Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original Dreamgirl

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Overview

You may think that Sheryl Lee Ralph earned a legion of devoted fans and the title of Ultimate Diva by being a star of Broadway, film, and television, but Sheryl Lee believes a Diva is something far more special.

• A Diva loves the woman she sees in the mirror.

• A Diva owns her talent and her strength.

• A Diva knows the first step on the road to fame is respecting herself.

...

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Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original Dreamgirl

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Overview

You may think that Sheryl Lee Ralph earned a legion of devoted fans and the title of Ultimate Diva by being a star of Broadway, film, and television, but Sheryl Lee believes a Diva is something far more special.

• A Diva loves the woman she sees in the mirror.

• A Diva owns her talent and her strength.

• A Diva knows the first step on the road to fame is respecting herself.

SHERYL LEE RALPH’S superstar performance as the original Deena in Broadway’s groundbreaking musical Dreamgirls didn’t happen overnight. First came a grueling Hollywood apprenticeship, where roles for young black women at the time were often offensive and demeaning. Sheryl Lee, however, held stubbornly to the values of her mother and grandmother: she wouldn’t take any part she couldn’t be proud of. Even after joining Dreamgirls—where she helped create a role that grew from her own life story—she would invest years of sweat and tears before the play finally opened to instant acclaim.

In these highly personal reflections, Sheryl Lee Ralph reveals her take on her supposed feuds with Diana Ross and Jennifer Holliday, on auditioning for Sidney Poitier, on why she exited so controversially from the TV series Moesha, and how she signed away her rights to Dreamgirls for a dollar. She uses her life story to illustrate her vision: black, white, or any other color of the rainbow, a true Diva is a person of strength, character, and a beauty that radiates from within. Not just a memoir, Redefining Diva will inspire every woman (and man) who reads it to examine the potential in their own life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Actress Ralph, self-described diva, offers advice to future divas, stressing the word “Diva” as a positive role model: “My kind of Diva is woman enough to love herself to the core of her being.” In Hollywood, Ralph was directed by Sidney Poitier, filmed with Bill Cosby, and won parts on Good Times and The Jeffersons, but rejected roles that might “disgrace her race.” Eventually, she landed the role of Deena in the Broadway show of Dreamgirls. In Ralph’s sharp account of the stage performance, she reveals intimate views of Nell Carter, Quincy Jones, Jennifer Holliday, and especially Michael Bennett, the show’s director and choreographer. Bennett’s vision is theater history, but his methods drove Ralph to misery, illness, and inner turmoil. She offers stories about Diana Ross, adding new drama to the Dreamgirls saga. Ralph’s involvement in children’s charities, politics, and her own Diva Foundation, which promotes AIDS awareness, portrays a deeply compassionate woman. Readers will welcome her honesty. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"In Ralph's sharp account of the stage performance [Dreamgirls], she reveals intimate views of Nell Carter, Quincy Jones, Jennifer Holliday, and especially Michael Bennett, the show's director and choreographer . . . She offers stories about Diana Ross, adding new drama to the Dreamgirls saga . . . Ralph's involvement in children's charities, politics, and her own Diva Foundation, which promotes AIDS awareness, portrays a deeply compassionate woman. Readers will welcome her honesty." — Publishers Weekly

"A highly enthusiastic memoir by one of the original Broadway Dreamgirls . . . Ralph presents an engrossing story of a woman who challenged Hollywood and its limited roles for black women." — Kirkus

"Every chapter of Sheryl Lee Ralph's new book, Redefining Diva brilliantly interweaves her captivating life story in Hollywood and projects in humanitarianism with inspirational messages to all women to be fearless, to embrace sisterhood, and to have courage to go for their dreams. The Dreamgirl's tome is so well-written, honest and heart-warming that I savored every word, knowing that every woman will find it a comfort and an inspiration." — Dr. Judy Kuriansky, internationally noted clinical psychologist, United Nations NGO representative, author and TV and radio commentator

"Sheryl Lee Ralph is a true D.I.V.A. She uses her powers for good, not evil. This book is truly an inspiration to all who read."—Wendy Williams

"Sheryl Lee Ralph's Redefining Diva is delightful, insightful, humorous and delicious in every sense of the word. A must read for every person looking to be divinely inspired."—Fitness and motivational icon Richard Simmons

"Sheryl Lee Ralph is the epitome of a TRUE DIVA — she is Divine — she is Inspired and Inspiring — she is Victorious in all she does — and she is Anointed — all of which comes to light in her extraordinary new book. I am proud to call her Friend!"—Grammy winning diva Patti Austin

"Sheryl Lee Ralph has written a book that should be read by everybody! A real page turner to live and learn by."—Deidre Hall, soap opera diva and icon

"Everyone should read Miss Ralph's book. She is an excellent role model for young people and her continuing fight against AIDS makes her a true humanitarian. Oh, and she is an undeniable Diva!" — Raven Symone

"If anyone can redefine diva, it's The Sheryl Lee Ralph. This book is truly a gift for all generations. Heartwarming. Poignant. Real. Where the hair and eyelashes end, her "real" diva begins." — Niecy Nash

"I use to have a negative image of the woman who classified herself as a "diva" until I met Miss Sheryl Lee Ralph. She truly is divinely inspirational vivacious & absolutely blessed! Sheryl Lee has taken the term diva and put it into the practical. I love how she shows you how to go inside and bring the diva out to inspire others. Way to go!" — Sherri Shepherd, actress, comedienne, and co-host of The View“In her book, Redefining Diva, Sheryl Lee Ralph does just that! Through personal reflections and testimonials coupled with words of wisdom—both learned and passed down by others—Ralph takes back the word Diva. She owns it, and in doing so encourages Divas from all walks of life to embrace the title that is truly and rightfully their own.”—Cynthia M. A. Butler-McIntyre, National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

With REDEFINING DIVA, Dreamgirl Sheryl Lee Ralph shares her inspiring and insightful life experiences in order that ALL women can celebrate their inner and outer DIVA joyously and gloriously."—Shaun Robinson, Host of Access Hollywood

Library Journal
In this blend of autobiography and self-help book, actress Ralph, who starred in the 1980s Broadway production of Dreamgirls, writes of finding one's inner diva while sharing vignettes from her rise to success. As a young African American actress in the 1970s and 1980s, she faced many obstacles before her big break. This book, reflecting the remarkable woman who has long graced the stage and screen, follows Ralph's journey to Hollywood, her career successes, and her dedication to AIDs awareness campaigns. Readers will enjoy learning about the development of Dreamgirls. At times, however, Ralph's shift from casual autobiographical recollection to "diva-in-training" advice detracts from the story as she summarizes the messages within her experiences rather than allowing readers to learn on their own from her amazing stories. VERDICT This intriguing if occasionally moralistic autobiography explores the world of the theater and self-actualization. Recommended for theater aficionados or readers interested in African American pop culture and cultural history.—Katie Lawrence, Chicago
Kirkus Reviews
A highly enthusiastic memoir by one of the original Broadway Dreamgirls. Actress Ralph embraces the label Diva ("Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed"), and encourages others to discover its meaning and to eschew the media's image of an overbearing celebrity. Proposing that a real diva is a strong woman who respects herself and others and who promotes positive change, Ralph details the common qualities found in divas. She pairs sensible advice with choice anecdotes that feature legendary performers such as Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Ross, and she frequently offers life lessons through pithy summations. Despite the author's passion for mentorship, however, the casual, direct address to readers quickly wears thin. Nonetheless, Ralph presents an engrossing story of a woman who challenged Hollywood and its limited roles for black women. Fans of '80s and '90s sitcoms will also find memorable passages that largely refrain from gossip. When discussing her TV, film and Broadway roles, which notably included The Jeffersons, Designing Women and Moesha, among others, the author portrays fellow industry veterans with fairness. The book concludes with her work as an AIDS activist, which she first undertook after witnessing the deaths of several colleagues. Her responses to trying circumstances reveal genuine grace and the ability to move forward with forgiveness. Ralph emerges as a likable woman whose character is unspoiled by success. She is careful to note that family life outside of the spotlight is most important, yet she also accepts the responsibility and power of influence that come with fame.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451608427
  • Publisher: Gallery Books/Karen Hunter Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/13/2012
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,363,634
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 9.82 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Original DREAMGIRL, Sheryl Lee Ralph is an acclaimed veteran of film, television and the Broadway stage.
Her award winning body of work includes creating and originating the role of Deena Jones on Broadway in the landmark musical Dreamgirls, which earned her both a Tony and Drama Desk Award Nomination for Best Actress.

On television, Sheryl Lee has starred in It's a Living, her own series New Attitude, the George Foreman series George and in the hit comedy Designing Women. She was also voted one of TV's Favorite Moms for her portrayal of step mom Dee on the number-one rated television series Moesha.

Her extensive film credits include Sister Act II with Whoopi Goldberg, The Flintstones with Rosie O'Donell, The Mighty Quinn with Denzel Washington, Mistress with Robert De Niro, and Eddie Murphy's Distinguished Gentleman. Sheryl Lee's performance with Danny Glover in To Sleep with Anger won her the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Mother of two, Sheryl Lee Ralph loves every moment of raising her children. Recently married to State Senator Vincent Hughes of Pennsylvania in what Entertainment Tonight called, "The most elegant and romantic wedding of the summer!" she acknowledges that love is the greatest gift to be given and shared.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2013

    Great read and wonderful for young people too!

    Great read and wonderful for young people too!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 8, 2012

    Interesting.

    I did not know Sheryl Lee Ralph was in showbiz as long as she was. This book had a few good points.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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