Her suicidal thoughts

Behind the bright lights and the brilliant performances, you may never know the pain she endures in reaching her goals. Life’s experiences can take a toll on her — mentally. Do you care?


Do you really care that while she lives to “entertain” you, behind closed doors, she struggles with suicidal thoughts? It cost nothing to be kind. In fact, it could save a life.

Meet Nell Ruth Hardy, a woman more commonly known as Nell Carter. During her life, Carter was a famous actress and singer. Many may remember her for her role in the 1980s sitcom “Gimme a Break!” She lived from September 13, 1948, through January 23, 2003.

Singing before audiences was a significant part of Carter’s life since childhood. She got her start in her hometown of Birmingham, Ala., by both singing on a local gospel radio show as well as in church.

NellCarterVisionaryBy 15, Carter was performing with the Renaissance Ensemble, a jazz band that played area coffee houses and gay bars. At 16, however, Carter was raped at gunpoint by a man she knew. As a result, she became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl.

Persevering, Carter continued to perform with the Renaissance Ensemble. By 19, she left Alabama and moved to New York City with the group. She also formally changed her surname to Carter. At 23, she obtained her first role on Broadway.

Six years later, Carter got a big break in the musical “Ain’t Misbehavin.”  Her performance won her a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical. The year was 1978. In 1982, she won a Primetime Emmy Award for the same role done on television.

Carter had a long list of Broadway and television credits before acquiring the lead role as Nell Harper on the popular television show “Gimme a Break!” For her part, she received both a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award nomination.

After “Gimme a Break!” ended, Carter continued to work — first returning to the nightclub circuit and with a five-month national tour with comedian Joan Rivers. It was during this time that she attempted suicide.

How ironic? While Carter made audiences laugh, she was desperately crying inside. Such occurrence is not uncommon. Do you truly know what resides behind a person’s smile?

Still, while entertaining audiences, Carter battled a drug addiction, faced what she believed to be racism within her industry, bankruptcy, marriage and divorce. The world may never know the psychological effects she had as a result of being raped, giving birth to a child and then giving that child to her sister to raise because it was too hard.

Watching Carter on-stage, she made it easy to forget that her real life was not an easy one. Her suicidal thoughts could have led to her early demise, but they did not. She had survived the scene. She continued acting.

Keisha Bell

Keisha Bell

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Number is 1-800-273-8255. Share it. Use it. It is free and confidential.

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant. www.emergingfree.com

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