Childhood & Early Life
Sela Ward was born Sela Ann Ward, in Meridian, Mississippi, on July 11, 1956, into a middle-class family. Her father, Granberry Holland Ward, Jr., was an electrical engineer, and her mother Annie Kate, was a homemaker. Sela was the eldest child of her parents and grew up with a younger sister and two younger brothers.
As a child, Sela was not like the other children in her locality. She had big dreams about her life and also wanted to go out and try something big. Her father would become aggressive whenever he drank. Sela and her mother suffered a lot due to his self-destructive habits.
Sela fell in love with acting while she was in school. At the age of 12, she performed in a school theatrical production of the popular play ‘The King and I.’ However, she realized that she was not comfortable performing on stage and in front of people.
She started dating in high school, but her boyfriend got killed in an accident. While going through the trauma of losing her boyfriend, she decided to pursue her higher education from Alabama. After completing a year of junior college in Mississippi, she was transferred to the ‘University of Alabama’ and earned double-major degree in fine art and advertising.
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Following her graduation, she moved to New York to work as a storyboard illustrator, which was her key area of interest back then. However, New York had a high cost of living. Thus, she decided to do extra work to make money. She was advised by a close friend of hers to try her luck in modeling, because she had a good height and built.
Sela was unaware of how successful she could be as a model. In the late 1970s, she started modeling after being offered a contract by ‘Wilhelmina Models,’ a reputed agency. She modeled in print and was soon seen in commercial advertisements for ‘Maybelline’ and many other beauty products.
By the early 1980s, she had become a known model. Soon, she thought of venturing into the world of acting. She moved to Los Angeles to earn film and TV roles.
In 1983, she made her acting debut with a small role in the Burt Reynolds-starrer film ‘The Man Who Loved Women.’ She also made her TV debut the same year and was lucky enough to get a meaty role in her debut series, ‘Emerald Point N.A.S.’
She played ‘Hilary Adams’ in 22 episodes of the series ‘Emerald Point N.A.S.’ She then appeared in guest roles in series such as ‘I Had Three Wives’ and ‘L.A. Law.’ At the same time, her film career moved forward with small and supporting roles in films such as ‘Nothing in Common,’ ‘Hello Again,’ and ‘Rustlers’ Rhapsody.’
She got her first major film role in the movie ‘Steele Justice,’ which featured her in the lead role of ‘Tracy.’ The film received bad reviews from critics but was an average success at the box office.
The early 1990s proved to be highly fruitful for Sela, as she made her TV breakthrough with the series ‘Sisters.’ The series featured her in the lead role of ‘Teddy Reed.’ The family drama series had a high female viewership and became a major hit.
The series ran for five successful seasons, and Sela received widespread acclaim for her performance. In 1994, she ended up winning the ‘Primetime Emmy’ award for ‘Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series’ for her role.
In the early 1990s, after the success of her show ‘Sisters,’ she started getting better roles in films, too. She appeared in key roles in films such as ‘Double Jeopardy’ and ‘The Fugitive.’ However, by the mid-1990s, she had begun focusing mostly on her TV roles.
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In 1999, she appeared as ‘Lily Manning,’ the lead character in the series ‘Once and Again.’ The drama series was a major success and ran for three seasons, with Sela winning universal accolades for her portrayal of a suburban mom. She ended up winning her second ‘Primetime Emmy’ award for her portrayal of ‘Lily.' She also won a ‘Golden Globe Award’ for the ‘Best Actress’ for the same role.
In the early 2000s, Sela appeared in TV films such as ‘Catch a Falling Star’ and ‘Suburban Madness.’ She slowed down her film career in the 2000s and the 2010s and appeared in supporting roles in films such as ‘Independence Day: Insurgence’ and ‘Gone Girl.’
She has been fairly active on TV, too. More recently, she has played supporting roles in series such as ‘House’ and ‘CSI: NY.’ She has appeared in key roles in series such as ‘Graves,’ ‘Westworld,’ and ‘FBI.’
Sela has also written her autobiography, ‘Homesick: A Memoir,’ published in 2002 by ‘ReganBooks,’ a ‘HarperCollins’ division.
In 1999, she voiced the character ‘Page Monroe/Calendar Girl’ in an episode of the animated series ‘The New Batman Adventures.’
She also worked as an executive producer for the TV movie ‘Catch a Falling Star.’
Family & Personal Life
Sela Ward dated entrepreneur Howard Elliott Sherman for a while before getting married to him in May 1992. They have two children: a son, Austin, and a daughter, Anabella.
Sela partially funded the creation of ‘Hope Village for Children,’ an organization aimed at providing shelter to abused children. The organization began its operations in her hometown of Meridian but aims to construct such homes across the country.
A road in Meridian has been name ‘Sela Ward Parkway’ in her honor.