26. Plateau to Passion – A Talk with Chenoa Maxwell

Posted: June 10, 2009 in African American, Black entertainment, daughters, fathers
Tags: , , , , , , ,

chenoa maxChenoa Maxwell, actress and photographer, exemplifies a ‘Renaissance’ woman. She is best known for her starring role in the 1997 romantic comedy entitled Hav Plenty and as the recurring character Lena Turner on the hit UPN sitcom Girlfriends. Ms. Maxwell has also appeared in the WB sitcom, For Your Love. Additionally, she was the leading lady in R&B singer Joe’s video, What if a Woman. In addition to the film Hav Plenty, she starred in Cold Feet (1999) and G (2002) starring opposite Blair Underwood.

Chenoa is an extremely hard working and dedicated woman.  We managed to catch up with her to do this interview – as a prelude to featuring her story in our forthcoming book, Daddy Am I Pretty?

FF: You’re an actress and photographer.  It appears that photography is becoming the dominant art of the two.

Chenoa: Appearances are tricky.   I believe that art is simply an expression of truth.  Today, right now, my truth is all about capturing the realities of others rather than portraying them.  Since I’m still very much in the adolescence of my journey, I’m curious to see which art form truly dominates and becomes my legacy. 🙂

FF: What caused this shift?      

Chenoa: In the nutshell, extreme disappointment and loss of purpose.

FF: How did your interest in photography begin?   

Chenoa: Images were always something that had this hypnotic effect on me.  Basically, I was that annoying friend who always documented every occasion to annoyance.  However, it was my trip to Uganda that truly shifted my life again from plateau to passion.

FF: Tell us about the “8 Seconds Uganda Project” and how it changed your life?                                                                                                                                                            

Chenoa: Nothing could have prepared me for the amount of devastation I saw while I traveled through Uganda.  The level of pain, stench and poverty the country endures is indescribable.  Yet these people house a spirit so beautiful, so courageous, it doesn’t depress, it inspires.  Death happens for many reasons there.  Above all I couldn’t get over the hundreds of children who died every 8 seconds from lack of clean water.  That is how my project started.  The first trip to Uganda changed my life!

Chenoa Maxwell film trilogy

The Chenoa Maxwell film trilogy

FF: Without divulging too much prior to the release of the book, what is significant about your relationship with your father?   

Chenoa: Although he is my father, I call him dad.  He is consistent and thankfully still alive.  Although he rarely communicates his love  to me verbally; it is undeniable, true, and unconditional.

FF: What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, Daddy Am I Pretty?   

Chenoa: My dad would always say, “pretty ain’t sh*t!  Millions of girls are pretty.  What counts is the other stuff.  What else you got that’s interesting?  What you got that’s gonna last?  Stand out?   When you figure that out…come talk to me.”

FF: What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?  chenoa 40

Chenoa: Hmmm…That  the best part about any art form is discovery.  After that, I’d say, be sure to specialize in one area of photography and be GREAT at it!  Develop your own style/voice.  Build a great team.  Be patient and allow time for yourself grow. Constantly evolve yourself. Study light. Lastly, remember that nothing is more dangerous to an artist than complacency!

FF: What can we expect from you in the near future?  

Chenoa: Wow! I have a million exciting things brewing at the moment.  A few of the projects I am in the middle of developing include an intimate project on “The Truth Behind Commitment” and a crazy web series entitled, “The Adventures of Mad Max.” For the rest of the goods…check me out from time to time on www.chenoamaxwell.com.  The noteworthy sections tell all.   🙂

We are very excited to feature Chenoa Maxwell on this blog and in the forthcoming book.  If you have comments or direct questions for Chenoa simply click on the comment link below to express yourself.

Until next time,

Damon signature




Click the link below to join Chenoa’s Facebook fan page:


  1. Sabin says:

    SHE’S NUMBER 1!!!

  2. Christina Shabazz says:

    I like your dad’s quote about “Pretty ain’t sh**…” I have 5 girls, I think that is an idea that I need to share with them! (Especially since the media always tells our young girls that they need to be pretty to be successful.) I can see by your responses that your dad’s influence is with you…and that you are not “just a pretty face”, you actually have substance! May GOD be with you in all that you do!

  3. Sharon says:

    I always wondered what happened to Ms. Maxwell, now I know she’ responding to a high calling. I’m very interested in hearing more about the work in Uganda. How does Duncan get these stories? Keep it up. I am now an FF – a FootprintFan 🙂

  4. Jr says:

    Chenoa Maxwell!!! I heard she had quit acting and moved to Africa. Thanks for clearing things up. I see she is giving back to the people of Urganda. How can I help? This footsteps blog is really good. Someone at work told me about it so I thought I’d check it out. I’m glad I did. Now I have to read all the previous blogs. Jr.

  5. S. Harrison says:

    I’m glad someone has updated me on Chenoa Maxwell. She is that rare blend of humanitarianism and sheer beauty. Pretty ain’t sh*t? It helps. Glad to see she is doing what she really enjoys. Hope to see her on the screen again one day. Hav Plenty was a fun film. I advise you to rent it.

  6. Mike says:

    I saw her in the moive G. Good blog.

  7. Cynda says:

    Blessings to Chenoa on her wonderful journey…C

  8. Sonia says:

    Actress, photographer, writer – I see Chenoa is all set to excel in a third field of artistic expression. I admire all her work – what was mentioned in this entry and beyond. 😀

  9. Jerry says:

    I am wondering what is the best course of action as far as approaching photography? Should I sign up for a class first? Does Chenoa have some tips she can share? Jerry

  10. Candice Marie...xo says:

    Love & Light, Chenoa. Your muse of unveiling truth through art is powerful and uplifting. I also grew up with a father with a similar philosophy as yours. He kept it simple…but it is still inculcated in the deepest recesses of my soul. “There always someone richer, smarter, and prettier than you.” I share that sometimes, and often, people find his expression crude. However, I believe with all my heart, he simply wanted me to find a voice of my own. I’m excited to read your story in Damon E. Duncan’s, “Daddy, Am I Pretty?”
    All the best, always.
    Candice Marie…xo

  11. Percy Williams says:

    I saw the 8 Seconds Uganda pics. Chenoa should publish a book of her photography. Thanks Duncan for bringing this to the public.

  12. Hi all

    I like Your website. It is very interesting. Do You have RSS so I can add to my favorites.
    Let me know when it will be ready. Kee it UP.
    regards Szczecin Hotele

  13. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if a man doesnt see you as a Gift from JESUS he is nuts.From the first time i saw you on tv IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT.Ionly hope GOD lets me find a woman who looks and has the knowledge and wisdom you embody.I am raising my 16yr old daughter and tell her the same things your Father told you its not the outer beauty you posess its your insight on life and whats in your Heart that counts.I live in NEW JERSEY if you ever pass through look me up in the phone book SMILE.

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