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Neal, a Memphis, Tennessee native, was born on March 14, 1965, daughter of a nurse and a construction worker. She attended Lakeview Elementary. She was a ballet dancer and a cheerleader. She broke her left wrist in a high toss cheerleading stunt; after the bones healed, her wrist never straightened back out completely. She graduated from Overton High School for the Creative and Performing Arts in 1984, and attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Elise left college after two years and moved to New York City where she landed roles in musical theater and found herself traveling the world with various touring companies. Her experience in musical theater allowed her to easily transition into commercials, eventually bringing her to Los Angeles.
Once in Los Angeles, Neal landed the role of "Janice Sinclair" on the ABC soap opera |Loving. Shortly after she made the leap to primetime on seaQuest 2032, as fighter pilot Lieutenant J.J. Fredericks. Her film debut was a starring role in John Singleton's Rosewood. Other film credits include: Paid in Full, Money Talks, Mission to Mars and Restaurant. Neal's newest film, 4 Life, also starring Wood Harris, hit stores July 3, 2007. She also appeared in the series K-Ville, which starred Anthony Anderson and Cole Hauser. Neal will also be seen in Ransom Games, playing a wife forced to negotiate for the safe return of her husband.
Neal and the rest of the cast of Hustle and Flow were nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award for best ensemble, an NAACP award for Best Picture, and won as Best Cast at the "Young Hollywood" awards. She has three NAACP award nominations: Best Actress in a Comedy for The Hughleys twice and a Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for Hustle and Flow.
Neal appeared in Dannii Minogue's 1993 music video for "This Is It", Black Sheep's 1992 music video for "Strobelight Honey", Father MC's 1991 music video for "Lisa Baby", "A Rose Is Still a Rose", in 50 Cent's music video for "Follow My Lead", Vanessa Williams's video "Work to Do", Portrait's "Honey Dip", as well as Chubb Rock's music video "Just the Two of Us" and Trick Daddy's "I'm a Thug". Neal has also graced the cover of the November 2007 edition of King Magazine.
Expanding her role as producer, Neal is creating and developing several multimedia projects: a reality show based on her R&B group, "Assorted Flavors", a fitness and lifestyle brand, and multiple feature projects through her development deal with Mandalay Bay Entertainment.
- Love Ranch (2010)
- Jack and Janet Save the Planet (2009)
- Preaching to the Pastor (2009)
- Who's Deal? (2008)
- 4 Life (2007)
- Hustle & Flow (2005)
- Playas Ball (2003)
- Paid in Full (2002)
- Mission to Mars (2000)
- Restaurant (1998)
- Scream 2 (1997)
- Rosewood (1997)
- Money Talks (1997)
- How to Be a Player (1997)
- Malcolm X (1992)
- A.N.T. Farm (2011-present)
- Private Practice (2009)
- My Manny (2009)
- K-Ville (2007)
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2005)
- Method & Red (2004)
- All of Us (2003–2005)
- A.S.U.A (2003)
- The Hughleys (1998–2002)
- Fantasy Island (1998)
- The Wayans Bros (1998)
- The Steve Harvey Show (1996)
- Living Single (1996)
- ABC Afterschool Special (1996)
- SeaQuest 2032 (1995–1996)
- Chicago Hope (1995)
- Loving (cast member in 1994)
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1994)
- Hangin' with Mr. Cooper (1993–1995)
- Family Matters (1993)
- Tales of the City (1993) (TV movie)
- Law & Order (1992)
Awards and nominations
- Black Reel Awards
- 2006, Best Actress (Nominated)
- Image Awards
- 2006, Outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture:Hustle & Flow (nominated)
- 2001, Outstanding actress in a comedy series:The Hughleys (nominated)
- Screen Actor Guild Awards
- 2001, Best actress (nominated)
For the Elise Neal gallery, click here.