Lonette McKee

Lonette McKee
Lonette Rita McKee [citation needed]

(1954-07-22) July 22, 1954 (age 67)[1]
Nationality American
Education St Martin De Porres High School
Alma mater The New School
  • Actress
  • music composer
  • producer
  • songwriter
  • screenwriter
  • director
Years active 1968–present
Known for Sister Williams – Sparkle
Leo Compton
( m.  1983; div. 1990)
Family Kathy McKee (sister)
Website lonettemckee.com

Lonette Rita McKee[citation needed] (born July 22, 1954)[3] is an American film, television and theater actress, music composer, producer, songwriter, screenwriter and director. McKee is best known for her role as Sister Williams in the original 1976 musical-drama film Sparkle. McKee also had notable roles in such movies as The Cotton Club, Jungle Fever, ATL and Honey.


Early life and education

Born in Detroit, Michigan, McKee was the second of three daughters[4] of Dorothy McKee, of Swedish descent,[2] and Lonnie McKee, an African American bricklayer and auto manufacturer employee.[5] McKee's older sister, Katherine "Kathy" McKee, is also an actress and performer. [6] McKee attended St Martin De Porres High School,[7] but left after her freshman year, moving to Los Angeles, California, to live with her older sister.[citation needed]


McKee's career began in the music business in Detroit as a child prodigy, where she started writing music/lyrics, singing, playing keyboards and performing at the age of seven.[8] In 1968, McKee, then aged 14, recorded her first record entitled "Don't Worry About It". It became an instant regional pop/R&B hit.[9] McKee wrote the title song for the film Quadroon, in which her sister Katherine McKee starred, when she was fifteen. [10]

Several years later, McKee was launched to stardom with her critically acclaimed performance in the hit 1976 musical drama film Sparkle.[11] She has written and produced three solo LPs. Natural Love was produced for Spike Lee's Columbia 40 Acres and A Mule label in 1992. Ed Hogan, reviewing for AllMusic, wrote, "'Natural Love' shows that the singer/songwriter's muse knows no stylistic bounds. As with her earlier effort, McKee co-writes all of the songs while sharing production credits with Bryant McNeil, Gene Lake Jr., and labelmate Raymond Jones of State of Art."[12] McKee scored the music for the well-received cable documentary on the Lower Manhattan African Burial Ground, as well as numerous infomercials. McKee has toured extensively throughout the world singing concert performances, including the JVC Jazz Festival at Carnegie Hall. McKee studied film directing at The New School in New York and apprenticed directing with the filmmaker Spike Lee. McKee also studied singing with Dini Clark and ballet with Sarah Tayir, both in Los Angeles. She also appeared on the CW sitcom The Game as Mrs. Pitts, the mother of Jason (played by Coby Bell), in 2007.

McKee won critical acclaim for her Broadway debut performance in the musical The First in 1981, co-starring in the role of Jackie Robinson's wife Rachel.[13] She became the first African American to play the coveted role of Julie in the Houston Grand Opera's production of Show Boat in 1983 on Broadway, for which she received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.[14] McKee's tragic portrayal of jazz legend Billie Holiday in the one-woman drama with music, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, won critical acclaim, standing ovations, and a 1987 Drama Desk Award nomination (Outstanding Actress in a Musical).[13] She reprised the role of Julie on Broadway in the 1994 revival of Show Boat directed by Hal Prince.[13]

In 2013, McKee expressed a desire to establish a performance arts center in the New York tri-state area. [15] She performs her one-woman memoir with music on stages throughout the US. She produced her first feature film, Dream Street, which she wrote and directed. [16]

Personal life

McKee has been married once and has no children. She dated the actor and stand-up comedian Freddie Prinze for a time during 1976.[17] McKee was married to Leo Compton, a youth counselor, from February 1983[2] to 1990. In the mid-1990s, she lived in an Upper East Side brownstone with her companion, the musician Bryant McNeil. They met while they were working together on McKee's Natural Love album.[4] McKee teaches a master acting workshop at Centenary College of New Jersey, where she is an adjunct professor in the Theater Arts department.



Year Title Role Notes
1976 Sparkle Sister Williams
1977 Which Way Is Up? Vanetta
1979 Cuba Therese Mederos
1982 Illusions Mignon Dupree Short film
1984 The Cotton Club Lila Rose Oliver
1985 Brewster's Millions Angela Drake
1986 'Round Midnight Darcey Leigh
1987 Gardens of Stone Betty Rae
1989 The Women of Brewster Place Lorraine TV mini-series
1990 Dangerous Passion Meg TV movie
1991 Jungle Fever Drew
1992 Malcolm X Louise Little
1993 Queen Alice TV mini-series
1997 To Dance with Olivia Olivia 'Libby' Stewart TV movie
1998 He Got Game Martha Shuttlesworth
Blind Faith Carol Williams
1999 Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years Mama Delany TV movie
2000 Men of Honor Ella Brashear
Fast Food Fast Women Sherry-Lynn
2001 A Day in Black and White as Herself
Lift Elanie
2003 Honey Mrs. Daniels
The Paper Mache Chase Lisa Short film
2004 She Hate Me Lottie Armstrong
2006 ATL Priscilla Garnett
2010 Dream Street as Herself
2011 Honey 2 Connie
This Narrow Place Mrs. Shaw
2012 LUV Grandma
Year Title Role Notes
1985 The Equalizer Dr. Elly Walton Episode: Reign of Terror
Spenser: For Hire Hillary Episode: Blood Money
1986 Miami Vice Alicia Mena Episode: Stone's War
1989 Amen Tanya DuBois Episode: The Psychic (Part 1)
The Psychic (Part 2)
1991 L.A. Law Episode: There Goes the Judge
1993 Tribeca as Herself Episode: The Loft
1997-1999 As The World Turns Sara Ruth Bennett
1999-2003 Third Watch Maggie Davis
2002 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Maggie's Attorney Episode: Chameleon
2006 Half & Half Tanya Episode: The Big Thanks for Nothing Episode
2006 1-800-Missing Miss Chambers Episode: Exposure
2007 The Game Maria Pitts Episode: It's Hard Being Kelly Pitts


  1. ^ McCann, Bob (2007). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. McFarland and Company. ISBN 9780786458042. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
    - VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever, Volume 2005
  2. ^ a b c Stark, John. "After Singing Her Own Blues, Lonette Mckee Finds a Perch as Off Broadway's Billie Holiday" People, November 3, 1986
  3. ^ Who Sang what on Broadway, 1866-1996: The singers (L-Z)
    - Ann M. Savage (ed), Women's Rights: Reflections in Popular Culture - The Women of Brewster's Place (1989)
  4. ^ a b Jones, Charisse (29 December 1994). "AT HOME WITH: Lonette McKee; A Life Between, On Stage and Off". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  5. ^ "Lonette McKee Biography (1954?-)", Film Reference
  6. ^ "Kathy McKee".
  7. ^ rtmadminmc, "Spotlight: Lonette McKee". The Michigan Chronicle, February 8, 2012[unreliable source?]
  8. ^ Sangweni, Yolanda. "Lonette McKee on Being in 'Luv' with Common, and What She Really Thought of the ‘Sparkle’ Remake" Essence, December 5, 2012
  9. ^ "Lonette McKee Knows The Way Up: 1.5 Million Deal". JET. Johnson Publishing Company. June 29, 1978. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  10. ^ Fraser, C. Gerald (20 January 1978). "New Face: Lonette McKee Another Shade of Black". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Sparkle, TCM. Retrieved January 16, 2016. Archived September 20, 2017, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Hogan, Ed. "Lonette McKee Natural Love", Allmusic. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  13. ^ a b c "Lonette McKee", Playbill. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  14. ^ Show Boat, Playbill. Retrieved May 10, 2020
    - Jessie Carney Smith, Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events, Visible Ink Press, 1983
  15. ^ "Lonette McKee: Taking Control of Her Destiny".
  16. ^ "Catching up with Lonette McKee". 15 April 2011.
  17. ^ David Henry, Joe Henry, Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World that Made Him, Algonquin Books, 2013

External links