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Born in Pittsburgh, PA to Clyde and Lucille Reed, Reed began studying singing at the age of eight at the Pittsburgh Musical Institute. She later attended the Juilliard School and spent several years training as a professional dancer. She also spent several years under the mentorship of Honi Coles and Bobby Schiffman of the Apollo Theater. Reed's breakthrough role came in 1976 with her portrayal of Irene in the Broadway production of Bubbling Brown Sugar. She received her first Tony Award nomination and won a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Theatre World Award for her performance. Reed reprised the role of Irene in the Los Angeles production and in a European tour of the show. She won an NAACP Award for her performance. Reed's other Broadway credits include It's So Nice to Be Civilized (1980), The High Rollers Social and Pleasure Club (1992), for which she received a second Tony Award nomination, and Marie Christine (1999). She has also appeared in several Off-Broadway and Regional Theatre productions including Sophisticated Ladies, The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd, Blues In the Night, and Show Boat among many others. Not a stranger to the silver screen, Reed's film credits include Heading For Broadway, L'Africaine, and Le Rumba. Her television credits include The Tonight Show, The Today Show, and One Life to Live. A celebrated cabaret and concert singer, Reed has also recorded several albums on the Epic Records and the United Artists Records labels. She has spent much of her career performing both in the United States and Europe in nightclubs, supperclubs, concert halls, and jazz festivals.