Phylicia Rashad , née Phylicia Ayers Allen (born June 19, 1948, Houston, Texas, U.S.), American actress who first gained fame for her work on the television series The Cosby Show (1984–92) and later became the first black woman to win (2004) a Tony Award for best actress; she won the honour for her performance in the play A Raisin in the Sun.
Allen was the second of four children born to Andrew Arthur Allen, a dentist, and Vivian Ayers Allen, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet. Her older brother, Andrew Arthur (“Tex”) Allen, Jr., went on to become a jazz musician, and her sister, Debbie Allen, was a dancer, actress, and television producer and director. In 1970 she graduated from Howard University, Washington, D.C., with a B.F.A. in theatre. Soon thereafter she found work with the Negro Ensemble Company in New York City. Allen made her first appearance on Broadway in 1972 and had minor roles in the hit musicals The Wiz (1975) and Dreamgirls (1981) before making the transition to television.
In 1982 Allen landed a regular role on the daytime soap opera One Life to Live. Two years later comedian Bill Cosby chose her for the role of his wife, attorney Clair Huxtable, in the groundbreaking situation comedy The Cosby Show, which ran from 1984 to 1992. After marrying (1985) sports broadcaster Ahmad Rashad, she began using his name professionally (the couple divorced in 2001). Her role as Clair—graceful but assertive, dignified but devoted—became a defining one for Rashad and earned her two Emmy Award nominations. She also played Cosby’s wife in the series Cosby (1996–2000).
During the 1990s and early 2000s, Rashad returned to the stage while continuing to work steadily on television. Her portrayal of the semimythical Aunt Ester in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean (2003) in productions in Los Angeles and on Broadway won enthusiastic praise. In 2004 she starred as Lena Younger, the matriarch of a struggling African American family in 1950s Chicago, in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. In addition to earning a