Sheryl Lee Ralph is an American actress, singer, and activist. She is best known for her role as Deidra “Dee” Mitchell on the UPN comedy Moesha (1996-2001). She also originated the role of Deena Jones in the Broadway musical Dreamgirls (1981). Ralph was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the daughter of Ivy, a fashion designer, and Stanley Ralph, a college professor.
Ralph attended Uniondale High School in Uniondale, NY. She starred in a high-school production of the musical Oklahoma!, portraying Ado Annie. 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.
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.
Many years later, she served as the commencement speaker at Rutgers for the Class of 2003. In May 2008 Ralph was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Tougaloo College after giving the commencement address. 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.
In 1984, Ralph released her only album In the Evening, in which the title track peaked at #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.
On television 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. Ralph produced Divas Simply Singing, which has become an important AIDS fundraiser. Sheryl brought a new face to the sufferings of war in the NBC hit series ER.
Sheryl Lee Ralph – In The Evening
Sheryl Lee Ralph – Evolution
Sheryl Lee Ralph – Be Somebody
Sheryl Lee Ralph – You’re So Romantic
Sheryl Lee Ralph – I’m So Glad That We Met