Sheryl Lee Ralph wowed viewers on Sunday during the Super Bowl LVII pre-game show when she gave a rousing rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a hymn that is often referred to as the Black National Anthem.
The 66-year-old Abbott Elementary star surprised many fans with her vocal abilities, belting out the moving song while wearing a bold red-and-black Harbison Studio jumpsuit with an attached train.
Ralph teased the moment on Instagram prior to stepping out onto the field at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
“It is no coincidence that I will be singing the Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing at the Super Bowl on the same date it was first publicly performed 123 years ago (February 12, 1900),” she shared. “Happy Black History Month!”
Despite being praised for her performance, Ralph also became the subject of online speculation that she had actually lip-synced the song for the broadcast.
When asked about it by The Hollywood Reporter, Ralph replied, “Does it matter? Does it matter? No. Thank you.”
Ralph, who received a Tony nomination for her role as Deena Jones in the Broadway production of Dreamgirls in 1983, told ET’s Kevin Frazier that she was thrilled to be chosen for the historic performance.
“I thought what a wonderful honor it is for me to be here singing this song inside the arena with the NFL, making a huge gesture for diversity, inclusion, and the end of so many of these isms that people want to keep alive to divide us,” she told ET. “They wanted to create a moment that brought us all together and I believe that’s exactly what they did. And I was so thankful for them to think of me and include me for that honor.”
She was also touched to have her Abbott co-stars, Quinta Brunson and Lisa Ann Walter, there cheering her on.
“I could not see them. But before I went on, I got a text from Quinta, that said, ‘Sheryl, I’m in the building. I’m here for you,'” Ralph recalled. “Lisa Ann Walter was like, ‘I made it. I’m here. We’re gonna be cheering you on.’ And then my whole cast started sending me tweets. It was just amazing.”
Ralph’s daughter, Ivy-Victoria Maurice, served as her stylist for the big moment and noted that having Ralph in red with a choir in white behind her, just like Rihanna’s halftime show, was purely coincidental.
“We had no idea that Rihanna would be wearing red and her background dancers will be wearing white. This was unintentionally, intentionally planned,” Maurice told ET.
Ahead of the Super Bowl, Ralph spoke with ET’s Nischelle Turner, sharing that being asked to do the performance was an immediate yes for her.
“You have that moment of, ‘What? Me? They want me to sing at the Super Bowl? A song that has never been a part of the opening ceremonies? Me? Yes!'” she said.
As for being in the presence of other greats who have performed the hymn, Ralph took it in stride.
“For me, this is a nomination. So to be there with those great singers, artists, performers, I’m going to accept what it says about me,” she told ET. “Because they would not have chosen me if they did not feel that I could deliver. And I’m ready to deliver.”
In addition to Ralph’s performance, Rihanna also brought the house down with her epic halftime show. Watch the clip below for more.
Source: ET Online