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From March 17 to May 1, 2016, Rashad played the lead role of Shelah in Tarell Alvin Mc Craney's play Head of Passes at The Public Theater. Rashad received a career boost when she joined the cast of the ABC soap opera One Life to Live to play publicist Courtney Wright in 1983.She is best known for the role of attorney Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show.Rashad's siblings are jazz-musician brother Tex (Andrew Arthur Allen, Jr., born 1945), sister Debbie Allen (born 1950), an actress, choreographer, and director, and brother Hugh Allen (a real estate banker in North Carolina).While Rashad was growing up, her family moved to Mexico, and as a result, Rashad speaks Spanish fluently.In 1978, she released the album Josephine Superstar, a disco concept album telling the life story of Josephine Baker.The album was mainly written and produced by Jacques Morali and Rashad's second husband Victor Willis, original lead singer and lyricist of the Village People.The show, which ran from 1984 to 1992, starred Bill Cosby as obstetrician Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, and focused on their life with their five children.
In 2009, she appeared as Violet Weston, the drug-addicted matriarch of Tracy Lett's award-winning play August: Osage County at the Music Box Theatre.Off-Broadway credits include Lincoln Center's productions of Cymbeline and Bernarda Alba; Helen, The Story and Everybody's Ruby at the Public Theater; The Negro Ensemble Company productions of Puppet Play, Zooman and the Sign, Sons and Fathers of Sons, In an Upstate Motel, Weep Not For Me, and The Great Mac Daddy; Lincoln Center's production of Ed Bullins' The Duplex; and The Sirens at the Manhattan Theatre Club.In regional theatre, she performed as Euripides' Medea and in Blues for an Alabama Sky at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. Rashad was the first black actress of any nationality to win the Best Actress (Play) Tony Award, which she won for her 2004 performance as Lena Younger in a revival of the play A Raisin in the Sun by playwright Lorraine Hansberry.More recently, in early 2014 Rashad directed a revival of Fences, also by Wilson, at the Mc Carter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, which ran to generally positive reviews, and continued an ongoing focus on Wilson's work, including a well-received production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom that she directed at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in late 2016.
In 2008, Rashad starred on Broadway as Big Mama in an all African-American production of Tennessee Williams's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by her sister Debbie Allen.
She has also appeared in the films For Colored Girls (2010), Good Deeds (2012), Creed (2015), and Creed II (2018). Her mother, Vivian Ayers (born 1923), is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated artist, poet, playwright, scholar, and publisher.