Back-up singer who became a voice and screen actress, providing her voice for the Disney animated films Cars and The Princess and the Frog. Her roles in Dreamgirls and Beaches brought her additional fame.
She made her acting debut in the Broadway musical Eubie in 1979.
She provided the voice for Mama Odie in The Princess and the Frog.
She married Arnold Byrd in 2012 and she has a daughter named Charmaine.
In 2006, she starred opposite Meryl Streep in a performance of Shakespeare in the Park.