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Last Updated: Monday, 7 June, 2004, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Acting life of Cosby star Rashad
Cosby Show star Phylicia Rashad has become the first black woman to win best actress at the US theatre's Tony Awards.

Phylicia Rashad
Rashad's Cosby role as the woman who had it all was loved by viewers
Rashad, 55, became world famous for her portrayal of Clair Huxtable, the successful lawyer, wife and mother in US sitcom The Cosby Show.

Her chemistry with the show's star, Bill Cosby, and her naturally elegant manner endeared her to viewers riveted by the ups and downs of a middle-class African-American family.

Born Phylicia Ayers-Allen in Houston, Texas, she learned acting in New York, appearing in such productions as The Cherry Orchard and Weep Not For Me.

Her first TV appearance was in 1976 in an episode of crime drama Delvecchio.

Two years later, she appeared as a Munchkin in the musical fantasy movie The Wiz.

In 1983, she began performing in daytime soap One Life To Live, starring as Courtney Wright, before landing the Cosby role that would change her life.

Phylicia Rashad
Rashad began her acting career in the 1970s
She later appeared in several made-for-TV projects, including The Babysitter's Seduction and The Possession of Michael D.

After Cosby introduced her to sports announcer Ahmad Rashad, he proposed to her in front of 40 million people during an American football game. They were married in 1985, but separated in 2001.

Rashad recently acted in TV movies The Old Settler and The Last Free Man, and has remained active in the theatre.

Her Tony prize was for her portrayal of matriarch Lena Younger in the revival of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.

"This is an honour for any actress to win and I feel as privileged as any actress for winning it," she said.

Halle Berry
Halle Berry made another landmark achievement for black actors
A mother of two children, Rashad is involved with such charities as the Diabetes Association and the Educational Teachers Association.

A mother of two, she also practises yoga and meditation. She is the sister of actress Debbie Allen, who played Lydia Grant in Fame, the 1980s US TV drama series set in a school for the performing arts.

Rashad's success is the latest high-profile triumph by African-American artists.

In 2002, Halle Berry became the first black winner of a best actress Oscar in the award's history, for her role in Monster's Ball. Denzel Washington won the best actor Oscar for Training Day the same year.

Accepting her award, Berry said: "This moment is so much bigger than me. This is for every nameless, faceless woman of colour for whom the door has been opened."

Also that year, US playwright Suzan-Lori Parks became the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama with her play Topdog/Underdog about sibling rivalry.

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