Julia. Claudine. Dominique. Marion. Eleanor. These are some of the iconic characters that the incredible Diahann Carroll embodied and etched in our collective hearts and minds. A career that spanned nearly 65 years is literally unheard of, but Diahann achieved it. She is the true definition of a multi-generational performer.
Ms.Carroll was the epitome of grace, class, and elegance. There was never a moment you saw a hair out of place. She was more than just a beautiful face. She was a powerful force and even more powerful actress. She broke barriers that the world had created. While every character she portrayed was indeed aesthetically beautiful she gave her characters license to be powerful and to have a voice. Whether it was leading a high powered boardroom as Dominique Devearaux on “Dynasty”, being the quintessential southern belle Marion Gilbert on “A Different World”, or hardworking single mother Claudine in the movie “Claudine” Ms. Carroll gave all her characters an
unapologetic voice. She helped teach the world that black woman are multifaceted, complex, and intelligent human beings. It was what black women needed and what the world needed to see.
Born Carol Diahann Johnson in the Bronx, Ms.Carroll always had entertainment in her
blood. She attended Music and Art High School with fellow entertainer Billy Dee Williams. At age 15, Ms.Carroll was modeling for Ebony Magazine and started entering and winning many local talent contests. in 1954 At age 18 she got her big break as a contestant on a talent show called “Chance of a Lifetime”. From that win she would start performing at various nightclubs in Manhattan and the Latin Quarter.
Later on in 1954 she would make her film debut in a supporting role opposite the legendary Dorothy Dandridge in “Carmen Jones”. Ms.Carroll also made her Broadway musical debut that same year in “House of Flowers”. From this point Ms.Carroll begun to land a host of roles and opportunities in film and Broadway that allowed her to work opposite actors like Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman, and Joanne Woodward. And in 1962 Ms. Carroll broke another barrier by becoming the first black actress to win a Tony Award for best actress for her work in the musical “No Strings”. She would later go on to be nominated for an Academy Award and Emmy Award. In 1968, Diahann won a Golden Globe Award for “Best Actress in A Television Series” for her work in “Julia”. Ms. Carroll would continue her work on screen throughout the years even having played roles on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “White Collar”.
Ms. Carroll’s trailblazing body of work paved the way for many black actresses from stage and screen. Because of the hard work and determination to be a great black actress women like Kerry Washington, Tracy Ellis Ross, Audra Macdonald, Taraji P. Henson, and Regina King can thank Ms. Diahann Carroll for opening the doors to winning the Tony, Golden Globe Emmy, and Academy Award.
Sadly on October 4, 2019 Ms. Carroll’s light was dimmed when she passed away after suffering with a long term bout with cancer. Although Ms. Carroll has transitioned on to a heavenly realm we will never forget the beautiful force she was and the gifts she gave to the world. — Thank you Diahann Carroll.