Lonette McKee

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Lonette McKee
Born (1954-07-22) July 22, 1954 (age 62)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater The New School
Occupation Actress, music composer, producer, songwriter, screenwriter, director
Years active 1970–present
Spouse(s) Leo Compton (m.1983–90)[1]
Website Official website

Lonette McKee (born July 22, 1954) is an American film, television and theater actress, music composer, producer, songwriter, screenwriter and director. She is most known for her role as Sister Williams in the original 1976 musical-drama film Sparkle. She is also known for roles in such movies as The Cotton Club, ATL and Honey. She also appeared on the CW sitcom The Game as Mrs. Pitts, the mother of Jason (played by Coby Bell).

Early life[edit]

McKee was born in Detroit, Michigan, the second of three daughters[2] of Dorothy McKee, of Swedish descent,[3] and Lonnie McKee, an African American bricklayer and auto manufacturer employee.[4]

Career[edit]

McKee's career began in the music business in Detroit as a child prodigy, where she started writing music/lyrics, singing, playing keyboards and performing at the age of seven. [5] At fourteen, she recorded her first record, which became an instant regional pop/R&B hit. McKee wrote the title song for the film Quadroon when she was fifteen. Several years later, McKee was launched to stardom with her critically acclaimed performance in the hit 1976 musical drama film Sparkle.[6]

She has written and produced three solo LPs. Natural Love was produced for Spike Lee's Columbia "40 Acres and A Mule" label in 1992. Ed Hogan, reviewing for AllMusic, wrote: " 'Natural Love' shows that the singer/songwriter's muse knows no stylistic bounds. As with her earlier effort, McKee co-writes all of the songs while sharing production credits with Bryant McNeil, Gene Lake Jr., and labelmate Raymond Jones of State of Art."[7]

McKee scored the music for the well-received cable documentary on the Lower Manhattan African Burial Ground, as well as numerous infomercials. McKee has toured extensively throughout the world singing concert performances, including the JVC Jazz Festival at Carnegie Hall. McKee studied film directing at The New School in New York and apprenticed directing with filmmaker Spike Lee. She also studied singing with Dini Clark and ballet with Sarah Tayir, both in Los Angeles.

McKee won critical acclaim for her Broadway debut performance in the musical The First in 1981, co-starring in the role of Jackie Robinson's wife Rachel.[8] She became the first African American to play the coveted role of Julie in the Houston Grand Opera's production of Show Boat in 1983 on Broadway, for which she received a Tony Award nomination for Actress in a Musical.[9]

Her tragic portrayal of jazz legend Billie Holiday in the one-woman drama with music, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill won critical acclaim, standing ovations and a 1987 Drama Desk Award nomination (Outstanding Actress in a Musical).[8] She reprised the role of 'Julie' on Broadway in the 1994 revival of the musical Show Boat directed by Hal Prince.[8] McKee is currently developing plans to establish a performance arts center in the New York tri-state area. McKee performs her one-woman memoir with music on stages throughout the country. She is producing her first feature film Dream Street, which she wrote and will direct.

Personal life[edit]

McKee was married to youth counselor Leo Compton from 1983[3] to 1990. In the mid-'90s, she was living in an Upper East Side brownstone with her companion, musician Bryant McNeil. The two had met while they were working together on McKee's Natural Love album.[2] McKee teaches a master acting workshop at Centenary College of New Jersey, where she serves as an adjunct professor in the Theater Arts department.

Discography[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Other notes
2012 LUV Grandma
2011 Honey 2 Connie
This Narrow Place Mrs. Shaw
2010 Dream Street as Herself
2006 ATL Priscilla Garnett
2004 She Hate Me Lottie Armstrong
2003 Honey Mrs. Daniels
The Paper Mache Chase Lisa short film
2001 A Day in Black and White as Herself
Lift Elanie
2000 Men of Honor Ella Brashear
Fast Food Fast Women Sherry-Lynn
1999 Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years Mama Delany TV movie
1998 He Got Game Martha Shuttlesworth
Blind Faith Carol Williams
1997 To Dance with Olivia Olivia 'Libby' Stewart TV movie
1993 Queen Alice TV mini-series
1992 Malcolm X Louise Little
1991 Jungle Fever Drew
1990 Dangerous Passion Meg TV movie
1989 The Women of Brewster Place Lorraine TV mini-series
1987 Gardens of Stone Betty Rae
1986 'Round Midnight Darcey Leigh
1985 Brewster's Millions Angela Drake
1984 The Cotton Club Lila Rose Oliver
1982 Illusions Mignon Dupree Short film
1979 Cuba Therese Mederos
1977 Which Way Is Up? Vanetta
1976 Sparkle Sister Williams
Television
Year Title Role Notes
2007 The Game Maria Pitts Episode: It's Hard Being Kelly Pitts
2006 1-800-Missing Miss Chambers Episode: Exposure
2006 Half & Half Tanya Episode: The Big Thanks for Nothing Episode
1999-2003 Third Watch Maggie Davis
2002 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Maggie's Attorney Episode: Chameleon
1993 Tribeca as Herself Episode: The Loft
1991 L.A. Law Episode: There Goes the Judge
1989 Amen Tanya DuBois Episode: The Psychic (Part 1)
The Psychic (Part 2)
1986 Miami Vice Alicia Mena Episode: Stone's War
1985 The Equalizer Dr. Elly Walton Episode: Reign of Terror
Spenser: For Hire Hillary Episode: Blood Money

References[edit]

  1. ^ After Singing Her Own Blues, Lonette Mckee Finds a Perch as Off Broadway's Billie Holiday
  2. ^ a b Jones, Charisse (29 December 1994). "AT HOME WITH: Lonette McKee; A Life Between, On Stage and Off". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Stark, John. "After Singing Her Own Blues, Lonette Mckee Finds a Perch as Off Broadway's Billie Holiday" People, November 3, 1986
  4. ^ Lonette McKee Biography (1954?-)
  5. ^ Sangweni, Yolanda. "Lonette McKee on Being in 'Luv' with Common, and What She Really Thought of the ‘Sparkle’ Remake" Essence, December 5, 2012
  6. ^ Sparkle tcm.com, accessed January 16, 2016
  7. ^ Hogan, Ed. "'Natural Love' Listing" allmusic.com, accessed January 16, 2016
  8. ^ a b c "Lonette McKee Broadway" playbillvault.com, accessed January 16, 2016
  9. ^ "'Show Boat' 1983" playbillvault.com, accessed January 16, 2016

External links[edit]