Jaleel White Biography

Actor, Television Actor (1976–)
Actor Jaleel White rose to fame as the nerdy boy-next-door Steve Urkel on the 1990s hit sitcom Family Matters.


Born in California on November 27, 1976, Jaleel White started out performing in commercials. The child actor then landed roles on The Jeffersons and Charlie & Co. His big break came in 1989, with the sitcom Family Matters. After the series ended in 1998, White starred in Grown Ups and had guest roles on such shows as Psych. In 2012, he joined the cast of Dancing With the Stars and became the host of Total Blackout.


Early Life

The son of a dentist, Jaleel White has earned a place in television history for his beloved character on the 1990s sitcom Family Matters. He played Steve Urkel, a geeky kid with big glasses and undersized clothes, and his character became a pop-culture icon, appearing on everything from lunchboxes to T-shirts.

White discovered performing at an early age. Around the age of 3, he began working in commercials. One of White's first acting roles was on the hit comedy The Jeffersons, in which he played a piano prodigy. He soon landed a supporting role in Charlie & Co., playing the son of comedian Flip Wilson and singer Gladys Knight. Debuting in the fall of 1985, this family sitcom lasted for only one season.

'Family Matters'

Auditioning for what was supposed to be a one-time guest spot, White was up for the part of a nerdy neighbor on a new sitcom, Family Matters. The show focused on the lives of an African American police officer (Reginald VelJohnson), his wife (Jo Marie Payton) and their three children. To get into the part, White borrowed a pair of thick-framed glasses from his father. His performance as Steve Urkel won over the show's producers, who gave him a more substantial role in the series. Beginning its run after the debut of The Cosby Show, Family Matters became one of the few shows on television to depict the everyday life of an African-American family.

White became the breakout star of the show. Audiences delighted in Urkel's wacky antics, awkward outfits and cute catchphrases. Urkel even had his own dance and a line of merchandise including a talking doll. While on Family Matters, White worked on other projects as well. He voiced the title character on the animated series Sonic the Hedgehog and made guest appearances on other sitcoms, including Full House and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

After Family Matters ended in 1998, White worked hard to distance himself from his legendary character. He tried to show his more mature side by playing a young professional on the short-lived sitcom Grown Ups in 1999. Outside of acting, White completed his studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2001. He earned a bachelor's degree in film and television.

Recent Projects

White started exploring a new medium in 2009, appearing in the Web series Race to the Altar. The following year, he tackled the Web himself, writing, directing, producing and starring in Fake It Til You Make It. White played a former child star who works as a celebrity image consultant.

In 2011, White showed off his dance skills in the video for Cee Lo Green's "Cry Baby." And those skills came in handy when White signed on to participate on the dance-competition show Dancing with the Stars in 2012. Competing against former co-star Gladys Knight, reality television star Victoria Gotti and actress Melissa Gilbert, among others, White was voted off of the show during its seventh week.

Also in 2012, White began hosting a new game show, Total Blackout, on the Syfy Network. He has other projects in the works as well, including developing a screenplay for the big screen.

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