Comedy wasn’t Wanda Sykes’ first plan. After moving to Maryland in elementary school, Sykes returned to her native Virginia for college at Hampton University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing. She worked as a contracting specialist at the National Security Agency for several years before turning to stand-up comedy.
An ad for a local talent competition put her on stage for the first time in 1987. She continued balancing stand-up comedy with her day job for five years until she moved to New York City. Eventually, she landed her big break as an opener for Chris Rock. She started writing and acting on HBO’s The Chris Rock Show, which kicked off her TV and film career.
The multi-hyphenate won her first Emmy Award in 1999 for Outstanding Writing for a Variety or Music Program while she was working on Rock’s show, but she has received over a dozen nominations since.
The actress has also appeared on TV shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Chapelle’s Show, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Broad City and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Her movies include Pootie Tang (2001), Monster-in-Law (2005), Bad Moms (2017) and Breaking News in Yuba County (2021).
The comic’s Fox show, Wanda at Large, ran from 2003 to 2005 and made Sykes the first Black woman to create, write, produce and star in her own broadcast sitcom. Though Wanda at Large only lasted two seasons, she has continued to create shows and produce projects for others. Sykes and Page Hurwitz joined forces in 2013 to form Push It Productions, which is responsible for shows such as The Upshaws and comedy specials starring the likes of Tiffany Haddish, Michelle Buteau and Cristela Alonzo.
In 2022, Sykes was confirmed as one of three hosts for the 94th annual Oscars alongside Regina Hall and Amy Schumer.
Sykes was married to record producer David Hall from 1991 to 1998. After their divorce, she started dating women, though she didn’t come out as gay until 2008 amid California’s Prop 8 debate. She married Alex Niedbalski in October 2008 after two years of dating. One month after their nuptials, Sykes publicly announced she is a lesbian at a Las Vegas political rally.
In 2011, the Other Two star revealed that she privately underwent a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
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Sykes became a mom in April 2009 when Niedbalski gave birth to fraternal twins Olivia and Lucas.