Historic Women: Della Reese: First Black Woman to Guest Host ‘The Tonight Show’

By Duchess Magazine

Delloreese Patricia Early, whose impact on the world of entertainment would resonate for seven remarkable decades, was born on July 6, 1931, in the heart of Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood. Known to the world as Della Reese, she not only enchanted audiences with her soulful jazz and gospel melodies but also defied industry norms, leaving her mark on the sand of time, as the first Black woman to ever guest host ‘The Tonight Show.’

Reese’s journey into the limelight began at the tender age of 13 when she lent her extraordinary voice to Mahalia Jackson’s gospel ensemble. She balanced her musical pursuits with academic excellence, becoming the first in her family to graduate high school at just 15. This Detroit gem then went on to form her own gospel group, the Meditation Singers, laying the foundation for a career that seamlessly blended faith and artistry.

The late 1950s saw Reese ascend the ranks of the music industry with her 1959 hit, “Don’t You Know?” But she didn’t stop there. In the late 1960s, she ventured into the world of television, hosting her own talk show, ‘Della,’ showcasing her versatility. The pinnacle of her television career came in 1970 when she made history as the first Black woman to grace ‘The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson’ as a guest host, shattering racial barriers in the process.

Reese’s talent transcended mediums, with notable roles alongside Redd Foxx in ‘Harlem Nights’ (1989), Martin Lawrence in ‘A Thin Line Between Love and Hate’ (1996), and Elliott Gould in ‘Expecting Mary’ (2010). However, her most enduring success came on the small screen. From 1994 to 2003, she graced living rooms as Tess in the beloved religious drama ‘Touched by an Angel,’ earning accolades and adoration for her portrayal.

Della Reese’s brilliance was duly recognized throughout her career. Her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the prestigious Image Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for seven consecutive years, and the Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in 2015 stand testament to her enduring impact. In 2017, posthumously, she was honored with the Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame Award, solidifying her place among the entertainment greats.

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy
WeCreativez WhatsApp Support
Our support team is here to answer your questions. Ask us anything!
? Hi, how can we help?