Stacey Dash's evolution from 'Clueless' star to conservative pundit

Story highlights

  • Stacey Dash came out as conservative in 2012 by endorsing Mitt Romney for president
  • This week was not the first time she has suggested getting rid of Black History Month

(CNN)To many, Stacey Dash is best remembered for her role in the 1995 hit film "Clueless" and appearances on "The Cosby Show," "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and BET's "The Game."

Or, so it was until this week, when Dash appeared on "Fox & Friends" to discuss the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee said they will boycott the award show to protest the lack of diversity among nominees.
Dash, a Fox News contributor since 2014, called the boycott "ludicrous" and said it implied there was no need for Black History Month or the BET network.
    "We have to make up our minds. Either we want to have segregation or integration, and if we don't want segregation, then we have to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the Image Awards, where you're only awarded if you're black," Dash said. "If it were the other way around, we would be up in arms. It's a double standard."
    It's not the first time Dash has expressed this point of view. In a November 2015 blog post, "Why Black History Month is Ridiculous and Why BET Should Not Exist," Dash echoed remarks by Morgan Freeman on "60 Minutes" that it was "ridiculous" to "relegate my history to a month."
    "I don't need a special month or special channel. What's sad is that these insidious things only keep us segregated and invoke false narratives," Dash wrote at the time.
    When she said it this time, though, more people, apparently, were listening. Her comments drew ire and spawned memes accusing Dash, who is of Caribbean and Latin descent, of betraying her race and promoting another kind of false narrative. White actors and celebrities appear on BET shows and past white nominees for BET Awards include Sam Smith, Eminem, Iggy Azalea, Robin Thicke and French duo Daft Punk.
    BET was quick to respond in a formal statement and through jabs on social media calling out Dash, who had a brief role on "The Game," a popular original series that aired on BET from 2011 to 2014.
    Despite criticism, Dash continues to stand her ground. After the appearance she posted a clip of the video in a blog post titled, "I Was Right Today on Outnumbered: There Should Be No Black History Month."
    As BET noted, the comments come as little surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to Dash in the past five years or so, when her transformation from starlet to conservative commentator came into full bloom.
    So how and when did Dash make the leap from beloved actress to divisive pundit?
    Many fans still have a soft spot for the New York native who stole hearts on "The Cosby Show," "Fresh Prince" and the 1992 film "Mo' Money" before her breakthrough role as Dionne in "Clueless," playing a teen when she was well into her 20s.
    After the success of "Clueless," she reprised the role in a television series based on the movie, which ran from 1996 to 1999. She followed that up with roles in such movies as "Renaissance Man," "Gang of Roses," "I Could Never Be Your Woman," and "Paper Soldiers," which was directed by her cousin, music producer and entrepreneur Damon Dash.
    She was never quite able to replicate the success of her breakthrough role.
    Dash returned to the spotlight in a 2006 Playboy cover shoot, with the "blessing and approval" of her teenage son and toddler daughter, her biography notes.
    "Not many women are bold and daring enough to take on that challenge, but the dynamic and dashing Stacey Dash is an exception to the rule," her bio says.
    She appeared on seasons 3 and 4 of "The Game" as the girlfriend of a former football player and coach played by Coby Bell. Her next role came in 2011, when she appeared on the scripted VH1 series "Single Ladies," departing after the first season.
    Her political coming out was in 2012, when she endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Twitter.
    She was widely vilified for the endorsement, which she acknowledged was a turnaround from her vote in 2008 for President Obama.
    When asked about her change of heart at the time, she told Piers Morgan that Romney was the "man I want to lead my country."
    "Because of the state of the country, and I want the next four years to be different and I believe him," she said. To her, Romney and his wife "seemed authentic and genuine in what they said about this country and the need for us to be united and move forward and really bring up our economy."
    As for backlash, she said, "You cant expect everyone to agree with you."
    The endorsement drew the attention of Fox News, which hired her in 2014 to offer "cultural analysis and commentary."
    "Stacey is an engaging conversationalist whose distinctive viewpoints amongst her Hollywood peers have spawned national debates -- we're pleased to have her join Fox News," Bill Shine, the network's executive vice president of programming, said at the time.
    Dash has used the platform to become a lightning rod for controversy, "bringing Republican trollism into the mainstream," as BET put it. She implored women to "work harder" to close the wage gap and called government assistance programs the Democrats' version of "slavery." Regarding sexual assault on college campuses during recruitment parties for sororities and fraternities, she has said "alcohol doesn't get you drunk, you get yourself drunk."
    Her stances tend to draw just as much praise as criticism, including from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who called her Wednesday appearance "an amazing interview."
    It also makes her critics question her motives. Plenty of African-Americans identify as conservative, but when celebrities like Dash switch lanes it can be seen as a cynical attempt at career resuscitation.
    "I think there's a concern that black people sometimes choose the conservative lane because the line is shorter, not because you had some ideological conversion," said CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill, a professor of African-American studies at Morehouse College
    "It's not just a question of whether you're wrong. It's what are your intentions? Who are you trying to be in this space?"