So elegant and striking that she deservedly won Ebony magazine's Celebrity Beauty of the Month designation in January 2004 -- with the asset of outstanding dramatic instincts -- actress Sharon Leal achieved stardom in the early 2000s with her multi-season portrayal of no-nonsense schoolteacher Marilyn Sudor on David E. Kelley's groundbreaking small-screen drama Boston Public. The daughter of a Filipino military policeman and an African-American homemaker, raised by a succession of stepfathers, Leal graduated from Roosevelt School of the Arts in Fresno, CA, in 1990, and subsequently landed two ongoing dramatic roles, on the daytime soap Guiding Light and the prime-time UPN drama Legacy (1998). The Public role arrived two years after that, with Leal cast in the program from its inception; after the series folded, the actress segued into movie roles, with turns in the smash musical Dreamgirls (2006) and Tyler Perry's comedy drama Why Did I Get Married? (2007). She had prominent roles in Soul Man, the sequel to Why Did I Get Married, and in Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day.