'RIP Queen' Diahann Caroll: Jennifer Hudson, Dionne Warwick and More Celebrities Mourn Late Icon
"She blazed trails through dense forests and elegantly left diamonds along the path for the rest of us to follow," wrote Ava Duvernay
Hollywood is remembering trailblazing “icon” Diahann Carroll.
On Friday, the legendary and award-winning actress — widely known for her TV show Julia, as well as her roles on Dynasty and Grey’s Anatomy —died of cancer in Los Angeles, her daughter, Suzanne Kay, confirmed to PEOPLE. She was 84.
Following news of her death, an outpouring of celebrities and members of the entertainment industry paid tribute to Carroll, including longtime close friend and fellow artist Dionne Warwick, director Ava Duvernay, actor David Alan Grier and singer Jennifer Hudson.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Warwick, 78, said, “My personal world has taken a downward spiral. Losing my dear friend and Mentor comes as a true hurt to my heart!! I know I’ll miss her as I’m certain all that knew her will. Rest In Peace my dear friend.”
Duvernay, 47, tweeted alongside multiple black-and-white photos of Carroll throughout the years: “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.”
Grier, 63, posted on Twitter, “Rest In Peace Queen Diahann Caroll! Your work is done. The battle is over. You’ve earned your seat on the throne. Thank you for teaching me, walking with me, and showing me your grace, wisdom, artistry and charm. You will be missed.”
In honor of the late star, Hudson, 38, shared two side-by-side photos on Instagram of herself and Carroll, who both sported short pixie cuts in the snaps.
“One of my cast members told me that I resemble a young Diahann carol,” said Hudson. “Beyonce was the first person to ever tell me that . So I thought I’d take a look!”
Other stars including Robin Thede, Marg Helgenberger, Tika Sumpter and Mitzi Gaynor honored the actress with touching posts and throwback photos on Twitter.
Born Carol Diahann Johnson to subway motorman John and nurse Mabel Johnson in the Bronx, New York, Carroll grew up in Harlem, where her family moved when she was an infant. Carroll started her career at 15, modeling for Essence magazine but her heart was in performing: “I always knew I had to do something that was in front of an audience,” Carroll told PEOPLE in 2008.
After graduating from New York’s High School of Music and Art, she briefly attended New York University to study child psychology. Those plans changed in 1954 when she won $3,000 on a TV talent show called Chance of a Lifetime. Singing engagements at prominent New York nightclubs soon followed, along with her Broadway and film debuts that same year: Carroll starred in the musical House of Flowers and had a supporting role opposite Dorothy Dandridge in the film Carmen Jones.
Carroll’s other prominent film roles during that time period include Clara in 1959’s Porgy and Bess starring Sidney Poitier, Dandridge and Sammy Davis Jr. and Connie Lampson in 1961’s Paris Blues, opposite Poitier, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Also during that time Carroll and Poitier began a nine-year love affair, though both were married when they met: Carroll to her first husband, record producer Monte Kay, and Poitier to his first wife, model Juanita Hardy.
Carroll’s professional career continued to flourish in groundbreaking fashion. In 1962 she won the best actress Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway musical No Strings — a first for a black woman. Her trailblazing continued in 1968 when she became the first black star to play a role other than that of a domestic worker on her own TV series, Julia. The role earned her a Golden Globe for best actress in a television series in 1968 and an Emmy nomination for best actress in a comedy in 1969. She was the first black woman to receive the honor (she has since been followed by Nell Carter, Isabel Sanford, Phylicia Rashad and Tracee Ellis Ross).
In 1974, Carroll was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress for her turn in Claudine.
In 1983, she was the first black actress to replace a white actress in a dramatic role on Broadway in Agnes of God. And when she joined Dynasty in March of 1984, as the glamorous, jet-setting Dominique Deveraux, half-sister to Blake Carrington, Carroll became the first black person to star in a primetime soap. In 1986, she wrote an autobiography Diahann! with Ross Firestone.
Carroll told PEOPLE she found the pioneer label to be a complicated but tremendous blessing, particularly with regard to Julia. “The attention and responsibility were so stressful,” the actress-singer said in 2008. “But I’m enormously proud of that show.”