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Leslie Uggams Got Hate Mail after Breaking Taboo & Marrying a White Man - Inside Their Love

Olawale Ogunjimi
Nov 17, 2021
12:00 P.M.

Leslie Uggams has had a successful career so far and has also maintained her interracial marriage despite the discrimination she faced. Here is everything to know about the talented actress's love life.

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Leslie Uggams from "Roots" and "Deadpool'' is a powerhouse of talents. She possesses a unique voice and has a knack for rendering breathtaking performances. This spell-binding entertainer has been around for more than five decades, and she continues to make history with her talents and charms.

It is hard not to like this onscreen goddess, with her outgoing personality, great family life, and devotion to stand out through her works, making her an incredible human.

However, as much as she has influenced the film industry, there was a time when Uggams was crucified and hated for being herself—a talented black woman with a white husband.

UGGAMS AS A RISING STAR

Uggams has proven herself worthy of the honors her successful career attracted and continues to attract. This journey to profound greatness began at a young age. The actress first performed onscreen as a 6-year-old. One of her features was acting side by side with Ethel Waters.

Undoubtedly, she inherited her talents from her parents. Her mother was a waitress who profiled as a former dancer at the Cotton Club, while her elevator operator dad was a member of an indigenous choir.

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Grahame Pratt and Leslie Uggams at the 18th Annual Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Opening Night Screening Of "The Apollo" | Photo: Getty Images

Grahame Pratt and Leslie Uggams at the 18th Annual Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Opening Night Screening Of "The Apollo" | Photo: Getty Images

They lived in the upper corners of Manhattan, a rough place, but were consistent in protecting their child from the violence and other external forces that could pollute her outcome.

Decades later, Uggams still appreciates the valuable lessons from her folks and how they groomed her love for entertainment. The actress admitted that her mother often took her for auditions and was concerned about showcasing her daughter's skills.

At age 9, she hit it big. The young blood earned a spot at Apollo Theatre in Harlem, scoring the chance to learn at the master's feet. She watched and worked with iconic stars like Dinah Washington, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald.

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When she turned 16, she starred in Mitch Miller's variety show "Sing Along With Mitch." The superstar record producer was so attracted by her victory from a quiz competition that it was difficult for sponsors of his show to get rid of the young black girl.

Uggams was the first black regular on a variety show, shouldering her with an overwhelming responsibility to be perfect. In a 1964 publication, she said:

"And it was a responsibility that I gladly took on. You couldn't mess up. You couldn't have any kind of scandal. But it was a lot of pressure because I knew I was carrying my race on my shoulders, which I gladly wanted to do."

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THE GENESIS OF UGGAMS'S FAIRYTALE LOVE

Uggams grew up to be a talented young woman free of controversies. She stayed true to her roots and never compromised on her values.

While she struggled to build her career, she was lucky to find the perfect man of the opposite race. At the time, being involved with a white lover could destroy the bricks of success for an entertainer.

Still, she formed a bond, something meaningful, a fairy tale love that all began after meeting Grahame Pratt, an Australian, who intruded her dressing room.

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21-year-old Uggams was in Sydney as a first-timer, ready to serenade her audience at Chequers nightclub when she met Grahame. He had been drinking with his friends since lunchtime and invited the young beauty for a hangout.

His style struck the American; she agreed to join him and his buddies. After their first drink date, they became acquainted and developed a friendship. The pair bonded deeper, but after Uggams left Sydney, it took about a year to set eyes on each other again.

Grahame reciprocated the love and made plans to marry his American heartthrob. However, as they considered putting a label on their status, they also considered the mitigating factors.

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Before saying "I do," the actress already knew about three problems that might stand in the way of their happily ever after. One, they were aware that mixed marriages like their own were taboo.

The second struggle was based on patterns. Uggams was familiar with the failed marriages between notable celebrity couples. Lastly, she considered that the Australian might have to abandon his dreams to settle in a new country, as she did not intend to stop showbiz.

Eventually, the pair let love lead through their worries. They decided to experiment with Grahame leaving Australia for America, his possible future home.

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DID THEIR FAMILIES ACCEPT THE UNION?

Uggams and her lover were engaged for five months before they got married. During their engagement period, Grahame visited his future in-laws in New York, and it was an awesome experience for the parties involved.

The actress needed to be certain about her family's opinion, if they would tolerate him or genuinely like him. Thankfully, the black family enjoyed his company and lovingly welcomed him into their abode.

On the other hand, Grahame felt comfortable and returned the display of love and kindness. He showed that he was oblivious to the disparity and flowed with everyone around him, irrespective of race.

Leslie Uggams speaks during the panel discussion at the PBS portion of the 2014 Winter Television Critics Association tour at Langham Hotel on January 21, 2014 | Photo: Getty Images

Leslie Uggams speaks during the panel discussion at the PBS portion of the 2014 Winter Television Critics Association tour at Langham Hotel on January 21, 2014 | Photo: Getty Images

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Uggams's friends were in awe of the sweet Australian. During their wedding reception, the bride's friends wanted to dance with the kind gentleman, and she had to wait for her turn.

While Grahame was welcomed in America, his wife was welcomed in Australia. However, before showing the actress to his parents, he wrote a letter informing them about her race, adding instruction that they must not initiate problems.

His mother did not mind the race. Instead, she was a religious woman who focused on whether her future daughter-in-law was a Presbyterian. Luckily, the "Roots" star was and shared she did not have a problem claiming the Christian denomination even if she wasn't.

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THE HATE THEY RECEIVED

After the reception and acceptance from both families, the young lovers proceeded to have a peaceful life together, or so they thought. They lived in New York and tried to start a family but lost their first baby.

However, the loss did not deter them from keeping a positive mindset, as they hoped to have more still. Thankfully, the couple remained united and did not have to face criticism over their races because of where they lived.

Although Uggams admitted that she dealt with racists more often due to her tours. On one occasion, Grahame received a letter addressed to "The Little Negro Entertainer."The writer scripted an unpleasant message targeted at Uggams's race.

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Additionally, during a family trip to the South for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's funeral, the couple stayed in an Atlanta hotel. They received a shocking notification from one of the organizers who asked why they shared the same room.

AGAINST ALL ODDS

Through the racial slurs and demeaning reactions, the couple stayed together and constructed a healthy and happy family, including a daughter named Danielle and a son, Justice. They also have a grandchild.

Uggams, married for almost five decades, admitted that their journey was tough but not as challenging as she thought. She attributed the ease in their relationship to her husband not being an American white man.

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