Tonya Pinkins
This Award-Winning Actress is Touch & Talented
By Carolyn Forche'
Being Single Magazine - Aug./Sept. 2004


Tonya Pinkins is currently on Broadway as the star of the critically acclaimed musical, Caroline, or Change, and she also plays "Livia Frye" on the popular ABC daytime drama, "All My Children." Tonya, who received a Tony Award for her role as "Sweet Anita" in Jelly's Last Jam, has been nominated for the Tony Award this year in the Best Actress category. However, beneath the glitter and glam of her current success lies an incredible story of pain, loss, survival and success.

A year ago, Tonya Pinkins, a single mother of four children, was living in Los Angeles on welfare. She had two children living with her, and two other children living with their father, who had fought and won custody of them.

When she received an offer to come to New York for a part in an off-Broadway play about an embittered maid living in the South in the 60s, she was offered $400.00 a week. In response, she packed up her children and moved to New York, believing strongly that she would survive, though her car was on its last leg, and she had no place to stay.

But this was not the first time this tenacious woman had displayed incredible fortitude. She had already been through it with a deceiving ex-fianc?e, who had treated her like a queen before deserting her, and a mentally abusive husband.

Her words... "The mental abuses I suffered in my marriage were calculated attempts to destroy my mind. My husband, whom I married nine months after I met him, was by medical definition, a psychopath. The signs were there on the 1st and 2nd dates, when he told me that he didn't want to work, or have a life partner, and that he wanted two children. But I ignored all of that because he was a Svengali type.

"My husband would only make love to me twice every six months so that I would crave for him to touch me. One night he made a tape telling me how much he loved me, and the next day he served me with divorce papers." This same husband ended up winning the custody of their two children, and she ended up having to pay him alimony. (She has visitation rights only, because there is no shared custody in the state of New York.) All this, despite the fact that she represented herself in the custody battle and successfully fought to have the judge removed from the bench because of his bias against women. Tonya believes her faith in God has carried her over and through her trials.

After being in New York two months, All My Children called and offered her a six-week contract, Caroline, or Change was about to close off-Broadway.

Her words... "I asked myself how can I stay here? I wanted to stay in New York, because all my children were here. I wanted a house, so I went to look for a house with no money, but I knew I was going to get a house and get the one I wanted. And as expected, I got a new house and a new car.

"In 24 hours, the show went to Broadway, I got an extended contract for All My Children, and a book deal from Hyperion. I went from welfare to almost millionaire status in less than a year, and I believe it's because I believe that with God, all things are possible."

I asked this sultry star if she'd marry again, and she responded enthusiastically. "Oh yes! But this time I'm holding out for the one who has, rather than the one who needs. I want us to be able to stand apart, and when we're together, we're equal."

When I asked Tonya about the availability of men on The Hollywood Scene, she described the last party she went to.

"It was filled with the beautiful people. Successful couples with husbands who appeared devoted, but most of whom were known as bi-sexual in their previous lives. The few single men there were the player types, who were certainly available for a good time, but nothing more."

Her fantasy date: "Vin Diesel."
Her parting words: "I'm cleaning up old business, dropping all excess baggage, and I'm getting ready to fly."
 

20 Questions With... Tonya Pinkins
American actress Tonya Pinkins - who has been nominated for a Whatsonstage.com Award for her title performance in Caroline, or Change - explains why the Tony Kushner musical has become a family affair & notes how small changes affect the world.

Award-winning American actress Tonya Pinkins grew up in Chicago and studied musical theatre before moving to New York when she landed a role in Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, aged just 19.

She received the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Derwent Awards for Jelly’s Last Jam, and also appeared in The Wild Party, Play On, and Chronicle of a Death Foretold on Broadway, as well as Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s 2004 Broadway musical Caroline, or Change, for which she received the Obie, Lortel and LA Drama Critics Awards and was nominated for a Tony Award.
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