Wanda Sykes

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Wanda Sykes
Wanda Sykes 2010 GLAAD Media Awards.jpg
Wanda Sykes at the 2010 GLAAD Media Awards
Born(1964-03-07) March 7, 1964 (age 50)
Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S.
SpouseAlex Niedbalski (2008–present)[1]
ChildrenLucas Sykes
Olivia Sykes
WebsiteOfficial website
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Wanda Sykes
Wanda Sykes 2010 GLAAD Media Awards.jpg
Wanda Sykes at the 2010 GLAAD Media Awards
Born(1964-03-07) March 7, 1964 (age 50)
Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S.
SpouseAlex Niedbalski (2008–present)[1]
ChildrenLucas Sykes
Olivia Sykes
WebsiteOfficial website

Wanda Sykes (born March 7, 1964) is an American writer, comedian, actress, and voice artist. She earned the 1999 Emmy Award for her writing on The Chris Rock Show. In 2004, Entertainment Weekly named Sykes as one of the 25 funniest people in America.[2] She is well known for her role as Barbara Baran on The New Adventures of Old Christine and for her appearances on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm.

In November 2009, The Wanda Sykes Show, her own late-night talkshow, premiered on Fox, airing Saturday nights, until it was cancelled in April 2010.[3][4] Sykes has also had a successful career in film, appearing in Monster-in-Law, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Evan Almighty, and License to Wed, and voiced characters in Over the Hedge, Barnyard, Brother Bear 2, Rio, and Ice Age: Continental Drift.

Early life[edit]

Sykes was born in Portsmouth, Virginia and raised in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mother, Marion Louise (née Peoples), worked as a banker, and her father, Harry Ellsworth Sykes, was a US Army colonel employed at the Pentagon.[5] Sykes attended Arundel High School[6] in Gambrills, Maryland, and went on to graduate from Hampton University[6] where she earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. After college, her first job was as a contracting specialist at the National Security Agency (NSA),[6][7] where she worked for five years.[8]

Sykes' family history was researched for an episode of the 2012 PBS genealogy program Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr. Her ancestry was traced back to a 1683 court case involving her paternal ninth great-grandmother Elizabeth Banks, a free white woman and indentured servant, who gave birth to a biracial child Mary Banks fathered by a slave, who inherited her mother's free status. According to historian Ira Berlin, a specialist in the history of American slavery, the Sykes family history is "... the only such case that I know of in which it is possible to trace a black family rooted in freedom from the late 17th century to the present."[9]


Not completely satisfied with her role with the NSA, Sykes began her stand-up career at a Coors Light Super Talent Showcase in Washington, DC, where she performed for the first time in front of a live audience in 1987.[8][10] She continued to hone her talents at local venues while at the NSA until 1992, when she moved to New York City.[8] Working for the Hal Leonard publishing house, she edited a book entitled "Polyrhythms - The Musician's Guide", by Peter Magadini.[11] Her first big break came when opening for Chris Rock at Caroline's Comedy Club.[8] In 1997, she joined the writing team on The Chris Rock Show and also made many appearances on the show.[10] The writing team was nominated for four Emmys, and in 1999, won for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special. Since that time, she has appeared in such films as Pootie Tang and on TV shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm. In 2003, she starred in her own short-lived Fox network sitcom, Wanda at Large. The same year, Sykes appeared in an hour-long Comedy Central special, Tongue Untied. That network also ranked her No. 70 on its list of the 100 greatest all-time stand ups. She served as a correspondent for HBO's Inside the NFL, hosted Comedy Central's popular show Premium Blend, and voiced a recurring character named Gladys on Comedy Central's puppet show Crank Yankers. She also had a short-lived show on Comedy Central called Wanda Does It.

In addition to her film and television work, she is also an author. She wrote Yeah, I Said It, a book of humorous observations on various topics, published in September 2004.

In 2006, she landed a recurring role on the sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine; she became a series regular in the second season. She also guest starred in the Will & Grace episode "Buy, Buy Baby" in 2006. She provided voices for the 2006 films Over the Hedge, Barnyard, and Brother Bear 2. She had a part in My Super Ex-Girlfriend and after playing in Evan Almighty, had a bit part in License to Wed. Sykes' first HBO Comedy Special, entitled Wanda Sykes: Sick & Tired, premiered on October 14, 2006; it was nominated for a 2007 Emmy Award.[12] In 2008, she performed as part of Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Tour for LGBT rights.

In October 2008, Wanda Sykes appeared in a television ad for the Think Before You Speak Campaign, an advertising campaign by GLSEN aimed at curbing homophobic slang in youth communities. In the 30-second spot, she uses humor to scold a teenager for saying "that's so gay" when he really means "that is so bad."[13][14]

In March 2009, it was announced that Sykes would be the host of a new late-night talk show on Saturdays on Fox, The Wanda Sykes Show which was scheduled to premiere November 7, 2009.[15][16] In April 2009, she was named in Out magazine's "Annual Power 50 List", landing at number 35.

In May 2009, Sykes was the featured entertainer for the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, becoming both the first African American woman and the first openly LGBT person to get the role. Cedric the Entertainer had been the first African American to become the featured entertainer in 2005. At this event, Sykes made controversial headlines as she responded to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh's comments regarding President Barack Obama. Limbaugh, in reference to Obama's presidential agenda, had said "I hope he fails". In response, Sykes quipped: "I hope his [Limbaugh's] kidneys fail, how 'bout that? Needs a little waterboarding, that's what he needs."[17]

Her second comedy special, Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me premiered on HBO in October 2009.[16] November 2009 saw the premier of The Wanda Sykes Show, which starts with a monologue and continues with a panel discussion in a similar format to Bill Maher's shows Real Time with Bill Maher and Politically Incorrect.

She appeared as Miss Hannigan in a professional theatre production of Annie at The Media Theatre in Media, PA, a suburb 25 minutes southwest of Philadelphia. Her first appearance in a musical, she played the role from November 23 – December 12, 2010, and again from January 12–23, 2011.[16]

She voices the Witch in the Bubble Guppies episode "Bubble Puppy's Fin-tastic Fairlytale Adventure".

In May 2013, Sykes was a featured entertainer at Olivia Travel’s 40th anniversary Music & Comedy Festival in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.[18]

In 2013, Sykes appeared in eight episodes of Amazon's Alpha House, a political comedy series written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau.[19] Sykes plays Rosalyn DuPeche, a Democrat Senator from Illinois and the next door neighbor of four Republican senators living together in a house on Capitol Hill. Sykes will also appear in Season Two, which is filming over the summer of 2014.

Personal life[edit]

Sykes was married to record producer Dave Hall from 1991 to 1998.[8] In November 2008, she publicly came out as gay while at a same-sex marriage rally in Las Vegas regarding Proposition 8.[8][20] Sykes had just married her partner Alex a month earlier, whom she met in 2006. The couple also became parents around the same time on October 25, 2008, when Alex gave birth to a pair of fraternal twins, daughter Olivia Lou and son Lucas Claude.[1]

Sykes only came out to her conservative mom Marion and dad Harry when she was 40, who both initially had difficulty accepting her homosexuality. They declined to attend her wedding with Alex, which led to a brief period of estrangement, but have since reconciled and are now proud grandparents to the couple's children.[21]

During a September 19, 2011 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Sykes announced that she had been diagnosed earlier in the year with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Although DCIS is a non-invasive "stage zero breast cancer", Sykes had elected to have a bilateral mastectomy in order to lower her chances of getting breast cancer.[22]

Sykes splits time living in both Los Angeles and Media, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia.[23]


Sykes has publicly expressed being devastated after California voters passed state Proposition 8. She said: "with the legislation that they passed, I can’t sit by and just watch. I just can’t do it."[8][24] She has continued to be active in same-sex marriage issues hosting events and emceeing fundraisers. She has also worked with PETA on promoting dog anti-chaining legislation in her home state.[25]

She has been an outspoken supporter of Detroit's Ruth Ellis Center after the organization's staff sent Sykes a letter asking her to visit during her 2010 tour's stop in Detroit.[26][27][28]


Sykes has been nominated for seven Primetime Emmys, with one win (in 1999) for "Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special". In 2001, she won the American Comedy Award for "Outstanding Female Stand Up Comic". She won a Comedy Central Commie Award for "Funniest TV Actress in 2003".[29] In 2010 she won a GLAAD award for promoting a good image of equal rights for gays and lesbians.[30][31]


1998Tomorrow Night
2000Nutty Professor II: The KlumpsChantal
2001Down to EarthWanda
Pootie TangBiggie Shorty
2006The Adventures of Brer RabbitSister MoonDirect-to-video
Over the HedgeStella (skunk)Voice
Nominated - Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production
Clerks IIAngry Customer
My Super Ex-GirlfriendCarla Dunkirk
BarnyardBessy the CowVoice
Brother Bear 2InnokoDirect-to-video
2007Evan AlmightyRita
License to WedNurse Bormanuncredited
2011RioChloe (Canada goose)voice
The MuppetsOfficer EthelCameo, Deleted
2012Ice Age: Continental DriftGrannyvoice
2013The Hot FlashesFlorine Clarkston


1997–2000The Chris Rock ShowVarious Characters7 episodes
1999Best of the Chris Rock ShowTV special
2001The Downer ChannelVarious2 episodes
The Drew Carey ShowChristine Watson3 episodes
2001–2011Curb Your EnthusiasmWanda9 episodes
2002–2003Crank YankersGladys/Wanda/Gladys Murphy (voice)3 episodes
2003MTV: ReloadedThe OracleTV film
Wanda at LargeWanda Mildred Hawkins19 episodes
Chappelle's ShowHerselfEpisode: "The Best of Chappelle's Show: Volume 2 Mixtape"
MADtvSeason 9 episode 903
2006Will & GraceCricketEpisode: "Buy, Buy Baby"
2006–2010The New Adventures of Old ChristineBarbara "Barb" Baran67 episodes
2007–2011Back at the BarnyardBessy the Cow (voice)50 episodes
2009Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me[16]HerselfHBO comedy special
White House Correspondents' DinnerHerself (host)TV special
2009–2010The Wanda Sykes ShowHerself21 episodes; also creator, writer, executive producer
2011Drop Dead DivaJudgeEpisode: "Prom"2011
2011Bubble GuppiesThe Witch (voice)Episode: "Bubble Puppy's Fin-tastic Fairytale Adventure"
2012FuturamaBev the vending machine (voice)Episode: "The Bots and the Bees"[32]
2013The SimpsonsSchool Therapist/Counselor (voice)Episode: "What Animated Women Want"[33]
Real Husbands of HollywoodWanda Sykes2 episodes
2013–presentAlpha HouseSenator Rosalyn DuPecheRecurring role


1997–98The Keenen Ivory Wayans ShowWriter11 episodes
1997-00The Chris Rock ShowWriterWrote 33 episodes
Co-produced 14 episodes
1998Comedy Central PresentsHerself and writer (as Wanda Sykes-Hall)Episode: "Wanda Sykes-Hall"
2001Best of the Chris Rock Show: Volume 2WriterTV special
The Downer ChannelWriterWrote the first 2 episodes
2002The 74th Annual Academy AwardsSpecial material written byAward show
2002–03Premium BlendWriter4 episodes/Stand-up
2003Wanda Sykes: Tongue UntiedWriterDocumentary
Wanda at LargeCreator, writer and producer19 episodes
2004Wanda Does ItCreator, writer and executive producer6 episodes
2006Wanda Sykes: Sick and TiredWriterStand-up
2009Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me[16]WriterStand-up


2007Sick & Tired[34]Image Entertainment

Awards and nominations[edit]

YearAwardCategoryNomination workResult
1998Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy ProgramThe Chris Rock ShowNominated
1999Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy ProgramThe Chris Rock ShowWon
2000Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy ProgramThe Chris Rock ShowNominated
2001Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy ProgramThe Chris Rock ShowNominated
2001American Comedy AwardsFunniest Female Stand-Up ComicHerselfWon
2003Teen Choice AwardsChoice ComedianHerselfNominated
2003Teen Choice AwardsChoice TV Actress - ComedyWanda at LargeNominated
2003Teen Choice AwardsChoice TV Breakout Star - FemaleWanda at LargeNominated
2004Satellite AwardsBest Performance by an Actress in a Series, Comedy or MusicalWanda at LargeNominated
2004BET Comedy AwardsOutstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy SeriesWanda at LargeNominated
2005BET Comedy AwardsOutstanding Vaudevillian in a Theatrical FilmMonster-in-LawWon
2005Image AwardsOutstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy SeriesCurb Your EnthusiasmNominated
2005People's Choice AwardsFavorite Funny Female StarHerselfNominated
2006Image AwardsOutstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy SeriesCurb Your EnthusiasmNominated
2006Black Reel AwardsBest Supporting ActressMonster-in-LawNominated
2007Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Variety, Music or Comedy SpecialWanda Sykes: Sick and TiredNominated
2007Annie AwardsBest Voice Acting in an Animated Feature ProductionOver the HedgeNominated
2008People's Choice AwardsFavorite Funny Female StarHerselfNominated
2009Image AwardsOutstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy SeriesThe New Adventures of Old ChristineNominated
2010GLAAD Media AwardsGLAAD Stephen F. Kolzak AwardHerselfWon
2010Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Variety, Music or Comedy SpecialWanda Sykes: I'ma Be MeNominated
2010Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy SpecialWanda Sykes: I'ma Be MeNominated


  1. ^ a b Jordan, Julie (May 13, 2009), "Wanda Sykes Becomes Mom of Twins!", People 
  2. ^ "The Best of the Rest". Entertainment Weekly. March 19, 2004. Retrieved December 25, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Wanda Sykes Official site". Wanda Sykes Returns To Fox. Retrieved April 3, 2009. 
  4. ^ "The Wanda Sykes Show". The Wanda Sykes Show on Fox. Retrieved July 12, 2009. 
  5. ^ Lee, Felicia R. (March 19, 2012). "Wanda Sykes Finds Ancestors Thanks to Henry Louis Gates Jr". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ a b c Katz, Lee Michael. "Funny Girl". Washingtonian.com. Retrieved June 11, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Wanda Sykes Biography". Yahoo! Movies. AEC One Group Stop, Inc. 2008. Retrieved December 11, 2008. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Karpel, Ari (March 2009). "Black and Gay Like Me". The Advocate (1024). 
  9. ^ Felicia R. Lee (March 19, 2012). "Family Tree’s Startling Roots". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ a b "Wanda Sykes". The Notable Names Database. 2008. Retrieved December 29, 2008. 
  11. ^ Magadini, Pete. "Formats and Editions of Polyrhythms : the musician's guide". Worldcat.org. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  12. ^ Complete List of 2007 Emmy Nominations, Associated Press, July 19, 2007, retrieved November 27, 2009 
  13. ^ Juergens, Brian (October 8, 2008). "Hilary Duff and Wanda Sykes on "That's so gay": Knock it off!". After Elton. Retrieved November 27, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Think before you speak. Don't say "That's So Gay."". Thinkb4youspeak.com. 2009-12-21. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  15. ^ "Wanda Returns to Fox!" (Press release). Fox. April 1, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2009. 
  16. ^ a b c d e Ostrow, Joanne (November 7, 2009). "Wanda Sykes brings her sass to late night". Denver Post. Retrieved November 27, 2009. 
  17. ^ Bolcer, Julie. "Wanda Sykes Rips Into Rush Limbaugh" The Advocate. May 11, 2009. (Retrieved May 11, 2009)
    Farah, Joseph, "Long Live Rush – And Free Speech", Creators Syndicate, 2009.
  18. ^ (Press release) http://www.olivia.com/connect/Press/OliviaPress/2012/Olivia40thLeisureRelease.pdf. Retrieved 2013-11-02.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ Goodman, Tim (14 November 2013). "Alpha House: TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  20. ^ McKinley, Jessie (November 15, 2008), "Across U.S., Big Rallies for Same-Sex Marriage", New York Times, retrieved November 27, 2009 
  21. ^ "Wanda Sykes fell out with parents after 'coming out'". Express. October 28, 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  22. ^ Silverman, Stephen M. "Wanda Sykes: I Had a Double Mastectomy". People. September 23, 2011
  23. ^ "Molly Eichel, "Wanda Sykes loves the small-town life of Media", Philadelphia Daily News, May 1, 2013." [1]
  24. ^ Sarah Warn (November 15, 2008). "Wanda Sykes Comes Out as Gay and Married". Retrieved November 22, 2008. 
  25. ^ Tracy Agnew,"Celebrity Wants Anti-Chaining Law," Suffolk News Herald, 15 February 2013.
  26. ^ "Wanda Sykes visits Ruth Ellis Center". Between the Lines. July 8, 2010. Retrieved August 1, 2013. 
  27. ^ Mercer, Monica (September 2012). "Q&A: Wanda Sykes, Ruth Ellis Center Fundraiser Host". Hour Detroit. 
  28. ^ Broverman, Neal (October 4, 2012). "Detroit's Invaluable LGBT Youth Center Has a Friend in Wanda". The Advocate. Retrieved August 1, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Wanda Sykes Biography". Comedy Central. May 11, 2009. Retrieved May 11, 2009. 
  30. ^ Wanda Sykes accepts her GLAAD award After Ellen, April 20, 2010.
  31. ^ ""TV Week GLAAD to honor Wanda Sykes", February 2010". Tvweek.com. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  32. ^ "Countdown to Futurama: Bev Character Design". Comedy Centrl [sic]. May 1, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2012. 
  33. ^ "School Counselor". FOX [sic]. May 1, 2012. Retrieved April 14, 2013. 
  34. ^ "Wanda Sykes: Sick & Tired". Publisher website. Image Entertainment. January 16, 2007. Retrieved April 13, 2010. 

External links[edit]