(Photo: John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images)
Rosetta LeNoire was not only a talented actress of stage, screen and television. She was also a Broadway producer and a casting agent, a highly unusual path for an African-American woman.
LeNoire was born in 1911 and made her acting debut in a 1939 production of The Hot Mikado, starring Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, in which she played "Little Maid From School" Peep-Bo. She also appeared on stage, mostly as a singer and dancer, in a number of plays.
In 1968, using her own savings, LeNoire founded the AMAS Repertory Theatre Company, an interracial theater dedicated to multi-ethnic productions in New York City. With this company, Rosetta created an artistic community where members' individual skills were recognized without regard to race, creed, color, religion or national origin. She became a successful and groundbreaking Broadway producer.
LeNoire is best known to contemporary audiences for her work in television. She had regular roles on the series Gimme a Break and Amen. She is perhaps best known for her role as Estelle Winslow on Family Matters. In 1999, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts. She died in 2002.
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