Ellen Holly Alleges Her Diversity Was Used as a "Gimmick" to Launch One Life to Live

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Legendary One Life to Live veteran Ellen Holly has posted a startling recollection of her tenure with the soap opera. The biracial actress who played one of the fictional Llanview, PA.'s original denizens, Carla Gray—a light-skinned black woman who passed for white and dated both black and white men when the serial debuted in the turbulent, late 1960's—has provided essentially a website sequel to her memoir One Life: The Autobiography of An African American Actress.

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Among the shocking claims Holly makes on the website, is her belief that OLTL creator Agnes Nixon used her character, and that of Carla's mother Sadie Gray (Lillian Hayman), as "gimmicks" to help launch OLTL in 1968, as the country was ripe with racial and political strife. She also alleges that her contract negotiations with Nixon's company Creative Horizons, Inc. were always non-negotiable, and that her pay was at a much lower rate than her white counterparts such as Erika Slezak and Susan Lucci.

Here are a few excerpts:

On being used as a "gimmick" and "freak" to allegedly exploit the politics of the time:

In the book I would later write…ONE LIFE: The Autobiography of an African American Actress…  I expressed my ultimate belief that I’d been selected for use as a temporary “gimmick” that, in a unique political time, could rocketboost a payload of white stars into orbit… an exotic “freak” that, stationed outside the circus tent, could attract the folks on the fairway and lure them inside to see the show.





On Nixon:

Although she never dealt with me personally, with her historic legacy ever on her mind, Nixon continued to discuss me to the press as one of her most valued stars. Although I was poorly paid, poorly treated, and, behind the scenes, denied the game… to press and public she bent over backwards to continue extolling the name. As a result, the press continued to treat me as a legitimate Superstar.


While we at Daytime Confidential firmly believe there are three sides to every story—his, hers and the truth—we commend Holly for revealing what her One Life to Live was like, and hope to one day see her story on the big screen. Click here to read more!