Sheryl Lee Ralph

Sheryl Lee Ralph (born December 30, 1955) is an American actress, singer, author, and activist. She made her screen debut in the 1977 comedy film A Piece of the Action, before landing her breakthrough role as Deena Jones in the Broadway musical Dreamgirls (1981), for which she received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.

Sheryl Lee Ralph
Sheryl Lee Ralph.jpg
Ralph attending the Black Enterprise Pre-Oscar Party in 2008.
Born (1955-12-30) December 30, 1955 (age 66)
Waterhouse, Connecticut, USA
Other namesSheryl L. Ralph
EducationRutgers University (BFA)
  • Actress
  • singer
  • activist
Years active1977–present
Known forDreamgirls (Broadway; 1981)
Abbott Elementary
Eric Maurice
(m. 1990; div. 2001)

(m. 2005)

Ralph has appeared in a number of movies during her career. In 1991, she received the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female for her role in the drama film To Sleep with Anger. Her other film credits include The Mighty Quinn (1989), The Distinguished Gentleman (1992), Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), and Deterrence (1999).

On television, Ralph starred from 1986 to 1989 in the syndicated sitcom It's a Living, and later had the leading roles in the short-lived ABC sitcom New Attitude (1990), and CBS medical drama Street Gear (1995). From 1996 to 2001, she starred as Dee Mitchell in the UPN sitcom Moesha, and from 2013 to 2015 as Maggie Turner in the Nick at Nite sitcom Instant Mom. As of 2022, Ralph is starring as Barbara Howard on the ABC mockumentary sitcom Abbott Elementary, for which she has received a nomination for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series at the upcoming (September 2022) 74th Primetime Emmy Awards.

Ralph's autobiography, Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original Dreamgirl, was published in 2012. In 2016, she played Madame Morrible in Wicked on Broadway.

Early lifeEdit

Ralph was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the daughter of Stanley Ralph, a college professor and Ivy Ralph O.D., a Jamaican fashion designer and the creator of the kariba suit.[1][2] She has a younger brother, actor and comedian Michael Ralph. According to a DNA analysis, she descends partly from the Tikar people of Cameroon.[3] She was raised between Mandeville, Jamaica, and Long Island.[4][5] Ralph attended Uniondale High School in Uniondale, New York. She starred in a high-school production of the musical Oklahoma!, portraying Ado Annie. Sheryl graduated in 1972. Earlier that year, she was crowned Miss Black Teen-age New York. At 19, Ralph was the youngest woman to ever graduate from Rutgers University; during her time at Rutgers, Ralph was one of the earliest winners of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships awarded by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.[6] Also that year she was named one of the top ten college women in America by Glamour magazine. Initially she hoped to study medicine, but after dealing with cadavers in a pre-med class and winning a scholarship in a competition at the American College Theater Festival, she gave up medicine for the performing arts.[7] Many years later, she served as the commencement speaker at Rutgers for the Class of 2003.


Ralph in 1997

Ralph began her career on the stage, and was nominated in 1982 for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Deena Jones in Dreamgirls.[8] In 1984, Ralph released her only album In the Evening, in which the title track peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart that same year. In 1988 she starred in the Disney movie Oliver & Company, providing the voice of Rita, a sassy Afghan Hound. Her first leading role in a film came as Denzel Washington's wife in The Mighty Quinn, released in 1989. In 1992 she starred with Robert De Niro in the title role in Mistress. That same year, she co-starred with Eddie Murphy in The Distinguished Gentleman. During the 1990s she also had roles in The Flintstones, Deterrence, and Unconditional Love.

On television, she was in the cast of the CBS daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow while starring on Broadway in Dreamgirls. She is known for playing Ginger St. James on It's a Living, Etienne Toussaint-Bouvier on Designing Women, and Dee Mitchell on Moesha. She provided the voice of Cheetah in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. She also played Florence Watson, the mother of Rita Louise Watson (Lauryn Hill) in the 1993 film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Ralph produced Divas Simply Singing, which has become an important AIDS fundraiser. She also appeared on the Showtime series Barbershop as Claire. Sheryl brought a new face to the sufferings of war in the NBC hit series ER. Ralph's 2002 project Baby of the Family concerns a young child who is born with a caul over her head, which enables her to see ghosts and the future. Ralph was also featured with son Etienne on MTV's My Super Sweet 16 and BET's Baldwin Hills, as well as an episode of Clean House that also featured her two children, Etienne and Ivy-Victoria (aka Coco), named after Ralph's mother.

On June 16, 2009, it was announced that Ralph would join the cast of the Broadway-bound musical The First Wives Club as Elyse. She replaced Adriane Lenox, who withdrew from the show due to health concerns.[9] In 2011, Ralph guest-starred in the Young Justice episode "Terrors" as Amanda Waller. In 2013, Ralph appeared in the NBC television show Smash as Cynthia, the mother of Jennifer Hudson's character.[10] On February 9, 2013, Ralph appeared at the 2013 Columbus Middle School youth rally in Columbus, Mississippi. In August 2014, she appeared on KTLA Los Angeles Morning News as a fill-in Entertainment Reporter. In November 2014, Ralph appeared on Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn as the rich lady who claims her dog from Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn.

Some of her recent TV appearances include the TNT dramedy Claws, and on the Nickelodeon sitcom Instant Mom as Stephanie's (Tia Mowry-Hardrict's) mother.

From January 10 to April 11, 2019 Ralph appeared as one of the main characters, Rose, in the television series Fam which ran for one season and was canceled in May 2019. In 2022, Ralph joined the new hit sitcom Abbott Elementary, portraying a 30-year veteran elementary school teacher.

Personal lifeEdit

Ralph has been married to Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes since July 30, 2005.[citation needed] In July 2004, Ralph was inducted as an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority at the 47th National Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.[11] In May 2008, Ralph was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Tougaloo College after giving the commencement address.[citation needed] She was married to French businessman Eric Maurice from 1990 to 2001 and they have two children together.



Year Title Role Notes
1977 A Piece of the Action Barbara Hanley
1988 Oliver & Company Rita (voice)
1989 The Mighty Quinn Lola Quinn
Skin Deep Rose the Receptionist
1990 To Sleep with Anger Linda
1992 Mistress Beverly
The Distinguished Gentleman Miss Loretta
1993 Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit Florence Watson
1994 The Flintstones Mrs. Reneè Pyrite
1995 White Man's Burden Roberta Wellison
Lover's Knot Charlotte Lee
1996 Bogus Ruth Clark
1997 Jamaica Beat Sylvia Jones
1998 The Easter Story Keepers Risa (voice) Video
Secrets - Short
1999 Personals Chantal Jones
Unconditional Love Linda Cray
Deterrence Gayle Redford
2000 Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel Nurse Betty Redford
2002 Baby of the Family Mamie
2007 Frankie D Mama D
2010 Pastor Jones: The Complete First Season Mother Kelly Video
The Cost of Heaven Paulette Randolph
Blessed and Cursed Lady Elise Wright
2012 Christmas in Compton Abuta
He Knows My Heart First Lady Jameson Short
2017 Just Getting Started Roberta
Christmas at Holly Lodge Nadine
2018 Step Sisters Yvonne Bishop
2020 The Comeback Trail Bess Jones
2021 Prepared Dr. Richards Short


Year Title Role Notes
1978 Baa Baa Black Sheep Elizabeth Episode: "A Little Bit of England"
A.E.S. Hudson Street Nurse Episode: "Shut Down"
Husbands, Wives & Lovers Joelle Episode: "Murray Gets Sacked and Paula Gets Hired"
The Krofft Comedy Hour Various Characters TV movie
Good Times Vanessa Blake Episode: "J.J and the Plumber's Helper"
1979 Wonder Woman Bobbie Episode: "The Starships Are Coming"
The Jeffersons Jeanie Episode: "Louise's Convention"
1982 The Neighborhood Doris Campbell TV movie
1983 Search for Tomorrow Laura McCarthy Regular cast
1984 V: The Series Glenna Episode: "The Overload"
1985 Code Name: Foxfire Maggie Bryan Main cast
1986 Hunter Josie Clifford Episode: "The Return of Typhoon Thompson"
Pros and Cons Roberta TV movie
1986–89 It's a Living Ginger St. James Main cast (season 4-6)
1987 Sister Margaret and the Saturday Night Ladies Corelle TV movie
L.A. Law Renee Quintana Episode: "Beef Jerky"
Amazing Stories Show Singer Episode: "Gershwin's Trunk"
1990 Falcon Crest Mooshy Tucker Episode: "Dark Streets" & "Crimes of the Past"
New Attitude Vicki St. James Main cast
1991 The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw Miss Rosalee TV movie
1992–93 Designing Women Etienne Toussaint Bouvier Recurring cast (season 7)
1993 No Child of Mine Marjorie Duncan TV movie
1993–94 George Maggie Foster Main cast
1994 Witch Hunt Hypolyta Kropotkin TV movie
1995 Street Gear Sarah Davis Main cast
1996–01 Moesha Deidra "Dee" Mitchell (née Moss) Main cast (season 1-5), recurring cast (season 6)
1998 The Wild Thornberrys Lioness #2 (voice) Episode: "Flood Warning"
1999 Sabrina, the Teenage Witch Zsa Zsa Goowhiggie Episode: "What Price Harvey?"
The Parkers Dee Mitchell Episode: "Daddy's Girl"
2000 Recess Mrs. Lasalle (voice) Episode: "Me Know No"
2000–01 The District Lt. Dee Banks Recurring cast (season 1)
2001 The Jennie Project Dr. Pamela Prentiss TV movie
2002 Justice League Cheetah/Barbara Ann Minerva (voice) Episode: "Injustice for All: Part I & II"
The Proud Family Aunt Dee/Diana (voice) Episode: "Romeo Must Wed" & "Behind Family Lines"
2002–03 Static Shock Trina Jessup (voice) Episode: "Pop's Girlfriend" & "Consequences"
2003 Whoopi Florence Episode: "She Ain't Heavy, She's My Partner"
Las Vegas Janet Ellis Episode: "Luck Be a Lady"
2004 Justice League Unlimited Cheetah/Barbara Ann Minerva/Teacher (voice) Episode: "Kids' Stuff"
Da Kink in My Hair Novelette TV movie
2005 Barbershop Claire Recurring Cast
2006 7th Heaven Nurse Yvonne Rockwell Episode: "And Baby Makes Three"
ER Gloria Gallant Episode: "Strange Bedfellows" & "Twenty-One Guns"
2007 Odicie Aunt Amy TV movie
Exes and Ohs Reverand Ruby Episode: "There Must Be Rules..."
2008 Hannah Montana Clarice Johnson Episode: "We're All on This Date Together"
2010 Zevo-3 Grams (voice) Episode: "Control"
2011 Young Justice Amanda Waller (voice) Episode: "Terrors"
2013 Smash Cynthia Moore Episode: "The Song"
JD Lawrence's Community Service Carolyn Main cast
2013–20 Ray Donovan Claudette Boone Recurring cast (season 1–2 & 7)
2014 2 Broke Girls Genét Bromberg Episode: "And the Not Broke Parents"
One Love Carolyn Winters Main cast
See Dad Run Vanessa Ralph Episode: "See Dad Run Until He Drops" & "See Dad Watch Janie Run Away"
Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn Ms. Edin Dumont Episode: "The Sad Tail of Gary-Chip-Tiny-Elvis-Squishy-Paws"
2013–15 Instant Mom Maggie Turner Main cast
2016 Criminal Minds Hayden Montgomery Recurring cast (season 11)
Crushed Bella Black TV movie
2017 H.E.I.R. Herself TV series
One Mississippi Felicia Hollingsworth Recurring cast
2017–19 MacGyver Mama Emma Colton Recurring cast (season 1-3)
2018 The Quad Ula Pettiway Recurring cast (season 2)
Claws Matilde Ruval Recurring cast (season 2)
2019 Fam Rose Main cast
Young Justice Amanda Waller (voice) Episodes: "Leverage"
A Black Lady Sketch Show MaryAnne Episode: "3rd & Bonaparte Is Always in the Shade"
Christmas Hotel Marnie TV movie
2020 Fashionably Yours Janet TV movie
Christmas Comes Twice Miss Nelson TV movie
2020–21 Motherland: Fort Salem President Kelly Wade Recurring cast
2021–present Abbott Elementary Barbara Howard Main cast

Video gamesEdit

Year Title Role Notes
2010 BioShock 2 Grace Holloway Voice Role

Stage workEdit


Year Title Role Notes
1980 Swing Helen
Reggae Faith Original Broadway production
1981 Dreamgirls Deena Jones Original Broadway production
2002 Thoroughly Modern Millie Muzzy Van Hossmere Original Broadway production
2016-2017 Wicked Madame Morrible Replacement
2021 Goosebumps The Musical Miss Walker Original Studio Cast Recording



In the Evening (1984, The New York Music Company)

  1. "You're So Romantic" (4:38)
  2. "In the Evening" (3:50)
  3. "Give Me Love" (3:34)
  4. "Evolution" (4:02)
  5. "Back to Being in Love" (3:01)
  6. "Be Somebody" (3:35)
  7. "I'm Your Kind of Girl" (3:55)
  8. "B.A.B.Y." (3:15)
  9. "Ready or Not" (3:46)
  10. "I'm So Glad That We Met" (3:56)

Produced and arranged by Trevor Lawrence


Title Year Peak chart positions Album
"When I First Saw You"[18] 1983 non-album single
"In the Evening"[19] 1984 16 18 64 In the Evening
"You're So Romantic"[20] 1985
"In the Evening (Remix)"[21] 1997 17 non-album single
"Evolution (Remix)"[21] 1998 non-album single
"Here Comes the Rain Again"[21] 1999 non-album single

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1982 Tony Award Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical Dreamgirls Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
1989 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture The Mighty Quinn Nominated
1990 Independent Spirit Awards Best Supporting Female To Sleep with Anger Won
1998 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Moesha Nominated
1999 Nominated
2000 Nominated
2001 Nominated
Black Reel Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress Deterrence Nominated
2002 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Moesha Nominated
2022 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Abbott Elementary Pending


  1. ^ Henry, Balford (October 9, 2018). "Fashion designer Ivy Ralph dies at 90". Jamaica Observer. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  2. ^ Blumenthal, Ralph (March 24, 1976). "Kareeba: Jamaica's 'Uniform". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  3. ^ Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph Proud of Her Cameroon Ancestry, archived from the original on December 21, 2021, retrieved January 29, 2020
  4. ^ ""Sheryl Lee Ralph a Passionate AIDS Activist", The Caribbean Current".
  5. ^ "Sheryl Lee Ralph".
  6. ^ "Previous Winners of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship". The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  7. ^ Collier, Aldore, "Sheryl Lee Ralph Talks About Her New TV Series And How She Kept A String On Her Finger Until She Found The Right Man", pp 56–58, August 27, 1990, Jet magazine, retrieved via Google Books on February 10, 2010
  8. ^ League, The Broadway. "Sheryl Lee Ralph – Broadway Cast & Staff – IBDB". Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  9. ^ "Tell Us, Miss Jones: Sheryl Lee Ralph Will Be Part of First Wives Club" Archived June 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine,, June 16, 2009
  10. ^ "Dreamgirls Sheryl Lee Ralph to Guest Star as Jennifer Hudson's Mother in NBC's Smash Season 2!". August 14, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "Sheryl Lee Ralph | Agency For Artists". Retrieved March 7, 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Artist Search for 'sheryl lee ralph'". AllMusic. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  13. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 449. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  14. ^ "Discography Sheryl Lee Ralph". Hung Medien. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  15. ^ "Discografie Sheryl Lee Ralph". Hung Medien (in Dutch). Ultratop. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  16. ^ "Discografie Sheryl Lee Ralph". Hung Medien (in Dutch). Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  17. ^ "Sheryl Lee Ralph". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  18. ^ "iTunes Music – Brontosaurus – Single by Tkay Maidza". iTunes Store (Australia). Apple Inc. December 6, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  19. ^ "iTunes Music – U-Huh – Single by Tkay Maidza". iTunes Store (Australia). Apple Inc. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  20. ^ "Tkay Maidza drops new track 'Switch Lanes', national tour dates". Triple J (Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC))accessdate=March 29, 2015.
  21. ^ a b c "iTunes Music – M.O.B. – Single by Tkay Maidza". iTunes Store (Australia). Apple Inc. February 23, 2015. Retrieved March 29, 2015.

External linksEdit