Diahann Carroll, who decades ago blazed trails for actors like Kerry Washington and today still represents the ultimate modern woman, regaled dinner guests at BET's fourth annual Leading Women Defined summit in Washington, D.C.
"She is a woman who used every job she had, whether it was singing in a nightclub or doing a play on Broadway or doing a sitcom, to challenge the preconceived notions of what a Black woman could be and thereby set us all very, very free," said author Susan Fales-Hill of the woman she calls Aunt Diahann.
Their on-stage conversation Thursday night was frank, humorous and sometimes lusty and touched on numerous issues, from acting to fashion to romance.
With her seemingly ageless beauty and a career of incredible firsts that others may envy, it would be easy to assume that life has been nothing but up for her. But Carroll acknowledged that she's endured some tough times. Her attitude is that if there's an obstacle, "kick the door down and find another door," a theory she applied to her profession and her love life.
"He's not working, let's move to another door," the four-time married Carroll said to laughter.
Humor, she observed, can be a great remedy. At her lowest point, when she felt like she couldn't find a way to move forward, Carroll decided it might be a good idea to get some pills and check into the Plaza Hotel to end it all. She chose the site because she'd worked there for 10 years and also had lived in the hotel with her daughter.
But when she arrived, she learned that her regular room wouldn't be ready until the next day and was given an alternative space. Disappointed, Carroll went upstairs, looked around and thought, "I can't commit suicide in here."
"I called my friend and I said, 'Whatever you're doing I want you to meet me here because they don't have my rooms; I can't handle this. If I can't commit suicide, let's just have some dinner'," she recalled.
Always have some humor, Carroll advised.
"It lets me feel like I don't have to carry around a machete all the time to get through life," she said.
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(Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images for BET)