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Singer and actress Diana Ross was part of the 1960s trio the Supremes as well as a solo artist, and starred in such films as Lady Sings the Blues and The Wiz.
The Supremes - Mini Bio (5:28)
Billie Holiday - Big Break (3:08)
A short biography of The Supremes.
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After enduring a difficult childhood, Billie Holiday got her big break after being discovered in a jazz club by John Hammond for her skill at improvising when she sang.
Billie Holiday was romantically involved with several different people during her rise to fame, both men and women, including Jimmy Monroe, Orson Welles and Tallulah Bankhead.
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Singer and actress. Born on March 26, 1944, in Detroit, Michigan. An accomplished performer, Ross began singing in a group with friends Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, and Barbara Martin as a teenager. Martin eventually dropped out, but the remaining members of the group went on to become the internationally successful 1960s R&B and pop trio, the Supremes (which was later Diana Ross and the Supremes).
Signed to Motown Records by famed record producer and label founder Berry Gordy, Jr., in 1961, the Supremes scored its first number one hit with the song "Where Did Our Love Go?" (1964). In all the trio scored 12 number one hits, including "Stop! In the Name of Love" (1965) and "Someday We Will Be Together" (1969).
Ross left the Supremes for a solo career in 1969 and hit the charts the next year with the songs "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." In 1972, she branched out into acting with the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues. While the film received mixed reviews, Ross's performance garnered her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. The soundtrack for the film was a huge success and helped spurn on new interest in Holiday. Ross went on to star in several more films, including Mahogany (1975) and The Wiz (1978).
The next decade started out on a strong note for Ross with her album Diana (1980), which contained the hits "Upside Down" and "I'm Coming Out." With her new record label MCA, she recorded "Muscles" (1982), written by Michael Jackson, which did well on the charts. Later in the decade, though, her sales began to falter. Still she continued to record and perform and returned to Motown Records near the end of the 1980s. Back with the label that launched her career, she achieved some success with The Force Behind the Power (1991).
In the 1990s, Ross made several appearances on the small screen. She starred in the 1994 television movie, Out of Darkness, playing a woman with schizophrenia. Ross took on lighter fare with Double Platinum (1999), another television movie. She starred as a famous singer who had abandoned her daughter to pursue her career. Brandy, a well-known pop performer, played her daughter. Some of the songs from the project were featured on Ross' 1999 album, Every Day Is a New Day.
Around this time, Ross experienced some personal difficulties. She got into a dispute with a security guard in 1999 at London's Heathrow airport and a result was arrested and detained for several hours before being released.
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Many African-Americans made their name performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, including Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. The roster of talented artists who made their careers after a successful amateur night at the Apollo grew so large, that the venue earned a reputation as the place to jump-start the career of an ambitious hopeful. Other performers, like Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson, came to the theater after experiencing big professional success, adding further credibility to the historic New York concert hall. Explore the biographies of some of the more notable African-Americans who stepped out onto the Apollo stage, making entertainment history.
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Who can forget Angela Bassett as Tina Turner or Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles? Do you remember who played Billie Holiday? Or who Beyoncé performed as in the film Cadillac Records? More recent African-American biopics include the Lifetime original movie Betty & Coretta (2013), starring Angela Bassett as Coretta Scott King and Mary J. Blige as Betty Shabazz, and The Butler (2013), starring Forest Whitaker and based on the life of Eugene Allen.
View our photos of African-American biopics to compare these famous figures to the actors and actresses who have portrayed them.
African-American Biopics 39 people in this group