Actress and singer, Diahann Carroll was born Carol Diann Johnson on July 17, 1935, in the Bronx, New York.
When Carroll was just ten years old, she received a Metropolitan Opera scholarship for studies at New York’s High School of Music and Art. She went on to study sociology at New York University, working part-time as a model, in TV bit parts, and as a nightclub singer. Carroll’s Broadway debut was in the Harold Arlen/Truman Capote production House of Flowers (1954), and her film debut was in the immensely successful Carmen Jones (1954), a modern version of Bizet’s opera Carmen, performed by an all-black cast. She also appeared in the film version of Porgy and Bess (1959). Carroll was back on Broadway in 1962, winning a Tony Award for No Strings.
In 1968, she broke important ground in Hollywood by starring in the TV sitcom Julia, about a beautiful and independent single career woman and mother, who happened to be black. This was the first TV show to star a black personality, and her character’s dignified occupation as a nurse was a significant improvement over the stereotypical roles often assigned to black performers on TV in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1968, Carroll was nominated for an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Julia, and she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress the same year.
Although a sweetheart on TV in the 1960s, Carroll returned to the small screen with a completely different type of character in the glitzy 1980s, portraying the glamorous, scheming businesswoman Dominique Devereaux, in the nighttime soap opera Dynasty (1984-87).
Carroll’s second Emmy nomination came in 1989 for a guest appearance in the comedy series A Different World, as actress Jasmine Guy’s mother. In 1974, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Claudine. In 1995, she starred as Norma Desmond in a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. In 1998 and 1999, she toured the country singing classic Broadway songs in Almost Like Being in Love–The Lerner and Loewe Songbook.
Carroll published her autobiography, Diahann, in 1986, and in 1997 she launched a signature line of clothing and eyewear targeted to the needs of African-American women. In 1998, Carroll was diagnosed with breast cancer. Following successful treatment, she became the spokeswoman for the National Women’s Cancer Research Alliance, and an outspoken advocate of early cancer prevention and detection. She is also well known for her work on behalf of AIDS research.
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