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Legendary actress of the stage and screen, Mary Alice who is best known for her roles as Leticia “Lettie” Bostic on NBC‘s A Different World and as Effie Williams in the 1976 musical drama Sparkle, died Wednesday in New York City, according to the NYPD.

Her age is disputed as her birth year has been reported as both 1936 and 1941. 

Born Mary Alice Smith in Indianola, Mississippi—she pursued acting at an early age. She then went on to be an elementary school teacher before returning to acting in the 1960s in community theater where she was featured in productions for at least two decades, according to Variety. 

In the 1980s, Mary Alice appeared on the first two seasons of A Different World, and dozens of films, including such Black classics as Malcolm X, The Inkwell, Down in the Delta, and Beat Street.

Mary Alice won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for 1993’s I’ll Fly Away. She also picked up a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role in the 1987 production of August Wilson’s Fences.

Viola Davis, who won an Academy Award for her role in the Fences film wrote on Twitter, “RIP Mary Alice…the original Rose Maxson. You were one of the greatest actresses of all time!! Thank you for the work, inspiration and thank you for Rose. Godspeed Queen.” 

The beloved actress was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2000, and she retired from acting in 2005.

Luminary Actress Mary Alice of ‘A Different World’ and ‘Sparkle’ Dies  was originally published on

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