Born in the _ and raised in _! If the two towns involved in the equation are the Bronx and Harlem a uniquely flavored individual will surely manifest. Add to that an extraordinary talent and at the very least a superstar will blossom. As a case study let’s examine a life of a young woman that began on July 17, 1935. She was armed with a supportive family that believed in a strong education as a base; her parents still found the value in extracurricular activities and enrolled her in classes that enhanced the arts. That resulted in her landing a job modeling for a HUGE publication, Ebony Magazine, by 15 years old! For some that would be a highlight in life. For Carol Diahann Johnson it was a pit stop in what would be trailblazing career under her professional moniker Diahann Carroll. Bit parts on television shows and films were soon parlayed into a Tony Award in 1962 for Best Actress for portraying Barbara Woodruff in the Samuel A. Taylor and Richard Rodgers musical “No Strings.” The first time a Black woman hoisted that trophy. Another first would soon follow that in the medium of television. In the series “Julia,” her depiction of a beautiful, young, professional, widowed mother broke the mold of roles routinely attached to African American women. Although she didn’t win, in 1969 she was the first African American woman nominated for an Emmy Award as a lead actress in a comedy series, but that same year she did secure the Golden Globe Award as Best TV Star Female. For many, Julia Baker was known as her titular character. Others are of the opinion that distinction should go to “Claudine.” That vehicle, co-starred with James Earl Jones, has gone on to become a cult classic and favored by many generations over. Her portrayal was so strong that not only was she nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1974, but it also held its own against the classic Curtis Mayfield produced, Gladys Knight and The Pips performed classic soundtrack. Now
Diahann Carroll passed away on Oct. 4, right on the cusp of a groundbreaking event scheduled to take place one night later in Atlanta. Filmmaker /mogul Tyler Perry celebrated the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios, a venture that he owns outright. HIS! The celebration of the 330 acre lot included the dedications of the various soundstages named after entertainment icons. The names included Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Harry Belafonte, John Singleton, Della Reese, Sir Sidney Poitier, Cicely Tyson, Spike Lee, Halle Berry, Whoopi Goldberg, Denzel Washington and Diahann Carroll.
Luminaries galore shared their feelings of the loss:
“Thanks for helping clear the path for me and so many others. I was honored to salute you as a Legend then, now and Forever.” —Oprah Winfrey
“Diahann Carroll you taught us so much. We are stronger, more beautiful and risk takers because of you. We will forever sing your praises and speak your name. Love Love Love!” —Debbie Allen
“Diahann Carroll walked this earth for 84 years and broke ground with every footstep. An icon. One of the all-time greats. She blazed trails through dense forests and elegantly left diamonds along the path for the rest of us to follow. Extraordinary life. Thank you, Ms. Carroll.” —Ava DuVernay
“Diahann Carroll was a transformative force for freedom. She identified with Dr. King in the Civil Rights Movement with a simple kiss. She brought down ancient barriers & built bridges. She left the world better than she found it. We are in her debt. We miss her so much already. RIP.” —the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
Over and out. Holla next week. Until then, enjoy the nightlife.