Sheryl Lee Ralph happy with Jamaican honour
Sheryl Lee Ralph

EMMY-WINNING actress Sheryl Lee Ralph said she is pleased to be recognised with a National Honour from the Government of Jamaica.

The actress will receive the Honorary Order of Jamaica for her sterling contribution as an actress, cultural ambassador of Jamaica and for contribution to the international film industry.

"Receiving Jamaica's national honour is overwhelming, to say the least! In the memory of my mother who received the Order of Distinction, OD (we all said stood for 'Original Diva') I am deeply proud and moved to have my name changed to The Honorable Sheryl Lee Ralph, OJ. I look forward to being on island to attend the service and bring my Emmy with me," Ralph told the Jamaica Observer.

An Order of Jamaica is the nation's fourth-highest honour. The National Honours and Awards ceremony will be held on Heroes' Day, October 17, at King's House in St Andrew.

A week ago Ralph became the first black woman in 35 years to win an Emmy in the category Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, for her role as a 30-year veteran elementary school teacher in the ABC 'mockumentary' sitcom Abbott Elementary.

Ralph was born in Connecticut to a Jamaican mother, fashion designer Ivy Ralph. She grew up between Mandeville and Long Island, New York.

She made her screen debut in the 1977 comedy film A Piece of the Action but it was her breakthrough role as Deena James in the Broadway musical Dreamgirls in 1981 that brought her acclaim. She received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for that role.

Among her film credits are: The Mighty Quinn opposite Denzel Washington, which was partly shot in Jamaica; The Distinguished Gentleman; Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit; and, To Sleep with Anger.

She starred in several comedies including It's a Living (1986-1989), Instant Mom and as Dee Mitchell, singer Brandy's stepmother in the UPN series Moesha.

Ralph is best known musically for the single In the Evening, which was a radio hit locally. The song was the lead single from her album of the same name which was released in 1984 by The New York Music Company and distributed by Arista Records. It peaked at number six on Billboard's Dance Music Club Play chart and also charted in the United Kingdom, Belgium and New Zealand.

She charted three titles on the Billboard R&B Singles chart — When I First Saw You (number 50 in 1983), You're So Romantic (number 84 in 1985) and a cover of the Eurythmics hit Here Comes the Rain Again (number 44 in 1999).

In 2012 Ralph released her autobiography Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original Dream Girl.

She promoted the Jamerican Film Festival in Montego Bay in the late 1990s. It was attended by several Hollywood stars.

Ralph is among 10 people to receive an Order of Jamaica at this year's ceremony. The others in the entertainment and culture sectors include: Monty Alexander; and Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia "Babsy" Grange.

BY KEVIN JACKSON Observer writer

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