At age 15, she was subsequently discovered on her front-porch step by photographer Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, where Korine lauded her as being perfect for a part he had written in his screenplay that would become the controversial 1995 film Kids.She went on to star in varied roles, ranging from independent films to big budget blockbusters including Rent, He Got Game and Men in Black II.

Dawson also sits on the Board of Directors of Scenarios USA, which works to support a generation of reflective, outspoken, and confident youth through filmmaking and uses film to educate students through a variety of programs.

Due to the comedian’s tendency to pull pranks, many fans were initially skeptical about the validity of their relationship, which they then confirmed with more romantic photos.

In 2008, Dawson starred with Will Smith in Seven Pounds and in Eagle Eye, produced by Steven Spielberg.

Beginning in August, she starred in Gemini Division, an online TV series.

She is also featured on the track "She Lives In My Lap" from the second disc of the Out Kast album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, in which she speaks the intro and a brief interlude towards the end.

In 2001, she appeared in the movie, Josie and the Pussycats.

The following year, she reprised her role as Gail in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Presidential Election Dawson endorsed US Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein, saying she could not support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, as she felt they were for the elites.

In 2015, she played Claire Temple in the TV series Daredevil, a role which she reprised in Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. and supports other charities such as environmental group Global Cool, the ONE Campaign, Operation USA, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the International Rescue Committee, Voto Latino, In October 2008, Dawson became a spokeswoman for Trip Advisor.com's philanthropy program, More Than Footprints, Conservation International, Doctors Without Borders, National Geographic Society, The Nature Conservancy, and Save The Children.

In May of the same year, Dawson, an avid comic book fan, co-created the comic book miniseries Occult Crimes Taskforce.