During her eight-year run as Diane Johnson on ABC’s hit show black-ish, Marsai Martin has matured before our eyes. She’s now a decorated actress, with multiple NAACP Image Awards, BET Awards, and other accolades, as well as a mogul-in-the-making with her own production company and other ventures. The Texas-born talent destined to be known by one name began making moves long before black-ish reached its eighth and final season. Marsai’s not only been a strong young Black girl presence; she’s been a trailblazer, creating lanes that did not previously exist.
As the Great Quarantine has slowly begun to lift, Marsai has leveraged her popularity to further raise her profile and unlock more new doors. Already on her way to outgrowing her iconic character Diane, she has a plethora of exciting opportunities across various media. Below are some of the ways Marsai has continued her growth as an actress plus laid the groundwork as a burgeoning mogul with entertainment vehicles across film, fashion, and business.
At 10 years old, Marsai pitched the idea that would eventually become her big-screen debut, Little. She and her parents brought the idea to producer Will Packer through her own Genius Entertainment. When Universal Pictures released the film, which grossed just under $50 million, in 2019, Marsai, with her executive producer credit, earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest producer in movie history.
Genius aims to create, market, and distribute compelling, bleeding-edge content across media channels (film/TV/streaming). Martin’s parents—co-founder Joshua Martin and VP Carol Martin—fully support their daughter and serve on the management team. Last year, it was reported that development executive Jamila Jordan-Theus, who most recently worked with LeBron James’ Springhill Entertainment, joined the Genius as Head of Motion Picture.
The company recently scored a win with a new series Saturdays for Disney. The show follows the life of a young girl and her competitive roller-skating crew. Paris is afflicted with sickle cell anemia, a disease plaguing many in the Black community. The series is the first produced by Marsai that won’t feature her in front of the camera. Production is reported to begin in May in Chicago.
Marsai has also emerged as a strong young Black girl presence as a voice actress. In a relatively short period of time, Martin has racked up an array of impressive titles that include the popular Dragons: Rescue Riders, Paw Patrol: The Movie, Spirit Untamed, and Vampirina. This is a big deal because of how underrepresented Black actors are in animation. Attention was brought to this when white actresses Kristen Bell and Jenny Slate stepped away from voicing bi-racial characters in the animated series Central Park and Big Mouth in 2020. So Marsai is tackling another area in which more representation is needed.
Money With Marsai Martin
In conjunction with Verizon Media’s Generation Z-geared platform In The Know, Marsai launched a video series aimed towards increasing the financial literacy of Generation Z. Money With Marsai Martin features frank conversations about important topics such as having multiple income streams, saving money, having financial goals, and general financial wellness.
Having these conversations with her peer-age group was extraordinarily important to Marsai. “Becoming financially independent has been such an important part of my journey both personally and professionally, so I’m excited to partner with In The Know to share what I’ve learned from my experiences with people my own age,” she shared in a statement. “As one of the most successful and entrepreneurial generations in history, it’s important for us to prioritize financial literacy and educate young people on the tools and strategies they need to succeed.”
Mari by Marsai
In February, Marsai launched Mari by Marsai, an all-new affordable luxury, cruelty-free brand of press-on nails and nail care products. Prices typically range from $20 to $22. The notable exception is the limited-edition PR Box, curated by Martin featuring all of the brand’s offerings boasting such snazzy names as CEO, Ms. Minimalist, Sai, *Sips Tea, Quiet on Set, and Rich As Cream, for $150. The set comes complete with a tool kit and a collector’s item keepsake box.
Black Art Rising Collaboration With LIFEWTR
In a partnership with the LIFEWTR brand, Marsai served as Creative Curator of a collaborative NFT series celebrating Black creators for Black History Month by the Black Art Rising initiative. LIFEWTR also commissioned 100 non-fungible tokens (NFT) from artists Julian Gilliam and surreal artist and graphic designer Shaylin Wallace, aka Shay The Surrealist, to produce 100 limited-edition prints created, owned, and issued by the artists.
"Having grown up in the entertainment industry and being a creative myself, I've seen the lack of resources and representation within the Black content creator community,” Marsai expressed In a press release promoting the initiative. “That's why I'm excited to partner with LIFEWTR and their Black Art Rising campaign. Being able to create opportunities that spotlight and celebrate Black digital creators who are pushing the culture forward is something I will always support."
Make Up For Ever
Marsai recently became the face of Make Up For Ever, spearheading the all-inclusive launch of its HD Skin Foundation product. Make Up For Ever is a collective of make-up artists who create high-quality products and services. HD Skin Foundation is an undetectable liquid foundation suitable for skins of all shades.
"[They're] all about being inclusive and having everyone of all shades and all different nationalities come together," the actress told People. "I'm so grateful to be a part of it and show some representation for the young Black girls out there, and I'm looking forward to seeing where we go from here."