The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder returned to television Wednesday, Feb. 23 to Disney+. The latest iteration is back with 98 percent of its original cast members. We had the opportunity to speak with the multifaceted actress, director and entrepreneur Raquel Lee Bolleau, who voices the Gross Sisters on the iconic animated series.
Meet Raquel Bolleau, the 35-year-old Los Angeles native who continues to feed her passions while evolving as an actress, entrepreneur, wife and mom of two. Bolleau began her career as a child actress, modeling in Nike campaigns with her co-star Kyla Pratt, appearing on the first season of Nickelodeon’s The Amanda Show, and now, reprising her role as The Gross Sisters on The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.
When asked how exciting it has been for Bolleau to reunite with her childhood friends and costars like Pratt, who voices Penny Proud, she gracefully answered, “It’s been amazing.”
The show’s return comes shortly after its 20th anniversary, and it’s an eventful time for the entire cast and crew. Bolleau takes a spin down memory lane, recalling their fun times together.
“Kyla and I have known each other and been friends since we were kids,” Bolleau shares of her and Pratt’s friendship and working relationship. “We did the Nike commercial together when we were 9, so when we did Proud Family 20 years ago it was just cool to be working with your friend. Now, here we are 20 years later as moms, wives and businesswomen. It’s just amazing to be able to come back and see the success of what life has brought to all of us. I think that’s what’s been the most rewarding part, sharing stories about our kids and have something for our kids to be proud of and a part of.”
A lot has changed for everyone involved in the beloved animated series. Bolleau is a proud mom of two small children. She talks with us about the cultural impact of the series for past generations and the generations to come.
“Proud Family was the first Black cartoon that came to the Disney Channel. I don’t think we knew how iconic that that was,” Bolleau shares. “For us, we just loved what we did. We’re actors and being able to be a part of this cool show I don’t think we had that real eye opening moment. ‘Wow we are the first Black cartoon on Disney’ but now in the climate of the world today, it’s such a refreshing show to bring back to TV.”
The talented actress is proud to revel in this moment building a legacy for future generations.
“This is something that we are able to be proud of for 20 years,” she adds. “Now, we have legacies to build. This is a historical show to be a part of. The writers, the animators, the actors… everybody looks like us and to be able to share that with my kids and to be able to do something 20 years later and still have that same youthfulness to be able to do it. It’s amazing as a mom, and it’s exciting.”
Bolleau serves as the voice of the Gross Sisters, who are the three bullying sisters, who are seen demanding kids from school and anyone else unable to handle them for their money within the series.
We had a few questions for Bolleau about the memorable blue sisters like if fans could expect any growth from them in this next coming of the show.
“Let me tell you something about the gross sisters,” the voice actress declares. “Not only are we coming back louder and prouder but you guys have a treat coming because let’s just say the Gross Sisters have not changed very much in their ways but they are definitely well versed in what they do. To say enough but not say too much, they have found new ways to get what they want.”
One thing the Gross Sisters know how to do is GET WHAT THEY WANT, and with their hands out.
Fans of the show grew up conceptualizing their own theories about the Gross Sisters signature blue skin, which differed from the other characters in the show. When asked if Bolleau had any insight on why they are colored that way, she had answers and for those who have already started watching the Louder and Prouder version, they also explain why.
Simply put, she says, “they are ashy.” The actress continues, “they are blue because they are ashy. If you look at their names it’s Nubia, Gina (Neutrogena) and Olei (Olay). There’s a purpose behind that. The gross sisters are the ashy bullies.
Well, there you have it Proud Family fans. The famed Gross Sisters are named after popular lotion and skincare brands.
“We all know that ashy friend,” Bolleau adds with a smile. “At the time we were first doing the show, there weren’t a lot of publications and ways to express who these characters were but now we’re in a world that we have access to a lot of different things [like] social media, different publications, and different ways to get information. Disney wanted to meet all of us 20 years later, because even they didn’t put two and two together.”
Bolleau shares that Disney gathered the cast to introduce themselves and shortly after, embody their characters.
“I laughed because there is this idea of who the Gross Sisters are,” Bolleau shares. “Maybe it is a surprise to see me as the Gross Sisters. And then, maybe it is a surprise that Kyla is Penny or Alisa [Reyes] is Lacienega. It’s fun to see who we actually are behind the voice.”
The actress also talks about how difficult the filming/voicing process became during an impending global pandemic, letting out a huge “whew” when opening up about the journey.
“It was difficult in the beginning,” Bolleau says. “When we first signed back on to do Proud Family, the pandemic had not happened. We were excited to pick up where we left off. To be able to see each other in passing or be able to come earlier to hear someone else’s moment, but this was a very isolated experience when the pandemic came, because we were a little frantic because we signed on to do the show and we now had to forget how we become sound engineers in our house. It was tough because you needed a quiet space. My kids were home. We had everybody on Zoom. It was an isolated experience but at the same time we stood through the test of time. Also, it helped encourage us through a pandemic. It just speaks to the resilience of all of the actors involved. I’m proud of us because we were able to get it done.”
That, they did. Get it done. She continues, “The pandemic is making it hard for us to connect especially after 20 years. We looked forward to that bonding time but hey, we gotta do what we gotta do.”
The premiere for The Proud Family was held over virtually to the cast and crew’s dissatisfaction.
With several reboots and revivals taking over television, fans are always a bit skeptical of the newest version. We asked Bolleau why the Proud Family story is still important to tell, especially for her as an LA native who grew up seeing Black and Brown families thriving like the ones included in the legendary show. Oscar Proud, Penny’s father, is an entrepreneur who lives across the street from the Boulevardez family who are even wealthier.
“It’s important because these are the narratives our children are exposed to,” Bolleau explains of its importance. “Back in the day what we loved [about the series] was the idea that it’s okay to display that. We should be displaying that. For Disney, I applaud them for being pioneers, being the ones spreading that to the world, to children, and to the future. It’s even more important now, because these are the types of conversations we’re having more at the forefront.”
Bolleau shares how the show reflects her childhood growing up.
“I grew up that way with entrepreneurial parents, in a nice neighborhood,” Bolleau says. “My friends were Black and Brown and were also doing well. It’s just telling another side of our narrative. I applaud Disney for that and I’m thankful to be a part of a show that celebrates us like that.”
Though the Gross Sisters carry a different role in the series, Bolleau affirms that the show aims to tell all sides of the Black and Brown experiences.
“The Gross sisters are pretty cliché in the way that they get down but hey we also know that side of us too,” Bolleau continues. “Everything plays very true to the experiences that Black and Brown people go through on a day-to-day basis. In school, in their neighborhood, amongst their friend group… it’s very true to what people are dealing with. It’s fun to be able to show it in a cartoon that kids relate and see themselves in, in a fun way.”
We are excited to hear more from Bolleau as the Gross Sisters in the revival series. Outside of her voice acting and entertainment endeavors, Bolleau continues to run her production company Folmoon Agency and founded an organic, natural haircare line and platform, Métisse Natura, in the quarantine.
“During the pandemic, we all had a lot of time on our hands,” Bolleau talks about creating Métisse Natura. “For me, I’ve always loved hair. Hair is a huge thing for me and I’ve always been borderline obsessed with my hair. Part of that plays into it being a huge part of us being on set when we were young. Our hair was being done everyday. We were trying to find new looks and new ways to adapt to different characters so I’ve always had this love for hair.”
Bolleau shares that her mixed race daughter inspired the creation of the haircare line.
“My husband is French and my kids are French and Black. She [her daughter] has a different type of texture of curl and I was really inspired by everyone going natural and being comfortable with their hair in its natural state. One of the things I saw with my daughter is she was wanting her hair to be straight. I’m like ‘baby, I love your curls. Your curls are gorgeous. I want you to celebrate those curls. Your curls are special,’” Bolleau shares.
They started having loving conversations about her daughter’s hair early on. Bolleau eventually began experimenting in the kitchen, creating home remedies until she discovered a product that worked on herself and her daughter.
“At first I thought this would be something I make, spray it in, and I would use for myself,” she says. “I started to use it on my friends and my sisters and different types of hair textures and saw that it was really working well on their hair too.”
Bolleau discovered that she had something bigger than an out of the “kitchen” haircare product.
“Because I went to film school and a background in film production and directing, I said look, why not promote your own brand. Why not give your daughter something to be proud of beyond beautiful hair. Really instilling entrepreneuship,” Bolleau shares.
The young entrepreneur felt inspired during a time that Black women were beginning to become more empowered in who we are.
“That feeling of ownership and investing in yourself and bringing things to the marketplace that are needed,” she adds. “Not just cliché but needed. I found that niche for myself and I was extremely inspired to go for it. I linked up with one of my best friends who has an amazing manufacturer and we stabilized this stuff and made it available worldwide. We kept it vegan and organic. I’m really excited about this journey in my life.”
When talking about the brand name and inspiration, she says, “The brand is called Métisse Natura. Métisse is the word mixed in French. It’s based on the fact that this is for a mix of hair. This is for all hair types. One thing I found for curly hair: it doesn’t have a race, it has a texture. That’s what unites this community. This community is united through the challenges we all go through no matter what race we are with this texture of hair.”
Bolleau is continuing to build a community beyond the brand.
“It’s a place for women, mothers, and anyone looking to have a product that works well and is natural for them,” Bolleau concludes.
Fans can continue supporting Raquel Lee Bolleau’s journey on social media. The gifted all around talent and businesswoman leaves our conversation with her best quote yet reminding everyone that: “Now is the time to completely immerse yourself in purpose and in vision and that is the platform of my life and the journey that I’m following.”
Be sure to catch Bolleau in The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder on Disney+ and on Instagram here.