Portrait of actress and singer Diahann Carroll, during a visit to London, January 18th 1965. (Photo by Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Remembering pioneering actress Diahann Carroll
01:12 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has been a producer, reporter and editor at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jones is co-author of “Say it Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete.” She talks politics, sports and culture weekly on Philadelphia’s 900AM WURD. The views expressed here are solely hers. Read more opinion on CNN.

CNN  — 

Diahann Carroll is gone today– passed away at 84 from breast cancer, her publicist said. But for me she will forever be that beautiful, chocolate-brown princess I first saw performing scenes–with her glistening voice–from “Porgy and Bess,” with Sammy Davis Jr. on the premiere episode of “The Diahann Carroll Show,” back in 1976.

Wow. I was starstruck.

To my young eyes—and to the eyes of so many of my peers–Diahann Carroll was everything that a woman should be: smart, elegant, funny, and a career woman. Carroll had already shattered racial stereotypes on television with her starring role in the 1968 series “Julia,” on NBC. She played a widowed mother and nurse — a life I connected with because my father had also died.

As Julia, Carroll was the first black woman to star in a sitcom and not play a domestic worker. Huge, at the time. In fact, it’s hard to overstate what an important figure she was. In my working-class black neighborhood, men, women, children–we were all captivated by her. I loved watching my mother — the only woman I ever thought was more beautiful than Carroll — imitate the actress’s hairdos and outfits.

In Diahann Carroll, we recognized our own beauty.