Betty White was an American actress and a pioneer of early television. She was well-known for her vast work in the entertainment industry, with a career spanning over 70 years. Known as the First Lady of Television, White was also the first woman to produce a sitcom. Her career is one of the longest in the industry. For that reason she is our Black Sheep of the Month – Betty White
Betty Marion White was born on January 17, 1922 in Oak Park, Illinois. She was the only child of Horace Logan White, an executive of a lighting company, and Christine Tess, a homemaker. In 1923, her family relocated to Alhambra, California when she was a little over a year old. Later, they moved to Los Angeles.
For early education, White attended the Beverly Hills Unified School District and graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1939. For a while, she pursued an interest in writing and wrote and played the lead at Horace Mann School in a graduation play. It was the time when she discovered her interest in acting. Inspired by her idols Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, she decided to pursue a career as an actress.
At the beginning of her career, White made rounds to film studios in order to find work but couldn’t get hired because she was apparently “not photogenic”. Because of this, she decided to look for radio jobs. Her first radio jobs included playing bit parts and reading commercials. She then also appeared on shows such as “This Is Your FBI (1945-1953)”, “The Great Gildersleeve (1940–1954)”, etc. Ultimately, she was offered her own radio show, known as The Betty White Show (1952).
In the 1960s, White made guest appearances on many game and talk shows, including “Password”. Her big break was the CBS sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977)”.Apart from this, her another iconic role was in “The Golden Girls (1985-1992)”. It quickly became one of the top ten highest-rated sitcoms. She appeared in many films and shows over the years and also landed recurring roles in shows like “Boston Legal (2004-2008)”, “The Bold and the Beautiful(1987-present)”, and more. Her last performance was in the animated film “Trouble (2019)” as Sarah Vanderwhoozie.
Awards and Achievements
Over the course of her long acting career, White won many awards and she had no trouble getting recognized for all her amazing work. She won 21 Emmy nominations for her various TV appearances and roles. From these, she won 5Emmy Awards.
Apart from her acting career, she got recognition for her activism and humanitarian efforts. In 1987, she was awarded the Humane Award for her animal welfare work. She was also inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1995. In 2009, White received the TCA Career Achievement Award and she received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award a year later in 2010. Of course, these aren’t all the awards that she received throughout the years. There are many others and she has earned every one of them.
Challenges and Setbacks
Betty White was well-acquainted with setbacks and challenges as she faced many of them, especially at the start of her career. After school, she tried to apply for numerous play-role opportunities for various companies without success. And after war, she got rejected many times when she looked for acting work because apparently, she wasn’t photogenic. So, she opted to take on a format that didn’t require this trait: radio. But even in this field, she faced her fair share of setbacks and challenges. Her first jobs didn’t pay much. She was mostly paid about $5 per show. Sometimes, she had to work for free just for the sake of publicity. But all of her hard work paid off as she was ultimately recognized for her talents and offered her very own radio show.
White was well-recognized in the Black community, theLGBT community, and she was an animal rights advocate.
As an animal rights activist, she was very dedicated to improving conditions at the Los Angeles Zoo and saving endangered species. Her love for animals was well-known and she made her mark as an advocate for the treatment and wellbeing of animals.
She was also an advocate for human rights in general. One example of it is when she stood up for the Black community in 1954 when many criticized her for having Arthur Duncan, an African-American performer, on her variety show. She was asked to remove him from the show but even under intense pressure, she refused, kept him, and even gave him more airtime.
White was a long-time activist for gay rights as well. She was in favor of marriage equality at a time when it wasn’t the “in” thing to do.
What Makes Betty White a Black Sheep?
Betty White has been one of the pioneers of TV, having helped carve the path for women to take the lead in television, not just as actors but also as directors and producers. She was a force to be reckoned with, but she was also known for her caring heart and sunny optimism. With a career that spanned over 70 years, she truly was a wonder to behold, in those times, there weren’t many who could stand up to cultural norms, but she did and that makes her a Black Sheep of the Month.
Betty White passed away at the age of 99 on December 31, 2021 from natural causes. Her legacy will live on and she will be missed by many around the world. We hope you would agree that this one was a force to be reckoned with in her own heartwarming way! Till next time. – The Black Sheep