▪ Swapping Hollywood for Harvard:
Ali became a child star as plucky Ashley Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. After the show ended its six-year run in 1996, the daughter of a Trinidadian father and a Panamanian mother hit the Ivy League. “People in the business said I was crazy,” says Ali, 26, who majored in government and “stayed away from school plays. I didn't want to feel like I was in a fishbowl there I wanted to try new things.”
▪ Glory Road Back to Showbiz
After graduating in '02, Ali “went through the ‘what am I going to do with my life?’ feeling.” Her answer? “Come back to L.A. and start all over again.” Now she stars in Glory Road, a film about the 1966 Texas Western College basketball team, which broke racial barriers and won the NCAA championship.
▪ Where There's a Will …
These days Ali, who had a Top 10 hit with “Daydreamin’” in '98, combines acting gigs with recording an R&B album. And she's getting plenty of tips from ex-castmate Will Smith. “He's still the same guy,” she says. And those old Fresh Prince fans? “People grab me and hug me,” she says. “When you're in people's living rooms every day, they feel like you're family.”