A dedicated actress who has transcended her meager beginnings to become a valuable onscreen commodity, Terri J. Vaughn did her best to keep off of the streets while growing up in San Francisco's Ridgeview Terrace Housing Project -- and one look at her impressive film credits shows that all of the hard work most definitely paid off.
The daughter of a hardworking secretary and department-store employee, Vaughn divided her time between studying, singing in the church choir, modeling, and working at McDonald's early on. And while all of this served well to instill the ambitious young woman with a solid sense of self and purpose, her peers weren't always so impressed. It was during this period in her life that Vaughn became a frequent target for neighborhood bullies, which helped her to realize just how hopeless some of her peers truly felt. Later, Vaughn was determined to purchase her own car and go to college -- a goal she ultimately achieved by working as an operator and a post-office employee in order to pay both her car payments and her tuition at California State University.
At a friend's request, Vaughn participated in the Miss Black California Pageant while a senior at CSU. Her reading of a passage from Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf marked a turning point when she earned a spot in the Los Angeles finals and one of the judges asked her to appear in a play he was producing. Soon spirited away on a 20-city tour of Tellin' It Like It Tiz, Vaughn had finally found her calling in life. Numerous stage roles were quick to follow, with a brief appearance on the hit television series Living Single marking her arrival as a film and television actress.
Throughout the 1990s, Vaughn's career gained momentum thanks to parts in such films as Friday, Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, and 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, with subsequent television roles in The Steve Harvey Show, Soul Food, and All of Us showing that the rising starlet was equally comfortable on screens both large and small. In 2006 and 2007, respectively, Vaughn could be seen in the independent comedy drama Dirty Laundry and the Tyler Perry drama Daddy's Little Girls.
In addition to her acting work, Vaughn has shown her commitment to bettering the lives of young girls growing up in public housing and foster care by founding the Take Wings Foundation -- which aims to motivate, uplift, and inspire adolescents aged 13 to 18 by encouraging them to be positive, productive, and successful.