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Jasmine Guy

Jasmine Guy

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: March 10, 1962 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Boston, Massachusetts, USA Profession: Cast ... actress singer dancer
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BIOGRAPHY

A gifted singer-dancer-actress, Jasmine Guy achieved stardom as spoiled Southern belle Whitley Gilbert on "A Different World" (NBC, 1987-1993), a spin-off of "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992). When star Lisa Bonet left the series, Guy became its leading lady and won six Outstanding Lead Actress Image Awards for her work as the increasingly complex Whitley. Branching out into directing and writing while on the show, she also released her debut album, 1990â¿¿s Jasmine Guy, which launched three minor R&B hits, including "Another Like My Lover." Although she had several film roles, including "School Daze" (1988), "Harlem Nights" (1989) and "Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming" (2010), Guy worked primarily on the stage and television, earning a series regular role on "Dead Like Me" (Showtime, 2003-04) and recurring on "The Vampire Diaries" (The CW, 2009- ). A multitalented entertainer who transcended her sitcom stardom which might have otherwise typecast her, Jasmine Guy continued to create fascinating work and to inspire fans across a variety of art forms decades after her initial success.

Born March 10, 1962 in Boston, MA, Jasmine Guy grew up in Atlanta, GA, where she studied the triumvirate of singing, dancing and acting. As a teenager, she moved to New York City to continue her training at the famed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and subsequently made her uncredited screen debut as a dancer on the series "Fame" (NBC, 1982-83; syndicated, 1983-87), where she impressed one of the the showâ¿¿s stars and its choreographer, Debbie Allen. Although a true triple threat, Guy crossed over into straightforward acting with a guest spot on "The Equalizer" (CBS, 1985-89) and soon after landed her most famous role, as the hilariously pampered, pompous college student Whitley Gilbert on "A Different World" (NBC, 1987-1993). A spin-off of "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992) built around freshman Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet), "World" underwent a metamorphosis when Bonet left the series after one season, and Guy moved into the leading lady slot.

At first a high-society Southern foil for the down-to-earth, Brooklyn-born Denise, Guyâ¿¿s Whitley deepened and evolved over the run of the series, and her personal growth, including her romance with the charismatic Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison), proved the sitcomâ¿¿s through-line. Proving herself equally adept at comedy and drama, Guy masterfully anchored the series, winning six Image Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and achieving a piece of pop cultural immortality in the hearts of viewers of a certain generation. While on the series, she also branched out with supporting film roles in "School Daze" (1988) and "Harlem Nights" (1989), as well as booking guest spots on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC, 1990-96) and an impressive turn in the epic miniseries "Alex Haleyâ¿¿s Queen" (CBS, 1993) as the slave mother of Halle Berryâ¿¿s title character.

During the run of "World," Guy continued to stretch her artistic wings, directing one episode and writing three, and she also released a debut album, 1990â¿¿s Jasmine Guy, which spun off three minor hits: "Try Me," "Another Like My Lover" and "Just Want to Hold You." After "World" completed its run, Guy earned an Image Award nomination for her recurring role on "Melrose Place" (Fox, 1992-99) as Caitlin Mills, an advertising exec who attempts to steal the crown from queen bee Amanda (Heather Locklear), and another for her work in "The Boy Who Painted Christ Black" segment of the acclaimed made-for-TV movie "Americaâ¿¿s Dream" (HBO, 1996). Booking guest spots on everything from "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005) to "Touched by an Angel" (CBS, 1994-2003), Guy also lent her voice to the animated feature "Cats Donâ¿¿t Dance" (1997) and notched a supporting role in the Sarah Polley film "Guinevere" (1999).

She landed another series regular role with her Image Award-nominated turn as a grim reaper/meter maid on the darkly comic fantasy "Dead Like Me" (Showtime, 2003-04) and co-wrote the autobiography of family friend Tupac Shakurâ¿¿s mother, Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary. Guy scored a new generation of fans with no memories of Whitley when she was cast in the recurring role of "Gram," grandmother witch to Bonnie (Kat Graham) on the hugely successful "The Vampire Diaries" (The CW, 2009- ). She also had small roles in the films "Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming" (2010) and "October Baby" (2011), but increasingly turned her attentions to the stage. While occasionally taking film and television roles, Guy, who built an impressive side career as a stage actress and director with turns in Broadway productions including "The Wiz," "Grease" and "Chicago," also began moonlighting as a motivational speaker.

By Jonathan Riggs

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