Actress Esther Rolle (1920-1998) trying on a dress the Joseph Magnin store in Beverly Hills in 1974. Best known as Florida Evans on “Good Times,” Ms. Rolle was born to Bahamian immigrant parents in Pompano Beach, Florida, the 10th of 18 children. Inspired by two of her sisters who were also actresses (Rosanna Carter and Estelle Evans, who appeared in “To Kill a Mockingbird”) she moved to New York when she was 18 years old to begin a career in writing before she was talked into acting. She was also a dancer and performed with the Asadata Dafora troupe for twelve years before becoming a founding member of the Negro Ensemble Company. She also attended several colleges, most notably Spelman, and was a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority. When asked about portraying a variety of maids throughout her career, Ms. Rolle told People magazine in 1990, “I’m glad to take on the role of a domestic because many of your black leaders, your educators, your professionals came from domestic parents who made sacrifices to see that their children didn’t go through what they did. But, I don’t play Hollywood maids, the hee-hee kind of people who are so in love with their madam’s children they have no time for their own.” Ms. Rolle was particularly concerned about black images and Hollywood and she was not shy about speaking up. She left her most famous role on “Good Times” in protest to what she thought was the increasing buffoonery of the J.J. character. She told People in that same 1990 interview, “I told the producers, ‘I did not agree to do a clown show for you to degrade young black men. I ruffle a lot of feathers. And I’m also selective—that makes you a troublemaker. But so be it. I laid a cornerstone for black actors, and that makes me happy.” Photo: Isaac Sutton from the Ted Williams and Ebony Collection at Art.com.
She’s been killing it on the red carpet lately. She looks fabulous and luminous in everything! Watch out for her in the next couple of months, definitely has the makings of being the next fashion it-girl
SN: Go see her in the film “12 Years A Slave”! Her performance and the movie itself is magnificent
A 26-year-old Phyllis Hyman in her New York City apartment on March 3, 1976 just as her star was beginning to rise. Just months before, she was an unknown singer whose first nightclub appearances on Manhattan’s upper west side attracted large, loyal followings fast. These photos were taken by Suzanne Vlamis for the AP.