Rosetta LeNoire (August 8, 1911 – March 17, 2002) was an American stage, screen, and television actress, as well as a Broadway producer and casting agent.
As a young girl, LeNoire suffered from rickets, which her godfather, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, helped her overcome by teaching her to dance. LeNoire made her acting debut in a 1939 production of The Hot Mikado, starring Robinson, in which she played "Little Maid From School" Peep-Bo. She also appeared onstage, mostly as a singer and dancer, in I Had a Ball, Bassa Moona, Marching with Jimmy, Janie, Decision, Three's a Family, Destry Rides Again, and the Off Broadway Double Entry (two one-act musicals showcasing Lenoire: "The Bible Salesman," with a pre-SNL Garrett Morris, and "The Oldest Trick in the World" with Jane Connell).Read Full Bio >>
LeNoire is best known to contemporary audiences for her work in television. She had regular roles on the series Gimme a Break! and Amen, and is best known for her role as Estelle Winslow on Family Matters. In 1999, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Rosetta LeNoire championed the cause of racial equity for more than 70 years. Her efforts profoundly influenced the New York theater community.
In 1968, using her own savings, Rosetta founded the AMAS Repertory Theatre Company, an interracial theatre dedicated to multi-ethnic productions in New York City. With this company, Rosetta created an artistic community where members' individual skills were recognized without regard to race, creed, color, religion, or national origin. She became a successful and groundbreaking Broadway producer. The Actors' Equity Association awarded her the first award for helping contribute to the diversification of theatre casting; in 1988, the award was named the Rosetta LeNoire Award.
Amas Repertory Theatre provided a nurturing atmosphere for actors, and a community performing arts center. Throughout its history, many of the company's productions garnered reviews in the New York Times. The long-running theater's cramped headquarters were originally located at 1 East 104th Street, in the uptown neighborhood known as Spanish Harlem. The theater continues today as Amas Musical Theatre, now located downtown at 115 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village, and carries on Rosetta's dream of diversity in the creative and theatrical arts. Since its inception, Amas has produced over 60 original musicals. Many of them have gone on to Broadway, including Bubbling Brown Sugar, which received a Tony nomination.
On March 17, 2002, LeNoire died at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, New Jersey from complications from diabetes, although an article in TV Guide reported that she died of pneumonia. A resident of the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey, she was 90 years old at the time of her death.<< Less Bio