Keshia Knight Pulliam biography
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Keisha Knight Pulliam began appearing in commercials as a baby. She landed her biggest role to date in 1984, when she was just four years old, playing Bill Cosby's adorable daughter Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show. After the show ended in 1992, Pulliam appeared in a racy magazine shoot, and has made TV and film appearances.
Actress Keshia Knight Pulliam was born on April 9, 1979, in Newark, New Jersey. Her parents, Denise and James Pulliam, work as her business managers. According to her father, Pulliam had a star quality from the day she was born. "She was always smiling, she cooed a lot and was very friendly," he remembered. "She would let anyone pick her up." When Pulliam was only five months old, her mother decided to send her photograph to a talent agency. "It was all a long shot," she said. "We really didn't expect anything to come of it."
However, only three months later, Pulliam -- not yet a year old -- landed her first job as a model in a print ad for Johnson & Johnson baby products. After appearing in several advertisements, at the age of three Pulliam landed a recurring role on the children's television program Sesame Street. The next year she filmed her big screen debut, The Last Dragon, which was released in 1985 and has since become a cult classic.
Although Pulliam became a successful professional actress before she could walk or talk, her parents worked hard to instill in their daughter a sense of normalcy and responsibility. "We treated Keshia like a regular child, not a television star," her mother recalled. "She was responsible for cleaning the kitchen, babysitting her brothers, and going to school instead of being tutored."
Playing Rudy Huxtable
In 1984, when she was only four years old, Pulliam landed what remains her most iconic role: Bill Cosby's adorable and witty daughter Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show. From the outset, Pulliam received rave reviews for her performance on screen and her maturity on set.
"This four-year-old child was unbelievable. She was natural," Cosby remembered. "People gravitated to her. She got big laughs from time to time in front of the audience. We never had a problem. Nobody ever had to come down from wherever they were observing and get the child and stop her from crying. I've done enough Jell-O commercials to know how to appreciate very much Keshia Knight Pulliam at age four."
Pulliam performed on The Cosby Show from 1984 to 1992, seeing the scope of her role expand with each new season as she grew from a kindergartener to a young teenager. For her performance on The Cosby Show, Pulliam won a Young Artist Award, several NAACP Image Awards, a People's Choice Award, and a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award. In 1986, at the age of six, she became the youngest performer ever nominated for an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress.
Acting As an Adult
When The Cosby Show finally went off the air in 1992, Pulliam decided to take a decade-long break from acting to focus on her education.
She attended the Foxcroft School, a preparatory school in Middleburg, Virginia, and after graduation continued on to Spelman College, a historically black women's college in Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating with a degree in sociology in 2001, Pulliam reentered show business on the celebrity edition of the game show The Weakest Link, winning first place.
In 2002, she displayed her physical prowess by becoming the winner of the reality TV show Fear Factor. Pulliam definitively proved she was no longer a little girl image by posing in a swimsuit in a racy photo shoot for Black Men magazine. While some commentators criticized her for posing for provocative photos, Pulliam insisted she did nothing inappropriate. "Women are beautiful and there's nothing wrong with celebrating that," she said. "I'm happy that I did -- to show my look and say, 'Mama used to be fine' when I'm 50."
As an actress, Pulliam made her post-college debut in the 2002 TV movie What About Your Friends: Weekend Getaway. After appearing in another TV movie, Christmas at Water's Edge (2004), she acted in a pair of big-screen films in 2005 films: Beauty Shop and The Gospel. Then, in 2007, Pulliam landed her breakthrough role as an adult; she played Miranda on Tyler Perry's TBS sitcom House of Payne. Pulliam continues to play that role after seven seasons and has won three NAACP Image Awards for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. In 2009, she also costarred with Perry in the film Madea Goes to Jail.
Pulliam has never been married and does not have children.
Although she remains best known for her childhood role as Rudy Huxtable, Pulliam is putting together a strong resume as a fully-grown actress. And although she has been acting professionally for more than 30 years, at age 32 Pulliam still has the majority of her career ahead of her, and she says she intends to also get involved with directing and producing.
"I would love to be remembered as a wonderfully dynamic and multitalented actress who left a legacy through her work and through her life of helping people and of being a positive force in the world," Pulliam said. "And I'd also like to be remembered for doing my best at everything that I set my mind to do, while helping to inspire others along the way."