Nona Marvisa Gaye was born on September 17, 1974, in Los Angeles, California, to Janis Hunter and R&B legend Marvin Gaye. However, she was raised in Washington DC. Although her middle name is Marvisa, she was led to believe that it was Aisha until the age of 12.
It can be said that Nona literally grew up in the spotlight. Her father brought her onto the stage when she was only 3 weeks old. Later, when she was about 6 years old, she made an appearance on the TV show Soul Train, on which she introduced her father.
Nona reports that her famous father was decent, happy and nice, but his drug addiction made it difficult for her to relate to him. In 1981, Marvin and Janis divorced. In 1984, he was shot and killed after a dispute with his father.
Still, music was something that was in Nona’s blood and there was no denying that she would try to make it her career as well. When she was 14, she made her first demo tape. It didn’t take long for music industry executives to take note of her great talent.
Two years later, when Nona was 16, she signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records. In 1992, she released her first album, Love for the Future. Highly praised by critics, the music was snappy, catchy and upbeat. The LP’s first single, “I’m Overjoyed,” went as high as #17 on R&B charts.
At the same time, this was a confusing period for Nona. For three years, she dated internationally renowned entertainer Prince. Even though the relationship lasted a rather long time, Nona feels that it was very superficial, as well as being filled with mind screws and head trips.
Back then, she had fallen into the old family pattern and developed a drug addiction of her own. She took a break from the limelight to clean up her act and find herself. In 1997, now drug-free, she gave birth to a son, Nolan, whom she raises alone.
She returned to the recording studio in 2001, and joined U2 front man Bono and Artists Against AIDS Worldwide. They recorded her father’s hit “What’s Going On” and the proceeds went to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa.
Her beauty being on the same level as her singing, she then signed a contract with the Ford Modeling Agency. In this new role as a model, she shot an ad campaign for Armani and strutted her stuff on the catwalks for Gianni Versace.
Then, Nona was bitten by the acting bug. Well, she had already had a walk-on part in the Eddie Murphy comedy Harlem Nights (1989), where she was required to hand poker chips to Richard Pryor, but the cameo ended up on the cutting room floor.
In 2001, she was ready to see if she could get a real acting career. Her agent sent her out to her first audition, a sports biopic starring Will Smith and Jon Voight. The movie was the Academy Award-nominated Ali (2001) and Nona was cast as Muhammad Ali’s second wife. She was so good in the part that USA Today pleaded for her to be nominated at the Oscars as well.
In August 2001, singer and up-and-coming actress Aaliyah’s plane crashed in the Bahamas. Before her death, she had been cast as Zee in the forthcoming sequels to the runaway hit The Matrix.
The filmmakers needed a replacement and it didn’t take long for them to turn to Nona. She was soon flown to Australia to shoot her scenes as Zee in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (both in 2003).
Sharing the screen with the likes of Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Carrie-Anne Moss proved a fantastic career move, as the movies have grossed over $1 billion US worldwide.
Suddenly, she was in demand. Soon after, she shot the family fantasy film The Polar Express with Tom Hanks as well as the Sandra Bullock/Brendan Fraser drama Crash, both released in 2004.
In February of that same year, she sang the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game. The kicker was that she sang along with her father’s much-praised performance recorded at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. The audience couldn’t get enough. And we certainly could never get enough of Nona either.