The Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) has inducted Jamaican American actress Sheryl Lee Ralph into its “Wall of Fame” in commemoration of National Caribbean American Heritage Month celebrations.
Ralph was born in Waterbury, Conn., the daughter of Ivy, a fashion designer, and Stanley Ralph, a college professor.
Her father was African-American and her mother Afro-Jamaican, ICS said, adding that Ralph was raised between Mandeville, Jamaica, and Long Island.
Ralph, who attended Uniondale High School in Uniondale, New York, starred in a high-school production of the musical Oklahoma!, portraying Ado Annie, ICS said. She graduated in 1972.
Earlier that year, ICS said Ralph was crowned Miss Black Teen-age New York.
At 19, Ralph was the youngest woman to ever graduate from Rutgers University in N.J., ICS said.
During her time at Rutgers, it said, Ralph was one of the earliest winners of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships, awarded by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Also, that year, ICS said Ralph was named one of the top 10 college women in America by Glamour magazine.
“Initially, she hoped to study medicine; but, after dealing with cadavers in a pre-med class and winning a scholarship in a competition at the American College Theater Festival, she gave up medicine for the performing arts,” ICS said.
Many years later, it said, she served as the commencement speaker at Rutgers for the Class of 2003.
ICS said Ralph began her career on the stage, and was nominated in 1982 for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Deena Jones in “Dreamgirls.”
Her long career on stage, screen and television has seen her play a wide variety of roles. Most recently, in 2011, Ralph guest-starred in the Young Justice episode “Terrors” as Amanda Waller, ICS said.
Two years later, she Ralph appeared in the NBC television show “Smash” as Cynthia, the mother of Jennifer Hudson’s character, ICS said.
In Aug. 2014, ICS said she appeared on KTLA Los Angeles Morning News as a fill-in entertainment reporter.
In November 2014, Ralph also appeared on “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn” as the rich lady who claims her dog from Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn, ICS said.
It said she recently starred in the “Claws” series as one of the leading actresses. She has also recently played the grandmother in the sitcom “Instant Mom” on Nickelodeon, ICS said.
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