Trailblazing performer Diahann Carroll dies at 84

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Diahann Carroll, the first black woman to star in her own primetime show and who later gained international acclaim for her role in the 1980s series "Dynasty," died Friday. She was 84 years old.

The performer died at her Los Angeles residence after a years-long battle against breast cancer, according to her publicist.

The Oscar-nominated actress -- who won a Tony Award for her star turn in Broadway's "No Strings" in 1962 -- was known for her chic elegance as well as her trailblazing performance in 1968's "Julia."

Born July 17, 1935 in New York's Bronx borough, Carroll proved a gifted singer from a young age, and worked as a model as well as in musical theater before being cast in the 1959 screen adaptation of "Porgy and Bess."

It was "Julia" that catapulted her to celebrity -- nabbing her a Golden Globe award and an Emmy nomination -- as she portrayed a professional black woman in an era when black actresses generally played stereotypical secondary roles.

But while "Julia" was seen as groundbreaking it also fell under sharp criticism for allegedly white-washing the black experience in a tumultuous 1960s America plagued by racial inequality.

In films she starred opposite performers like Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman and Michael Caine.

The primetime soap opera "Dynasty" saw Carroll establish herself on the global stage, playing a glamorous schemer -- and the antagonist to Joan Collins' character -- in the series about a well-heeled Colorado family.

"I wanted to be the first black bitch on television," Carroll said in an interview on her first day on the "Dynasty" set.

"I've never played a role quite this unlikeable," she said. "I like that very much because I think very often, particularly minorities, it's almost required of them that they are nice people."

"And I don't want to play a nice person."