A performer since childhood, performer, writer, producer and director T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh (Ta-Kee-ah Kristle Kee-Mah) studied theater, dance, voice, and pantomime in high school, then turned down a business scholarship to complete her studies at Florida A&M University with a degree in Theatre, co-oping at Florida State University to graduate, with honors, on time. After college, the Chicago native worked as a singer, dancer and actress, and won the title of Miss Black Illinois before placing 1st runner-up in the Miss Black America pageant. She moved to Los Angeles after wowing casting directors with her original performance piece, “In Black World…” in an open call for a pilot on a young television network.
That pilot turned out to be Fox’s groundbreaking, internationally successful, Emmy and TV Land Award winning sketch comedy show In Living Color. The only female to star in all five seasons, Keymáh delivered hilarious, spot on impressions like those of Whoopi Goldberg and ‘Edith Bunker,’ created a slew of iconic characters like Hilda Headley (Hey Mon), and Shawanda Harvey (Go On Girl), and brought her own characters such as Cryssy (In Black World) and LaShawn to the show. On the heels of In Living Color, she went on to guest star on several live action and animated shows, and went on to star in six other series, playing: sexy contractor Scotti Decker on ABC’s On Our Own; laid back television writer Denise Everett on Fox’s The Show; a dozen lead and guest character voices on Damon Wayans’s animated series Waynehead; flight attendant turned lawyer, turn pastry chef turned teacher Erica Lucas, on CBS’s Cosby; firm, fun, caring mom Tanya Baxter, on Disney’s That’s So Raven, and most recently, Johnny Carson’s gate-keeping secretary on Seeso’s There’s Johnny.
Growing up in the theater, Keymáh has managed to find her way to a stage between and even during her television and film projects. She did two runs and toured the country with her award winning solo show, “Some of My Best Friends.” Her other self penned stage projects include “T’Keyah Live… Mostly: A True Variety Show,” “Sellout!?!,” and “Don’t Get Me Started.” She produced all of her shows and Margaret Laurena Kemp’s “Creative Instructions,'” and self directed most her shows as well as Keisha Nickole’s “S.I.S.T.E.R.,” the world premiere of “Route 66: Finding Nat King Cole” at Amun Ra Theatre, and more recently, Pearl Cleage’s “The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years” at Florida A&M University. Her regional stage credits include “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Miss Evers’ Boys,” “Love Letters,” “The Five Heartbeats Live,” “The Piano Lesson,” and “Crowns.”
Wearing her hair naturally on television since her days on In Living Color, when doing so was rare, Keymáh has inspired a generation of women to follow her lead. In her popular coffee table book, Natural Woman / Natural Hair, the author lovingly demonstrates how to style African American natural hair and shares her experiences wearing her hair naturally on television. She is delighted that so many young women all over the world look to her as a natural hair icon. “What really gets me though, are the single and weekend dads and interracial families that my book has helped, and the older women that credit me with their natural hair conversions,” Keymáh says.
After more than twenty years of constant work on stage, television and film, Keymáh’s life changed direction completely when her grandmother became seriously ill. Throughout the run of That’s So Raven, Keymáh was in charge of the care of the woman who raised her, who was then suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. She made the most of her time on the show, made lasting friendships with the cast, acquired another generation of fans world wide, and even directed an episode. At the end of her final season on the show, however, the actress decided to take a break from performing to focus on her grandmother, and see her through her transition.
Not long ago, the multi-talented artist renewed her passion for performing. Fans cheered her in a celebrity cameo with In Living Color co-star Tommy Davidson in SyFy’s Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens, and watched her as Beverly in Candice Cain’s college romantic comedy, What Happened Last Night? Keymáh also starred on Paul Reiser’s comedy There’s…Johnny, a behind the scenes look at The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson which premiered on Hulu in late 2017. She can be seen on an upcoming episode of Jim Carey’s new television series, Kidding, is attached to several independent film projects including Revival, which is scheduled for a 2019 release, and is working on a book about her time taking care of her grandmother. The stage version of their story is set to debut in 2020.
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