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Keshia Knight Pulliam

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Also Known As: Keisha Knight Died:
Born: April 9, 1979 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Newark, New Jersey, USA Profession: actor, model

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Child actress Keshia Knight Pulliam grew up in front of America as Rudy Huxtable, the adorable youngest daughter on "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992). With a winning smile and a quick wit matched only by her TV dad, Bill Cosby, Pulliam's performance landed her in the record books at that time as the youngest actor nominated for an Emmy award. After the series ended, Pulliam appeared on reality shows and acted in independent films. She then shed her little girl image in the comedy "Beauty Shop" (2005) and with her dramatic turn as a heroin-addicted prostitute in Tyler Perry's "Madea Goes to Jail" (2009). Most remarkable of all, however, was how Pulliam avoided the traps of drugs and crime that had befallen so many other child stars during her career.Pulliam was born on April 9, 1979 in Newark, NJ to Denise and James Pulliam, Sr. A student of Rutgers Preparatory School, the Potomac School, and Foxcroft School, she went on to receive her degree in Sociology from Spelman College in 2001. Already a veteran actress by the time she attended college, Pulliam was also a member of Spelman's Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Pulliam was just three years old when she entered show business. The toddler started doing...

Child actress Keshia Knight Pulliam grew up in front of America as Rudy Huxtable, the adorable youngest daughter on "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992). With a winning smile and a quick wit matched only by her TV dad, Bill Cosby, Pulliam's performance landed her in the record books at that time as the youngest actor nominated for an Emmy award. After the series ended, Pulliam appeared on reality shows and acted in independent films. She then shed her little girl image in the comedy "Beauty Shop" (2005) and with her dramatic turn as a heroin-addicted prostitute in Tyler Perry's "Madea Goes to Jail" (2009). Most remarkable of all, however, was how Pulliam avoided the traps of drugs and crime that had befallen so many other child stars during her career.

Pulliam was born on April 9, 1979 in Newark, NJ to Denise and James Pulliam, Sr. A student of Rutgers Preparatory School, the Potomac School, and Foxcroft School, she went on to receive her degree in Sociology from Spelman College in 2001. Already a veteran actress by the time she attended college, Pulliam was also a member of Spelman's Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Pulliam was just three years old when she entered show business. The toddler started doing television commercials before landing a recurring role as Keshia on the popular children's program, "Sesame Street" (PBS, 1969- ). While hanging out with Big Bird, the Grouch and the other iconic characters garnered the young actress a lot of exposure, it was her next project that warmed everyone's hearts, making her America's little sweetheart.

When comedian Bill Cosby's family sitcom "The Cosby Show" premiered in 1984, viewers instantly fell in love with the youngest member of the cast immediately. As pigtailed and outspoken youngest daughter, Rudy Huxtable, Pulliam was equal parts sugar and sass. She was adorable, yet at the same time, held her own against the comic wit of her more experience cast members. Particularly memorable was her dedicated lip-syncing of an R&B classic during the family sing-along. The young star's performance did not go unnoticed. She earned an NAACP Image Award in 1984 and was also honored with an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1986. At just six years old, Pulliam was the youngest actress to be nominated for an Emmy in the award show's history.

"The Cosby Show" was a hit - even regarded many years later as the harbinger of positive representation of family - especially that of an African-American family. The young stars of the show enjoyed their own success during its run, with Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Lisa Bonet overnight stars as well. The exposure gave Pulliam an opportunity for other acting projects, including the holiday drama "The Little Match Girl" (NBC, 1987) with Rue McClanahan, the Mark Twain classic "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" (NBC, 1989), and the Debbie Allen-directed "Polly" (NBC, 1989) and its sequel "Polly: Comin' Home!" (NBC, 1990) that co-starred her "Cosby" mom Phylicia Rashad.

After eight very successful years on television, "The Cosby Show" wrapped in the fall of 1992. Pulliam was already a teen by the time the series finale aired on April 30, 1992. Unlike many young actors still trying to remain relevant in Hollywood, Pulliam instead chose to focus on her education at the show's conclusion. Soon after her graduation from Spelman, however, Pulliam decided to make a Hollywood comeback by making a cameo appearance as a guitarist in "Cosby" (CBS, 1996-2000) that starred her former TV parents, Cosby and Rashad, before making a name for herself in "celeb-reality" programs. Pulliam competed in "Celebrity Mole: Yucatan" (ABC, 2004), and won celebrity installments of "The Weakest Link" (NBC, 2001-03) and "Fear Factor" (NBC, 2001-06).

With her talent and years of experience, it was not long before Pulliam started making a transition to full-time acting projects. She starred in the independent family dramas "What About Your Friends: Weekend Getaway" (UPN, 2002) and "Christmas at Water's Edge" (2004) before joining the all-star cast of the feature film, "Beauty Shop." As a difficult and rebellious young woman named Darnelle, Pulliam squared off against hardworking hairstylist Gina (Queen Latifah) in the comedy spin-off of the Ice Cube hit, "Barbershop" (2002).

To many viewers, "Beauty Shop" was the first time they had seen the former Rudy Huxtable as a young lady. Pulliam wanted to break out of the child actor mold and pushed the envelope further with a sexy cameo in rapper Chingy's music video "One Call Away" in 2004 and with a swimsuit/lingerie layout in a popular men's magazine in 2005. That same year, Pulliam was ranked number 19 on VH1's list of the "100 Greatest Kid Stars." When asked how she was able to maintain a normal life after "Cosby," she replied, "Of course, you learn from the mistakes made by those who came before you I think it's funny how society so often focuses on the negative stories when there are so many positive ones about child actors who have made that transition and continued to be successful."

Proving her versatility, Pulliam acted in a string of small films including "The Gospel" (2005), "Cuttin Da Mustard" (2008) and "Death Toll" (2008) with rapper DMX and Lou Diamond Phillips before she caught the eye of writer-director-actor Tyler Perry. Perry cast Pulliam as reformed con artist Miranda in his TV series "House of Payne" (TBS, 2006-08); a role that earned the star another NAACP Image Award. Perry cast Pulliam in her most dramatic role to date, a college student-turned-drug-addicted prostitute in the film "Madea Goes to Jail." Playing Candace "Candy" Washington was the furthest character away from Rudy Huxtable, and that was exactly Pulliam's plan. "What people forget is that I'm an actress. I get to play different roles. And Rudy was a really, really long time ago." The film went on to top the box office during its opening weekend.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Death Toll (2008)
3.
 Gospel, The (2005)
4.
 Beauty Shop (2005) Cast
6.
 Polly Comin' Home! (1990) Polly
8.
 Polly (1989) Polly
9.
 Little Match Girl, The (1987) Molly
10.
 The Last Dragon (1985) Sophia
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Began career appearing in print ads and TV commercials
:
Made acting debut on an episode of the children's show, "Sesame Street"
1984:
Played Rudy Huxtable on popular NBC sitcom, "The Cosby Show"; garnered an Emmy (1986) nomination for Supporting Actress
1985:
Appeared in the feature film, "The Last Dragon"
1987:
First leading role was in the NBC TV-movie, "The Little Match Girl"
1989:
Starred in the Debbie Allen-directed TV-movie, "Polly" (ABC)
1990:
Reprised role of Polly in the sequel "Polly Comin' Home!" (NBC)
2002:
Starred in the TV-movie, "What About Your Friends: Weekend Getaway"
2005:
Appeared opposite Queen Latifah in the comedy, "Beauty Shop"
2007:
Cast as Calvin's girlfriend-turned-wife in the TBS series, "Tyler Perry's House of Payne"
2009:
Appeared in "Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Foxcroft School: Middleburg , Virginia -
Spelman College: Atlanta , Georgia - 2001

Notes

Pulliam received an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for "The Cosby Show" for the 1985/86 season. She has also been nominated as Best Young Actress in the Nickelodeon Awards.

Pulliam's other television credits include "Andy Williams and the NBC Kids Search for Santa", "Motown Returns to the Apollo" (both 1985), "Polly", "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" (both 1989) and "Polly Comin' Home" (1990).

Pulliam credits much of her young success to her parents, who manage her career: "If you're young, you should always do what you're told." This doesn't mean, however, that she doesn't have ambitions for herself: "I want to be a pilot....A pilot and a doctor....I think I'll be a doctor half of the time and a pilot a quarter of the time. And most of the time, I'll be an actress!" (Quoted in "TV Guide", December 19, 1987)

"I truly love and enjoy this business and believed that I would be able to return. But if not, it wasn't in God's plan."---Pulliam on leaving acting to focus on school, quoted in Venice magazine, April, 2005.

Family close complete family listing

father:
James Pulliam Sr. Business manager. Manages his daughter's career.
mother:
Denise Pulliam.
brother:
James Pulliam Jr. Born c. 1983.

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