'Kool & The Gang' member’s daughter who starred in 'Family Matters' star died of cancer at young age
Although Michelle Thomas was first known as Dennis D.T. Thomas of Kool & The Gang's daughter, she eventually made a name for herself by acting on several television shows.
Michelle's father was a known member of "Kool & The Gang," where he played as the band's saxophonist and musical director. However, she eventually made a name for herself and was a rising star, finding herself acting in shows such as "Family Matters," "The Young & The Restless," and "The Cosby Show," before 1997, when her life took a tragic turn.
In August 1997, she was diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer. Although she was ill, she continued to work until October 1998, just two months before she passed away on December 22 of the same year.
As previously reported by The New York Times, she was confined at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan during her tragic death.
During her final moments, she was surrounded by her closest family and friends, including her on-screen and real-life boyfriend, Malcolm-Jamal Warner. Although they previously split in 1994, the two of them had remained close friends until her death.
Up until today, Warner still describes his ex-lover as one of the most inspirational people he has ever known. Due to their close relationship, even Michelle's mother, Phynjuar Thomas, felt that Warner was the love of her daughter's life.
"She was a person with an incredible amount of integrity. She always had a positive outlook.”
Just months after she was diagnosed with the rare cancer, she landed a role on the CBS soap "The Young & The Restless," where she played Callie, an aspiring singer. Although she was already ill, she decided to push through with playing the role, until in October 2018 when she was forced to take a medical leave due to her condition.
Her portrayal eventually earned her a nomination for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series in 1999, a year after her death. That marked her last appearance on television, before passing away at the young age of 30.
Jaleel White, a co-star of Michelle in "Family Matters," was also in tears when asked about Michelle while on "Hollywood Medium With Tyler Henry."
During the episode, Tyler Henry says he saw the letters "ELLE" consecutively, and the actor immediately looked shocked. He then questioned whether Henry had googled him before them filming the episode. This was what made Jaleel visibly emotional, prompting him to open about what had happened in the past.
“You're talking about Michelle Thomas. She was my old co-star from ‘Family Matters’ and she died of stomach cancer ... quickly. She had a lot of friends in the music industry. Her birthday is September 23, 1968. So that’s two days after the ‘21’ you said," he added, before lightening the mood in the room: “You ‘bout to get me meme’d up on Instagram!”
It's not just in the show that the two were particularly close, as Michelle played Myra, the girlfriend of White's character, Steve Urkel. Their relationship went past the show, the two of them remaining close even after their show ended.
Michelle was known for having a healthy lifestyle, eating vegan food while never smoking or drinking alcohol. After her diagnosis, she removed a lemon-sized tumor from her abdomen. However, a few months later, it seems the cancer had spread to other parts of her stomach.
The day after Christmas 1998, Thomas was buried in Montclair following a Muslim funeral service.