Black History Month One-On-One: Leslie Uggams

February 1, 2014 6:00 AM

Leslie Uggams holding her Emmy & Tony Awards

Leslie Uggams holding her Emmy & Tony Awards

Written & Anchored By 1010 WINS’ Larry Mullins
Produced for 1010 WINS Radio by Sharon Barnes-Waters

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — Actress Leslie Uggams has been captivating stage, screen, and television audiences since her national television debut at age six, when she portrayed the niece of Ethel Waters in the television series “Beulah.”

Larry’s BlogActress Leslie Uggams

“You know, at that time, television was young and so they were always auditioning young kids. And so when this role came up, a friend of my mother’s told her about the audition and I wound up auditioning for the part, and I got it.”

Uggams credits her parents’ hands-off approach to her interest in show business as a child as a reason why she has stayed in the business for practically her whole life.

More: Photo Gallery Of 2014 Black History Month Honorees

She said it was a family friend who taught singing lessons to kids at a New York school where she took tap and ballet that guided her parents toward the right auditions that launched the starlet’s career.

It was, however, Uggams’ portrayal of Kizzy in Alex Haley’s Roots,” that won her worldwide recognition as a dramatic actress.

“We had no idea what a phenomenon it was going to be,” Uggams said of the show. She called Haley and extraordinary and humble man.


“There’s something about Kizzy that just, embodied me. It was like, I was her,” Uggams said of her famous role.

Fast-forward through an impressive career as an entertainer, Uggams said she’s currently working to bring Lena Horne’s “Stormy Weather” to Broadway.