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Remembering Sheila Guyse, African-American Singer And Actress

Remembering Sheila Guyse American singer and actress


During the 1940s and 1950s, Sheila Guyse performed as both a singer and an actor. In Forest, Mississippi, on July 14, 1925, Etta Drucille Guyse was born. Shortly after she was born, her parents, Wilbert Vincent Guyse and Ethel Williams, divorced. Guyse attended the Scott County Vocational School, where she became interested in singing, and was nurtured by her paternal grandparents, Charity and Fred Guyse. In order to follow her aspirations, Guyse emigrated to New York in 1945 and resided in Manhattan with her father and stepmother.

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At a penny store on 125th Street, directly across from the Apollo Theater, Guyse landed her first job. She joined her first talent competition at the Apollo because she wanted a $25 dress, and she won first place and $25. She subsequently started appearing in amateur productions until being chosen to play the female lead opposite Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in the 1945 Broadway version of Memphis Bound. Shelby Irving Miller, a drugstore cashier and tailor, noticed her when she made her nightclub debut at Detroit’s Club Zombie.

On March 18, 1946, the two tied the knot in Hamilton, Indiana, and afterwards relocated to Indianapolis. Boy! What A Girl! (1947), Sepia Cinderella (1947), and Miracle in Harlem (1947) were independent black films in which Guyse had roles (1948). Sheila Crystal Miller was born to Miller and Guyse, who divorced in just two years. Guyse played the lead role in the Broadway show in 1949. The 1950 releases of 1949’s Harlem Follies and Lost in the Stars. She appeared on the covers and inside the pages of a number of magazines, including Ebony, Jet, Our World, and Hue.

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Sheila Guyse Performing (New York Times)


Guyse met dancer Kenneth Davis in 1948 while both were performing on the Broadway musical of Finian’s Rainbow; they were wed in 1951. The pair, who resided in the Bronx, appeared on the cover of the February 1952 issue of Jet magazine and were the subject of the article “Negro Women with White Husbands.” Guyse struggled with a number of medical problems throughout her career, which led to gaps in her employment. In 1953, Guyse had a diagnosis of stomach ulcers. Her daughter once discovered her unconscious on the floor of her bedroom, bleeding from the lips. She underwent surgery in the middle of the 1950s, but her health problems persisted. Davis and she split up in 1954.

Due to her seductive voice and slim build, Guyse was compared to celebrities like Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne. She played the lead in the play’s 1957 television adaptation, Green Pastures, for which she received an Emmy nomination. In 1958, she recorded her sole album, This Is Sheila. Later that year, she wed Joseph Jackson, a sanitation worker, with whom she had two children: Michael and Deidre Jean. After Guyse left the entertainment industry in 1959, the couple first relocated to New York, then in the 1980s to Mississippi, and finally in 2007 to Hawaii. They stayed together until Jackson’s passing in 2012.

Guyse died at the age of 88, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease on December 28, 2014, in Honolulu, Hawaii, and her ashes were scattered across Waikiki Beach.



Written by How Africa News

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