Diahann was a ground breaking African-American actress, the first woman to star in her own series in a role which she didn't play a maid or domestic worker. Julia was a beautiful role model for young black women.

Diahann had a classic, timeless beauty, rarely portrayed by women of color on TV and film in those days. "Tonight Show" host Jack Paar was stunned to learn that Diahann was an African-American born in the Bronx; he'd assumed that she was an exotic beauty from the West Indies.

She had modeled earlier in her career, but mostly appeared in black magazines such as "Ebony" and "Jet." Diahann also became the model for one of the first black Barbie dolls.

Julia was a nurse and widowed mother to son Corey. Her husband had been a fighter pilot shot down in Vietnam. "Julia" was a light-hearted series that was criticized for being unrealistic and not tackling the issues facing struggling black Americans.
Julia lived in an integrated apartment building in LA and existed in an almost exclusive white world. Neither Julia or her son were ever victims of racism on the show.

Diahann accepted the fact that the show didn't accurately portray black women.

"I'm a black woman with a white image. I'm as close as they can get to have the best of both worlds. The audience can accept me for the same reason I don't scare them."

The show was also commended for representing black characters not defined by race.

Already a veteran performer when she was cast in "Julia," Diahann had starred in the films "Carmen Jones" and "Porgy and Bess" in the 1950s. She won a Tony for best actress -- the first for a black woman -- in 1962 for "No Strings."

An NBC executive requested that Diahann take the "Julia" role but she didn't think the show would work. Besides, she didn't want to move from New York to LA, and she said that she didn't "trust" Hollywood because African-Americans rarely starred in film and TV at the time. NBC called her back six months later and asked her to reconsider.

"Julia" series creator Hal Kanter, who had worked on "Amos 'n' Andy" back in the 1950s, had a firm sense what heartland America wanted for its first African-American star.

Diahann wrote in her memoirs that "Hal was not completely
convinced that I was the right woman for the role. He felt my image was to worldly and glamorous. He thought I was too Las Vegas, too Broadway, not the image he wanted. He wanted housewives to feel comfortable with Julia."
Diahann Carroll "Julia"
Diahann Carroll Julia
Classic TV Beauties
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No. 11
Classic TV Beauties 1960s Countdown
DIAHANN CARROLL as Julia Baker in "Julia"
Classic TV Beauties 1960s Countdown
No. 12 Peggy Lipton       No. 10 Linda Evans
Kanter's doubt motivated Diahann to "glamour down" and she convinced him that she was the perfect Julia.

"Julia" was a top 10 show its first season (1968-69), but ratings dropped the second and third seasons, and Diahann and Kanter decided to end the series to work on other projects. It was also reported that Diahann quit because she grew weary of dealing with the show's controversy.

Diahann returned to primetime TV in the 1980s on the night-time soap "Dynasty," playing jet-setter Dominique Deveraux, half-sister to oil tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe).
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