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- Jacqueline Yvonee Harry
- Winston-Salem NC
- United States
Harry was raised in Harlem, New York with her four siblings by her mother Flossie Harry. Her father Warren Harry died when she was the age 3, leaving her the youngest of the 5 children. At the age of 14, Harry landed the lead role of the "King" in her school's production of The King and I. After graduating from New York City's High School of Music and Art, Harry attended the Long Island University C.W. Post Campus in Brooklyn, New York where she earned her B.A. degree in education. Harry began her career as a history teacher at Brooklyn Technical High School. After two years of teaching, she departed from her profession claiming she did not have the knack for it. “They started whistling at me everyday. I was trying to teach them how to behave — it didn’t work,” she said of her experience.
She began studying acting at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side in New York City and began a career on the New York stage. In 1973, she debuted with a small part in a play written by Richard Wesley. She then starred in A Broadway Musical as a chorus girl. In 1983, Harry made her television debut by acting opposite the then-unknown Morgan Freeman in the daytime soap opera, Another World. She carried this role from 1983 to 1986 as the prostitute Lily Mason alongside other African-Americans such as Petronia Paley and Michele Shay. In 2003, she was the surprise guest on the Another World Reunion that SOAPnet coordinated and aired. She appeared at former co-star and close friend Linda Dano's request claiming Dano was the only one who calls her “Jack”.
Harry has been divorced twice. Her first marriage lasted from 1980-1984. On December 1, 1996 Harry married a second time to Elgin Charles Williams, her hair dresser at Joyce’s Exquisite Styles & Hair Care and ministry student at Crenshaw Christian Center in South Los Angeles. The wedding took place at the Beverly Hills Hotel in the gardens of the historic hotel and the reception in the Crystal Room, with over 550 guests. She wore an elegant white silk and satin gown designed by Robert Turturice. Bishop E. Lynn Brown officiated. Cheryl Lynn serenaded the couple with her rendition of You Are So Beautiful. Ali-Ollie Woodson of the Temptations sang Treat Her Like a Lady. Cheryl Lynn got the reception off to an exciting start with Got To Be Real but not before Jackée made her comments about the marriage.
"It was time. I knew him for two years even before we started dating. And we dated for a year and a half. I thought he had a girlfriend with all those women in there!" She said about his career at the salon. The couple divorced in 2003.
In 1985, Harry found her signature role, starring as "Sandra Clark" on the NBC sitcom 227.
“When I got this audition I was doing a soap opera in New York called Another World it’s now debunked. I played Lilly Mason; I was a lady of the night and I had been on there for two years. I was doing very well. I had a contract. And I got it and I read for the part of Rose. So they said ‘okay could you come back in and read for the part of Sandra?’. I went to the bathroom, changed into this red dress I had, red shoes, big ol’ gold earrings, and I put this lip stick on and I teased my hair. I came back in; I read for that part and they were rolling.”
As the breakout star of the show, she became the first African American to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Her performance on 227 inspired NBC producers to create a television pilot for her entitled Jackée. The pilot episode failed with audiences and is now shown as an episode of 227. For her portrayal of Sandra on the series, Maxim magazine awarded her #5 placement on their TV's Best Nympho list.
After leaving the cast of 227 in 1989, Harry starred opposite Oprah Winfrey in the adaptation of Gloria Naylor's novel, "The Women of Brewster Place". In 1991, Harry was apart of an all-star cast that included Redd Foxx and Della Reese when she played the role of "Ruth 'CoCo' Royal" in The Royal Family. From 1994 to 1999, Harry starred as the adoptive mother of Tia and Tamera Mowry's characters on the ABC sitcom, Sister, Sister. "When I got the Sister, Sister offer to be the mother, I was like 'I don't want to be mama!' But, it turned out to be the best that could happen.” She won NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for two consecutive years in 1999 and 2000.
Jackée summed up the show’s plot outline by explaining, “Ray is anal retentive. He is stuffy and I'm fun-loving. He doesn't like her either. Lisa and her daughter end up moving into Ray's house and she (Lisa) wants to brighten up his house. He has a big old house and she just has a tiny apartment. She wants to bring in a cat. He hates cats. She will bring in anything that he hates. He hates all animals. He is very strict and she is not. The real bond is that both of them believe in good parenting.”
The series moved to the WB network and Jackée’s character, Lisa Landry, became the center for the show’s final episode with Lisa getting married.
Other attempts were made for Harry to star in her own production with pilots for The Cheech Show and Friday Night Surprise (1988) as Sheila, and We’ll Take Manhattan in 1990 as Yvonne. Jackée has said, "I knew I would do something. I always had confidence but it was a big let down for me. There weren't even phone calls"
In 1994, Harry made her return to the theater by starring as "Billie Holiday" in the play Lady Day at Emersons Bar and Grill. Following that stage production, she fulfilled the role of "madam who runs a bordello" in the Broadway Musical The Boys From Syracuse, a play based on William Shakespeare's classic The Comedy of Errors.
"You can't be boring and do musical comedy. Everything feels alive here, and that's how I like it. I'm back in my element."
In 1992, she starred as the coach in Ladybugs. Harry served as a guest panelist on the 2000 revival of To Tell the Truth. She also was a semi-regular on the Tom Bergeron version of Hollywood Squares, mainly in 2003-04. Harry appeared on the second season of VH1's Celebrity Fit Club 2 in 2005, where she lost 39 pounds over 100 days. Her achievement marked one of the top weight losses in the history of the show. She lost 19.3% of her body weight, dropping down to 163 lbs and has kept the weight off through exercise and a healthy diet.
In the mid-2000s, she appeared in small theater productions of The Sunshine Boys, Damn Yankees, and A Christmas Carol, and plays the recurring role of Vanessa, the wisecracking beautician and friend of Rochelle's, on the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. and makes an appearance in the Nickelodeon film The Last Day of Summer.