If someone had told extremely shy Kellie Shanygne Williams, when she was a kid, that one day she would star in a hit TV show, she would have thought they were crazy.
Kellie Shanygne (pronounced "Sha-neen") Williams was born on March 22, 1976, in Washington, D.C., which is where she grew up. Her mother, Patricia, worked for Jet magazine. Her father, Ervin, was a manager at the telephone company. It was Kellie's father who encouraged his daughter to begin acting.
But it wasn't future stardom Ervin Williams had on his mind when he brought his little girl to acting classes. "In the beginning," Kellie recalls, "my father put me into the acting classes when I was four because I was an introvert. I was really shy. I wouldn't talk to anybody. Then in the classes I started singing, dancing, and acting. I guess I came out of my shell."
Did she ever! By age six, pretty Kellie was working as a runway model, modeling children's clothing. It was also around that time that Kellie picked up her nicknames.
Her mother called her "Monkey." Kellie explains. "My aunt owns two cleaners, and I used to go there after school and swing on the bars in the cleaners." Her other nickname is "Beanie." "I had a 'bean' head," says Kellie, "and I didn't grow hair until I was five years old."
Her acting career began at the age of six, with a stage role in a play called Cousins. The following year Kellie signed with an agent. She continued to appear in live theater productions and began to get cast in TV commercials.
From there her career took off. She appeared at the prestigious Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. The shows included Goin' Home and Birthday Celebration - a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She also appeared in stage productions at the International Drama Festival in Dundalk, Ireland, and Nassau, Bahamas.
Her recent pre- Family Matters work includes the 1986 television tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called Celebration For a King, and the feature films Men Don't Leave and Suspect. During all this time, Kellie continued to attend school as she always had.
Then in late 1989, Kellie's agent told her about a new TV series that was casting in New York and Los Angeles. Kellie sent in a videotape of her work, and was asked to come out to Los Angeles for an audition. The rest, of course, is Family Matters history!
Kellie and her mom moved out to Los Angeles, where Family Matters is taped. Although Kellie is thrilled with her role on the series, she sometimes regrets leaving school and all her friends in Washington.
"I have a tutor, so I go to school at the studio," Kellie explains, "but I miss my old friends. It's boring sometimes, staying in a room alone all day to study." Then again, she's not exactly alone. She's got her good friend, Jaleel White, to keep her company while studying - when they're not busy being Laura and Urkel, that is!
How did Kellie feel when Urkel joined the show? At first she got tired of people always saying the same thing to her. "Tell us about Urkel," they would say. "Is he really a nerd?"
"Don't you want to know about me?" she asks with a smile. "But I guess if I were them, I'd want to know about him, too."
Kellie was not pleased originally about being known as Urkel's girlfriend or about the shift in focus on the show to Urkel's character. "I think we pretty much knew it was going to happen," Kellie explains. "You could see how much the audience loved his character, and how funny he was, so his popularity wasn't a surprise."
But Kellie also loves what the character has done for the show. She has become great friends with Urkel's alter ego, actor Jaleel White. "We have fun together. We eat lunch together every day. He's just like my brother or something."
What about Laura and Urkel's romance? Will they ever get together? "I do think Laura loves him," says Kellie. "I think in time she'll realize that he really loves her, and he would be a good person to take care of her. Then she'll snatch him right up!"
It sounds like Kellie knows Laura pretty well. And that's not surprising, since she feels her character is not that different from herself in real life. "We're very similar," she tells. "Shes just like me. We say the same things, and we both just say what we feel. We're both strong-willed. We know what we want. The only way we differ is in our taste in clothes. Laura dresses much more conservatively than I do!"
Kellie has also become good friends with Telma Hopkins (Rachel). "I go over to her house almost every weekend," says Kellie. "She's like my second mom. She's also helped me with my acting. She tells me to commit to what I'm doing when I work on my character and my dialogue."
This active teen loves roller skating, swimming, and bicycle riding. She's also excellent at the street sport of double-dutch rope jumping.
Kellie is not allowed to start dating until she's 16. But when she does, she knows exactly the kind of boy she'd like to go out with. "Anybody who remotely resembles my father in any kind of way!" she explains. "Someone with his sense of humor - he tells those corny jokes, those father jokes. Just a nice guy, someone who's laid back. Someone like my father."
The walls of Kellie's room at home are covered with posters of her favorite celebrities like Janet Jackson and Yosemite Sam. She also collects stuffed animals.
Kellie lives in Los Angeles when Family Matters is taping. When she's not working on the show, Kellie returns to the Maryland suburb where the Williamses now make their home. She lives with her folks, her 11-year-old sister, Marti, and her 10-year-old brother, Donte.
As for Kellies future, she hasn't made up her mind. "I think I want to be a director. But sometimes I think I'd like to be a lawyer. I'm still debating." Whatever talented Kellie Shanygne Williams decides about her future, you can bet it will be a bright one!
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