Sharon Ann Leal is an actor of Filipino and African-American descent, who made a name for herself with her performances in the TV series ‘Boston Public’ and the romantic musical film ‘Dreamgirls.’ Born in Arizona, US, she spent her early childhood in the Philippines, before returning with her family to settle in California. She began appearing in the stage productions of local theater groups in her teenage years. In 1993, she worked with voice coach Seth Riggs through a vocal scholarship. She made her screen debut with the ‘CBS’ series ‘Guiding Light’ and soon earned praises for her role of ‘Marilyn Sudor’ in the ‘Fox’ primetime series ‘Boston Public.’ Some of her other noteworthy TV appearances were on ‘Hellcats,’ ‘Recovery Road,’ and ‘Instinct.’ Her portrayal of ‘Michelle Morris’ in the musical ‘Dreamgirls’ fetched her several major award nominations. Leal won accolades for her performances in the films ‘This Christmas,’ ‘Soul Man,’ ‘Why Did I Get Married?,’ and ‘Why Did I Get Married Too?.’ She has also performed in a number of stage productions. In January 2004, she was named the “Celebrity Beauty of the Month” by the magazine ‘Ebony.’ Leal was married to filmmaker Bev Land and has a son. Presently, she is in a relationship with director-choreographer Paul Becker.
Childhood & Early Life
Leal was born on October 17, 1972, in Tucson, Arizona, to a Filipino mother, Angelita, and an African–American father, who was a military man. Her father left her mother before Leal was born. Following this, her mother married another military personnel, Jesse Leal. Jesse was a ‘US Air Force’ sergeant and a police officer stationed at ‘Clark Air Base’ in the Philippines. He adopted Leal. Though her new parents separated when Leal was 7, she remained in contact with her adoptive father, Jesse. He later became a teacher in El Paso and continued to support her acting ambitions.
Though born in Arizona, Leal spent her early childhood in the Philippines, where she attended a prayer school. When she was 6, her parents moved back to the US and settled in Fresno, California. She studied at the ‘Roosevelt High School of Arts’ and graduated in 1990.
Leal enjoyed singing since a tender age. Her parents recorded her singing at age 2. During her teenage years, she began performing in community theater productions and later worked in the local productions of ‘Dreamgirls’ and ‘Nunsense.’ In 1993, she earned a vocal scholarship at the ‘Santa Cruz Jazz Festival,’ and with the help of this scholarship, she worked as an apprentice under Michael Jackson’s voice coach, Seth Riggs. She performed in a few rap and R&B music videos.
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In 1996, Leal made her screen debut, as ‘Dahlia Crede’ in the longest-running American serial in history, ‘Guiding Light.’ Though it was her first series, she performed in over 200 episodes of the series, from 1996 to 1999. She was also cast in the regular role of ‘Marita’ in 18 episodes of the primetime ‘UPN’ series ‘Legacy’ (1998–1999).
Joining the ‘Broadway’ group of the rock musical ‘Rent,’ she toured with them and performed as ‘Mimi.’ She was part of the ‘Broadway’ production ‘Miss Saigon’ and the ‘Off-Broadway’ musical ‘Bright Lights, Big City.’ Leal has performed in other plays such as ‘West Side Story’ and the musical ‘Making Tracks.’
Leal was part of the ‘Fox’ primetime series ‘Boston Public’ since its inception. The series was about the interactions between the students and the faculty of a public high school. Her portrayal of ‘Marilyn Sudor,’ a plain-speaking music teacher, won accolades. She appeared in 72 episodes of the series, spanning four seasons, from 2000 to 2004. She also displayed her singing skills with a Christmas song in the series. Around the same time, she recorded an R&B album with ‘Universal Records.’
Leal made her big-screen debut as ‘Tracie’ in the 2000 film ‘Face the Music.’ After the series ‘Boston Public’ ended, she essayed the role of ‘Michelle Morris’ in the film adaption of the hit ‘Broadway’ musical ‘Dreamgirls’ (2006). The film featured her with Eddie Murphy, Beyoncé Knowles, and Jennifer Hudson. It won the ‘Golden Globe Award’ for the ‘Best Film,’ and Leal received a number of nominations for her performance, including one for the ‘Screen Actors Guild Award’ for ‘Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture’ with the ensemble.
Her next significant appearance was as ‘Dianne Brock’ in Tyler Perry’s comedy drama ‘Why Did I Get Married?’ (2007) and its sequel, ‘Why Did I Get Married, Too?’ (2010). Leal essayed prominent roles in a few other films, such as ‘Soul Men’ (2008) and ‘Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the Seventh Day’ (2012). Her portrayal of ‘Kelli Whitfield’ in the 2007 film ‘This Christmas’ earned her the 2008 ‘Asian Excellence Award for Outstanding Film Actress.’
Leal played the recurring role of ‘Monique DeSouza’ in the 2004 ‘NBC’ series ‘LAX.’ She appeared in the main role of ‘Vanessa Lodge’ in the series ‘Hellcats’ (2010), which was about cheerleaders.
Her recent projects include the roles of ‘Charlotte Graham’ in the 2016 teen TV series ‘Recovery Road’ and ‘Lt. Jasmine Gooden’ in the TV police drama ‘Instinct’ (2018). Currently, Leal is seen playing the recurring role of ‘Miss Martian’ in the series ‘Supergirl’ (2016–present).
She has co-produced the 2015 TV movie ‘White Water.’
Family & Personal Life
In 2000, Leal met actor and aspiring filmmaker Bev Land. The two began dating soon after. She gave birth to their son, Kai Miles, in September 2001. The two got married in October 2001. However, they divorced in 2007. Reportedly, she has been dating actor, director, choreographer Paul Becker since 2010.