American actress and singer Sheryl Lee Ralph, best known for her roles in the television sitcoms It’s a Living and Moesha, as well as the 1993 film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, has been reveling in the sights, sounds and tastes of T&T on her first visit to the country this week.
The Tony Award-nominated entertainer was the keynote speaker at Sagicor’s motivational rally for its employees.
However, Ralph, who boasts of deep Caribbean connections thanks to her Jamaican parentage, was familiar with T&T culture long before she set foot on local soil.
At a corporate luncheon, hosted in her honour at the Hyatt, a reference to the southern city, San Fernando, prompted her to belt out the chorus to the Mighty Dictator’s iconic 1950s calypso, Last Train to San Fernando.
She said the record was played regularly in her childhood home by her college professor father, Stanley Ralph, an avid traveller, who bought it during a visit to this country several decades ago.
Her pride in her West Indian heritage was clear as she spoke with reporters and other guests at the luncheon about being raised by a Jamaican mother, seamlessly shifting into that island’s patois as she recounted family interactions, values and other experiences.
Celebrity and culture aside, Ralph spoke about her work as an activist and her turn as a motivational speaker for the Sagicor rally, Ignite, which took place yesterday at NAPA in Port-of-Spain.
The actress founded the Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed (DIVA) Foundation in 1990 in memory of the many friends she lost to HIV/Aids and in recent years has been pursuing her passion for helping others in need with her artistic gifts.
Ralph expressed strong views on a range of social and political issues, including the presidency of Donald Trump—she is not a supporter—the crisis in Venezuela and women’s rights.
Noting the unique challenges faced by women in leadership positions, she cautioned against trying to become too masculine in efforts to break through the glass ceiling.
“We cannot compete, we cannot compare because someone always loses, someone always comes up short,” she said.
Asked about her numerous television roles and her feelings about regularly being cast as a mother, Ralph admitted: “I wish I got to do more characters that are really challenged, really battling.”
Reporter: Suzanne Sheppard