Phylicia Rashad does it all from acting and singing, to even stage direction. You’re probably familiar with her seminal role as Claire Huxtable on the classic sitcom The Cosby Show. It was a role that propelled the Mexico native into stardom and earned her two Emmy nominations in both 1985 and 1986. Rashad was eventually dubbed the “The Mother Of The Black Community” at the 2010 NAACP Image Awards for her near decade-long run as the beloved matriarch in the series.
But there’s so much more about the actress that we love, and, that could arguably make her the GOAT of our culture’s iconic actresses. Let’s take a look back at Rashad’s career and why she’s one of the most influential stars of our time.
Born on Jun. 19, 1948, Phylicia Rashad is the daughter of the award-winning poet and artist, Vivian Ayers and orthodontist, Andrew Arthur Allen. From a young age, Phylicia and her siblings were destined for greatness. Rashad has two brothers and one sister. Andrew Arthur Allen Jr., Golden Globe Winner, and esteemed actress, Debbie Allen, in addition to her brother Hugh Allen.
Phylicia and her siblings grew up in Mexico. It is said that her mother chose to move the family to Mexico in order to avoid the rampant racism that many Black Americans endured in the South during the 1950s.
The star began her acting journey when she joined the Negro Ensemble Company in New York after graduating from Howard University, with a degree in theater. She made her Broadway debut in 1975 in “The Wiz.” She also starred in a role in the Broadway musical “Dreamgirls” in 1981.
Broadway and The Big Screen
Shortly after starting her career on Broadway, Phylicia set her eyes on the big screen. She was cast for a role on “One Life to Live” as Courtney Wright in 1984, and shortly after, the actress landed her iconic role as Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show. Rashad has made fans laugh and cry in a number of award-winning movies and Broadway plays.
In 2003, she appeared as Aunt Ester in August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean”, a ten-play chronicle dramatizing the African American experience in the twentieth century. A year later, Rashad dazzled in the hit play “A Raisin in the Sun,” where she was honored with a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for her stunning portrayal of the struggling matriarch, Lena Younger. Rashad’s Tony award, in particular, cemented her name to history books as the first African American actress to win a Tony for Best Actress.
Rashad made her stage debut as a director for the 2007 play production of “Gem of the Ocean” and has been praised for her all-black cast productions of popular Off-Broadway plays including “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and the revival of “Fences.”
A Scholar Of The Arts
Back in June, Rashad’s alma mater, Howard University, proudly appointed her as the Dean of their newly launched College of Fine Arts Department. Rashad teaches students at the honorable HBCU using her expertise to cultivate the next generation of iconic actresses, playwrights, and directors.
Following the exciting announcement, Howard University President Wayne Frederick shared in a statement that he could “think of no individual better suited to take on this role than Ms. Phylicia Rashad.”
He continued: “As we reintroduce our campus community and the world at large to Howard’s College of Fine Arts, the dean will play an instrumental role in ensuring an auspicious beginning for this reestablished institution. Given Ms. Rashad’s reputation as well as her capabilities and impressive list of accomplishments, she will undoubtedly empower the college to transcend even our incredibly high expectations. Under her leadership, Howard will continue to inspire and cultivate the artists and leaders who will shape our niche and national cultures for generations to come.”
In addition to her position at Howard, Rashad has served as a guest lecturer and adjunct faculty member at a number of different colleges and universities including New York University, Vassar College, and Juilliard, the university’s website noted.
Acting Runs In The Family
Acting runs deep in Phylicia Rashad’s family, her sister, the iconic Debbie Allen, is a creative powerhouse. The star has acted and directed in a number of Emmy-nominated TV shows including the Black comedy series, A Different World, which Allen produced and directed for six seasons. Additionally, Allen graced ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, where she took on the role of Dr. Catherine Fox. She also serves as the five-time Emmy-nominated winning show’s executive producer.
Allen is widely acclaimed for her portrayal of dance teacher Lydia Grant in the musical-drama television series Fame (1982-1987). Back in September, the actress, director, and choreographer made history at the 73rd Emmy Awards as the first Black woman to receive The Governors Award for her incredible acting and directing career.
Rashad has two children, her son, William Lancelot Bowles III, whom she shares with her ex-husband and dentist William Lancelot Bowles Jr., and a daughter named Condola Rashad with her third ex-husband, sportscaster, Ahmad Rashad. It appears as though Condola has followed in the footsteps of her mother. The young actress has appeared on TV shows such as “Sex and the City,” “Smash,” and Showtime’s drama series “Billions.”
At 73-years-old, Phylicia Rashad is still going strong with her acting career. The NAACP recipient recently appeared on Grey’s Anatomy and she has voiced a role in Disney Pixar’s Academy Award-nominated film Soul. Rashad has also starred in the Creed trilogy alongside Michael B. Jordan.