Super Bowl 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' Singer: Who Is Sheryl Lee Ralph?

Sheryl Lee Ralph may be best known in pop culture today as Mrs. Barbara Howard on the hit ABC comedy Abbott Elementary, but some of her newer fans are learning all about the legendary actress' singing skills as she takes the mic to perform "Lift Every Voice and Sing" ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl LVII

Ralph, 66, has a long history as a singer and Broadway performer, having gotten her big break with the original run of Dreamgirls on Broadway in 1981, where she originated the role of Deena Jones that would be played more than 20 years later by Beyoncé herself. Ralph would win a Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for her performance, and quickly released her debut album, In the Evening, on the heels of the honor. In 2022, amid her success on Abbott Elementary, Ralph headed back to the studio to release her first-ever holiday album, titled Sleigh.

The actress opened up to PEOPLE ahead of the Super Bowl to share how she's preparing for her big performance of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," joking, "You know, they say it takes a thousand times to perfect something. So I'm up to about 799 [times]. I'm going to keep on listening to my song and be ready to sing and make it happen on Sunday. I'm so excited."

Ralph said despite all the practice she's put into rehearsing so far, "Oh my God, I was so nervous yesterday. I could hardly move." The performer admitted, "It was like classic nerves. I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm gonna be sick.' And I actually was. I said, 'Oh no. I'm that nervous.' I made myself sick." In order to calm her heightened nerves, Ralph said she relied on her son and "all of his yoga stuff." 

"He was like, 'Box breathing, Mom. Breathe deeply. Hold it in for four. Exhale. Breathe in for four. Hold it. Exhale,'" she explained, adding that the breathing technique her son recommended is "absolutely" helping her and that she is "feeling much better" about her big performance coming up.  "I was like, 'Okay, we're gonna get right into breathing and calm down and eat some light food,'" she said.