Leslie Uggams’s career as a film and stage actor has been intriguing to observe.
The Harlem-born singer and actress has had a fruitful career spanning seven decades, maybe culminating with her appearance in the Deadpool series.
Behind the scenes, however, her relationship with White Australian man Grahame Pratt since they wed in 1965 has defied the odds of interracial love throughout the years and might be the subject of a film.
In 1953, at the tender age of 10, the gifted Leslie recorded an album for MGM.
She studied at the Professional Children’s School of New York and at the illustrious Julliard School of Music in New York, both of which were recommendations from her aunt, the singer Eloise Uggams.
Even though her singing career was groundbreaking, “The Leslie Uggams Show” premiered in 1969 and made her the first black person to anchor a network variety show since “The Nat King Cole Show.”
However, she had met and fallen for actor Grahame Pratt behind the scenes. During one of Leslie’s celebrity tours of Australia, the pair ran into each other in Sydney. They had initially met as pupils at Professional Children’s School of New York.
Leslie had experienced the fallout from dating a white man when she was younger and was warned by her aunt against considering a future with him.
“I remember the shock I got once when I was dating a white boy,” Leslie said in a 1967 interview with Ebony.
“He sent me a color picture of himself. I showed it to my aunt. He was a good looking boy with beautiful hair. I thought he was gorgeous. But my aunt took one look and started in to lecture me. ‘Well he’s alright, I suppose,’ she told me, ‘but only for dates, huh, honey? When you’re thinking of settling down for keeps you’ll make sure you marry a nice [Black] fella, won’t you?’”
Leslie claimed that she continued to run into Grahame after their unexpected encounter.
“I found myself really falling for him, which was quite a thing for me to realize as I was only 21.”
After she left Australia, she wouldn’t see him again for a whole year.
Despite Leslie’s concerns about her family’s reaction and what it would mean for the two of them, they had fallen in love, and Grahame would have to travel to the United States so that Leslie could pursue her career.
They were engaged for 5 months at which time Grahame made a trip to New York to see her.
“Knowing my family’s ideas about mixed marriages I wanted to know, too, whether they would really accept Grahame and not just tolerate him,” she said.
However, Leslie need not have worried; Grahame benefited much from his native Australia.
‘But of course we did get mail’
“He had none of the self-consciousness about the situation that a white American often has. He fitted in easily with all my friends…just because he liked them. And they certainly liked him, both the men and the girls.”
Even though Leslie and Richard did not face the same racial tensions in New York as the rest of the country experienced after their 1965 marriage, she reported receiving hate mail because of it.
“It was not as hard as I expected it to be,” Leslie said of her marriage in an interview with PEOPLE. “I think the reason is that Grahame was not an American white man. But of course we did get mail.
“Sometimes when I go on tour through the States I get anonymous letters about being married to a white man,” Leslie revealed. “I remember I got one in Detroit of all places. It came to the club addressed to ‘The Little Negro Entertainer.’ They’re always addressed something like that and they’re not pleasant to read.”
Leslie and Grahame had two children, a daughter named Danielle in 1970 and a son named Justice in 1976, and Grahame eventually became her manager.
Leslie landed the lead role in the miniseries “Roots” in 1977, a year after the birth of their second child, for which she was nominated for an Emmy. Her character, Kizzy, was based on Mae West.
After that, she starred in the miniseries “Backstairs at the White House” as Lillian Rogers Parks and received an Emmy nomination for Best Actress.
Known for her role as Rose Keefer on “All My Children” in 1996, she also won a Daytime Emmy in 1983 for hosting the NBC game show “Fantasy.”
She has appeared on numerous TV shows as a guest star, including “Family Guy” (in which she played herself), “I Spy,” “Hollywood Squares,” “The Muppet Show,” “The Love Boat,” and “Magnum, P.I.”
After 55 years of marriage, Leslie and Grahame have two daughters and a granddaughter, Cassidy. They are still very much in love with each other.
Leslie explained the key to her successful marriage by saying, “We laugh all the time — but it ain’t always roses. It’s a good time when we’re all together.”
The devotion they have for one another has triumphed over time and distance. They are a role model for couples everywhere because of how much love and support they had for each other over the years.
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