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Black History Month: Women in TV & Film - Sheila Guyse

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Sheila Guyse was a well-known actress and singer in the 1940s and 1950s. Guyse had no formal training in acting or singing and she impressed the world with her natural talent and charisma. She won a singing contest at the Apollo Theater which in turn resulted in a role on Broadway and eventually in film. She started out with small supporting roles, but broke out as a lead actress with the film Sepia Cinderella in which she played the girlfriend of a struggling songwriter who leaves her for another woman.

During the height of her success she often appeared on  magazine covers, like JET, Ebony, Our World, and Hue.

Health struggles initiated a pause in her thriving career when she suffered from stomach ulcers in 1953 days after accepting a role on Broadway. In 1958 Guyse returned to the industry, determined to debut her first studio album This is Sheila in order to reinvigorate her career. However, the momentum she had gained from her previous success never returned and she had a hard time returning to the level of fame she once had.

Guyse stayed out of the spotlight, and married a sanitation worker named Joseph Jackson. They lived in New York City as Jehovah’s Witnesses and were married until Jackson died in 2012. Just one year later, Sheila passed away due to complications with Alzheimer’s.

 Her health problems may have slowed her career, but she was an icon of “race films” in the 40s and 50s and will be remembered as a naturally gifted actress and singer.

To view her movie Sepia Cinderella, visit to view our Black History Month Film Collection.

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