Bambi Award winning actress, model, singer and voiceover artist Shari Belafonte is probably best known to television audiences for her role of Julie Gillette in the popular drama series “Hotel” (ABC, 1983-1988). She also starred as Laura Wingate on the USA Network series “Beyond Reality” (1991-1993). Her voiceover credits include “Gravedale High” (1990), “Sonic the Hedgehog” (1994) and “Hey Arnold” (1996-1997). As a model, Belafonte has appeared on the cover of many magazines and in a number of television commercials and was once the spokesperson for the diet supplement Slim-Fast, Diet System 6 and Bally's International Heath and Fitness. In addition, she posed for the September 2000 issue of “Playboy.”
Belafonte enjoys photography and is completing her first book of photos. She has worked with various causes for children, animal and environmental issues and was an international spokesperson for the Starlight Children's Foundation.
Childhood and Family:
Shari Lynn Belafonte was born on September 22, 1954, in New York City, New York. She is the daughter of singer and actor Harry Belafonte (born March 1, 1927) and his first wife, Marguerite Byrd. Her parents divorced in 1957. She has a sister named Adrienne, who founded the Anir Foundation/Experience, which focuses on humanitarian work in South Africa. She also has two half siblings, David and Gina Belafonte, from her father's marriage to Julie Robinson. David is an Emmy winning producer and the executive director of Belafonte Enterprises Inc., while Gina is an actress. Shari was educated at Buxton School in Williamstown, Massachusetts, then Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, before transferring to Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, from which she received a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in drama in 1976.
On May 21, 1977, Shari married Robert Harper, but they divorced in 1988. She married actor Sam Behrens (born July 24, 1950) on December 31, 1989, in Barbados.
Shari Belafonte landed work as a production assistant and assistant director in public television before relocating to Los Angeles, where she became a publicist's assistant at Hanna Barbera Productions. She also pursued a career as a model and has graced the cover of more than 300 magazines and appeared in a number of television commercials. One of her most notable appearances was in Calvin Klein Jeans commercials in 1984.
Belafonte made her professional acting debut in 1981 in episodes of “ABC Weekend Specials,” “Lobo” and “Hart to Hart.” She quickly made the jump to the big screen with “If You Could See What I Hear,” a film about blind musician Tom Sullivan that was directed by Eric Till. In the Canadian film she starred as Heather Johnson, opposite Marc Singer as Tom Sullivan and R. H. Thomson as Will Sly. She then portrayed Linda Flores in the horror film “Time Walker” (1982), directed by Tom Kennedy.
Back to the small screen, Belafonte appeared as Maggie in an episode of the CBS medical drama “Trapper John, M.D.” called “Three on a Mismatch” and an episode of the NBC sitcom “Diff'rent Strokes” called “The Older Woman” (both 1982). Her big break arrived when she was chosen by noted producer Aaron Spelling to portray Julie Gillette in the ABC prime time series “Hotel,” based on Arthur Hailey's 1965 novel of the same name. Debuting on September 21, 1983, the show was a hit and aired until mid 1988. She was awarded a Bambi Award in 1985 for her performance.
While working on “Hotel,” Belafonte also appeared in other projects, including the television film “Velvet” (1984), where she starred with Leah Ayres and Mary-Margaret Humes, and the Academy Award nominated short “Overnight Sensation” (1984), by Jon Bloom. She also guest starred in “The Love Boat” (1984) and “Matt Houston” (1985) and was cast in the made for TV film “The Midnight Hour” (1985), opposite Lee Montgomery, LeVar Burton, Peter DeLuise and Dedee Pfeiffer. She then worked with Meredith Baxter, Ben Masters and Georgann Johnson in the NBC drama “Kate's Secret” (1986).
It was during this time that Belafonte kicked off her music on Metrone Records and released several albums in Europe. Her discography includes “Eyes Of Night” (1987) and “Shari” (1989).
After “Hotel” left the airwaves, Belafonte had an unaccredited part in the TV film “The Women of Brewster Place” (1989), starring Oprah Winfrey, Mary Alice and Olivia Cole, was cast as Kathy Grant in the NBC’s “Perry Mason: The Case of the All-Star Assassin” (1989), starring Raymond Burr, and played the supporting role of Margaret in “Speed Zone” (1989). Also in 1989, Belafonte appeared in print ads for the Montaj cosmetic line, which she helped create.
1990 saw Belafonte costar with her husband, Sam Behrens, in the film “Murder by Numbers,” which was directed and written by Paul Leder, and play Serena in the German feature “Fire, Ice and Dynamite,” a sequel to the 1986 sports film “Fire and Ice,” where she starred with Roger Moore and Simon Shepherd. The same year, Belafonte provided the voice of Blanche, a zombie Southern belle who loves to shop, in the animation series “Gravedale High,” which also starred the voices of Rick Moranis, Eileen Brennan, Georgia Brown and Tim Curry. The series was broadcasted on NBC from September 1990 to August 1991. She went on to star with Carl Marotte on the USA Network science fiction series “Beyond Reality,” which originally aired between October 1991 and March 1993.
Belafonte next supported Susan Lucci and Lee Horsley in the television film adaptation of Sandra Brown's “French Silk” (1994) and provided the voice of Lupé on the animated series “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which ran on ABC from September 1993 to December 1994. From 1994 to 1995, she co-hosted the syndicated series “Lifestyles with Robin Leach and Shari Belafonte,” an updated version of the successful “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
In 1995, Belafonte teamed up with Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Hulce in “The Heidi Chronicles,” a PBS TV film adaptation of Wendy Wasserstein's play of the same name. Between 1996 and 1997, she voiced Mrs. Johanssen in several episodes of Nickelodeon's animated series “Hey Arnold.” She also provided the voice of Diana Cruz in an episode of Cartoon Network's “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest” called “Outer Space” (1997). The actress then portrayed Doc Halliday in the film “Mars” (1997), opposite Olivier Gruner, and Dr. Elizabeth Trent in TNT's film “Babylon 5: Thirdspace” (1998).
In the new millennium, Belafonte costarred with Nick Mancuso and Kelly Rowan in the television film adaptation of Linda Howard's “Loving Evangeline” (2001), directed by Timothy Bond and scripted by Charles Lazer. She then guest starred in an episode of “The District” (2001) and seven years later, appeared as Catherine Wicke in an episode of “Nip/Tuck” called “Lulu Grandiron” (2008). In 2010, she resurfaced as Kimberly Davis in “Golden Hour,” an episode of the CBS medical series “Miami Medical.” While irregularly working in front of the cameras, Belafonte served as a still photographer on 2003's “Big Empty,” a science fiction film written and directed by Steve Anderson that starred Jon Favreau, and the short films “Betrunner” (2004), “Betty's Treats” (2004), which she also produced, and “ Lonesome Matador” (2005).