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Sheryl Lee Ralph

Sheryl Lee Ralph

American actress-singer
Sheryl Lee Ralph
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American actress-singer
Is Actor Television actor Stage actor
From United States of America
Type Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender female
Birth 30 December 1956, Waterbury
Age 63 years
Spouse: Vincent Hughes
The details


Sheryl Lee Ralph (born December 30, 1956) is an American actress, singer, and activist. She made her screen debut in the 1977 comedy film A Piece of the Action, before landing her breakthrough role as Deena Jones in the Broadway musical Dreamgirls (1981), for which she received Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.
Ralph has appeared in a number of movies during her career. In 1991, she received Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female for her role in the drama film To Sleep with Anger. Her other film credits include The Mighty Quinn (1989), The Distinguished Gentleman (1992), Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), and Deterrence (1999). On television, Ralph starred from 1986 to 1989 in the syndicated sitcom It's a Living, and later had the leading roles in the short-lived ABC sitcom New Attitude (1990), and CBS medical drama Street Gear (1995). From 1996 to 2001, she starred as Dee Mitchell in the UPN sitcom Moesha, and from 2013 to 2015 as Maggie Turner in the Nick at Nite sitcom Instant Mom.
Sheryl Lee Ralph released her first book Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original Dreamgirl (2012) by Simon & Schuster. In 2016 she played Madame Morrible in Wicked on Broadway.

Early life

Ralph was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the daughter of Ivy, a fashion designer, and Stanley Ralph, a college professor. Her father was African-American and her mother Afro-Jamaican. According to a DNA analysis, she descends partly from the Tikar people of Cameroon. She was raised between Mandeville, Jamaica, and Long Island. Ralph attended Uniondale High School in Uniondale, NY. She starred in a high-school production of the musical Oklahoma!, portraying Ado Annie. Sheryl graduated in 1972. Earlier that year, she was crowned Miss Black Teen-age New York. At 19, Ralph was the youngest woman to ever graduate from Rutgers University; during her time at Rutgers, 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 she was named one of the top ten 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. Many years later, she served as the commencement speaker at Rutgers for the Class of 2003.


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. In 1984, Ralph released her only album In the Evening, in which the title track peaked at #6 on the Billboard Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart that same year. In 1988 she starred in the Disney movie Oliver & Company, providing the voice of Rita. Her first leading role in a film came as Denzel Washington's wife in The Mighty Quinn, released in 1989. In 1992 she starred with Robert De Niro in the title role in Mistress. That same year, she co-starred with Eddie Murphy in The Distinguished Gentleman. During the 1990s she also had roles in The Flintstones, Deterrence, and Unconditional Love.

On television, she was in the cast of the CBS daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow while starring on Broadway in Dreamgirls. She is known for playing Ginger St. James on It's a Living, Etienne Toussaint-Bouvier on Designing Women, and Dee Mitchell on Moesha. She provided the voice of Cheetah in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. She also played Florence Watson, the mother of Rita Louise Watson (Lauryn Hill) in the 1993 film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Ralph produced Divas Simply Singing, which has become an important AIDS fundraiser. She also appeared on the Showtime series Barbershop as Claire. Sheryl brought a new face to the sufferings of war in the NBC hit series ER. Ralph's 2002 project Baby of the Family concerns a young child who is born with a caul over her head, which enables her to see ghosts and the future. Ralph was also featured with son Etienne on MTV's My Super Sweet 16 and BET's Baldwin Hills, as well as an episode of Clean House that also featured her two children, Etienne and Ivy-Victoria (aka Coco), named after Ralph's mother.

On June 16, 2009, it was announced that Ralph would join the cast of the Broadway-bound musical The First Wives Club as Elyse. She replaced Adriane Lenox, who withdrew from the show due to health concerns. In 2011, Ralph guest-starred in the Young Justice episode "Terrors" as Amanda Waller. In 2013, Ralph appeared in the NBC television show Smash as Cynthia, the mother of Jennifer Hudson's character. On February 9, 2013, Ralph appeared at the 2013 Columbus Middle School youth rally in Columbus, Mississippi. In August 2014, she appeared on KTLA Los Angeles Morning News as a fill-in Entertainment Reporter. In November 2014, Ralph appeared on Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn as the rich lady who claims her dog from Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn.

Personal life

Ralph is married to Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes. In June 2000, Ralph sued The National Enquirer for one million dollars over a piece they had written about her and her former husband Eric. In July 2004, Ralph was inducted as an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority at the 47th National Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. In May 2008, Ralph was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Tougaloo College after giving the commencement address.



Year Title Role Notes
1977 A Piece of the Action Barbara Hanley
1988 Oliver & Company Rita Voice
1989 The Mighty Quinn Lola Quinn
1989 Skin Deep Receptionist
1990 To Sleep with Anger Linda Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female
1992 Mistress Beverly
1992 The Distinguished Gentleman Miss Loretta
1993 Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit Florence Watson
1994 The Flintstones Mrs. Pyrite
1995 White Man's Burden Roberta
1995 Lover's Knot Charlotte
1996 Bogus Ruth Clark
1997 Jamaica Beat Sylvia Jones
1998 The Easter Story Keepers Risa
1999 Personals Chantal
1999 Unconditional Love Linda Cray
1999 Deterrence Gayle Redford Nominated — Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress
2000 Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel Nurse
2002 Baby of the Family Mamie
2007 Frankie D Mama
2010 The Cost of Heaven Paulette
2010 Blessed and Cursed Lady Wright
2012 Christmas in Compton Abuta
2012 He Knows My Heart First Lady Jameson Short film
2017 Revival!
2017 Villa Capri


  • Good Times (1978) - J.J and the Plumber's Helper.
  • Wonder Woman (1979)
  • The Neighborhood (1982)
  • Search for Tomorrow (cast member from 1983–1984)
  • V: The Series (1984)
  • Code Name: Foxfire (1985) (canceled after a few episodes)
  • Hunter (1985–1986) - The Return of Typhoon Thompson episode.
  • Pros and Cons (1986)
  • It's a Living (cast member from 1986–1989)
  • Sister Margaret and the Saturday Night Ladies (1987)
  • New Attitude (1990) (canceled after a few episodes)
  • The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991)
  • Designing Women (cast member from 1992–1993)
  • George (1993) (canceled after a few episodes)
  • Witch Hunt (1994)
  • Moesha (1996–2001)
  • Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (Season 3, Episode 14 "What Price Harvey)"
  • The Jennie Project (2001)
  • Justice League (2001) - Cheetah
  • Da Kink in My Hair (2004)
  • BarberShop: The Series (2005)
  • Flavor of Love 3 (2008) - Guest Star
  • My Super Sweet 16 (2008)
  • Hannah Montana (2008)
  • Baldwin Hills - (recurring, Etienne's Mom, season 3, 2009)
  • Zevo-3 (2010–11)
  • Young Justice (2011) - Amanda Waller
  • Tyler Perry's House of Payne (2011) - Felicia Starr
  • Smash (2013) - Cynthia
  • Ray Donovan (2013) - Claudette
  • Instant Mom (2013-2015) - Maggie Turner (Main Role)
  • 2 Broke Girls (2014) - Genet Bromberg (ep "And the Not Broke Parents")
  • RuPaul's Drag Race (2014) - Shade The Rusical (ep 4 as a Guest Judge)
  • Criminal Minds (2016) - Hayden Montgomery ("Inner Beauty" and "The Storm")

Stage Work

  • Reggae (1980)
  • Swing (1980)
  • Dreamgirls (1981)
  • Identical Twins from Baltimore (1987)
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002)
  • Applause (2005)
  • The First Wives Club (2009)
  • Wicked (2016)



In the Evening (1984, The New York Music Company)

  1. "You're So Romantic" (4:38)
  2. "In the Evening" (3:50)
  3. "Give Me Love" (3:34)
  4. "Evolution" (4:02)
  5. "Back to Being in Love" (3:01)
  6. "Be Somebody" (3:35)
  7. "I'm Your Kind of Girl" (3:55)
  8. "B.A.B.Y." (3:15)
  9. "Ready or Not" (3:46)
  10. "I'm So Glad That We Met" (3:56)

Produced and arranged by Trevor Lawrence


  • "When I First Saw You" (1983) - US R&B #50
  • "In the Evening" (1984) - US Hot Dance Music/Club Play Singles #6; UK #64
  • "You're So Romantic" (1985) - US Club Play #37; US R&B #84
  • "In the Evening" (remix) (1997) Australia #17
  • "Evolution" (remix) (1998)
  • "Here Comes the Rain Again" (1999) (cover of Eurythmics song) - US Club Play #37; US R&B #44
Title Year Peak chart positions Album
"When I First Saw You" 1983 non-album single
"In the Evening" 1984 16 18 64 In the Evening
"You're So Romantic" 1985
"In the Evening (Remix)" 1997 17 - - non-album single
"Evolution (Remix)" 1998 non-album single
"Here Comes the Rain Again" 1999 non-album single

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