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Angela Bassett, fresh out of grad school in the ’80s, intended to be a star. When she got an agent—a big deal for any actor early in their career—the man she was dating at the time tried to tell her it was thanks to his influence and largesse rather than her own abilities. “I refused to buy into what was underneath that,” Bassett, 64, says. “If anyone tried to make me believe that it was because of them and not my own talent, effort, perseverance, I wasn’t going to accept that.”

The relationship ended, and Bassett flourished. Onscreen and onstage, her range is dizzying. As Tina Turner in the 1993 film What’s Love Got to Do With It, sinking herself into the story of “a Southern girl who conquered the world of music,” Bassett fully embodied the spirit of the Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll—and earned her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Almost 30 years later, following turns in films like Waiting to ExhaleNotorious, and Akeelah and the Bee, Bassett is making Oscars history after playing another kind of royal, the Queen Mother of Wakanda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, snagging Marvel’s first acting nomination. “It has been really exciting. And very, very hectic,” Bassett says of awards season. “I’m just using it as an exercise to remain chill in the middle of a whirlwind.”

Read More: The Biggest Snubs and Surprises of the 2023 Oscar Nominations

As Queen Ramonda in Black Panther, Bassett portrays a mother grieving the loss of her son while trying to figure out how to lead her people. She says her experience playing characters that embody so many things at once has helped her realize it’s OK not to be everything to everyone all the time. “Women are called upon to be wives, sisters, friends, mothers, community leaders, activists, and we have it in our core to be these things,” she says. “But it’s important to give to yourself first, and then you have more to share with the world.”

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