Diahann Carroll (born July 17, 1935 in New York, New York) is an American actress and singer.
Having appeared some of the earliest major studio films to feature African-American casts such as Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess, she starred in 1968's Julia, one of the first series on American television to star an African American woman in a non-stereotypical role. Later she created the role of Dominique Deveraux on the popular prime time soap opera, Dynasty.
She is the recipient of numerous stage and screen awards and nominations. Carroll has been married four times and became the mother of a daughter in 1960. She is a breast cancer survivor and activist.
Carroll was born Carol Diahann Johnson in The Bronx, New York, to John Johnson and Mabel Faulk. Her family moved to the Harlem neighborhood of New York City when she was an infant. She attended Music & Art High School, along with schoolmate Billy Dee Williams.
At the age of 18, Carroll got her big break when she appeared as a contestant on the Dumont Television Network program, Chance of a Lifetime, hosted by Dennis James. On the show which aired January 8, 1954, Carroll took the $1,000 top prize for her rendition of the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein song, "Why Was I Born?" She went on to win the following four weeks. Engagements at Manhattan's Café Society and Latin Quarter nightclubs soon followed.
Strangely, Diahann did not have any charting hits during her recording career but her stage and screen exposure ensured that most of her releases enjoyed healthy sales.
Carroll's film debut was a supporting role in Carmen Jones (1954) as a friend of the sultry lead character. She then starred in the Broadway musical, House of Flowers. In 1959, she played Clara in the film version of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, but her character's singing parts were dubbed by opera singer Loulie Jean Norman. In 1962 she won the Tony Award for best actress (a first for a black woman) for the role of Barbara Woodruff in the Samuel A. Taylor and Richard Rodgers musical No Strings. In 1974 she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for Claudine.
Carroll is best known for her title role in the 1968 television series Julia, which made her the first African American actress to star in her own television series where she did not play a domestic worker. She was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1969, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress In A Television Series” in 1968. Her first Emmy nomination had come in 1963 for Naked City. Some of her other earlier work included appearances on shows hosted by Jack Paar, Merv Griffin, Johnny Carson, Judy Garland and Ed Sullivan, and on The Hollywood Palace variety show.
A renewed interest in film led Diahann to the dressed-down title role of Claudine (1974), as a Harlem woman raising six children on her own. She was nominated for an Oscar in 1975, but her acting career would become more and more erratic after this period. She did return, however, to the stage with productions of "Same Time, Next Year" and "Agnes of God". While much ado was made about her return to series work as a fashion-plate nemesis to Joan Collins' ultra-vixen character on the glitzy primetime soap Dynasty (1981), it became much about nothing as the juicy pairing failed to ignite. Diahann's character was also a part of the short-lived "Dynasty" spin-off The Colbys (1985). In 1986, Diahann Carroll published her memoirs, simply entitled "Diahann!".
Throughout the late 1980s and early 90s she toured with her fourth husband, singer Vic Damone, with occasional acting appearances to fill in the gaps. Some of her finest work came with TV-movies, notably her century-old Sadie Delany in Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years (1999) and as troubled singer Natalie Cole's mother in Livin' for Love: The Natalie Cole Story (2000). She also portrayed silent screen diva Norma Desmond in the musical version of "Sunset Blvd." and toured America performing classic Broadway standards in the concert show "Almost Like Being in Love: The Lerner and Loewe Songbook." Most recently she has had recurring roles on Grey's Anatomy (2005) and White Collar (2009).
In 2010, Carroll was featured in UniGlobe Entertainment's breast cancer docudrama entitled, 1 a Minute, and she appeared as Nana in two Lifetime movies: At Risk and The Front, movie adaptations of two Patricia Cornwell novels.
A breast cancer survivor and activist, Carroll was scheduled to return to the Broadway stage in the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun as Mama, but withdrew prior to opening citing the demands of the rehearsal and performance schedule. “Unfortunately I’ve been told to stop performing by my doctors,” said the velvet-voiced star of movie musicals during a Daily Express Interview. “I have acid reflux, which is very damaging to the vocal cords. I could spend all day every day and every dime I earn trying to correct it but I’ve had to accept it’s part of my ageing process. It’s a pain in the neck,” she says, pun intended.
“I can still sing in the shower but it’s not possible for me to perform for 90 minutes on stage any longer. I love singing and I miss it terribly.” (Info edited from Wikipedia & IMDB & Daily Express)