Lady Nancy Reed from “Dolemite Is My Name” is based on a real actress. In the Eddie Murphy movie, Reed is played by Da’Vine Joy Randolph.
Randolph told the Hollywood Reporter in an interview that when she told her father what role she was up for, he said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Dolemite and Lady Reed? Those are legends in our culture. You go in there and be a black woman in all of her richness.”
At The Time Reed Filmed the Original Dolemite, She Was a Single-Mother Trying to Make Ends Meet
Randolph said that it was her desire to play Reed in a nuanced way as her character was a single mother trying to make ends meet. Randolph said, “The director, writers, cast — it was all men, the whole set. I felt a responsibility as a woman to impart this information.” In one memorable line, Reed says to Dolemite, ” I’m so grateful for what you did for me ’cause I never seen nobody that looks like me up there on that big screen.”
In a separate interview, Randolph said of performance, “She’s learning, and she’s frustrated at times, but she’s learning how to move in this world, to move in this world of men. What’s so admirable is her resilience. She finds the life and fun of the process, and I think that’s just a good rule of thumb.”
Reed Went by the Monikers, The Madam & Queen Bee
During her acting and singing career, Reed went by the monikers The Madam and Queen Bee, the name of her character in the original movie version of “Dolemite.” According to her IMDb page, Reed appeared in four movies beginning with “Dolemite” in 1975. Bee co-owns the brothel at the center of the original movie, and with Dolemite, the pair get revenge on their former friend, Willie Green, played by D’Urville Martin.
From there, Reed would reprise her role in 1976’s “The Human Tornado.” In 1977, Reed appeared in “Petey Wheatstraw” in the role of secretary. Her last acting appearance was in 1979’s “Disco Godfather” where Reed played “Mrs. Edwards.” Reed also appeared in a 1994 documentary about the making of “Dolemite.”
Reed Has Been Described as the ‘Godmother of Rap
A May 2013 blog post on Reed said that the singer was discovered by Rudy Ray Moore, Eddie Murphy’s character from “Dolemite Is My Name.” A retrospective on Reed’s career says that, “If Moore is the godfather of rap, Lady Reed is the godmother.” That article noted that Reed had previously said that she was writing for Moore’s stand-up career when he convinced her to begin performing.
That blog post went on to say that in the 1980s, Reed’s voice was sampled predominately in the burgeoning House Music scene in Chicago. Among the songs she was featured on was “Sensuous Woman Goes Disco” by Jackmaster Dick’s Revenge.” The article noted that Reed’s influence in Chicago music extended to her style being emulated by Candy J.
Reed Said One of Her Albums Was an ‘Open Trip to the Black Female World’
Reed used the name, “The Madam” on her 1972 album, “The Sensuous Black Woman.” In the album liner notes, Reed says that the album was “dedicated to the female world in every respect.” Reed described the album as an “open trip to the black female world.” Reed says that the message of the album is that “woman was created for man’s companion, to love, respect, and to fulfill his every desire. The word “love” is a feeling: tension, fulfillment, hostility, gladness and pain.” The notes go on to describe the many stages of love and concludes with the words, “As The Madam delivers this message to you girls, don’t be shy; it could do you more good than harm. I love you.”
One review of “The Sensuous Black Woman” refers to Reed as being Rudy Ray Moore’s “chief partner in crime, and she’s funnier than anyone else on these records.”