At the 2007 Red Dress Collection for The Heart Truth Foundation
June 19, 1948
Houston, Texas, USA
|Spouse(s)||William Lancelot Bowles, Jr.
Victor Willis (1978–1982)
Ahmad Rashād (1985–2001)
In 2004, Rashad became the first African-American actress to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, for her role in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun.
She resumed the role in the 2008 television adaption of A Raisin in the Sun (2008 film), which earned her the 2009 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.
Rashād was born in Houston Texas, to Andrew Arthur Allen, a Louisiana Creole (who died in 1984) and Vivian Ayers, an African American. Arthur was a dentist and orthodontist. Vivian was a Pulitzer-prize nominated artist, poet, playwright, and publisher. Rashād's siblings are jazz-musician brother Tex (Andrew Arthur Allen Jr, born 1945), sister Debbie Allen (1950), and brother Hugh Allen (real estate banker in North Carolina). Debbie Allen is an actress, choreographer, and director. While Rashād was growing up, her family moved to Mexico and as a result, Rashād speaks Spanish fluently.
She graduated from Howard University, where she later taught drama, and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Rashād first became notable on the stage with a string of Broadway credits, including Deena Jones in Dreamgirls (she was Sheryl Lee Ralph's understudy until she left the show in 1982 after Rashad was passed over as Ralph's full-time replacement) and playing a Munchkin in The Wiz. In 1978, she released the album Josephine Superstar, a disco concept record telling the life story of Josephine Baker. The album was mainly written and produced by Jacques Morali and Rashād's second husband Victor Willis, original lead singer and lyricist of the Village People. She met Willis while they were both cast in the Wiz. Rashād received another career boost when she joined the cast of the ABC soap opera One Life to Live in 1983.
Broadway credits include August: Osage County, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Gem of the Ocean, Raisin in the Sun,(2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play/Drama Desk Award), Blue, Jelly's Last Jam, Into the Woods, Dreamgirls, The Wiz and Ain't Supposed To Die A Natural Death. Off Broadway credits include Lincoln Center’s productions of Cymbeline and House of Bernarda Alba; Helen (play), The Story and Everybody's Ruby at the Public Theater; The Negro Ensemble Company productions of Puppet Play, Zooman and the Sign, Sons and Fathers of Sons, In An Upstate Motel, Weep Not For Me, and The Great Mac Daddy; Lincoln Center’s production of Ed Bullins’ The Duplex; and The Sirens at the Manhattan Theatre Club. In regional theatre, she performed as Euripedes’ Medea and in Blues for an Alabama Sky at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. Other regional theatres at which she has performed are the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and the Huntington Theatre in Boston.
Rashād is best known for another television role, that of attorney Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show. The show starred Bill Cosby as obstetrician Cliff Huxtable, and focused on their life with their five children.
When Cosby returned to TV comedy in 1996 with CBS's Cosby, he called on Rashād to play Ruth Lucas, his character's wife. The pilot episode had been shot with Telma Hopkins, but Cosby then fired the executive producer and replaced Hopkins with Rashād. The sitcom ran from 1996 to 2000. That year, Cosby asked Rashād to work on his animated television series Little Bill, in which the actress voiced Bill's mother, Brenda, until the show's end in 2002. She also played a role in the pre-show of the "Dinosaur" ride at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park.
She played Kill Moves' affluent mother on Everybody Hates Chris on Sunday, December 9, 2007. In 2007 she also appeared in the Psych episode Gus' Dad May Have Killed an Old Guy. She returned to the role in 2008, in the Psych episode "Christmas Joy".
In February 2008 she appeared in the television adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun. She starred on Broadway as Big Mama in an all-African American production of Tennessee Williams's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by her sister Debbie Allen. She appeared alongside stage veterans James Earl Jones (Big Daddy) and Anika Noni Rose (Maggie), as well as film actor Terrence Howard, who makes his Broadway debut as Brick. She will appear as Violet Weston, the drug-addicted matriarch of Tracy Lett's award-winning play, August: Osage County at the Music Box Theatre. Currently, she is a spokesperson for Jenny Craig.
Rashād's first marriage, in 1972, was to dentist William Lancelot Bowles, Jr. They had one son, William Lancelot Bowles III, who was born the following year. The marriage ended in 1975. Rashād then married Victor Willis (original lead singer of the Village People) in 1978. Their divorced was finalized in 1982.
Phylicia married former NFL wide receiver and sportscaster Ahmad Rashād on December 14, 1985. It was a third marriage for both of them and she took his last name. They were married after he proposed to her during a pregame show for a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day football game between the New York Jets and the Detroit Lions on November 28, 1985. Their daughter, Condola Phyleia Rashād, was born on December 11, 1986 in New York City. Along with her son, William, Rashād also has three stepchildren (Ahmad's from a previous marriage): daughters Keva (born in 1970) and Maiysha (born in 1974), and son Ahmad Jr. (born in 1978). The couple divorced in early 2001 but she kept the name Rashād.