*Hollywood’s professional stuntwoman LaFaye Baker is busy kicking down doors in Tinsel town and making history as an African-American stuntwoman. From action-packed car chases to death defying free falls, to breathtaking fight sequences and mind-blowing fire gags, Baker is featured in films and commercials doing the unthinkable.
Baker, a forty-something, 20-year veteran stuntwoman, has landed her share of opportunities in entertainment, doubling for over 40 of Hollywood’s top actors, including Angela Bassett, Regina King, Regina Hall, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Lynn Whitfield and many others. “I’ve done pretty well in the business,” she says.
With more than 20 movies under her belt, Baker put her skills to work in Hannibal, Green Lantern, and a myriad of national automobile commercials, television shows, most recent NCIS and corporate advertisements. After 10 years of daredevil free falls and turning things up, Baker recalls in a recent interview with EURweb, receiving the call of a lifetime from Academy award-winner actor Halle Berry, to serve as her stunt-coordinator for the award-winning HBO film, “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.” Baker made history by becoming the first African-American Stuntwoman to stunt coordinate a big budget project. This project help make Baker, a well-respected and sought after player in stunts.
Although serving as a stuntwoman is an extremely dangerous profession, Baker says: “I never thought about it. It was something that just happen. My background was in gymnastics.” However, she recalls a situation that took a turn for the worst while on the 1996 music video set of the Grammy-winning Fugees “Ready or Not” where she broke her jaw, splattered her mandible and required complete constructive surgery with titanium plates and screws. Despite all of this, Baker refuses to allow this situation to hinder her risky but challenging career.
It is more dangerous for women performing dangerous stunts than men because women may be dressed in skimpy clothes and cannot cover up with crash pads. According to Baker, about 20-25 African-American women are working and making a living as a stuntwoman in the United States.
Baker was first introduced to stunt performing through a colleague on her daytime job in the probation field. She thought it would be a great alternative to release stress. Baker was already trained in gymnastics and volleyball and her athletic ability proved to be beneficial to Baker’s career as a stuntwoman. Her first gig was the popular show, “Heat of the Night” doubling Crystal Fox. “After the first gig, I was like this is cool, so I started other things to make me universal,” she says.
Baker’s career accomplishments have been featured in a documentary film about Hollywood Stunt women, and in 2015, she was inducted into the renowned Smithsonian Institute’s Entertainment exhibit honoring the contributions of the African-American stunt performer. She was also recently featured in the book, “Stuntwomen: The Untold Story” by Molly Gregory.
When Baker is not doubling as a stuntwoman, she works her non-profit, “Diamond in the RAW”, a non-profit designed to work with at-risk teen girls. Baker encourages teens to concentrate on work behind the camera. “My non-profit empowers and transforms the lives of foster care and teen girls,” says Baker. “It’s an exciting opportunity. I just want to open their eyes. I didn’t have any role models in this business. I stumbled in this.”
What’s next for LaFaye Baker?
9th Annual Action Icon Awards
LaFaye Baker and The Diamond in the RAW Foundation will kick off its 9th Annual Action Icon Conference/Awards, October 12-16, 2016, at Sheraton Universal Hotel, Universal City, California. The four-day event is packed with action-oriented seminars, stunt demonstrations and stunt coordinators. The awards ceremony will honor the unsung heroines behind the scene, stuntwomen, entertainment professionals and women who dare to be different.
“I created the Action Icon Awards because they weren’t recognizing women and bringing awareness to the unsung sheroes behind the scene,” says Baker. “What I hope to accomplish is to bring awareness to stuntwomen and to let them know that we exist. I just wanted to create something that recognizes women. No one really talks about stunt people and stunt coordinators.”
EURweb associate journalist Angela P. Moore is based in the Atlanta area. A passionate writer-and-photographer-at-heart, she freelances for local and national magazines. She pens articles on celebrity profiles, art, music, business, travel, entertainment, health, self-help, and consumer-related issues. She is also the founder and owner of APM Public Relations. In the realization of her life-long passion for writing, Angela will release her debut book winter 2016. She can be reached via [email protected]