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Phylicia Rashad-Allen was born on June 19, 1948, in Houston, Texas. She was born to Vivian Elizabeth, a poet and art director, and Andrew Arthur Allen Jr., a jazz musician, and an orthodontist. She comes from a well-educated background with her mother being an alumnus of Brainerd Institute, Barber-Scotia College, and Bennett College of North Carolina. As a young child, Rashad, her older brother Andrew, and her younger sister, Debbie Allen, lived in Mexico. Rashad has another brother named Hugh Allen who became a real estate banker in North Carolina. Rashad's mother made the decision to move to Mexico to give her children a chance to grow up in an environment that wasn't plagued with racism and segregation that was prevalent in the 1950's.
Rashad attended college at Howard University and graduated magna cum laude in 1970 with a Bachelor's degree. At Howard University, Rashad was initiated into the Alpha Chapter at the university and became a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Rashad would go on to perform a role in "A Raisin in The Sun" earning her the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-series or the Dramatic Special. Rashad also lent her voice to "The Mother" of the African-American community at the 42nd NAACP image awards.
Rashad started her career with the theater and became known for her work on the stage in a string of Broadway shows including her role as Deena Jones in "Dreamgirls" and playing a Munchkin in "The Wiz" for three and a half years. In 1978, Rashad doubled down on her vocal ability and released the album "Josephine Superstar" which tells the life story of Josephine Baker. The album was written and produced by Jacques Morali and Rashad's second husband Victor Willis who was the original lead singer and lyricist of the Village People.
Rashad also has credits on Broadway productions like "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", "August: Osage County", "Blue", and "Into the Woods". She also played a number of theatrical roles off-Broadway including "Bernarda Alba", "Helen", and "The Sirens". She also performed in a number of regional theaters including the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, Georgia where she played the role of Medea in "Blues for an Alabama Sky", the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and the Huntington Theater in Boston.
A few years later in 2004, Rashad became the first black actress of any nationality to win the Best Actress (Play) Tony Award for her role as Lena Younger in the revival of the play "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry.
In 2004, she was also nominated for the Drama Desk award for Best Actress in the play "A Raisin in the Sun". She ultimately tied with Viola Davis for the award who appeared in the play "Intimate Apparel". The following year, Rashad was nominated for the same award for her work in "Gem of the Ocean". Rashad went on to make her directorial debut in 2007 with the Seattle Repertory Theater's production of her own version of August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean".
Rashad made a brief return to stage acting in 2008 when she starred in an all African-American Broadway production of Tennessee Williams's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" which happened to be directed by her sister, Debbie Allen. The following year, Rashad appeared as Violet Weston, the drug-addicted matriarch of Tracy Lett's award-winning play "August: Osage County" which was performed at the Music Box Theater.
In November of 2010, Rashad appeared in the ensemble cast as Gilda in the Tyler Perry film "For Colored Girls", which happened to be based on a play called "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf" by Ntozake Shange. In 2016, she went on to direct a well-received production of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" which was performed at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, California. Rashad returned to the theater to play the lead role of Shelah in Tarell Alvin McCraney's play "Head of Passes" at The Public Theater in 2016 where her performance earned her positive reviews.
Rashad's career began to expand into television in 1983 when she joined the cast of the ABC soap opera "One Life to Live" where she played publicist Courtney Wright. Several years later when Cosby came back to TV in 1996 with CBS's "Cosby", the lead comedian himself asked her to play Ruth Lucas, his character's on-screen spouse. The pilot scene had been shot with Telma Hopkins, however, Cosby replaced Hopkins with Rashad. The sitcom "Cosby" would continue running from 1996 to 2000.
She also accepted a part in the pre-show of the Dinosaur ride at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom amusement park where she played Dr. Helen Marsh, the leader of the Dino Institute. She would return to the big screen in 2012 to star in a Tyler Perry film called "Good Deeds". The same year she played Clairee Belcher in the remake of "Steel Magnolias" which featured an all African American cast. In 2016, Rashad went back to television to play Bishop Yvette A. Flunder, pastor of The City of Refuge Church in San Francisco, CA, as part of the Dustin Lance Black mini-series "When We Rise."
Phylicia Rashad would first get married to a dentist named William Lancelot Bowles Jr. whom she had a son named William Lancelot Bowles III. The marriage would be shortlived and in 1975 she divorced William Lancelot Bowles Jr. and married Victor Willis. Her marriage to Willis would not last long either and the pair divorced in 1978. Rashad went on to marry a third time, this time she married Ahmad Rashad, former NFL wide receiver and sportscaster, in 1985. Both were on their third marriages.
Ahmad Rashad 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. Rashad also has a second child, a daughter from her third marriage but that one too was also doomed to fail and their divorce was finalized in 2001. The couple's daughter is named Condola Phylicia Rashad and she was born on December 11, 1986, in New York.
She has a net worth of $55 million, most of which was earned during her long-running career with "The Cosby Show". Her work in "Colored Girls" even earned her an award from Black Reel Awards as well as the NACCP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress.
In early 2020 it was announced that Phylicia Rashad's girl, Condola, would emulating her mom's example. Rashad said her girl was prepped since early on to have a passion for theater since she was always with her at work.
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