News. 



American R&B and Pop singer Tina Turner performs onstage at the Poplar Creek Music Theater, Hoffman Estates, Illinois, September 12, 1987. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images) 





Zenger: “A Time to Kill” is my favorite movie of all-time. 


Kelly: Aww, thank you! 


Zenger: You’re welcome. Being that you were in “A Time to Kill,” and “Ghosts of Mississippi,” which were both before their time, given the social climate now. Looking back at it, how important were both of those films from a cultural standpoint now? 


Kelly: It was a joy to be a part of both of those productions. We filmed both of those in Mississippi. That was my first time working with Whoopi Goldberg. She was my mom in “Ghosts of Mississippi.” James Pickens Jr. who ironically, I saw recently at the “Tina Turner Musical.” He’s the chief from “Grey’s Anatomy.” He played my dad in “Ghosts of Mississippi.” He was Medgar Evers. That was a beautiful production, directed by Rob Reiner, who is a film icon. 


I enjoyed filming “A Time to Kill.” That was an interesting time. We were filming in the fall and winter, but when you watch the movie, everybody is sweating because it was supposed to be the summer. The makeup artists would spray us with water and baby oil to make us look like we were sweating. We were really cold. Miss Sandra [Bullock] and Mr. Matthew [McConaughey] were carrying on a little bit of a romance at the time during the filming. They would have me go back and forth doing little pranks on each other. Me and Mr. Matthew would sneak up behind Ms. Sandra and put an ice cube down her back. That was the second time Samuel L. Jackson played my dad, because my first television series was on NBC called, “I’ll Fly Away,” and that was about the Civil Rights movement as well. I played the daughter of Regina Taylor, and the granddaughter of Bill Cobbs. And Mr. Sam played my dad in, “I’ll Fly Away.” “A Time to Kill” was a reunion for us. 


Zenger: You just mentioned playing pranks on cast members and having fun on the set of “A Time to Kill.” How did you get back into character once the cameras started rolling for such a serious movie and character? 


Kelly: A lot of the emotions I pulled from my own personal experiences as far as deaths in my family. Praise God, I was never molested or anything like that in real life, so I had to pull from the deaths of older family members in my family. I used that pain and emotion. My mother was my acting coach for the pieces, and I had fabulous directors, Joel Schumacher and Rob Reiner, there keeping you in character. 


Zenger: You also played young Tina Turner, Anna Mae Bullock in the movie, “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Were you in tune with how iconic she was when you accepted the role or did that knowledge come over time? 


Kelly: I will tell you this, my parents made sure that I had a very dynamic well versed musical education. So, I already knew who Tina Turner was prior. I didn’t understand the magnitude of what an icon she was until we went to the concert. We were doing press for the movie when the movie was coming out. She was doing a concert that coincided with the movie. We were in Atlanta, I’ll never forget it, I was hanging out with Ms. Tina backstage. I was playing dress up and she had me put on her heels. She was so playful with me, but also very regal, and refined. She said, “Now RaeVen, you see those heels over there?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “When I put those on, I’m going to become Tina.” When we turned the corner and they opened up the backstage door, I just saw this plethora of people chanting her name. That’s when I became overwhelmed, and it really hit me with the magnitude of who I was portraying. I had no idea that she was an icon of that level until that moment. 


Zenger: Seeing her memory live on through these tributes must be an amazing feeling. How would you remember her? 


Kelly: I will remember her as my childhood mentor. She loved me dearly. She called me “RaeVen My Love,” and over the years I would run into her at different events, and she was always the same with me. Always very cheerful. She was very big on empowerment, and she told me, “RaeVen, never let anyone blow out your light.” Another thing she instilled in me is, never let anyone abuse you. That’s something that is very important to her. When I think about her, I think of female empowerment and resilience. I appreciate the sweet moments that we had together. 


Zenger: You have been around Hollywood royalty; you are the god child of royalty. You have now carved out your own legacy. How did being around such great people enhance what you have accomplished and are still accomplishing? 


Kelly: It sets a tone for the expectations because you know you have some big shoes to fill. You have to always give honor and respect to those shoulders that we stand on. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I think about my godmothers. I have two beautiful godmothers that both passed away, Billie Barnum Crotty who is a music contractor. She traveled with Frank and Nancy Sinatra, The Beach Boys, and Pink Floyd. She was the music contractor who hired choirs and backup singers for movies. She actually and Miss Tina taught me how to sing on the set of, “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” I had never sang before. She was instrumental in hiring all the singers for the movie. She was the vocal contractor for “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” When you watch the opening scene in the movie, she’s standing in the front row all the way to the left in a blue dress. She is such a beautiful woman and lovely spirit. I lost her this past February. 


My other godmother who instilled the importance of history and African American culture, who I lost while I was in college at UCLA, Dr. King’s oldest child, my auntie, Yolanda King. We had the pleasure of working together three times. We did two movies together and we toured with her play. In which we were nominated for “Best Musical,” and “Best Play,” for “Achieving the Dream.” 


Zenger: I know you’re staying busy. What do you currently have going on? 


Kelly: I want to keep that light shining through my production company, Everlasting Entertainment. Our website is We are the first production company of its kind. We only produce film, television, music, and theatrical productions that has at least one former child actor in front of and behind the scenes. A portion of the proceeds from each one of our productions will always go to charity that’s tied into whatever topic the film is dealing with. We have two Christmas movies that we have coming out that we will be filming later this year. One of the films is a heartwarming family film about a little boy and his dog. We have partnered with, “Stand Up for Animals” charity for that film. It’s called, “Christmas Kennel.” 


Our other Christmas movie is called, “United Christmas,” which is a wonderful holiday film about inclusion and diversity. If you look at the holiday genre, we leave out interracial couples, our trans community, and LGBT community. In our piece we will be featuring two interracial couples, we have a lesbian couple and she is coming to terms with coming out to her family. We have a lot of representation of strong female characters. We also deal with raising money for the homeless in the movie. We are partnered with, “The Warm Shelter,” which is a wonderful facility with an open-door policy for those for those having difficulty receiving food, medical, and housing needs in the Rhode Island and Connecticut area. 


Lastly, I have another project coming out called, “Fly.” It’s about the first all-black female flight crew. We are honored to say that we partnered with “Buffalo 8 Productions,” who produced the Jeffery Dahmer film that was on Netflix. They also produced, “Clerks III, with Robert DeNiro and Bruce Willis. They have agreed to fund and produce, “Fly,” my television series. It’s going to star Tatyana Ali, myself, and one of my adopted grandmas, Marla Gibbs. Gary Gray, who plays young Tiger Woods in the Tiger Woods story, is going to be in it as well. Regina Taylor will be a part of the cast as well. We have wonderful producers to be a part of it, Carolyn McDonald, she produced films for years for Danny Glover’s production company. We are blessed to say, Miss Whoopi [Goldberg] loved the project, she wanted to be a part of it as well, so we created a role for Whoopi Goldberg on the show as well. 

Edited by Alberto Arellano and Jessi Rexroad Shull

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