Billy Dee Williams, American (1937 - )

Billy Dee Williams

Williams was born in New York City, New York, the son of Loretta Anne, a West Indian-born elevator operator from Montserrat, and William December Williams, Sr., an African-American caretaker from Texas. He has a twin sister, Loretta, and grew up in Harlem, where he was raised by his maternal grandmother while his parents worked at several jobs. Williams graduated from the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art in Manhattan, where he was a classmate of Diahann Carroll, who coincidentally played the wife of his character Brady Lloyd on the 1980s prime-time soap Dynasty.

Billy Dee Williams grew up in Harlem with a family that encouraged his artistic abilities and fostered an enthusiasm for all forms of cultural expression. He began painting at an early age and won scholarships to the National Academy of Fine Arts and Design in New York. There he studied classical principles of painting. Ironically, it was the need to earn money to buy paints and canvas that brought Williams his extensive credits in both television and film. In 1988, he renewed his enthusiasm for painting during an acting appearance in New York.

Since 1991, he has had numerous solo art exhibitions across America, and has donated paintings to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC and The Schomburg Museum in New York. Williams calls his paintings abstract reality to express the underlying principles behind them. He draws his subjects from life: people he has met, situations he has lived, and sometimes characters he doesn't know, but whose idiosyncratic appearance or behavior has caught his eye.

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