Della Reese life and biography

Della Reese picture, image, poster

Della Reese biography

Date of birth : 1931-07-06
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Detroit, Michigan, United States
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-07-06
Credited as : Actress and singer, gospel and jazz singer,

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Delloreese Patricia Early (born July 6, 1931) is an American character actress of stage, singer, game show panelist of the 1970s, one-time talk-show hostess and ordained minister. She started her career in the 1950s as a gospel, pop and jazz singer, scoring a hit with her 1959 single "Don't You Know?" In her four decades of acting, she later gained a whole new generation of fans, in the 1990s, playing Tess, the leading role on the television show Touched by an Angel. In the late 1960s, she hosted her own talk show, Della, which ran for 297 episodes. In more recent times, she became an ordained New Thought minister in the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in Los Angeles, California.

Reese began on the path that would lead her to show business by singing inher family's church at the age of six. Her talents landed her touring withgospel great Mahalia Jackson while still only a teenager. By 18, Reese hadformed The Meditation Singers, the group that became the first to takegospel music to the nightclubs of Las Vegas. Reese began making recordswith the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra in the 1950s and produced such hits as"Don't You Know," and "That Reminds Me." She also began performing ontelevision variety shows and was a regular guest on The Ed Sullivan Show.

From 1969 to 1970, she hosted a television talk show while guest starringon many television shows into the 1980s, including Sanford and Son,Crazy Like a Fox, and Picket Fences. In 1987, she was nominated for aBest Female Soloist in Gospel Music Grammy Award. In the late 1990s, shelanded a starring role on television's Touched By An Angel, alongside Roma Downey and John Dye, while continuing her music career.

Television career

In 1969, Reese began a transition into acting work which would eventually lead to her greatest fame. Her first attempt at television stardom was a 1969 eponymously titled variety series, which was canceled after one season.

In 1970, Reese became the first black woman to guest host The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. She appeared in several TV movies and miniseries' including The House of Yes and Roots: The Next Generations.

She was a regular on Chico and the Man, and she played the mother of B. A. Baracus in The A-Team episode "Lease with an Option to Die." In 1991, she starred opposite Redd Foxx in his final sitcom, The Royal Family, but his death halted production of the series for several months. Reese also did voice over for the animated series A Pup Named Scooby-Doo.

In 1989, she starred alongside Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, and Arsenio Hall in the theatrical release movie Harlem Nights, in which she was seen doing a fight scene with Eddie Murphy.

Reese appeared as a panelist on several episodes of the popular television game show Match Game and was featured on That's So Raven in The Four Aces. On May 18, 2009, she guest starred on the daytime drama The Young and the Restless as Virginia Hamilton.

Personal life

Reese's mother, Nellie Mitchelle Early, died in 1949 of a cerebral hemorrhage, at the time, Della was only 18.

Reese met churchmate and friend Vermont Taliaferro, as a kid. She would later marry him in 1951. Despite of Della bestowing Vermont with almost every gift, her first husband assaulted her, and she was hospitalized. After her first husband apologized, it was too late, she realized Vermont wouldn't change. The couple divorced in 1953. They had no children.

Reese's father, Richard Early, died in 1959.

Reese had an adoptive daughter, Deloreese Daniels Owens, in 1961, but died on March 14, 2002, after complications stemming from pituitary disease. She said about the painful experience, sharing her frustration with the lack of awareness and knowledge of pituitary disorders, "When it happened, I thought, 'It's such an odd thing to die from,' because pituitary problems aren't something you hear about. It makes it harder because you don't understand what happened. It seemed so strange and hard to explain. It still is, to be honest."

Reese famously had an early brush with death when she accidentally walked into a plate glass door in her home and broke the glass in the door; the broken glass sliced her badly. She reportedly required one thousand stitches to close her wounds. She lost a lot blood, and later said she had a near death experience in which she saw her mother.

In 1979, after taping a guest spot for The Tonight Show, she suffered a nearly fatal brain aneurysm, but made a full recovery after two operations by neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Drake at University Hospital in London, Ontario.

In 1983, she married Franklin Thomas Lett, Jr., a concert producer and writer. To them were born four children, all of whom had grown to adulthood by 2010: Dr. James Barger, Deloreese Owens, Franklin Lett III, and Dominique Lett-Wirtschafter.

In 2002, Reese announced on Larry King Live that she had been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. She became a spokeswoman for the American Diabetes Association, traveling around the United States to raise awareness about the disorder.

In 2005, Reese was honored by Oprah Winfrey at her Legends Ball ceremony along with 25 other African-American women.

Reese was an ordained minister as of 2010, when she served as the senior minister and founder of the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church, an independent "Christian New Thought" congregation, which currently meets in Inglewood, California. In her ministerial work, she is known as the Rev. Dr. Della Reese Lett.

Reese also became godmother to the child of her Touched by an Angel co-star, Roma Downey. Reese began February 2009 by giving the invocation at The State of The Black Union, hosted by Tavis Smiley.

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