Diahann Carroll

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Diahann Carroll
Photo by Carl Van Vechten, 1955.
Born Carol Diahann Johnson
(1935-07-17) July 17, 1935 (age 81)
The Bronx, New York, United States
Education Music & Art High School
New York University
Occupation Actress, Singer
Years active 1954–2014
Spouse(s) Monte Kay (m. 1956–63)
Fredde Glusman (m. 1973–73)
Robert DeLeon (m. 1975–77)
Vic Damone (m. 1987–96)
Children Suzanne Kay-Bamford (b. 1960)
Website http://diahanncarroll.net

Diahann Carroll (/dˈæn ˈkær.əl/) (born Carol Diahann Johnson, July 17, 1935) is an American television and stage actress and singer known for her performances in some of the earliest major studio films to feature black casts, including Carmen Jones (1954) and Porgy and Bess (1959) as well as on Broadway. Julia (1968) was one of the first series on American television to star a black woman in a nonstereotypical role and was followed by her portrayal of Dominique Deveraux in the primetime soap opera Dynasty over three seasons. She is the recipient of numerous stage and screen nominations and awards, including her 1968 Golden Globe Award for "Best Actress In A Television Series" in 1968.

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.[1]


Carroll was born in the Bronx, New York, to John Johnson, of Aiken, South Carolina, and Mabel (Faulk),[2] of Bladenboro, North Carolina. When Carroll was an infant, the family moved to Harlem, where she grew up. She attended Music and Art High School, and was a classmate of Billy Dee Williams. In many interviews about her childhood, Diahann Carroll recalls her parents' support of her and that they enrolled her in dance, singing, and modeling classes. By the time Diahann Carroll was 15, she was modeling for Ebony. She was tall, with a lean model's build. After graduating from high school, Diahann Carroll attended New York University, majoring in sociology.


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.[3]

Carroll's film debut was a supporting role in Carmen Jones (1954) as a rival to the sultry lead character, Dorothy Dandridge. That same year, she starred in the Broadway musical, House of Flowers. In 1959, she played Clara in the film version of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, but her character's singing parts were dubbed by opera singer Loulie Jean Norman. She made a guest appearance in the series Peter Gunn, in the 1960 episode "Sing a Song of Murder". She starred with Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman, and Joanne Woodward in the 1961 film Paris Blues. 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 and Sammy Davis, Jr. on The Hollywood Palace in 1968

Carroll is 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. That role won her the Golden Globe Award for "Best Actress In A Television Series" in 1968,[4] and a nomination for an Emmy Award in 1969, which TV Guide incorrectly claimed made her the first African American to earn an Emmy nomination.[5] Some of her 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.

In 1984, Carroll joined the nighttime soap opera Dynasty as the jetsetter Dominique Deveraux, half-sister of Blake Carrington. Her high-profile role on Dynasty also reunited her with schoolmate Billy Dee Williams, who briefly played her onscreen husband Brady Lloyd. Carroll remained on the show until 1987, simultaneously making several appearances on its short-lived spin-off, The Colbys. She received her third Emmy nomination in 1989 for the recurring role of Marion Gilbert in A Different World. In 1991, Carrol played the role of Eleanor Potter, the wife of Jimmy Potter, portrayed by Chuck Patterson, in The Five Heartbeats, a musical drama film in which Jimmy manages a vocal group. In this role, Carroll was a doting, concerned, and protective wife alongside actor and musician Robert Townsend, Leon Michael Wright, and others. In a reunion with Billy Dee Williams in the TV series Lonesome Dove in 1995, she played Mrs. Greyson, the wife of Williams' character. In 1996, Carroll starred as the crazed silent movie star Norma Desmond in the Canadian production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version of the classic film Sunset Boulevard.

In 2001, Carroll made her animation début in The Legend of Tarzan, in which she voiced Queen La, an evil sorceress and ruler of the ancient city of Opar.

In 2006, she appeared in the television medical drama Grey's Anatomy as Jane Burke, the demanding mother of Dr. Preston Burke. In December 2008, Carroll was cast in USA Network’s series White Collar as June, the savvy widow who rents out her guest room to Neal Caffrey.[6] In 2010, Carroll was featured in UniGlobe Entertainment's breast cancer docudrama entitled, 1 a Minute, and appeared as Nana in two Lifetime movies: At Risk and The Front, movie adaptations of two Patricia Cornwell novels.[7]

Diahann Carroll was present on stage for the 2013 Emmy Awards, to briefly speak about her retrospective of being the first African American nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. She was quoted as saying, "talented Kerry Washington better win!" Washington erroneously stated that Carroll was the first black performer ever to be nominated for an Emmy. Actually, at least three black performers were nominated before Carroll, who was first nominated in 1963. These performers include: Ethel Waters for a guest appearance on Route 66, in 1962;[8] Harry Belafonte, nominated in 1956 and 1961 and winning in 1960;[9] and Sammy Davis, Jr.,[10] who was nominated in 1956 with Belafonte.

Personal life[edit]

Carroll married four times, first to record producer Monte Kay. The union produced a daughter, Suzanne Kay Bamford (born September 9, 1960), who became a freelance media journalist. In 1973, Carroll surprised the press by marrying Las Vegas boutique owner Fred Glusman. Several weeks later, she filed for divorce, charging Glusman with physical abuse. In 1975, she married Robert DeLeon, a managing editor of Jet. She was widowed two years later when DeLeon was killed in a car crash.[11] Carroll's fourth marriage was to singer Vic Damone in 1987. The union, which Carroll admitted was turbulent, had a legal separation in 1991, reconciliation, and divorce in 1996.[12][13] Carroll for a time also dated and was engaged to British television host and producer David Frost.

Charitable work[edit]

Carroll was a member of the Celebrity Action Council, a volunteer group of celebrity women who served the women’s outreach of the Los Angeles Mission,[14] working with women in rehabilitation from problems with drugs, alcohol or prostitution. She helped to form the group along with other female television personalities including Mary Frann, Donna Mills, Linda Gray and Joan Van Ark.[15]




Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 1962 Tony Award-Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical No Strings
  • 1968 Golden Globe Award for Best TV Star – Female – Julia
  • 2011 Inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame
  • 1969 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series – Julia
  • 1963 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – Naked City
  • 1970 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical Television Series – Julia
  • 1975 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical Motion Picture – Claudine
  • 1975 Academy Award for Best Actress – Claudine
  • 1989 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series – A Different World
  • 1992 Women in Film Crystal Award.[16]
  • 1998 Women in Film Lucy Award[16]
  • 1999 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance in a Children's Special/Series – The Sweetest Gift
  • 2000 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series/Television Movie – Having a Say: The Delany Sisters' 1st 100 Years
  • 2005 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Television Drama Series – Soul Food
  • 2008 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series – Grey's Anatomy


  1. ^ Hetrick, Adam; Gioia, Michael (February 9, 2014). "Diahann Carroll Withdraws from Broadway Revival of A Raisin in the Sun starring Denzel Washington". Playbill. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  2. ^ "Diahann Carroll Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  3. ^ "N.Y. singer Diahann Carroll finds Cinderella-like fame". Jet. 5 (23): 60–61. April 15, 1954. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  4. ^ "Diahann Carroll". TheGoldenGlobes.com. Retrieved 2007-07-01. 
  5. ^ Stanhope, Kate (September 23, 2013). "Diahann Carroll on African-American Emmy Nominees: "We're a Little Behind"". TV Guide. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  6. ^ Mitovich, Matt (December 2, 2008). "Diahann Carroll Collars Role on USA Pilot". TV Guide. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  7. ^ "Survivor celebs to join breast cancer film premiere". Sify News. IANS. September 1, 2010. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  8. ^ "Ethel Waters: Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  9. ^ "Harry Belafonte: Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  10. ^ "Sammy Davis, Jr.: Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  11. ^ Alan Feuer; William K. Rashbaum (12 March 2005). "Blood Ties: 2 Officers' Long Path to Mob Murder Indictments". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  12. ^ Elizabeth Rourke (2006). "Diahann Carroll: Biography". Contemporary Black Biography. The Gale Group, Inc. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  13. ^ "Diahann Carroll: Biography, Photos, Movies, TV, Credits". Hollywood.com. 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  14. ^ https://losangelesmission.org/give/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=los%20angeles%20mission&utm_campaign=paid Retrieved 24 November 2016
  15. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/25/arts/mary-frann-55-bemused-wife-on-newhart.html Retrieved 24 November 2016
  16. ^ a b "Past Recipients". Women In Film. Archived from the original on 2011-08-20. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 

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