Meet DuBois AKA ‘Willona Woods’ The First Black Female Divorcée On Prime-Time Television

Trailblazing Actress and Singer

Ja’Net DuBois, born Jeannette Theresa DuBois on August 5, 1932, was a true pioneer in television. The American actress and singer is best remembered for her groundbreaking role as Willona Woods on the hit CBS sitcom “Good Times.”

From 1974 to 1979, DuBois portrayed the sassy neighborhood gossip and close friend of the Evans family. In doing so, she made history as the first Black female divorcée character on prime-time television.

“DuBois also co-wrote and sang the theme song for the sitcom ‘The Jeffersons,’ which ran from 1975 to 1985.”

An Accomplished Stage Actress

Before achieving television stardom, DuBois honed her craft on Broadway stages in the early 1960s. She made her debut with a small role in “The Long Dream” in 1960, followed by acclaimed performances in notable plays like “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Nobody Loves an Albatross.”

Her big break came when television producer Norman Lear saw her commanding the stage and promptly cast her as the unforgettable Willona on “Good Times.”

Lasting Impact and Legacy

While Willona was arguably DuBois’ most iconic role, her talents stretched far beyond that beloved character. She continued acting in film, television, and theater projects well into the mid-2010s.

From co-founding the Pan African Film & Arts Festival to winning Emmys for voiceover work, DuBois left an indelible mark. Her portrayal of Willona shattered stereotypes, giving audiences a fully realized, independent Black woman to admire.

As we continue to celebrate DuBois’ remarkable life and career, her lasting legacy as a trailblazer remains unmatched. She will forever be remembered as the first to bring the powerful presence of a Black female divorcée into millions of homes each week.