Robin Simone Givens
November 27, 1964
New York City, U.S.
|Alma mater||Sarah Lawrence College|
|Partner(s)||Murphy Jensen (1999–2002)|
Givens landed her breakthrough role of Darlene Merriman in the ABC sitcom Head of the Class in 1986, and remained on the series for its 5-year duration. Her troubled marriage to boxer Mike Tyson from 1988 drew considerable media attention, as did their acrimonious divorce. She later went on to become a spokesperson for the National Domestic Violence Hotline for several years.
Givens continued her career with film and television roles such as The Women of Brewster Place (1989) and Boomerang (1992). In 1996, Givens co-starred on the sitcom Sparks, which aired for two seasons on UPN. In January 2000, she took over hosting duties on the syndicated talk show Forgive or Forget. In 2007, Givens released her autobiography, Grace Will Lead Me Home. She has since had recurring roles on The Game, Tyler Perry's House of Payne, Chuck, Riverdale and its spin-off Katy Keene.
Givens was born in New York City, to Ruth Roper (née Newby) and Reuben Givens, who divorced when she was two. Her mother raised Givens and her sister Stephanie in Mount Vernon and New Rochelle, New York. Givens was raised Catholic. She occasionally modeled and acted as a teen. As a model, she appeared in magazines such as Seventeen and Mademoiselle. She also had cameos in the films The Wiz (1978) and Fort Apache: The Bronx (1981).
Givens graduated from New Rochelle Academy (a private school which closed in June 1987). At the age of 15, she enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College as a pre-medical major, becoming one of the youngest to attend the school. While in school she acted in daytime dramas. She graduated at the age of 19 in 1984. Givens claimed to have dropped out of Harvard Medical School to focus on her acting career, but the registrar's office stated that she never applied. It was later reported that she took courses at Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
In 1985, Givens auditioned for a guest spot on The Cosby Show. She won the spot and Bill Cosby became her mentor. He convinced her to drop out of school and promised that if she wasn't successful in two years, he'd get her back into medical school and pay her tuition. Soon after Givens appeared in Diff'rent Strokes and the 1986 television film Beverly Hills Madam, opposite Faye Dunaway. That same year, she landed her breakthrough role as rich girl Darlene Merriman on the ABC sitcom Head of the Class. The series lasted five seasons, ending in 1991. In 1989, while starring in Head of the Class, she appeared in The Women of Brewster Place with Oprah Winfrey. She later appeared in Boomerang (1992).
In 1994, Givens posed nude for Playboy magazine. During that period Givens felt she had lost her voice, so one of the reasons why she posed for the magazine was so that she could write her own article. Givens was ranked No. 88 on Empire magazine's "100 Sexiest Stars in Film History" list in May 1995. In 1996, Givens portrayed Claudia in the television movie The Face (also known as A Face to Die For) with Yasmine Bleeth. Later that year, she co-starred in the UPN sitcom Sparks, which ended its run in 1998. She also played Denise in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
In January 2000, Givens appeared in a cameo in Toni Braxton's music video "He Wasn't Man Enough", as the wife of a cheating husband. She returned to the entertainment industry later that year as the host of the talk show Forgive or Forget, replacing television personality Mother Love halfway through the show's second season. Ratings initially increased after Givens took over hosting duties, but soon fell. The series was canceled after this season.
In 2006, Givens attempted a return to television on MyNetworkTV's telenovela Saints and Sinners, but the show garnered low ratings and was soon canceled. Givens continued acting in made-for-television films while also making appearances on Trinity Broadcasting Network's Praise the Lord program (July 12, 2007), and Larry King Live. In June 2007, she released her autobiography Grace Will Lead Me Home. Givens returned to feature films in Tyler Perry's Southern drama The Family That Preys (2008). She also had a recurring role portraying a fictionalized version of herself on the CW comedy-drama The Game. Additionally, she has had a recurring role on the TBS show Tyler Perry's House of Payne, and a guest role on USA Network's Burn Notice. In addition to television and film roles, Givens has performed onstage. In 2001, she appeared in an off-Broadway production of The Vagina Monologues. From February to April 16, 2006, she played the role of Roxie Hart in the Broadway play Chicago. In 2007, she toured the country playing a part in the I'm Ready Productions play Men, Money & Golddiggers. Givens starred in the 2009 stage play A Mother's Prayer, which also starred Johnny Gill, Shirley Murdock, and Jermaine Crawford.
In 2007, Givens published a memoir entitled Grace Will Lead Me Home. In it, she reflects on the life of her praying grandmother, Grace, her experiences of domestic violence, her strong will to survive, feeling abandoned by her father, and her faith in God. In 2011, she guest-starred in three episodes of NBC's spy-comedy Chuck: "Chuck Versus the Masquerade", "Chuck Versus the A-Team", and "Chuck Versus the Muuurder", as Jane Bentley. Later that year, she performed as Angel, a struggling blues singer, in the play Blues for An Alabama Sky at Pasadena Playhouse. In 2015, she starred alongside Clifton Powell, Mishon Ratliff, and Malachi Malik in the segment "Mama's Boy" of TV One's anthology romance horror film Fear Files.
At the age of 16, Givens met comedian Eddie Murphy at the Comedy Strip in New York. They dated for a year in the early 1980s.  In 1986, she met basketball player Michael Jordan at a North Carolina golf tournament and they briefly dated until January 1987.
Givens began dating boxer Mike Tyson in 1987. According to Givens, Tyson was physically abusive before they wed on February 7, 1988. Tyson stated that he was "severely traumatized by that relationship." Tyson was then estimated to have $50 million; he and Givens did not have a prenuptial agreement. During their marriage, Givens bought a $4.3 million mansion in the affluent suburb of Bernardsville, New Jersey with money withdrawn from his brokerage account. They appeared in a Diet Pepsi commercial together and on the cover of Life magazine.
After her miscarriage in June 1988, their marriage began to fall apart. Tyson believes Givens' pregnancy (and miscarriage) was a ruse only to rush him to the wedding altar; noting, in all the time she was supposedly pregnant Givens never gained a pound. In a joint interview with Tyson on 20/20 in September 1988, Givens told Barbara Walters that life with him was "torture, pure hell, worse than anything I could possibly imagine," and she went on to describe his volatile temper. In October 1988, Givens filed for divorce, citing spousal abuse and was granted a temporary restraining order. Her attorney Marvin Mitchelson said, "She loves Michael Tyson, but there is continued violence, and she fears for her safety." Tyson sought an annulment, accusing her of stealing millions of dollars and manipulating the public. Givens responded by filing a $125 million libel suit for defamation. Their divorce was finalized on Valentine's Day in 1989.
Givens received negative press following her split from Tyson, particularly within sports and the African American community. Headlines heralded her as "the Most Hated Woman in America" and she was described as a "gold digger who married Tyson solely for his millions." Givens denied that she received a reported divorce settlement of over $10 million from Tyson, stating that she "didn't receive one dime."
According to the 1989 biography Fire and Fear: The Inside Story of Mike Tyson, Tyson admitted he punched Givens, stating "that was the best punch I've ever thrown in my entire life." Tyson claimed the book was "filled with inaccuracies." In 2009, Tyson joked about "socking" Givens on Oprah, which caused laughter in the audience. Winfrey later issued an apology to Givens.
Following her separation from Tyson, Givens dated actor Brad Pitt. In 1993, Givens adopted her first son Michael "Buddy" Givens. In 1997, she married her tennis instructor, Svetozar Marinković. Givens filed for divorce months later. In 1999, she had a second son, William "Billy" Jensen, with ex-boyfriend, tennis player Murphy Jensen. She briefly dated radio host Howard Stern in 2000.
In January 2004, Givens struck a pedestrian while driving an SUV through a Miami, Florida intersection. Givens was ticketed for failing to use due care with a pedestrian in a crosswalk, but the charges were later dismissed. In June 2004, the injured party filed a civil lawsuit against Givens for an unspecified amount.
A May 7, 2009, article in Forbes magazine reported that the Internal Revenue Service was suing Givens for unpaid federal income taxes totaling $292,000 ($352,000 in present day USD when adjusted for inflation), an amount which included interest and penalties. The government had asked a federal court in Florida for a judgment against her on 39 assessments covering a span of eight years.
|1978||The Wiz||Guest at Aunt Emma's Party||Uncredited|
|1991||A Rage in Harlem||Imabelle|
|1995||Dangerous Intentions||Kaye Ferrar|
|2002||Book of Love||Iyanna|
|2002||Antibody||Dr. Rachel Saverini||Direct-to-video release|
|2003||Head of State||Kim|
|2003||A Good Night to Die||Dana|
|2003||Love Chronicles||Monifa Burly|
|2005||Flip The Script||Rain Jones|
|2006||Restraining Order||Diane McNeil|
|2008||Queen of Media||Wendy Williams|
|2008||The Family That Preys||Abigail "Abby" Dexter|
|2008||Little Hercules In 3-D||Dana|
|2009||A Mother's Prayer||Brenda||Direct-to-DVD release|
|2010||Enemies Among Us||Gloria||Direct-to-DVD release|
|2012||Unspoken Words||Mrs. Lewis||Direct-to-DVD release|
|2012||Double Sided||Miranda Johnson||Direct-to-DVD release|
|2012||The Love You Save||Alexis|
|2014||Airplane Vs Volcano||Dr. Whitmore|
|2016||God's Not Dead 2||Principal Kinney|
|2018||God Bless the Broken Road||Kareena Williams|
|1985||The Cosby Show||Susanne||Episode: "Theo and the Older Woman"|
|1986||Diff'rent Strokes||Ann||Episode: "The Big Bribe"|
|1986||Beverly Hills Madam||April Baxter||Television movie|
|1986||Philip Marlowe, Private Eye||Token Ware||Episode: "Pickup on Noon Street"|
|1986–1991||Head of the Class||Darlene Merriman||114 episodes|
|1989||The Penthouse||Dinah St. Clair||Television movie|
|1989||The Women of Brewster Place||Kiswana||Miniseries|
|1992||Angel Street||Det. Anita King||Television movie|
|1992||Angel Street||Det. Anita King||Unknown episodes|
|1995||Me and the Boys||Nina||3 episodes|
|1995||The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air||Denise||Episode: "Cold Feet, Hot Body"|
|1995||Courthouse||Suzanne Graham||11 episodes|
|1996||In the House||Alex||3 episodes|
|1996||A Face to Die For||Claudia||Television movie|
|1996–1998||Sparks||Wilma Cuthbert||40 episodes|
|1997||Moesha||Ladonna||Episode: "Strike a Pose"|
|1999||The Love Boat: The Next Wave||Dana Chase||Episode: "Don't Judge a Book by Its Lover"|
|1999||Michael Jordan: An American Hero||Juanita Vanoy/Juanita Jordan||Television movie|
|1999||Cosby||Ms. Malone||2 episodes|
|2000||The Expendables||Randy||Television movie|
|2000||Chicken Soup for the Soul||Counselor||Episode: "The Right Thing"|
|2000||DAG||Jennifer||Episode: "Jennifer Returns"|
|2001||Spinning Out of Control||Erin||Television movie|
|2003||Hollywood Wives: The New Generation||Kyndra||Television movie|
|2003–2004||One on One||Sheila||2 episodes|
|2005||Captive Hearts||Jade Marlo||Television movie|
|2008||Tyler Perry's House of Payne||Tanya||6 episodes|
|2008||Burn Notice||Kandi||Episode: "Scatter Point"|
|2008||The Game||Herself||7 episodes|
|2008||Everybody Hates Chris||Stacy||Episode: "Everybody Hates Doc's"|
|2010||My Parents, My Sister & Me||Keela Goldman||7 episodes|
|2010||Drop Dead Diva||Ann Simpson||Episode: "A Mother's Secret"|
|2010||Nikita||Mary Miracle||Episode: "All the Way"|
|2011||Chuck||Jane Bentley||3 episodes|
|2011||Reed Between the Lines||Dominique||Episode: "Let's Talk About Jealousy"|
|2012||Suburgatory||Tulsa||Episode: "Independence Day"|
|2012||Retired at 35||Dr. Keller||Episode: "The Dates"|
|2014||The First Family||Melanie||Episode: "The First Pageant"|
|2016||Man Seeking Woman||Vicki Claus||Episode: "Tinsel"|
|2016||Lucifer||Leila Simms||Episode: "Sin-Eater"|
|2017–2019||Riverdale||Sierra McCoy||Recurring Role; 28 episodes|
|2017-2018||Once Upon a Time||Eudora||2 episodes|
|2019||Step Up: High Water||Dana|
|2019||Ambitions||Stephanie Carlisle||Series regular, 18 episodes|
|2019||The Fix||Julianne Johnson||1 episode - the pilot|
|2020||Katy Keene||Sierra McCoy||Episode: "Chapter Six: Mama Said"|
Awards and nominations
|1991||ShoWest Convention, USA||Won||Female Star of Tomorrow|
|2004||Black Reel Awards||Nominated||Television: Best Supporting Actress||Hollywood Wives: The New Generation|
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- "Robin Givens Reveals All". Oprah.com. November 5, 2004.
- McKinney, Jessica (November 22, 2018). "Robin Givens Opens Up About Mike Tyson Abuse In Wake Of #MeToo: Watch". Vibe.
- "Robin Givens Responds". Oprah. November 13, 2009.
- "Riverdale': Robin Givens Cast As Riverdale's Mayor In The CW Series".
- "Robin Givens Biography (1964?-)". FilmReference.com. NetIndustries, LLC. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
- Collier, Aldore (June 29, 1987). "Robin Givens Leaves Harvard Med For Hollywood". Jet: 54–55, 57.
- "Excerpt: Robin Givens' "Grace Will Lead Me Home"". ABC News. June 6, 2007. Archived from the original on September 11, 2016.
- Arias, Ron (May 11, 1987). "If Robin Givens Can Jump from Harvard to Head of the Class, There's No Ceiling on Her Talent". People.com.
- "BIG FIGHT: Tyson-Given marriage down for the count". Anchorage Daily News. 1988-10-19. p. F1. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- "For Robin Givens, The Sky's The Limit". At This Stage. November 9, 2011. Retrieved 2021-02-03.
- Givens, Robin; Gorman, Greg (September 1994). "So How Do You Like Me Now?". Playboy. pp. 120–130.
- "How Robin Givens Found Her Voice After Surviving Domestic Violence". E! Online. November 20, 2019.
- "Robin Givens: Biography". askmen.com. Archived from the original on 2012-11-01. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
- "'Sparks' Begins Second Season". Jet: 60–63. October 27, 1997.
- Smith, Jessie Carney (2010). Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture [4 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 1599. ISBN 978-0-313-35797-8.
- "The Complete History of Guest Stars on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"". Retrieved 2012-09-10.
- Farber, Jim (2000-04-23). "SOFT AND SEXY Toni Braxton has a new album, a new video and a 'cute' new man. How sad is that?". Daily News. New York. Retrieved 2015-09-21.
- "Givens Boosts Ratings Of 'Forgive Or Forget' Show". Jet. 2000-02-14. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
- "'Forgive Or Forget' TV Show Is Cancelled". Jet. 2000-04-17. Archived from the original on 2012-06-30. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
- "Givens and Harris Join MyNetworkTV" (Press release). MyNetworkTV. November 29, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-30.
- "Book Excerpt: 'Grace Will Lead Me Home'". CBS News. 2007-06-07. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
- "State of the Art". Boston Phoenix. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
- "Given is 'Roxie Hart' in Chicago". Broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
- Robin Givens: Truly Knowing God. The 700 Club.
- TV One’s Fright Night Files Renamed Fear Files and Given a Sequel
- Hasen, Jeff (February 14, 1989). "Heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and actress Robin Givens chose..." UPI.
- Tyson, Mike (2013). Undisputed Truth, My Autobiography. Plume. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-14-218121-8.
- Soble, Ronald L. (October 8, 1988). "Givens, Citing Fear, Files for Divorce From Tyson". Los Angeles Times.
- Klott, Gary (January 28, 1996). "A Prenuptial Agreement Is Legal Security For Plain Folks". Sun-Sentinel.com. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
- Kurtz, Howard (October 20, 1988). "Givens Renounces All Tyson Money". The Washington Post.
- "Mike Moving Out Of Jersey". UPI. August 18, 1989. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
- Gross, Ken (October 17, 1988). "As Wife Robin Givens Splits for the Coast, Mike Tyson Rearranges the Furniture". People. "The food lies untouched. The only sounds across the breakfast table in the Bernardsville, N.J., mansion are the loud silences of words being swallowed. Finally, Robin Givens, 24, star of the ABC-TV sitcom Head of the Class, pushes herself away from the table and announces, 'I have to pack.' 'Me, too,' says her husband, Mike Tyson, 22, the world heavyweight boxing champion. Suddenly the Sunday morning atmosphere is tense and full of menace."
- "Tyson-Givens Marriage Is Ending After Eight Months". Jet: 16–18, 51. October 24, 1988.
- "Life Magazine, July 1, 1988 - Mike Tyson And Robin Givens". oldlifemagazine.com.
- McMurran, Kristin (1988-06-27). "The Champ and the Vamp". People. Time Inc. 29 (25). ISSN 0093-7673. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
- Katz, Michael; Marques, Stuart (October 13, 1988). "Doctor Says Givens Had A Miscarriage". The Washington Post.
- "Heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, accusing actress wife Robin Givens..." UPI. Retrieved 2021-06-19.
- "MOOD SWINGS : In a TV Interview, Tyson's Wife Says Life Has Been 'Torture . . . Pure Hell'". Los Angeles Times. September 30, 1988.
- "Mike Tyson: "The Truth About Robin And Me"". Jet: 59–60. January 9, 1989.
- Kurtz, Howard (November 17, 1988). "GIVENS FILES $125 MILLION LIBEL SUIT AGAINST TYSON". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.
- Lavin, Cheryl (October 27, 1988). "The Woman America Loves To Hate The Soon-To-Be-Ex-Mrs. Tyson Has Asked For Sympathy, And None Will Be Given". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2020-12-01 – via Sun-Sentinel.com.
- Vader, J. E. (December 12, 1988). "Back Off, Robin Bashers". Sports Illustrated Vault. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
- "Through the Storm: Robin Givens". Essence. December 16, 2009. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
- Randolph, Laura B. (March 1990). "Robin Givens Life After Tyson". Ebony: 122–123.
- Bass, Patrik Henry (June 18, 2008). "Through the Storm: Robin Givens". Essence. essence.com.
- Younge, Gary (August 4, 2003). "Out for the count". The Guardian.
- "Robin Took Best Punch, Tyson Says in Biography". Los Angeles Times. June 23, 1989.
- Tyson, Mike (2013). Undisputed Truth, My Autobiography. Plume. p. 209. ISBN 978-0-14-218121-8.
- Gliatto, Tom (June 30, 1997). "Love Lost". People.com.
- "Robin Givens and sons". People.com. August 23, 2007.
- Perry, Beth (2007-06-25). "'I've Been Through a Lot'". People. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
- "Through the Storm: Robin Givens". Essence. June 18, 2008. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
- "Robin Givens Strikes, Hurts Pedestrian". people.com. 2004-01-29. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
- "Charges dismissed against Robin Givens". usatoday.com. 2004-12-04. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
- "89-year-old woman sues Robyn Givens". usatoday.com. 2004-06-18. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
- William P. Barrett (May 7, 2009). "Feds Sue Robin Givens For $292,000 Owed IRS". Forbes.