This week, Raven-Symoné spoke to the kids of Disney’s Dreamers Academy sporting a new do- but the attitude that has kept her a star all these years.

The event, sponsored by ESSENCE Magazine and Steve Harvey invited 100 teen contest winners and their families for a four-day program that showed they can harness the power of their dreams. Several celebrities showed up to partner with the organization including Yolanda Adams, Terrance J and Tamera Mowry.

But the real star of the show was the former “That’s So Raven” star, who delivered the Dreamer’s keynote address sporting her natural locks in a copper tinged fro. During her speech, Raven encouraged the youth at the event to strive for excellence in whatever they pursued saying:

“Don’t try to be the next Oprah, try to be the next you.”

The quote is one of my favorites from the star, who many have called the mini-Oprah before. While she said the statement with no disrespect, she makes a very valid point: we can’t all become successful by attempting the same things.

It’s not hard to imaging that Raven’s rise from Cosby child show to mogul was in some ways guided by Oprah’s rise to success. There are few other Black stars in Hollywood who have provided an effective model of brand expansion. But speaking to a new generation, Raven encouraged them to follow their own path instead of trying to do something that has already been done.

I also love that Raven’s starting point for the Dreamers put her expectations for them, and indeed their expectations for themselves, beyond what many Black youth often hear. It’s not as if she said don’t try to be the next singer/rapper/ballplayer as is so often brought up in reference to the prospects of Black youth. It’s a better starting point from a star who we are convinced is still closer to the beginning than the height of her career.

And in some ways that is a beautifully frightening thing- that even with her already massive empire, Raven-Symoné may have only just begun.

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  • LNicole

    “I appreciate Raven’s business acumen and the fact that, as a black woman, she had a successful sitcom on Disney channel, but artistically, I’m over her child stardom and would like to see her do something less safe or more adult oriented”.

    I wish this statement ended with channel because everything after the but is unnecessary.

    There is no pleasing some people. I think Raven has slowly stepped into more adult roles but I think she is also mindful that she has a strong following in the tween, young adult age groups. Honey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Maybe “adult oriented” is what has landed so many child stars in trouble. I appreciate that Raven seems to be quite selective in what projects she will get on board with. I’m sure the parents of her fans appreciate this as well. We all see how well “adult oriented” worked out for Lisa Bonet for example when she felt that nudity was a must to break free of her Denise character.

    Raven and her family have cultivated a brand many adult actresses and actors are probably envious of. She’s done this all while remaining classy and relevant. I say kudos to a job well done and like always haters will hate.

    • *applauds* this is the same exact thing i thought when i read that comment. why does everything have to be ‘edgy,’ ‘adult-oriented,’ or ‘less safe?’ if raven’s niche is with tweens, teens, and young adults, then she should stick with it… she has always been a comedienne and i dont understand why she should be anything else.

      look at ice cube. look at the rock. they have been making a lot of money doing family-oriented films and productions like The Rock’s many movies for children and Ice Cube’s ‘Are We There Yet?’ which has spun off into a television series that he’s producing. edgy aint for everybody… and like you said, maybe if some of these teen stars grew up a little slower they wouldnt be the train wrecks that they are today.

      *sidenote: Raven’s most recent movie, ‘Revenge of the Bridesmaids,’ was pretty funny… it was somewhat adult-oriented and had excellent ratings. it was a comedy without any cursing and nobody was naked, but im 23 and i enjoyed it as an adult but it was still something i could have watched with a little sister or something like that. im pretty sure her new television series thats coming out is also going to be funny but portray her as a grown-up… nobody complains about jennifer aniston or julia roberts’ comedic identities (and i swear jen aniston is the same girl in every movie), so why does raven have to be ‘less safe?’

    • a daughter of yemonya

      I “third” your comments. What really is the problem in remaining in the youth aged appropriate genre…especially if it is working. I too feel we need as many as possible positive youth oriented programs, movies and forms of entertainment. As a mother of two I feel it is important to have adults that come from “child stardom” to specialize in this genre based upon their experience and talent alone. I really do look forward to showing my youth some of her programs when they reach the appropriate age because she has nothing but positive roles in the past. Right now we are in the Olivia stage.

      Oh, BTW, I JUST saw Raven’s bridesmaid movie and I am almost 40 and I really enjoyed it and found it quite endearing. It took me back to my precarious days. So cute. And I look forward to hearing about and eventually seeing (on video) here Georgia show that is coming out soon.

      Anyway, fancy meeting you here again @serenissima… ;}

    • isolde

      The Olsen twins are fantastic businesswomen, but I’m not about to sit here and say that they deserve props as actresses based on their straight to dvd/tv movies and stint on Full House. To me, Raven showed some range with some of her characters on her sitcom, but I haven’t seen anything note worthy since then. “College Road Trip” and “Revenge of the Bridesmaids” aren’t doing it for me.

      ***************************************************************************************************
      “Maybe “adult oriented” is what has landed so many child stars in trouble”
      ***************************************************************************************************

      Lisa Bonet works more than any of the original Cosby kids, and not all Disney stars wind up like Lindsey. In fact, most don’t. There are former Disney child stars like Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Hillary Duff etc. who manage to keep their tween followings while taking on more grown up, challenging material, and they’re younger than Raven. Neither Efron, Hudgens, or Duff have done nude scenes, and none of their work is inappropriate for under 18’s. So, this idea that it’s one (kiddie roles) or the other (nudity) just isn’t true. Nudity does not automatically equal more adult oriented fare. Sometimes I wonder whether she is really selective about the work she chooses or if race/appearance play more of a role in what she’s offered.

      And Suppose Raven were to do a nude scene? Would that be so horrible if there was a context for it in a particular role? The leaked Vanessa Hudgens nude pictures didn’t affect her tween following any. I’m not one of these prudish people who thinks that nudity is the be all, end all for respectability. So, if she were to do a nude scene, I wouldn’t think any less of her, and neither should her fans because she’s over 18. Take Naturi Naughton, for example. She did a wonderful job portraying Lil’ Kim in Notorious. Her nude scene didn’t detract from that.

      @serenissima

      “nobody complains about jennifer aniston or julia roberts’ comedic identities (and i swear jen aniston is the same girl in every movie),”

      Plenty of critics and audiences alike have complained about Jennifer Aniston and her one note characters. For whatever reason, that one character she continuously plays is very lucrative, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t complain.

  • Alexandra

    I like her new hairstyle.

    She always has something encouraging to say. She is right too; Oprah is the highest standard there is. Even though I do look up to her accomplishments, I’m not trying to be the next Oprah.

  • ms_micia

    There is only a handfull of African American Disney stars. Honestly Raven is the only one with a successful branding oppurtunity of them all. Did you know she produced that movie “Revenge of the Bridesmaids”? When I began I told NOONE to quote me. But I’m glad haters are recognized for what they are. Effron is a guy and also white and though I’m sure lying about his age doesn’t seem to be that old, and again he hasn’t been in the industry nearly as long or have a brand anywhere near what Raven has acquired. Ummm Miley is touting that line and she’s already lost buzz and fans for her premature “more grown up” approach. She’s no longer the golden goose she was. Her brand is a beast and so was Hilary Duff’s but neither of them control as much of it as Raven. The Olsen’s are a good example of another pair who made it through their teens to adult without completely screwing up their hard earned money, but betweened the emaciated looks, pretentious attitudes and Mary Kate’s weird and edgy roles on Weeds, I wouldn’t call them role models. They didn’t blow it but I don’t see them continuing to try and be role models. What I’m saying is I like Raven’s business savvy but I also like what she stands for and her personality. She doesn’t walk around like a big kid (i.e her Wendy Williams interview) but she understands that she still is repping the classy girls, if that’s allowed in this day and age, an actual classy girl who makes a LOT of money and comes out on top for being GOOD. *shrugs shoulders* I don’t know, because there’s such a push of the Nicki Minaj’s of the world and the Beyonce’s gyrating around with no clothes on, it’s nice to know that I can actually turn to this young actress and say hey she’s still around and doing well. I can appreciate that.

    • Miss Jae

      Well said!

    • I agree, very well said.
      In addition I think that many people forget that Raven S. is still receiving checks from her childhood role as Olivia in the Cosby show.
      Like you, I’ve been following her career for many years now and what we should remember is that Disney is a global entity and Ravens brand is huge in places like Japan.
      Like the article says, this is just the beginning. For a long time fan like myself that is very exciting