Leslie Uggams has had an enthralling career as a theatre and movie actor.
The Harlem-born singer and actress is best recognised for her role in the Deadpool series, but she has had a brilliant career spanning seven decades.
But, behind the scenes, her personal life might be the subject of a film after she married White Australian man Grahame Pratt in 1965, since their love affair has overcome all chances of interracial love…
Leslie was a great singer who cut a song for MGM at the age of 10 in 1953. Encouraged by her aunt, singer Eloise Uggams, she attended the Professional Children’s School of New York and the famed Julliard School of Music in New York.
But her musical success was just the beginning of her adventure; by 1969, she had her own TV variety show, “The Leslie Uggams Show,” which was the first network variety show hosted by a black person since “The Nat King Cole Show.”
Behind the scenes, though, she met and fell in love with actor Grahame Pratt. After meeting at Professional Children’s School in New York, where they were both pupils, the couple ran into one other again in Sydney during one of Leslie’s celebrity tours in Australia.
Leslie was aware of the consequences of dating a white man because she had done so in her adolescence, and her aunt had advised her not to explore the idea.
“I remember the shock I got once when I was dating a white boy,” Leslie told Ebony in 1967.
“He emailed me a colour photograph of himself.” It was shown to my aunt. He was a handsome young man with lovely hair. I thought he was stunning. But my aunt took one glance at me and began lecturing me. ‘Well, I suppose he’s okay,’ she said, ‘but only for dates, eh, honey? You’ll marry a fine [Black] fella when you’re ready to settle down for good, won’t you?’”
Leslie stated that she continued to visit Grahame after their fortuitous meeting.
Despite Leslie’s misgivings about her family’s reaction and what it would mean for the two of them if Grahame had to relocate to the United States for Leslie’s work, the two had fallen in love. Grahame visited her in New York after they were engaged for 5 months.
“Knowing my family’s views on mixed marriages, I wanted to know if they would truly accept Grahame and not just tolerate him,” she explained.
Leslie, on the other hand, had nothing to worry about because Grahame was an Australian.
“He lacked the self-consciousness about his situation that many white Americans do.” He readily blended in with all of my friends…because he liked them. And they both liked him, the men and the females.”
Although they didn’t face many of the racial challenges that the rest of the country encountered while living in New York, Leslie said she still received hate mail because of their marriage.
“It wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated,” Leslie remarked of her marriage in an interview with PEOPLE. “I believe the reason is that Grahame was not a white American man.” But, of course, we received mail.
“Sometimes when I go on tour through the United States, I get anonymous letters about being married to a white man,” Leslie explained. “I recall getting one in Detroit of all places.” The letter was addressed to ‘The Little Negro Entertainer.’ They’re constantly addressed in that manner, and they’re not nice to read.”
Grahame became Leslie’s manager, and the couple had two daughters, Danielle in 1970 and Justice in 1976.
Leslie had secured the lead role in the miniseries “Roots” one year after their second kid was born, and she garnered an Emmy nomination for her role as Kizzy.
She was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Actress for her role as Lillian Rogers Parks in “Backstairs at the White House” two years later.
She portrayed Rose Keefer on “All My Children” in 1996, and she got a Daytime Emmy Award in 1983 as the host of the NBC game show “Fantasy.”
She has appeared as herself on television shows such as “Family Guy,” “I Spy,” “Hollywood Squares,” “The Muppet Show,” “The Love Boat,” and “Magnum, P.I.”
Leslie and Grahame are still married and in love after 55 years, and they have two children as well as a granddaughter named Cassidy.
“We laugh all the time — but it ain’t always roses,” Leslie said of their happy marriage. We enjoy a good time together.”