Sheryl Lee Ralph Continues to Redefine Diva in New Memoir

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“My journey and my mistakes might help you,” says Sheryl Lee Ralph about her new memoir Redefining Diva. Before singer Beyonce Knowles lit up the big screen in 2006 as Deena Jones in Dreamgirls there was Sheryl Lee Ralph—who originated the role. In 1982 Ralph starred as Deena Jones in the Broadway production of Dreamgirls
which immediately became a hit.  Later in 1996, she became everyone’s
favorite TV mom as Dee Mitchell alongside R&B star Brandy Norwood on

While industry outsiders romanticize Hollywood to be all glitz and
glam, through Ralph’s candid new book the seasoned actress takes you
inside, dishing on the highs and lows of the business. “I talk about
fame in the book, I talk about how fame can be an unkind friend,” says

After over 30 years in show business, Ralph still stands with unwavering fortitude, grace and beauty. 

Why is it important to redefine diva right now?

We’ve got to know that diva means Divinely Inspired Victoriously Alive.
Diva is one of those words that have just been thrown around. People
have forgotten that at her best, diva was a goddess and she put her best
out there. Diva was there to make everything alright; she was out there
with her charm, her good looks, with her power, with her magnetism. It
wasn’t just for her, it was to shed light for everybody, she was not a
selfish goddess, and she was just so fabulous.

In the book, you were very vocal about your issues with
Brandy and even Diana Ross, being that people thought your character was
loosely based on her while starring in Dreamgirls, do you regret putting any of this in the book?

How can I have regrets about my truth? A lot of folks write books and
then they have to come back and say ‘oh wait that’s not true.’ A lot of
best sellers have written lies. I’m not unhappy about telling my truth.
Diana Ross is a legendary woman and everything is alright between us
now. With me and Brandy I don’t hold anything against her now because
she was a child then and the fact that [we can talk now] lets me know
that she’s a woman now.

What was it like on the set of Moesha? The young brother that played Hakeem sadly passed away in 2005 with little to no fanfare.

No fanfare! It was very very sad we all went to the funeral, death is
never timely and he died in a very untimely way, just awful. Moesha was
on for an incredible amount of seasons, and I was involved in one of
the greatest sitcoms on TV.  People still call me ‘Moesha-momma,’ not
‘Moesha’s mother,’ but ‘Moesha-momma.’

Tell us about your stance on not compromising your integrity when it came to choosing a role.

I wasn’t trying to play a hooker, hoe or the welfare mother, which
was just me. That was my choice. I didn’t want to play the maid. So
people said I was stupid, somebody told me I would never work.  But
guess what, I have a story to tell.

What advice do you have for the black actresses or better yet
black reality TV stars who seem to be signing up for demeaning shows
just for the money?

There’s a line in [the contracts] that say we have the right to
ridicule you and I don’t think we should give away that right to
anybody. You’re not just ridiculing yourself, you are ridiculing your
people, your daughters, your sisters and your friends. I dare us to do
better.  We must choose better, I cannot take another young women over
35 who should know better, hitting someone, fighting each other,
spitting at each other, taking off their high heels and thinking that
that’s the kind of behavior you teach our daughter, because it’s not
just your daughter, it’s our daughters, it’s all of our children, that
is not the way women should behave.

How do you think the black community can change this?

When we come together and have a meeting of the minds and look at how
we view ourselves, how we open up our arms to ourselves, how much
social currency we build with ourselves.

What advice do you have for young people of the arts having a hard time pursuing their careers?

Find a good mentor and they are out there. None of us got here by
ourselves; somebody did something, no matter how small or how large. You
have to do the same thing for someone else, help them with their

What’s next for you?

From your mouth to God’s ear, I pray that the right show will come together. Let’s talk about what’s really going on now!

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