Diahann Carroll, Pioneering Actress, Dies In Los Angeles At 84

LOS ANGELES, CA — Diahann Carroll, a pioneering actress and singer who broke the mold for black women onstage and on television, died Friday at her home in Los Angeles at 84. The cause was cancer, her daughter told the Associated Press.

Born Carol Diann Johnson in the Bronx, her mother was a nurse and her father was a subway conductor, the New York Times reported. Her singing talents were apparent from a young age, and she started modeling for Ebony magazine while still in high school.

Then, at age 18, she appeared on “Chance of a Lifetime,” a television talent show, winning several weeks’ worth of contests and scoring her own show at a Manhattan nightclub.

Carroll went on to perform on Broadway — she became the first black woman to win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a musical in 1962 for “No Strings” — and appeared in the 1959 film “Porgy and Bess.”

But she finally broke out in 1968 with a starring role in “Julia,” an NBC sitcom that ran until 1971. Carroll’s character, a widowed single mother, was one of the first on television that showed a black woman in a non-servant role. It won her a Golden Globe in 1969.

In the 1980s, Carroll returned to television, portraying Dominique Devereaux in the soap opera “Dynasty” after lobbying a television producer for the role.

“I want to be wealthy and ruthless … I want to be the first black bitch on television,” she told People magazine in 1984.

After being treated for breast cancer in 1998, Carroll became an advocate for increased cancer research and free screening programs.

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