HELEN GOLDSBY QAHHAR (Lily / Strawberry Woman) has received remarkable attention as a singer, actress, and activist. Her lyric soprano voice, ability to sing several genres of music, incredible acting debut on the Broadway stage, and her success in the New York State Legislature has caused heads of state and the entertainment world to sit up and take notice.
Born in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Goldsby Qahhar learned at an early age a tremendous work ethic. After graduation from high school, Goldsby Qahhar chose to further her education at Howard University in Washington, D.C., with the hopes of becoming an entertainment lawyer. However, having heard Goldsby Qahhar’s operatic voice, the university president and the dean of Howard’s College of Fine Arts requested she change to the Fine Arts department, where she studied music and drama. After her first semester of vocal study, Goldsby Qahhar was accepted and attended the Aspen Music School Festival in Colorado. She completed graduate studies in 1995 at the Juilliard School in New York City.
One month after graduation from Juilliard, Goldsby Qahhar won the title of Miss New York and continued to become a top-ten finalist in the 1995 Miss America pageant. It was on the national broadcast of Miss America that the casting director and playwright of the Tony-winning Master Class discovered her to play the co-starring role of Sharon Graham – the prize student of Callas. Goldsby Qahhar appeared on the CBS daytime drama As the World Turns as the savvy, yet spurned Pamela McCloud. Other television appearances include the CBS hit sitcom Cosby. A return to the theatrical stage as a part of New York’s City Center’s Encore! Series to play Lila in a revival of the 1940’s Broadway musical St. Louis Woman alongside colleagues Vanessa L. Williams and Charles S. Dutton was a critical success for the soprano.
Hers is a voice that has notable size yet is able to perform surprisingly varying tasks. While residing in New York and as a protégée of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, Goldsby Qahhar performed many Baroque chamber concerts for trumpet and soprano throughout the East Coast. Additional repertoire includes several operatic roles of Mozart, Puccini, Gershwin, and Massenet, performed stateside and abroad.
Goldsby Qahhar debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in this concert performance of Porgy and Bess. In the fall of 2009, Goldsby Qahhar takes on her most exciting and challenging stage venture yet, premiering her one-woman show as Leontyne Price – The Golden Years in Los Angeles.
As Miss New York, Helen Goldsby Qahhar spoke publicly about the sexual abuse she survived as a child. She has founded several programs to educate the public concerning the issue as well as being a member of several boards of directors for child abuse groups. As a result of her many speeches and lobbying, in 1996, then Governor Pataki and the New York State Legislature signed and passed what is now known as the Miss New York law (reforming child molestation legal criteria).
Goldsby Qahhar has taken a new role, “the most challenging and fulfilling” of them all – that of wife and mother. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Muhjahid Qahhar, and their son Muhjahid, Jr.