Phylicia Rashad was born Phylicia Allen on June 19, 1948, in Houston, Texas. Her father, Andrew Allen, was a dentist. Her mother, Vivian Ayers, was a poet and playwright who had been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She grew up in Texas alongside her siblings. Her sister, Debbie Allen, is a well-known dancer and actress. Her brother, “Tex” Arthur Allen, Jr., is a jazz musician.
Allen graduated from high school in 1965. From there, she attended Howard University in Washington D.C. She studied theater. She graduated magna cum laude in 1970 with a Bachelor’s in fine arts. By 1972, she married William Lancelot Bowles. They had a son together. The couple divorced by 1975.
Shortly after her divorce, Allen moved to New York. There, she began her Broadway career. Some of her earliest roles include Deena Jones in Dreamgirls and a munchkin in The Wiz. In 1978, she married Victor Willis, the original lead singer of the Village People. Willis helped Allen record her album, Josephine Superstar, which told the story of Josephine Baker.
Allen and Willis divorced in 1982. The following year, she began her TV career with a role on the ABC soap opera, One Life to Live. In 1984, she was cast in her most iconic role to date, Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show. She played Cosby’s TV wife and a successful attorney. The show lasted for eight years and she won two Emmy Award nominations for her performance.
In 1985, Allen married former NFL athlete, Ahmad Rashad. She adopted his last name and has kept it even though their marriage ended in 2001. In 1996, Rashad returned to television in Bill Cosby’s sitcom, Cosby. The show ran for four seasons and ultimately ended in 2000.
Return to the Stage
As Cosby neared its finale, Rashad returned to the stage. She portrayed poet and playwright Zora Neale Hurston in the 1999 Broadway drama, Everybody’s Ruby. In 2004, she acted in the revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. She became the first Black woman in America to win a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Broadway play.
At the age of 70, Phylicia Rashad continues to act. She has acted in various stage plays, TV shows, and films. She acted in the television adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun and won another Emmy nomination for her performance. Most recently, she has also acted in films, like Creed and Creed II which is in post-production right now.
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