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Lonette Rita McKee
July 22, 1954
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
|Education||St Martin De Porres High School|
|Alma mater||The New School|
|Known for||Sister Williams – Sparkle|
(m. 1983; div. 1990)
|Family||Kathy McKee (sister)|
Lonette Rita McKee (born July 22, 1954) is an American film, television and theater actress, music composer, producer, songwriter, screenwriter and director. McKee is best known for her role as Sister Williams in the original 1976 musical-drama film Sparkle. McKee also had notable roles in such movies as The Cotton Club, Jungle Fever, ATL and Honey.
Early life and education
Born in Detroit, Michigan, McKee was the second of three daughters of Dorothy McKee, of Swedish descent, and Lonnie McKee, an African American bricklayer and auto manufacturer employee.McKee's older sister, Katherine "Kathy" McKee, is also an actress and performer. McKee attended St Martin De Porres High School, but left after her freshman year, moving to Los Angeles, California, to live with her older sister.
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. In 1968, McKee, then aged 14, recorded her first record entitled "Don't Worry About It". It became an instant regional pop/R&B hit. McKee wrote the title song for the film Quadroon, in which her sister Katherine McKee starred, 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. 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." 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 the filmmaker Spike Lee. McKee also studied singing with Dini Clark and ballet with Sarah Tayir, both in Los Angeles. She also appeared on the CW sitcom The Game as Mrs. Pitts, the mother of Jason (played by Coby Bell), in 2007.
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. 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 Best Actress in a Musical. McKee's 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). She reprised the role of Julie on Broadway in the 1994 revival of Show Boat directed by Hal Prince.
McKee is currently[when?] developing plans to establish a performance arts center in the New York tri-state area. She performs her one-woman memoir with music on stages throughout the US. She is producing[when?] her first feature film, Dream Street, which she wrote and will direct.
McKee has been married once and has no children. She dated the actor and stand-up comedian Freddie Prinze for a time during 1976. McKee was married to Leo Compton, a youth counselor, from February 1983 to 1990. In the mid-1990s, she lived in an Upper East Side brownstone with her companion, the musician Bryant McNeil. They met while they were working together on McKee's Natural Love album. McKee teaches a master acting workshop at Centenary College of New Jersey, where she is an adjunct professor in the Theater Arts department.
- Lonette (Sussex, 1974)
- Words and Music (Warner Bros., 1978)
- Natural Love (40 Acres and a Mule/Columbia, 1992)
|1977||Which Way Is Up?||Vanetta|
|1982||Illusions||Mignon Dupree||Short film|
|1984||The Cotton Club||Lila Rose Oliver|
|1985||Brewster's Millions||Angela Drake|
|1986||'Round Midnight||Darcey Leigh|
|1987||Gardens of Stone||Betty Rae|
|1989||The Women of Brewster Place||Lorraine||TV mini-series|
|1990||Dangerous Passion||Meg||TV movie|
|1992||Malcolm X||Louise Little|
|1997||To Dance with Olivia||Olivia 'Libby' Stewart||TV movie|
|1998||He Got Game||Martha Shuttlesworth|
|Blind Faith||Carol Williams|
|1999||Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years||Mama Delany||TV movie|
|2000||Men of Honor||Ella Brashear|
|Fast Food Fast Women||Sherry-Lynn|
|2001||A Day in Black and White||as Herself|
|The Paper Mache Chase||Lisa||Short film|
|2004||She Hate Me||Lottie Armstrong|
|2010||Dream Street||as Herself|
|This Narrow Place||Mrs. Shaw|
|1985||The Equalizer||Dr. Elly Walton||Episode: Reign of Terror|
|Spenser: For Hire||Hillary||Episode: Blood Money|
|1986||Miami Vice||Alicia Mena||Episode: Stone's War|
|1989||Amen||Tanya DuBois||Episode: The Psychic (Part 1)|
The Psychic (Part 2)
|1991||L.A. Law||Episode: There Goes the Judge|
|1993||Tribeca||as Herself||Episode: The Loft|
|1999-2003||Third Watch||Maggie Davis|
|2002||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Maggie's Attorney||Episode: Chameleon|
|2006||Half & Half||Tanya||Episode: The Big Thanks for Nothing Episode|
|2006||1-800-Missing||Miss Chambers||Episode: Exposure|
|2007||The Game||Maria Pitts||Episode: It's Hard Being Kelly Pitts|
- McCann, Bob (2007). "Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television". McFarland and Company. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
- VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever, Volume 2005
- Stark, John. "After Singing Her Own Blues, Lonette Mckee Finds a Perch as Off Broadway's Billie Holiday" People, November 3, 1986
- Who Sang what on Broadway, 1866-1996: The singers (L-Z)
- Ann M. Savage (ed), Women's Rights: Reflections in Popular Culture - The Women of Brewster's Place (1989)
- 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.
- "Lonette McKee Biography (1954?-)", Film Reference
- rtmadminmc, "Spotlight: Lonette McKee". The Michigan Chronicle, February 8, 2012[unreliable source?]
- Sangweni, Yolanda. "Lonette McKee on Being in 'Luv' with Common, and What She Really Thought of the ‘Sparkle’ Remake" Essence, December 5, 2012
- "Lonette McKee Knows The Way Up: 1.5 Million Deal". JET. Johnson Publishing Company. June 29, 1978. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
- Sparkle, TCM. Retrieved January 16, 2016.[dead link]
- Hogan, Ed. "Lonette McKee Natural Love", Allmusic. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
- "Lonette McKee", Playbill. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
- Show Boat, Playbill. Retrieved May 10, 2020
- Jessie Carney Smith, Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events, Visible Ink Press, 1983
- David Henry, Joe Henry, Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World that Made Him, Algonquin Books, 2013