The Celebrity Collector
Collects Objects From Africa and Mexico
Shondrella Avery has many film and
television roles to her credit, but she may best be known as
"LaFawnduh Lucas," the sexy Internet girlfriend in the movie
"Napoleon Dynamite," the sleeper hit of the 2004 Sundance Film
Festival. The film has attained a kind of cult status among young
people who can sympathize (or empathize) with the main character, a
listless and alienated teenager.
At six feet tall, it's easy for
Shondrella to stand out in a crowd. You may have seen her as "Candy"
the manicurist in the new UPN series "Cuts" (a spinoff of the
popular show, "One on One," in which Avery has had a recurring role
for the last three seasons). She also starred for five seasons on
the Oxygen channel's "Girls Behaving Badly," a kind of modern-day
version of "Candid Camera."
Avery is married, to a Nigerian-born
banker named Adenrele, whom she met at a restaurant in Beverly
Hills. "I saw him from across the room and I said to my friends,
'That right there is the man I'm going to marry,'" she said with a
laugh. "They thought I was crazy. But I walked up to him, introduced
myself, asked him out on a date, and before long we were making
plans to tie the knot."
Today, the couple live in Los Angeles and
enjoy many mutual interests, including skydiving, going to the
movies, tending to a koi pond and home decorating. It was Adenrele
who introduced Shondrella to art and objects from other countries
(especially his native Nigeria, and Mexico). Shondrella, by
contrast, grew up in a rough and tumble section of south central Los
But that's not to suggest she had a
shielded or deficient upbringing. Avery has nine siblings (the
youngest is 9) and her mom has been a foster parent to nearly 200
other children, many of them crack babies and the products of abused
or neglected families. Shondrella witnessed much of the human
condition, if not the world, on her way to adulthood. She is rich in
ways money can't buy.
She and Adenrele complement one another
nicely, and their many objects from Africa and Mexico illustrate
that. The collection actually began 12 years ago, before her
marriage. At the urging of a high school friend named Valerie, Avery
began collecting pieces of Afro-centric art. These were mostly pin
cases, small figurines and statues. "They were nice, but they
weren't authentic," she said.
Then, in 1994, "Ade," as Shondrella calls
her husband, had a huge wooden tribal mask made for Shondrella while
on a business trip to Nigeria. "It's absolutely beautiful," she
said, "and it's made from older wood that was taken from shacks
built in the 1940s." The mask, Ade explained, represented a positive
spirit and serenity, which is the main point behind much of African
To that was added a pair of bronze
statues from Ghana - one male, one female, both holding spears, each
one lifesize. "They're warriors," Avery said, "but their eyes are
closed and they have a calming presence despite the tribal marks on
their skin." Each tribe can be distinguished by its marks, Avery
said. "Seal, the singer married to model Heidi Klum, wears tribal
marks on his face."
Two bronze horses, measuring 4-1/2' tall,
are frozen in full gallop. "They look like they're coming right at
you," Avery said. "They're actually much more frightening than any
of the African masks or warrior statues. We bought them while on
vacation in Mexico. I love them because they really capture the
power and fluid motion of these amazing creatures. They really
appear to be in motion."
One of Shondrella's favorite items is
from South Africa but she found it on the Internet. It's a 2' tall
wooden mask, out of which bronze spears pour water into a bowl.
"It's a fountain," Avery said, "with three tiers cascading down into
the bowl. We have it on a table in the den. What makes it so
interesting, other than the water, is the fact that the face is
without expression. His eyes are closed."
Other items in the couple's collection
* Two bench chairs, both purchased in Mexico. One is
long and skinny, like a park bench, with lots of imperfections and
made of dark cherrywood. The other is a curved wood piece, like
bamboo, only made from a dark hardwood.
* An enormous mask from a
Zulu tribe in Africa that stands 6'3" tall. The piece rests on the
floor and leans against a wall in a corner. It's a full-face mask,
with white dots on it.
* A small Nigerian doll, wooden, with
braided hair. It was a gift from Ade. "The doll symbolizes a true
warrior, a Nubian queen of the Yoruba tribe," Shondrella said,
adding, "Ade is from the Yoruba tribe."
* A mask about 18" tall
from the Igbo tribe in Nigeria. "Ade bought it in Nigeria," Avery
said. "He had it carved from one of the trunks of a timber
* A Zulu bow and arrow set, with five arrows. This is
displayed in a case, and Shondrella believes it's over 100 years
old. "The wood is worn and old-looking, so you know it was used,"
she said. "We actually purchased it from a museum in
The Zulu family that consigned it was
from an impoverished village. We were told they they were in
financial need. So we bid on it and I think we paid something like
"People who visit my home are astounded,"
Avery said. "Our house is furnished in a very traditional way, but
the objects we display - our collection - is bigger than life and
very eclectic. We're selective about what we acquire, though.
There's love and a positive spirit behind everything in our
collection. None of it is intimidating or suggestive of voodoo,
although there is a lot of that available."
Shondrella Avery was born in South
Central Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. Her unusual upbringing - being
the oldest of ten and part of a huge extended foster family -
inspired her to write and perform a one-woman show called "Ain't I
Enough" that aired on HBO. Avery is a graduate of Los Angeles County
High School for the Arts and holds a B.A. in Fine Arts from Cal
Shondrella is a member of the famed
Groundlings improvisational comedy troupe and has also performed
with Second City. Past television credits include "The Jamie Foxx
Show," "For Your Love," "Cedric the Entertainer Presents," "Martin,"
"Living Single" and "Strong Medicine." Her feature films include
"Watermelon Heist" (with John Amos), Showtime's "Catfish and Gumbo"
For the past five seasons, Avery has been
a star on Oxygen's "Girls Behaving Badly," a TV show that she
describes as "'Candid Camera' meets 'Sex and the City.'" It's a
reality program in which pranks are caught on camera. About three
years ago, she also took on the role of "Candy," a manicurist, in
the UPN series "One on One." She reprises the role in a new spinoff
Avery is probably best known for her work
in the indie film "Napoleon Dynamite," which has become something of
a cult favorite since its release last year. For her part as
"LaFawnduh Lucas," Shondrella accepted a payment of just $82.50. "My
agent thought I was nuts, but I wanted that part," she said. "The
movie is all about rooting for the underdog and with my background,
I could relate."
Avery recently completed a film titled
"Domino," in which she plays Macy Gray's twin. The Tony Scott
feature is an action thriller (based on a true story) about a woman
bounty hunter named Domino. It stars Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke,
Lucy Liu, Mena Suvari and Christopher Walken. The picture was
released by New Line Cinema. Shondrella also keeps busy with
Fans of Shondrella Avery may write to the
star c/o Sharp & Associates, 8721 Sunset Blvd., Ste. 208, Los
Angeles, CA 90069.
Shondrella isn't only
she's statuesque at 6' tall.
This is the male half of
warrior couple, both bronze
and life-size, with
They were made in Ghana.
This is one of
smaller wooden masks - only 3' high. Her husband,
Ade, bought it for her in Nigeria.
Bronze horse, measuring
tall, depicted in full gallop.
South African-made 2'
tall wooden mask, out of which bronze spears pour water into a
Shondrella and her
husband bought this bow and arrow set (about 100 years old) from a
museum in Africa. The
consignor was Zulu.
Avery purchased this
beautiful ornate chair at a consignment
shop in Los
Shondrella, as "LaFawnduh
Lucas," prepares to exchange wedding vows with
"Kip Dynamite" in
the hit film "Napoleon Dynamite."