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Phylicia Rashad
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Phylicia Rashād (born Phylicia Ayers-Allen on June 19, 1948) is an American actress and singer, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show.

In 2004, Rashād became the first African-American actress to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, for her role in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun.

She resumed the role in the 2008 television adaption of A Raisin in the Sun, which earned her the 2009 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.

Biography

Rashād was born in Houston, Texas to Andrew Arthur Allen (d. 1984) and Vivian Ayers (for whom the mother in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was named). Arthur was a dentist and orthodontist. Vivian was a Pulitzer-prize nominated artist, poet, playwright, and publisher. Rashād's siblings are jazz-musician brother Tex (Andrew Arthur Allen Jr, born 1945), sister Debbie Allen (1950), an actress, choreographer, and director, and brother Hugh Allen (a real estate banker in North Carolina). While Rashād was growing up, her family moved to Mexico and as a result, Rashād speaks Spanish fluently.

She graduated from Howard University, where she later taught drama, and is a member of Campus Pals and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Rashād first became notable on the stage with a string of Broadway credits, including Deena Jones in Dreamgirls (she was Sheryl Lee Ralph's understudy until she left the show in 1982 after Rashad was passed over as Ralph's full-time replacement) and playing a Munchkin in The Wiz. In 1978, she released the album Josephine Superstar, a disco Concept album telling the life story of Josephine Baker. The album was mainly written and produced by Jacques Morali and Rashād's second husband Victor Willis, original lead singer and lyricist of the Village People. She met Willis while they were both cast in The Wiz. Rashād received another career boost when she joined the cast of the ABC soap opera One Life to Live in 1983.

Theatrical credits

Broadway credits include August: Osage County, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Gem of the Ocean, Raisin in the Sun (2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play/Drama Desk Award), Blue, Jelly's Last Jam, Into the Woods, Dreamgirls, The Wiz and Ain't Supposed To Die A Natural Death. Off-Broadway credits include Lincoln Center’s productions of Cymbeline and Bernarda Alba (musical); Helen, The Story and Everybody's Ruby at the Public Theater; The Negro Ensemble Company productions of Puppet Play, Zooman and the Sign, Sons and Fathers of Sons, In an Upstate Motel, Weep Not For Me, and The Great Mac Daddy; Lincoln Center's production of Ed Bullins' The Duplex; and The Sirens at the Manhattan Theatre Club. In regional theatre, she performed as Euripedes' Medea and in Blues for an Alabama Sky at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. Other regional theatres at which she has performed are the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and the Huntington Theatre in Boston.

In 2007, Rashad made her directorial debut with the Seattle Repertory Theatre’s production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean.

Work in film and television

Rashād is best known for another television role, that of attorney Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show. The show starred Bill Cosby as obstetrician Cliff Huxtable, and focused on their life with their five children.

When Cosby returned to TV comedy in 1996 with CBS's Cosby, he called on Rashād to play Ruth Lucas, his character's wife. The pilot episode had been shot with Telma Hopkins, but Cosby then fired the executive producer and replaced Hopkins with Rashād. The sitcom ran from 1996 to 2000. That year, Cosby asked Rashād to work on his animated television series Little Bill, in which the actress voiced Bill's mother, Brenda, until the show's end in 2002. She also played a role in the pre-show of the "Dinosaur" ride at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park.

In 2003, she was honored as Woman of the Year by the Harvard Black Men's Forum. In 2005, Rashād received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts (D.F.A.) degree from Brown University.

She played Kill Moves' affluent mother on Everybody Hates Chris on Sunday, December 9, 2007. In 2007 she appeared as Winnie Guster in the Psych episode Gus's Dad May Have Killed an Old Guy. She returned to the role in 2008, in the episode Christmas Joy.

In February 2008 she appeared in the television adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun. She starred on Broadway as Big Mama in an all-African American production of Tennessee Williams's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by her sister Debbie Allen. She appeared alongside stage veterans James Earl Jones (Big Daddy) and Anika Noni Rose (Maggie), as well as film actor Terrence Howard, who makes his Broadway debut as Brick. She will appear as Violet Weston, the drug-addicted matriarch of Tracy Lett's award-winning play, August: Osage County at the Music Box Theatre.

In November 2009 Phylicia starred in the Tyler Perry film, For Colored Girls, based upon the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange.

Awards

Rashād received two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, for The Cosby Show. She received an Emmy Award Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for A Raisin in the Sun in 2008.

In 2004, Rashād became the first African-American actress to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, for her role in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun.She was nominated for the same award the following year, for Gem of the Ocean.Also, the 2008 television adaption of A Raisin in the Sun earned her the 2009 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.

Personal life

Rashād's first marriage, in 1972, was to dentist William Lancelot Bowles, Jr. They had one son, William Lancelot Bowles III, who was born the following year. The marriage ended in 1975. Rashād then married Victor Willis (original lead singer of the Village People) in 1978. Their divorce was finalized in 1982.

She married former NFL wide receiver and sportscaster Ahmad Rashād on December 14, 1985. It was a third marriage for both of them and she took his last name. They were married after he proposed to her during a pregame show for a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day football game between the New York Jets and the Detroit Lions on November 28, 1985. Their daughter, Condola Phyleia Rashād, was born on December 11, 1986 in New York City. Along with her son, William, Rashād also has three stepchildren (Ahmad's from a previous marriage): daughters Keva (born in 1970) and Maiysha (born in 1974), and son Ahmad Jr. (born in 1978). The couple divorced in early 2001 but she kept the name Rashād.

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