If there was a competition for Gay Icons, then Sheryl Lee Ralph would be a top finalist. Sheryl originated the role of Deena Jones in Dreamgirls on Broadway for which she received a Tony Award nomination. In 2009, she played Elyse in The First Wives Club and recently played Madame Morrible in Wicked. She has received numerous accolades in her music career, as well as film and television roles including Independent Spirit Award. But what makes her truly exceptional is her championship for HIV and AIDS awareness. She founded the Diva Foundation in 1990 as a memorial to the many friends she lost to HIV/AIDS.
Modesty aside, how would you describe yourself?
I’m a DIVA, divinely inspired victoriously anointed
I’m a huge fan of The Diva Foundation, an organization you found and its biggest annual fundraiser, Divas Simply Singing, now in its 27th year. How has the organization evolved with the new challenges facing HIV and AIDS?
We continue to raise our voices in song and commitment to raise HIV/AIDS awareness. Our message now includes the whole family, mother, father, son and daughter. We try to get everyone in the conversation.
What artists would you like to have perform at Divas Simply Singing who have not done so yet?
Alicia Keys, Annie Lenox, Audra McDowell, Adele, Beyonce, Mary J Blige, Esperanza Spaulding and Queen Latifah.
You have an illustrious and diverse career, film, Broadway, music and TV. What haven’t you done yet that you would like to try?
World domination as a Super Hero or US President.
Tell me about your LGBTQ+ fans.
I know that I am loved, adored, understood and appreciated by many of my LGBTQ fans and what blessing they have been to me over the years.
Which one of your iconic roles do your gay fans want to talk about more? Madame Morrible in Wicked? Deena Jones in the original Broadway musical Dreamgirls? Divas Simply Singing?
It all depends how old or young they are. I used to say that I would always be someone’s DreamGirl, but now Madame Morrible has taken over! But Divas Simply Singing has its own roster of dye hard fans and supporters.
Your husband is a Pennsylvania State senator, Vincent Hughes. What do you think about the current state of politics in America?
We are in the midst of an abysmal mess that has not been witnessed since reconstruction! The unsurfaced hate has been a disheartening stench on American politics.
Aside from The Diva Foundation, what other charity or cause is close to your heart?
Public education in many of our cities is failing our children. In the future we will see how we will suffer as people because of this. Racism must be deal with in America and it must happen soon. You know it’s bad when people are willing to go without hoods to express their racism.
I just rescued a dog from a high kill shelter and I encourage people to adopt from shelters when they can. Perfect pets are in need of homes. Children too!
What exciting project or event do you have coming up?
Amazon series, One Mississippi with Tig Notaro and “Villa Capri” with Morgan Freeman out in November.
Tell me a secret
It wouldn’t be a secret if I told it!!! Everybody has one and somebody knows it!
P.S. Sheryl was using the term, “DIVA”, before it was common.