Jo Marie Payton

Born:     August 3, 1950
Birthplace:    Albany, GA
Zodiac Sign:  Leo

Career and Life

Jo Marie Payton is an American actress and singer who starred as Harriette Baines–Winslow, the matriarch of the Winslow family on the ABC/CBS sitcom Family Matters (1989–1998), and also appeared in a recurring role on its forerunner series Perfect Strangers. From 2001 to 2005, Payton provided the voice for Suga Mama Proud (Penny Proud's grandmother) on Disney Channel's animated series The Proud Family and Disney+’s upcoming revival The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder. The role earned her an NAACP Image Award nomination in 2005. Payton also had a recurring role as the personal assistant to Gregory Hines' character, Ben Doucette (Will Truman's boss), during season two of Will & Grace (1999–2000).

Payton's big break came when she was cast as Harriet Winslow, the elevator operator on the ABC sitcom Perfect Strangers in 1987. Her performance was so well received by audiences that she was given her own sitcom, Family Matters, in 1989. Continuing her character Harriette Winslow from Perfect Strangers, she played a mother in an African-American middle-class family living in Chicago, Illinois. Payton left Family Matters partway through its final season, appearing for the last time on December 19, 1997. Payton's character was played by Judyann Elder in the show's remaining eight episodes. In 2002, Payton appeared on the "TV Moms" episode of the Anne Robinson version of The Weakest Link, and was the third one voted off. In 2003, Payton and her daughter appeared on a Mother's Day episode of Lingo, playing against fellow TV mom Meredith Baxter and her daughter. Baxter and her daughter won. In 2005, Jo Marie Payton provided the voice of Suga Mama in The Proud Family Movie. Her other television credits include Desperate Housewives, Reba, Girlfriends, Wanda at Large, Judging Amy, The Parkers, Will & Grace, The Hughleys, 7th Heaven, Moesha, The Jamie Foxx Show, 227, Silver Spoons, Small Wonder and The New Odd Couple. She also appeared in the Canadian TV mini series The Rev as Mama. In 2005, Payton co-hosted the 15th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards with Glynn Turman. In August 2009, Payton appeared on Meet the Browns as Shirley Van Owen. Payton hosted her own show on the Hometeam Network, Second Chance with Jomarie Payton. In 2012, Payton was in the GMC TV movie special From This Day Forward.

In 2004, in an effort to help raise funds for Virginia Union University, Payton wrote letters to alumni urging them to donate money in amounts from $18.65 to $186,500, in honor of the University's founding date of 1865. Payton also continued to donate, host charitable events, and support her alma mater of Albany State University while also continuing her education and making a successful career.

Payton is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. In 1999, she released a jazz album, Southern Shadows. Payton has been married and divorced three times. Her first marriage was to Marc France from 1980 to 1987 with whom she has a daughter, Chantale France, born 1984. From April 17, 1993 until 1998, Payton was married to Rodney Noble. Shortly after divorcing Noble, Payton married Landrus Clark in 1998; later divorcing in 2004. Payton has been married to Leonard Downs since 2007.

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