Leslie Uggams has had a long and illustrious career as a theatre and screen actor.
The Harlem-born singer and actress is best recognized for her role in the Deadpool series, but she has had a brilliant career spanning seven decades.
But behind the scenes, her personal life may be the topic of a film after she married White Australian Grahame Pratt in 1965, since their love affair has overcome all chances of interracial love throughout the decades…
Leslie was a gifted singer who cut her first album for MGM at the age of ten in 1953. She attended the Professional Children’s School of New York and the famed Julliard School of Music in New York after being encouraged by her aunt, vocalist Eloise Uggams.
But her musical success was just the beginning; by 1969, she had her own TV variety show, “The Leslie Uggams Show,” which was the first network variety show hosted by a black person since “The Nat King Cole Show.”
But she had met and fallen in love with actor Grahame Pratt behind the scenes. After meeting at the Professional Children’s School of New York, where they were both pupils, the couple later ran into one other in Sydney while she was on one of Leslie’s celebrity tours in Australia.
Leslie had seen the consequences of dating a white man when she was in her teens, and her aunt had warned her against considering a future with him.
In a 1967 interview with Ebony, Leslie recalled, “I remember the shock I experienced when I began dating a white boy.”
“He emailed me a color photograph of himself. It was shown to my aunt. He was a handsome young boy with lovely hair. I thought he was stunning. My aunt, on the other hand, took one look at me and began lecturing me. ‘Well, I suppose he’s alright,’ she said, ‘but only for dates, eh, honey?’ You’ll make sure you marry a lovely [Black] fella when you’re ready to settle down for the long haul, won’t you?”
Leslie stated she kept seeing Grahame after their fortuitous meeting.
“I found myself truly falling for him, which was quite a revelation for me at the age of 21.”
It would be a year before she saw him again after she left Australia.
Despite Leslie’s concerns about her family’s reaction and what it would mean for the two of them if Grahame had to relocate to the United States for Leslie’s work, the two had fallen in love. Grahame visited her in New York after they were engaged for 5 months.
“Knowing my family’s views on mixed marriages, I wanted to see if they would truly accept Grahame rather than just tolerate him,” she explained.
Grahame’s being Australian had its advantages, thus Leslie had nothing to worry about.
“He lacked the self-consciousness that a white American often feels about his situation.” He got along well with all of my pals simply because he liked them. And he was well-liked by both the men and the ladies.”
Although they didn’t face many of the racial challenges that the rest of the country encountered while living in New York, Leslie said she still received hate mail as a result of their marriage.
In an interview, Leslie remarked of her marriage, “It wasn’t as hard as I thought it to be.” “I believe it is because Grahame was not an American white man. We did, however, receive mail.
“I get anonymous letters about being married to a white man sometimes when I go on tour in the United States,” Leslie stated. “I recall getting one in, of all places, Detroit.” It was addressed to ‘The Little Negro Entertainer’ and arrived at the club. They’re always addressed in that manner, and they’re not enjoyable to read.”
Grahame became Leslie’s manager, and the pair had two daughters, Danielle and Justice, born in 1970 and 1976, respectively.
By 1977, one year after the birth of their second child, Leslie had secured the main role in the miniseries “Roots,” for which she was nominated for an Emmy.
She was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Actress for her role as Lillian Rogers Parks in the miniseries “Backstairs at the White House” two years later.
She won a Daytime Emmy Award for hosting the NBC game show “Fantasy” in 1983, and she played Rose Keefer on “All My Children” in 1996.
She has appeared as herself on TV 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 as well as a granddaughter, 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 these two have for each other has weathered the test of time and defied all odds. They are an inspiration since they are clearly devoted to each other and have supported each other throughout the years.