Paula Kelly: Accomplished Dancer and Actress in Film and Theater


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.



  • Sandra D. Harper September 28, 2016 - 10:30 am

    I was happy to see this posting on Paula Kelly. She was my Day Camp Counselor many years ago in New York City through with Miniisink family organization.
    She was a beautiful dance then and I am glad to see hear picture and info , now. I would like to hear when she might come to the east coast.
    Sandra D. Harper
    Camp Minisinker from Jolly Juniors/ HillTop: 1958- Tapawingo 1968 Peace and Love to Paula Kelly and family. Thank you for posting this lovely article.

    • Sandra D. Harper September 28, 2016 - 10:34 am

      Corrections ….many years ago through Minisink family organization. I was happy to see her picture and hear of her accomplishments. I have enjoyed her performances through the years. She was a beautiful dancer then and now.

  • patricia tramble September 28, 2016 - 1:29 pm

    Keep the black history facts coming!

  • Sandra Blackwell September 28, 2016 - 1:37 pm

    Love her dancing. She’s a great one!

  • Naaryah coles September 28, 2016 - 2:34 pm

    You forget to mention Night Court which reruns are showing now on the Laff channel.

  • Donna September 28, 2016 - 4:31 pm

    I am always open to learning our history, past and present! Thank you 4 your continued task

  • Eleanor September 28, 2016 - 5:14 pm

    I have been a long time fan of Paula’s!! I think she is amazing!

  • STANLEY September 28, 2016 - 6:57 pm

    You did her an injustice by not listing some of her film works such as : Soylant Green, with Charleston Heston, The Spook who sat by the door, The Andromeda Strain (1971) and Sweet Charity (1969). Also, on TV, and a public defender in Night Court!

  • Nyabinghi Djehutti September 28, 2016 - 7:06 pm

    Please, let’s not forget her outstanding performance in the controversial 1973 film, The Spook Who Sat By The Door.

  • D September 29, 2016 - 6:55 am


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    Paula Kelly is my 2nd cousin. Thank you for all the kind comments.

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