Dynasty star, actress and singer Diahann Carroll dies aged 85

Groundbreaking actress and singer Diahann Carroll, one of stars of the 80’s television series Dynasty, has died aged 85.

While to many she will be remembered for her role as Dominique Deveraux on 80’s power soap Dynasty. The actress and singer’s career was filled with groundbreaking firsts, as she tackled discrimination in the screen and theatre industries.

In 1968 she starred in the sitcom Julia where she portrayed a woman who was a nurse whose husband had been killed in the Vietnam war. It was the first time b a black woman had starred in her own TV series, and not portrayed a domestic worker.

Born in The Bronx in New York, Carroll’s big break came when she won a TV talent contest as a singer when she was just 18, soon she had bookings to sing in venues in New York and made her film debut in a small role in Carmen Jones. 

Soon she was appearing regularly in films and Broadway musicals.  She was the first black woman to win a Tony Award for Best Actress, she was recognised for her performance in the 1962 production No Strings. Carroll was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for her role opposite James Earl Jones in the 1974 film Claudine. 

In the 1980’s she joined the cast of the top rating show Dynasty, she stayed with the program for three seasons and also appeared on the spin-off program The Colbys. 

Later in her career she appeared in the mini-series Lonesome Dove, and played Norma Desmond in the Canadian production of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. 

The actress was married four times, her fourth husband was singer Vic Damone. The couple divorced in 1996. Alongside her marriages she also had an affair with actor Sidney Poitier for almost a decade and dated journalist David Frost for several years.

Carroll was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, and underwent weeks of radiation therapy. She became a prominent campaigner for encouraging early detection and raising funds for cancer research.

Carroll passed away in Los Angeles from cancer aged 85. She is survived by her daughter Suzanne Kay Bamford, whose father was Carroll’s first husband, record producer Monte Kay.

Stars including Barbra Streisand, Eric McCormack, Levar Burton, Whoopi Goldberg, Shonda Rhimes, Debbie Allen and RuPaul paid tribute to the actress on social media.

Actor Billy Dee Williams, who went to high school with the actress, and later played her husband on Dynasty, posted to Twitter saying she was a pioneer. 

“My dear, dear beautiful Diahann Carroll passed away today . What a pioneer she was in the business….what an incredibly kind soul. We met in High School and continued our friendship for many, many years. The memories and the tears are flowing.” Williams posted. 

Reverend Jesse Jackson said Carroll had broken down barriers during her life and left the world a better place than she found it.

“Diahann Carroll was a transformative force for freedom. She identified with Dr King in the civil rights movement with a simple kiss. She brought down ancient barriers & built bridges.She left the world better than she found it. We are in her debt. We miss her so much already. RIP” revered Jackson posted to Twitter.

OIP Staff