Neal was born on March 14, 1966 in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of a nurse and a construction worker. She attended Lakeview Elementary. She was a ballet dancer and a cheerleader. She broke her left wrist in a high toss cheerleading stunt; after the bones healed, her wrist never straightened back out completely. She graduated from Overton High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. From 1984–1988, she attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Elise left college after two years and moved to New York City where she landed roles in musical theater and found herself traveling the world with various touring companies. Her experience in musical theater allowed her to easily transition into commercials, eventually bringing her to Los Angeles.
One of her earliest jobs was as a background dancer in Chubb Rock's music video for "Just the Two of Us." Once in Los Angeles, Neal landed the role of "Janice Sinclair" on the ABC soap opera Loving. Shortly after she made the leap to primetime on seaQuest 2032, as fighter pilot Lieutenant J.J. Fredericks.
Her breakout role was being cast as Yvonne Hughley, the wife of D.L. Hughley in the ABC/UPN sitcom The Hughleys. Premiering on ABC to high ratings, The Hughleys aired for two years there before moving to UPN, where it lasted another three years. While on The Hughleys, Neal was cast the high-profile role of Hallie in Scream 2, the second installment in the Scream film series. Her character, Hallie, was originally written to be one of the killers of the movie, but due to a script leak her role was changed. Neal also appeared as a backing dancer in the music video for Dannii Minogue's 1993 single This Is It, alongside actor Julian McMahon and taken from Minogue's then 2nd album Get into You, which was successful internationally during the early 1990s and one of Minogue's signature tracks.
Her film debut was a starring role in John Singleton's Rosewood. Other film credits include: Paid in Full, Money Talks, Mission to Mars and Restaurant. Neal's newest film, 4 Life, also starring Wood Harris, hit stores July 3, 2007. This project also marks her first soundtrack single, "I'm Down Baby", produced by Hustle & Flow's award-winning songwriter. She also appeared in the series K-Ville, which starred Anthony Anderson and Cole Hauser. Neal will also be seen in Ransom Games, playing a wife forced to negotiate for the safe return of her husband.
Neal and the rest of the cast of Hustle & Flow were nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award for best ensemble, an NAACP award for Best Picture, and won as Best Cast at the "Young Hollywood" awards. She has three NAACP award nominations: Best Actress in a Comedy for The Hughleys twice and a Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for Hustle and Flow.
Neal appeared in numerous music videos including Dannii Minogue's 1993 video for "This Is It", Black Sheep's 1992 video for "Strobelight Honey", Father MC's 1991 video for "Lisa Baby", Aretha Franklin's 1998 video for "A Rose Is Still a Rose", 50 Cent's 2007 unreleased video for "Follow My Lead", Vanessa Williams's video "Work to Do", Portrait's "Honey Dip" music video, as well as Chubb Rock's music video "Just the Two of Us" and Trick Daddy's "I'm a Thug". Neal has also been featured on the cover of the November 2007 edition of King Magazine.
Expanding her role as producer, Neal is creating and developing several multimedia projects: a reality show based on her R & B group, "Assorted Flavors", a fitness and lifestyle brand, and multiple feature projects through her development deal with Mandalay Bay Entertainment. In 2013, she starred in the sitcom Belle's.
Neal played Kathryn Munson in the superhero film Logan, which was released on March 3, 2017.Tales (2017)Scandal (2012)The Soul Man (2012–13)A.N.T. Farm (2011)Private Practice (2009)My Manny (2009)K-Ville (2007)The War at Home (2006-2008)CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2005)Method & Red (2004)All of Us (2003–2005)A.S.U.A (2003)The Hughleys (1998–2003)Fantasy Island (1998)The Wayans Bros (1998)The Steve Harvey Show (1996)Living Single (1996)ABC Afterschool Special (1996)SeaQuest 2032 (1995–1996)Chicago Hope (1995)Loving (cast member in 1994)The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1994)Hangin' with Mr. Cooper (1993–1995)Family Matters (1993)Tales of the City (1993) (TV movie)Law & Order (1992)