COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on our day to day lives – but Tony nominated and Spirit Award winning actress/activist Sheryl Lee Ralph is booked and busy with her ongoing slate of dynamic TV, literary, political and entrepreneurial projects, revealing the incredible truth that it can’t stop the flow of creative determination and LOVE.
“Love should not be quarantined.”
In addition to an audio update of her bestselling critically acclaimed 2016 book “Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original Dreamgirl,” Sheryl Lee is making her directorial debut for BET her TV, “serving” as the 45th President of the USA on the Disney-owned Freeform networks supernatural drama “Motherland: Fort Salem” and streaming her popular digital talk show “Divas Simply Quarantined” on Facebook Live. Sheryl is also pleased to announce that ABC has greenlit her pilot “Harlem’s Kitchen,” a heated drama starring Sheryl Lee and Delroy Lindo.
In December, Sheryl Lee will produce the 30th Annual DIVAS Simply Singing!, the longest consecutive running musical AIDS benefit in the United States. The virtual event will be airing for the first time on KTLA Los Angeles and other Nexstar stations on Saturday, December 5 from 7-9 p.m.
The politically engaged Sheryl Lee recently launched the website www.shopwithsheryllee.com for her for her stunning, bling-adorned VOTE masks she designed in addition to a line of VOTE and POWER T-shirts for men and women in a multitude of colors and designs. With her designer mask, she wants people to “Spread the Message, Not the Virus.” A passionate supporter of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, she is married to Senator Vincent Hughes (D), representing the 7th Senatorial District of Philadelphia. He is currently the Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriation Committee, the first African-American to hold that position.
“I want people to exercise their right to vote,” Sheryl Lee says. “I believe in hope and change, and right now Joe Biden and Kamala Harris represent just that. To paraphrase Joe Biden, ‘who we’ve been these past few years can’t be who we are. The country must move forward. We cannot go backwards to an unjust society where racism and hatred are the norm.’ Black people have been under terrorist harm for years, and that has to stop before we can live up to our ideals as a just society where all people are created and treated equal. VOTE!”
Sheryl Lee was inspired to record an audio update of her book “Redefining Diva” because of the promising new developments and opportunities for African American actresses since the release of the original version. “People need to be aware of from whence we came,” she says. “These encouraging shifts in attitude and the expanded number of roles that have resulted didn’t just happen overnight. They are the result of a lot of groundwork laid by previous creative generations.” REDEFINING DIVA 2.0 will be available in Audible.
At home in a TV, film or Broadway stage, Sheryl Lee is very excited about her transition to director with “Like Comment Subscribe,” debuting October 17 on BET Her TV. The powerful script showcases the life of a beautiful young social media influencer who in the midst of planning her wedding is diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. The story hit home with Sheryl Lee because a month before she was given the script, her sister in law was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. The week before she started shooting, her sister in law lost her battle to stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. “Black women’s pain is not taken as seriously as others,” Sheryl Lee says. “This film is an opportunity to launch much needed conversations. Cancer Matters.”
The COVID-19 lockdown hit Hollywood just as the cameras were set to roll on the ABC pilot “Harlem’s Kitchen,” an intense hour-long family drama starring Sheryl Lee and Delroy Lindo. The show is about a Harlem restaurateur and community hero whose deeper truths become self-evident after his sudden death by heart attack. His widow, played by Sheryl Lee, rises to a new level of family leadership. “If you like ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘Scandal’ and ‘How to Get Away with Murder,’” she promises, “this show is the answer to your TV prayers.”
And if that’s not enough, devoted TV viewers can now enjoy more of Sheryl Lee’s onscreen charisma on Netflix. In August, the streaming platform added all six seasons of “Moesha,” where she played stepmom to the title character (played by singer/actress Brandy). Moesha immediately hit the Netflix Top Ten. “I’m encouraged by the renewed support I’m getting from young people on social media as a result,” she says. “So many of them tell me how they hated Dee when they were young but they LOVE her now that they are parents themselves. Good Mothers get better with the aging for their children.”
In March 2020, the Freeform network launched the debut season of “Motherland: Fort Salem,” which features Sheryl Lee as President Kelly Wade, the United States’ indomitable African American female President, described by the actress as “Kamala Harris on steroids.”
While working on these and other self-generated projects, Sheryl Lee has been hosting “Divas Simply Quarantined,” a digital series on Facebook Live every Sunday at 7 p.m. EST. In support of her non-profit D.I.V.A Foundation, which has raised funds and awareness on behalf of HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases for over 30 years, the show is an opportunity to engage people and offer hope during this anxious, stressful year.
“These are difficult times for everybody,” she says. “People are looking to be uplifted, inspired and feel good. I called many of the DIVAS who have been part of our annual gala over the years. We talk about how they’re feeling and how their lives have changed since the Corona lockdown. We also talk about career and where they see themselves in the future. I’m thrilled to have a few thousand dedicated consumers tuning in every week – and growing!”