Sheryl Lee Ralph's Life in Photos

From Dreamgirls and Moesha to Abbott Elementary, Sheryl Lee Ralph's illustrious career spans four decades. See the legendary actress' life in photos

01 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph's Early Life

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 26: Moesha. A UPN (United Paramount Network) television family sitcom. Premiere episode broadcast January 26, 1996. Pictured is Sheryl Lee Ralph (as Dee Mitchell). (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Sheryl Lee Ralph was born on Dec. 30, 1956, in Waterbury, Connecticut. She was raised between Jamaica and New York.

After completing her secondary education at Uniondale High School, Ralph attended New Jersey's Rutgers University, where she received her BFA.

02 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph's Career Strides

Sheryl Lee Ralph, circa 1985. (Photo by Getty Images)

Though most people know her as Dee from Moesha, Ralph had some solid work under her belt before she scored the role.

According to IMDb, her career actually dates back to the 1970s, when she played Barbara Hanely in 1977's A Piece of the Action, directed by Sidney Poitier. She also had some small roles in iconic TV shows such as Good Times, Wonder Woman and The Jeffersons.

03 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph: Performer Extraordinaire

Sheryl Lee Ralph during 11th Annual Divas:Simply Singing! at Wilshire Ebel Theater in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by J. P. Aussenard/WireImage)
J. P. Aussenard/WireImage

Ralph also became a force to be reckoned with on Broadway. In 1981, she played Deena in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls, a role that decades later, Beyoncé would portray on screen.

Ralph took home the Tony Award for best actress in a musical for her portrayal of the embattled singer.

04 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph's Dreamy Throwback

NEW YORK CITY - SEPTEMBER 14: Actress Loretta Devine, actor Sylvester Stallone and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph backstage after a performance of the Broadway musical "Dreamgirls" on September 14, 1982 at the Imperial Theatre in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Sylvester Stallone visited Ralph and fellow Dreamgirls star Loretta Devine after a performance of the hit show on Broadway in 1982.

05 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph: '90s Sitcom Queen

Sheryl Lee Ralph, Brandy Norwood, William Allen Young
Ralph (left) with Brandy and their co-star William Allen Young in the 1990s sitcom Moesha. Everett

In 1996, Ralph became a series regular on the teen sitcom Moesha, playing Dee Mitchell, Brandy's stepmom.

Though the show ran for six seasons, the award-winning actress exited after five, after a dramatic plot twist that saw her onscreen husband Frank (William Allen Young) reveal that he secretly had a son, Dorian (played by Brandy's real-life little brother, Ray J).

"That was another incredible working environment until it wasn't any longer," Ralph told the AV Club in 2022. "I was free to be an artist. It was a great learning experience for me, and an incredibly human one, as well"

She continued, "One of the greatest lessons I ever learned from it was knowing when it's time to leave the room. I believe in the power of a warm and wonderful Black family, because it is something we do not get to see enough. And for them to take that family and literally just ruined the family by calling the father a liar [by revealing past infidelity] ... why do this? Why destroy this family?"

She alluded that there were some people in the background pushing for a scandalous storyline. "There were people within the group that said, 'Oh no, we've got to destroy it because these people are just too goody-goody. We don't have Black people like that.' They had drank the Kool-Aid. But oh my, when it was good, it was great."

06 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph at the Tony Awards

Sheryl Lee Ralph during 56th Annual Tony Awards - Arrivals at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
Jim Spellman/WireImage

Ralph struck a pose and showed off her gorgeous smile while at the 56th Tony Awards in 2002.

07 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph's Curtain Call

Seen here at curtian call with Sheryl Lee Ralph, Meredith Vieira, The View co-host, made her Broadway debut in the roll of Daphne, the dish washer and speed tappist, in the Tony Award winning Musical Thoroughly Modern Millie as a part of Fan Appreciation Week / Greetings From Broadway Event organized by the League of America Theatres and Poducers (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Ralph supported former The View co-host Meredith Vieira as she made her Broadway debut playing Daphne, the dish washer, in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Vieira's brief stint was part of Fan Appreciation Week / Greetings From Broadway Event organized by the League of American Theatres (now The Broadway League) and Producers.

08 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph's Family Life

HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 07: Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph (C) and children Ivy-Victoria Maurice (L) and Etienne Maurice attend the premiere of Broad Green Pictures' "Just Getting Started" at ArcLight Hollywood on December 7, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/WireImage)
Allen Berezovsky/WireImage

In 1990, Ralph married French entrepreneur and businessman Eric Maurice. The two welcomed two children, Etienne, now 31, and Ivy-Victoria, now 28.

Ralph and Maurice divorced in 2001.

09 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph Finds Love Again

US actress Sheryl Lee Ralph (L) and husband Vincent Hughes attend the premiere of "Abbott Elementary" at The Disney Studios - Lot in Burbank, California on December 4, 2021. (Photo by Michael Tran / AFP) (Photo by MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

After her divorce, a friend introduced the actress to Pennsylvania state senator Vincent Hughes. The two began dating and were married in 2005.

"We believe in each other's mission and each other's work, and we're both very focused on our children and our family," Hughes told Essence of his relationship with the legendary actress. "I think that really is the foundation. I like what Sheryl's about."

10 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph: Charitable Diva

HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) son, Etienne Maurice, Sheryl Lee Ralph, daughter, Ivy-Victoria Maurice and husband/Senator Vincent Hughes attend Sheryl Lee Ralph's 27th Annual DIVAS Simply Singing event at Taglyan Cultural Complex on December 9, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Robin L Marshall/Getty Images)
Robin L Marshall/Getty

Ralph took her whole family to her annual DIVAS Simply Singing event in 2017.

She founded the DIVA (Divinely Inspired, Victoriously Aware) Foundation in 1990 in an effort to raise awareness and remove the stigma connected to the AIDS virus.

11 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph: Emmy Award Winner

Sheryl Lee Ralph accepts the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series award for "Abbott Elementary" on stage during the 74th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Microsoft Theater on September 12, 2022.
Chris Haston/NBC via Getty

In 2022, Ralph added Emmy Award-winning actress to her long list of accolades.

The then-65-year-old won outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for her role as Barbara Howard in Abbott Elementary.

12 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph: Fashion Queen

Sheryl Lee Ralph during 53rd Cannes Film Festical - amfAR's Cinema Against AIDS 2000 at Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France. (Photo by J. Vespa/WireImage)
J. Vespa/WireImage

While she's been wowing us on the red carpet since Abbott Elementary became a hit in 2021, the veteran actress has long been a fashionista, like when she stunned in a blue number at the 53rd Cannes Film Festival in 2000.

13 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph Now

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 15: Sheryl Lee Ralph attends the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza on January 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)
Emma McIntyre/Getty

And she's still going stylishly strong — with the help of her daughter.

During the 2023 SAG Awards, the 66-year-old actress revealed her daughter Ivy-Victoria is the mastermind behind her beautiful red carpet looks.

"My daughter, Ivy Coco, is my stylist, and has been my stylist since the beginning of the awards season. And I said to her, 'Coco, I need you to tell me what do I need?' And she said, 'Mommy, you've got to rise like a phoenix, but younger,' " the Golden Globe winner told PEOPLE & Entertainment Weekly.

She added: "She has been very intentional about making sure it is fresh, that it is relatable and it is about the now."

14 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph at the Super Bowl

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 12: Sheryl Lee Ralph performs "Lift Every Voice and Sing" before Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty

Rihanna's big comeback wasn't the only thing people were raving about at Super Bowl LVII.

Prior to the big game, Ralph wowed the crowd with a soulful rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

She was one of four incredible celeb performances of the night. Other acts included Chris Stapleton, who sang the national anthem, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds performing "America the Beautiful" and of course RiRi's Apple Music Super Bowl Halftime Show.

"These three songs put together ... To me, that shows a major effort by the NFL to be truly inclusive— to say we're going to represent all people on a day, Super Bowl Sunday, 200 million people coming together to sit and experience and hear," Ralph said at a press conference. "What a time, what a way to bring us all together."

15 of 15

Sheryl Lee Ralph and the 'Abbott Elementary' Cast

Chris Perfetti, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tyler James Williams, Quinta Brunson, Janelle James, Lisa Ann Walter and William Stanford Davis at the 29th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Fairmont Century Plaza on February 26, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images)
Gilbert Flores/Variety/Getty

The actress posed with her Abbott Elementary cast members after the gang won best ensemble in a comedy series at the 2023 SAG Awards, continuing their awards season hot streak.

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