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Past Keynote Speakers
2022 Keynote Speaker
Sheryl Lee Ralph
Internationally acclaimed motivational
and inspirational speaker, and award-winning actress
From bringing characters to life on screen, performing on Broadway, producing, landing the title of national bestselling author with her literary debut and her deep-rooted philanthropic endeavors which touch lives across the world, Tony® Award nominee, NAACP Image Award nominee and Independent Spirit Award winner Sheryl Lee Ralph has become a staple in the entertainment industry with an acclaimed career spanning over three decades.
Ralph be seen as Barbara starring on ABC’s highly acclaimed comedy series “Abbott Elementary” opposite Quinta Brunson. In this laugh-out-loud workplace comedy, “Abbott Elementary” follows a group of teachers brought together in a Philadelphia public school simply because they love teaching. They rely on one another to make it through the day and find a way to counteract the school district’s indifferent attitude toward educating children. Ralph shines as Barbara, a longtime and respected teacher. “Abbott Elementary” premiered in January 2022.
In film, Ralph will reprise her scene-stealing role as Claudette opposite Jon Voight and Leiv Schreiber in Showtime’s upcoming feature “Ray Donovan” (2022). The critically acclaimed, award-winning series ran from 2013-2020, and the film will pick up where season seven left off. Additional credits for Ralph include starring in over 100 episodes of “Moesha” opposite GRAMMY® Award winner Brandy, a lead role opposite Tia Mowry in three seasons of Nickelodeon’s hit series “Instant Mom,” and appearances on “Barbershop,” “ER,” “It’s a Living,” “New Attitude,” “George,” “Designing Women,” “Two Broke Girls,” “Smash,” “Criminal Minds,” “MacGyver,” “One Mississippi” and “Claws.” Ralph is currently recurring as President Kelly Wade on Freeform’s supernatural drama series “Motherland.”
On the big screen, Ralph has worked with some of Hollywood’s leading and award-winning men with credits that include “The Mighty Quinn” opposite Denzel Washington, “Mistress” with Robert de Niro, “To Sleep with Anger” with Danny Glover and “The Distinguished Gentlemen” with Eddie Murphy. She also appeared opposite Whoopi Goldberg in “Sister Act II.” Ralph picked up a win for Best Supporting Actress at the Independent Spirit Awards for her performance in “To Sleep with Anger.”
Finding success in writing and directing, Ralph’s award-winning short film “Secrets,” co-starring award-winning actress Alfre Woodard and Robin Givens, was a finalist in the HBO Film Short Competition, Showtime’s Filmmaker Award Series and the BET Filmmaker Award Competition. The film was also selected as the audience favorite at the Outfest Film Festival. “Secrets” was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as the Hollywood Film Festival, the Acapulco Film Festival and the Urban World Film Festival. Ralph is also the creator of the Jamerican Film and Music Festival. Most recently, Ralph completed four back-to-back movies: “Just Getting Started” opposite Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones and Rene Russo; “Christmas at Holly Lodge” for Hallmark; Netflix’s “Step Sisters” with Naturi Naughton and produced by Lena Waithe; and “No Sleep Til Christmas” for Freeform.
In theater, Ralph is well known for her award-winning work, creating the role of Deena Jones in the legendary Broadway musical “Dreamgirls,” which earned her Best Actress nods for Tony and Drama Desk Awards. Ralph most recently appeared on Broadway as Madame Horrible in “Wicked,” becoming the first African American actress to take on the classic role. She also holds the title of producer on Broadway’s “Thoughts of a Colored Man” at The John Golden Theatre (October 2021-March 2022). Additional Broadway credits include the Tony Award-winning musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and reuniting with Loretta Devine and Jennifer Holliday for a sold-out, one-night-only “Dreamgirls” reunion celebrating the 35th anniversary.
As a writer, Ralph’s debut book, “Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original Dreamgirl” (Simon & Schuster), instantly became a national bestselling title and gave readers a personal look into her triumphs and tribulations over the years, navigating life with courage, wit, and strength.
While working in front of the camera keeps Ralph busy, she is also a passionate health advocate and honored AIDS activist. She is the founding director of the DIVA (Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed) Foundation 501(C)3 which she created in memory of the many friends she had lost to HIV/AIDS. She also created the critically acclaimed Divas Simply Singing!, an evening of song and entertainment that is the longest consecutive running musical AIDS benefit in the country. Ralph was awarded the first Red Ribbon Award at the UN for her unique use of the arts in HIV/AIDS activism and was recently appointed as an AIDS Ambassador for Jamaica’s Ministry of Health. Ralph is a mother of two with a blended family of four, and loves every moment of motherhood and marriage. She is happily married to State Senator Vincent Hughes of Pennsylvania.
A Message from
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Past Keynote Speakers
2021 Keynote Speaker
Actress, Producer &
NY Times Bestselling Author
With the energy of a teenager, the wisdom of a sage, and the memory of a super hero, Marilu Henner has done it all! Starring in over fifty films, seven Broadway shows, and two hit classic sitcoms, “Taxi” and “Evening Shade,” this five-time Golden Globe Nominee is also a New York Times Best Selling author of ten books on health, memory, parenting, and lifestyle improvement. Her books, including recent bestseller Changing Normal: How I Helped My Husband Beat Cancer, as well as Total Memory Makeover, Total Health Makeover, 30 Day Total Health Makeover, Healthy Life Kitchen, I Refuse to Raise a Brat, and By All Means Keep On Moving, have changed the lives of millions in her quest to make the world a healthier place.
Marilu Henner, seen this past season on Broadway starring in Gettin’ the Band Back Together, is currently starring with Candace Cameron Bure in the Hallmark series “Aurora Teagarden”, which will have three new movies premiering in Fall 2019. She is also on “The Neighborhood” playing Max Greenfield’s opinionated mom! Marilu has hosted and executive produced two talk shows, “Marilu” and “Shape Up Your Life,” and as a two-time competitor on Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice All-Stars,” Marilu played for her favorite charities, including The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and the Alzheimer’s Association. In fact, at PCRM’s 25th Anniversary Gala, she was awarded their Voice of Compassion Award. Marilu also competed all the way to the semi-finals on “Dancing With the Stars” Season 23!
As one of only twelve people documented with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), Marilu was the subject of a two-part special on “60 Minutes” and on “60 Minutes Australia,” as well as in news programs and newspaper articles around the globe. She also served as the consultant on the CBS series “Unforgettable,” which ran for four seasons. Her ninth book, Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future! became an instant New York Times and Publishers Weekly Best Seller.
Marilu has spoken before Congress eight times on various subjects from dietary supplements to women’s cardiovascular disease to deadbeat parents to The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, and, most recently, taking the fight for more money for Alzheimer’s research to Capitol Hill. She was also one of only two private citizens selected to contribute to the shaping of our government’s food pyramid in 2004 and 2014. Marilu frequently lectures throughout the country as a keynote speaker and motivator for professional organizations, universities, government agencies, interest groups, and corporations on topics including memory, diet and fitness, women’s health issues, cardiovascular disease, cancer survival, and child rearing, as well as lifestyle, entertainment, and business organization strategies.
Marilu Henner is married to Michael Brown, CEO of Browntrout Publishers and is the proud mother of two sons, Nick and Joey.