Leslie Uggams has had an enthralling career as a theatre and movie actor.
The Harlem-born singer and actress are best recognized for her role in the Deadpool series, but she has had a brilliant career spanning seven decades.
But, behind the scenes, her life might be the subject of a film after she married White Australian man Grahame Pratt in 1965 since their love affair has beaten all the odds of interracial love…
Leslie was a great singer who cut a song for MGM at the age of 10 in 1953. Her aunt, singer Eloise Uggams, encouraged her to attend the Professional Children’s School of New York and the famed Julliard School of Music in New York.
But her musical success was just the beginning of her adventure; by 1969, she had her TV variety show, “The Leslie Uggams Show,” the first network variety show hosted by a black person since “The Nat King Cole Show.”
Behind the scenes, though, she met and fell in love with actor Grahame Pratt. After meeting at Professional Children’s School in New York, where they were both pupils, the couple ran into one other again in Sydney during one of Leslie’s celebrity tours in Australia.
Leslie knew the consequences of dating a white man because she had done it in her adolescence, and her aunt had advised her not to consider a future with him.
“I remember the shock I felt once when I was dating a white boy,” Leslie told Ebony in 1967.
“He emailed me a color photograph of himself. It was shown to my aunt. He was a handsome young man with lovely hair. I thought he was stunning. But my aunt took one glance at me and began lecturing me. ‘Well, I suppose he’s okay,’ she said, ‘but only for dates, eh, honey? You’ll marry a fine [Black] fella when you’re ready to settle down for good, won’t you?’”
Leslie stated that she continued to visit Grahame after their fortuitous meeting.
“I found myself falling for him, which was quite surprising given that I was only 21.”
She wouldn’t see him again for 12 months after she left Australia.
The two had fallen in love despite Leslie’s misgivings about her family’s reaction and what it would mean for them if Grahame had to relocate to the United States for Leslie’s work. Grahame visited her in New York after they had been engaged for five months.
“Knowing my family’s views on mixed marriages, I wanted to know if they would truly accept Grahame and not just tolerate him,” she explained.
Leslie, on the other hand, had nothing to worry about because Grahame was an Australian.
“He lacked the self-consciousness about his situation that many white Americans do.” He readily blended in with my friends…because he liked them. And they both liked him, the men and the females.”
Although they didn’t face many racial challenges that the rest of the country encountered while living in New York, Leslie said she still received hate mail because of their marriage.
“It wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated,” Leslie remarked of her marriage in an interview with PEOPLE. “I believe the reason is that Grahame was not a white American man.” But, of course, we received mail.
“When I go on tour in the United States, I sometimes get anonymous letters about being married to a white man,” Leslie stated. “I recall getting one in Detroit, of all places.” It was addressed to ‘The Little Negro Entertainer’ and arrived at the club. They’re constantly discussed in that manner and are not pleasant to read.”
Grahame took over as Leslie’s manager, and the couple had two daughters, Danielle in 1970 and Justice in 1976.
By 1977, one year after the birth of their second child, Leslie had secured the lead role in the miniseries “Roots,” for which she received an Emmy nomination for her performance as Kizzy.
Two years later, she played Lillian Rogers Parks in “Backstairs at the White House,” a miniseries for which she received an Emmy nomination for Best Actress.
She portrayed Rose Keefer on “All My Children” in 1996 and got a Daytime Emmy Award in 1983 as the host of the NBC game show “Fantasy.”
She has appeared as herself on television shows such as “Family Guy,” “I Spy,” “Hollywood Squares,” “The Muppet Show,” “The Love Boat,” and “Magnum P.I.”
Leslie and Grahame are still married and in love after 55 years, and they have two children and a granddaughter named Cassidy.
“We laugh all the time — but it ain’t always roses,” Leslie said of their happy marriage. We enjoy a good time together.”
The love between these two has defied all odds and has stood the test of time. They are devoted to each other and have always supported each other; they inspire.