Whatever Happened To The Actor Who Plays Lisa In Coming To America?

The character of Lisa McDowell was a central figure in Eddie Murphy’s ’80s cult classic, Coming to America. In the film, Prince Akeem (Murphy) set his sights on Lisa, played by Shari Headley, after leaving his native Zamunda and arriving in Queens, NY in hopes of finding a woman to become his wife and queen, via IMDb

Hailing from Queens herself, Headley had already received praise for her beauty prior to starring in the 1988 film. In 1984, Headley won a modeling contract after competing in the Ford Models’ Supermodel of The World Contest, according to the bio on her official website. Prior to playing Lisa McDowell, Headley appeared in a few episodes of The Cosby Show, as well as Miami Vice. But her role in Coming to America helped her career take off. “I don’t think in terms of competition and stardom,” she told the LA Times in 1988. “It hasn’t hit me yet. I’ve gotten a few offers already, but I’m not eager to commit to anything yet. My main concern is not to get locked into one specific character.”

Following the film’s success at the box office, Headley went on to secure roles in TV series and made-for-TV movies. In 2019, it was revealed that Headley would be returning to reprise her role as Lisa McDowell in the long-awaited Coming 2 America sequel, via Deadline. Let’s see what she’s been up to in between the films.

Shari Headley's career after the '80s

Shari Headley has kept herself busy in the 33-year gap between Coming to America and the Coming 2 America sequel. She appeared in a series of TV shows in the ’80s and early ’90s including Gideon Oliver, Kojak: Ariana, and Kojak: None So Blind, Matlock, and many others, via IMDb. By the ’90s and 2000s, Headley continued her career with roles in shows, small films, and soap operas like Guiding Light and The Bold and The Beautiful, as well as music videos like Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West” and Blackstreet’s “Before I Let You Go.” She credits her role in 1989’s Gideon Oliver for “training” her for a three-year contract on All My Children, as well as for the lead role on the Fox series 413 Hope Street. 

In her personal life, she got married and divorced from rapper-actor Christopher Martin of the rap duo Kid ‘N’ Play. Together, they welcomed a son Skyler Martin in 1994, though their happiness was short-lived, and the New York Post reported in 2001 that Martin was ordered to pay child support for Skyler. While doing an amazing job at keeping her personal life private, Headley has maintained a presence on social media where she promotes her work and highlights other nods to Black excellence. Her Instagram bio pays homage to the role that helped make her a recognizable face in Hollywood as she refers to herself as the “Queen of Zamunda.”

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