Who is Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas – Dorothy Dandridge’s Daughter?

Dorothy Dandridge may not be a familiar name to the young generation and the same applies to her daughter Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas. But, if you are familiar with films like Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess of the 1950s, you must also be able to remember the lead characters Carmen Jones and Bess, both portrayed by one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood, Dorothy. The Hollywood trailblazer was the very first black woman to receive nominations for a Best Actress Academy Award and the first black woman to be featured on the covers of Life Magazine.

Unfortunately, this success did not rub off on her life behind the camera. It was in fact in the midst of her struggles and fight against discrimination and abuse that she gave birth to her only daughter, Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas. To know facts about Dorothy’s daughter and to clarify whether or not she is alive, here are facts we have for you.

Who Exactly Is Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas?

From our introduction, you would easily draw a conclusion that Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas is the daughter of the theatre and film actress, Dorothy Dandridge. She is an African-American and was born on September 2, 1943, in the city of Los Angeles, California. her father’s name is Harold Nicholas.

Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas had a very tragic life right from the beginning. First, she was born with severe brain damage that would remain part of her for life. Secondly, she was raised by her single mom after her father left them when she was just five years of age. The third tragedy is that her mother also had to admit her to a state-run asylum as she was no longer able to financially take care of her needs.

Harolyn suffered from what is called cerebral anoxia caused by lack of oxygen in the brain. The condition affected her cognitive abilities and other body functions that include the inability to speak until she was four years of age and the inability to recognize or communicate with anyone, not even her own parents.

Although her mother Dorothy blamed herself for her daughter’s mental state as she intentionally delayed giving birth until her then-husband Harold arrived at the hospital, medical experts were able to prove that Harolyn’s case was not caused by her mother but by the surgeons who operated on her mother at the time of her delivery. They accidentally used the surgical instruments to cut off the supply of oxygen to a part of her brain.

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Meet Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas’ Family

Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas
Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas’ parents Dorothy and Harold Nicholas – image source

Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas hails from a family known for stage performance. Not only was her mother a popular songstress and dancer, but her father was also a famous tap dancer. More so, her father is reportedly the half brother of the popular tap-dancing pair the Nicholas Brothers.

Harolyn’s grandmother Ruby Dandridge is also said to have had her time in the show business. She was not only a singer but she also created a dance act known as The Wonder Children. The act was made mainly for Dorothy and her sister Vivian. Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas has no other sibling born by her mother.

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Is Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas Dead or Alive?

Harolyn Suzanne’s whereabouts have remained a mystery like that of her mother’s death. Her mother was found dead in her apartment a few hours after calling some of her friends. Dorothy died on September 8, 1965, at the age of 42 but the actual cause of her death has remained a source of controversy among scientists. While some forensic scientists claimed that she passed on as a result of an overdose of the antidepressant imipramine, some others, including the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, claim that her death was caused by a fat embolism.

Although it is still not possible to categorically say if Harolyn is dead or alive, there are some speculations that she fell ill and passed away in 2003, some others speculate that she is still alive and in the California state mental hospital.

Apparently, no one seems to have any confirmed information about her. Considering the fact that her mother gave her up to a state hospital, her information will hardly be disclosed but if she is still alive as speculated, she would be quite old and in her 70s. Her mother’s remains were cremated shortly after her death but the mystery surrounding her death has remained uncovered till date.

Chika Udeh
Chika Udeh
Chika holds a B.A in English language/History and has over 5 years experience in content development and journalism. She loves playing with writing, wordsmiths, and storytelling in all its forms, and when she is not writing about famous people and events that matter, she is probably listening or dancing to some cool jams.


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