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First I was a fan. I “met” her on Dynasty. Years later, I’d watch her with admiration and joy on A Different World. To me, she was Whitley’s majestic mother. But my own mother helped me understand that she was so much more. She told me about her groundbreaking, historic work in theater, film and television. And she told me, a 12-year-old girl from the Bronx, that Ms. Carroll too was from the Bronx. Deep down a seed was planted. A seed that gave me permission to dream.
Eventually those dreams led to me having the privilege to work with her and get to know her in Peeples. Being in her presence was a dream come true. She was generous, supportive and as elegant as I imagined she would be. And she was hilarious. She has a deep understanding of who she was, but she also understood the larger-than-life phenom who was Diahann Carroll. She embraced the multitudes of complexity in that dance with her own legacy. And she bravely shared her journey with me. I was blessed to be in the orbit of a true star.
It’s absolutely true that there’d be no Olivia Pope without her. There’d be no “Kerry Washington” without her either. As I celebrate and mourn her, I pray that I walk through the world with a level of dignity and elegance that would make Ms. Carroll proud. But I know that when it comes to fashion and fierceness, if I don’t, at least Olivia Pope did.
A version of this story appears in the Oct. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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