May 11th, 2011 13:29 EST
Judyth Piazza Diva Sheryl Lee Ralph Discuss The Movie 'The Lot' and Kool-aide Pickles
Award-winning actress, singer, and producer Sheryl Lee Ralph has made an indelible mark on the Broadway stage, television, and the big screen. For some, that would be enough but with her passion for life and deep sense of commitment to others, she has also embraced the role of AIDS activist.
Ms. Ralph who created the role of Deena Jones in the land mark Broadway musical, Dreamgirls, (a role that garnered her both Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations), was never content to rest on her well-deserved laurels. For the past seventeen years, Sheryl Lee has directed her considerable energy and used her celebrity to heightening the public`s awareness of the devastating impact HIV/AIDS has had, and continues to have globally.
In 1990, she founded The DIVA Foundation, a national not-for-profit 501C(3) charitable organization as a loving memorial to the many friends she had lost to HIV/AIDS as an original company member of DREAMGIRLS on Broadway. Diva Foundation`s goal is to focus on generating resources and coordinating activities to create awareness of and combat the pressing issue of HIV/AIDS. The DIVA Foundation utilizes the arts and entertainment as a vehicle to inform, educate and erase the stigma still attached to this deadly disease.
The organization`s first production was Divas Simply Singing, a star-studded, fundraising extravaganza, produced by, and featuring Ms. Ralph along with a host of committed Divas, the likes of Chaka Khan, Stacey "Fergie" Ferguson, Miss Nancy Wilson, Loretta Devine, Melissa Manchester, Teena Marie and Raven Symone to name a few. In making it`s twenty year mark, DIVAS Simply Sing has become the longest consecutive running musical HIV/AIDS benefit in America and is one of the pre-eminent AIDS-awareness organizations.
Following on the success of Divas Simply Singing, is Sometimes I Cry, a one-woman play, written, directed and performed by Ms. Ralph. In this complex and thought-provoking drama, Ms. Ralph uses her remarkable talent to illustrate the inspiring real life stories of culturally diverse women who strive to cope with HIV/AIDS. The drama unfolds through words, music, and song poignantly bringing these women to life in a way that touches the heart leaving audiences deeply moved and inspired.
Met with extraordinary outpourings of love and acceptance after its initial performance at the National Black Women and HIV/AIDS Conference in Los Angeles in 2005, Sometimes I Cry, continues to be performed in the US and abroad, and is one of the projects dearest to Ms. Ralph`s heart.
Women`s voices have been silent for too long in the struggle against HIV/AIDS, " she says, and their stories need to be told. Their health and well-being matter too. "
Not surprisingly, the accolades have poured in and Ms. Ralph has been recognized by many organizations for her outstanding contribution in the fight against HIV/AIDS. She was recently named one of the 50 most Fierce & Fabulous Women in the World by ESSENCE magazine for her unwavering commitment in the fight against HIV/AIDS. POZ magazine has named her one of the Top 100 most influential voices on the subject of HIV/AIDS. Sheryl Lee Ralph has also been conferred with two Honorary Doctorates in the Humanities for her HIV/AIDS work. In December 2005, she received the very first Red Ribbon Leadership Award, an honor conferred upon her by The National HIV/AIDS Partnership (NHAP) on World HIV/AIDS Day at the United Nations. The award acknowledged her steadfast commitment and dynamic leadership in the effort to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.
Ms. Ralph sits on the boards of several AIDS organizations including Project Angel Food, and the Black AIDS Institute. She is also the national spokesperson for the National Minority AIDS council.
Ms. Ralph is a graduate of Rutgers University, and is a member of the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni. She holds the distinct honor of being the first woman to graduate from Rutgers College, a once all-male institution, and an accomplishment she achieved within just three years at the age of nineteen. In 2004, Ms. Ralph was inducted into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. because of her steadfast commitment to arts, community and women`s well being.
Mother of two, Ms. Ralph and husband, Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes created www.testtogether.org to encourage couples to get tested together for HIV/AIDS. They believe that love is the greatest gift to be given and shared.
The DIVA (Divinely, Inspired, Victoriously, Anointed) Foundation is a national not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization founded by Sheryl Lee Ralph in 1990, as a loving memorial to the many friends she had lost to HIV/AIDS as an original company member of DREAMGIRLS on Broadway. The organization focuses on generating resources and coordinating activities that create awareness about the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS on women, children and men. The DIVA Foundation uses the arts and entertainment as a vehicle to educate, inform and it is hoped, eventually erase the stigma attached to this deadly disease. www.thedivafoundation.org