Paula Kelly is an accomplished dancer and actress in film, television, and theater. She made her Broadway debut as Mrs. Veloz in 1964 in the musical Something More! After her debut, she appeared in several other Broadway shows.
Kelly was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and was raised in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, where she attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art. She continued her studies at the Juilliard School of Music, majoring in dance under Martha Hill. Graduating with an M.S. degree, she performed as a soloist with major modern dance companies such as Martha Graham, Donald McKayle, and Alvin Ailey.
Kelly performed as a guest artist and assistant choreographer for numerous television musical specials, including “Sammy and Friends” (starring Sammy Davis, Jr.). She was also the co-choreographer of the BBC production of Peter Pan, in which she also performed the role of Tiger-Lily.
She made her Broadway debut as Mrs. Veloz in the 1964 musical Something More!. Her other Broadway performances include The Dozens, Paul Sills’ Story Theatre, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies.
She starred in the West Coast premiere of Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope at the Mark Taper Forum; she was awarded the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, Variety, and the first of three NAACP Image Awards for her role in this musical revue.
Kelly also guest-starred in several different television movies and sitcoms, including Sanford and Son, Kojak, Police Woman, Golden Girls, Good Times, Any Day Now and in the Oprah Winfrey-produced TV miniseries, The Women of Brewster Place. Based on the novel by Gloria Naylor, Kelly portrayed a lesbian struggling against homophobia in the inner city; she was nominated for an Emmy for her performance in The Women of Brewster Place.