Photo credits: Gilles Petard/Redferns
To people who grew up during a number of generations, Ja’Net DuBois (pictured) was a cherished cultural icon over the course of her multi-faceted and illustrious career in entertainment.
After her birth in 1945, DuBois was primarily raised in Long Island, New York. While still in her teens, DuBois began her entertainment career acting in stage plays. In the early 1960s, she landed her first roles alongside some legendary co-stars. As a stage actress in the 1964 Broadway smash Golden Boy, DuBois worked closely with the incomparable Sammie Davis, Jr.
Thespian pioneer Lou Gossett, Jr. was also a co-star in Broadway’s classic play, which helped catapult DuBois into American superstardom. By 1969, DuBois had already made her eventful transition from being an actress on stage to being a television talent. She made her debut on the small screen in a television movie called J.T. in 1969.
However, from 1970-72, Dubois made a move, which gave her television acting career more staying power. Not only that, the career move rocketed her to historical prominence. In her role as Loretta Allen in the daytime soap opera series Love of Life, DuBois became the first black woman ever in American history to star in a regularly-scheduled daytime television series.
Already riding high off a strong surge to start her television career, DuBois propelled herself even higher. Also in 1970, she made another transition directly onto the big screen as a film actress. DuBois played a woman named Vera in director Frank Perry’s Diary of a Mad Housewife, which was also starred in by the legendary actress Carrie Snodgress.
From 1974 to 1979, DuBois worked on the set of the classic American comedy series Good Times on CBS. This role put her in concert with an all-star cast, which featured the late Esther Role, John Amos, Jimmy Walker, and a young Janet Jackson. DuBois’s career contributions during her years on Good Times are what etched her into permanent popularity.
In 1980, Dubois reinvented herself creatively to present her abilities as a talented singer to the world. From then until 1983, DuBois released two solo albums (Queen of the Highway, 1980 & Again, Ja’Net DuBois, 1983). She adopted Janet Jackson as a beloved daughter figure careerwise and played the role of Jackson’s mother in the cinematic music video for her 1986 mega-hit Control.
During the 1980s, DuBois ran the Ja’net DuBois Academy of Theater Arts and Sciences. She was highly active in the philanthropic community and won a number of accolades, including the CableAce Award and the Impact Icon Award. DuBois touched many lives during her storied career, which spanned over the course of 56 years. She ruled nobly as a true Queen.
DuBois was dearly beloved by countless fans, friends, colleagues, and family members. On February 17, 2020, DuBois passed away in her Glendale, California home at the age of 74. Black Then is proud to pay tribute to the great Ja’Net Dubois in honor of Black History month this year.
Thank you, Ms. DuBois, for being a gracious pioneer for all black American women poised for greatness; in entertainment and beyond.