Victoria Rowell is an American actress best known for two high profile television roles: Drucilla Winters on the soapie The Young & The Restless, and as Dick Van Dyke's medical examiner, assistant and pathologist, Dr. Amanda Bentley on Diagnosis: Murder.
Rowell's biological mother, Dorothy Rowell, was Caucasian and a descendant of the Mayflower voyagers. Her father was African-American, of whom Rowell knew very little.
Dorothy Rowell, who suffered from schizophrenia, took a taxi to a hospital to give birth to Victoria, leaving a son and two small daughters unsupervised. When she was 16 days old, Rowell (and her two sisters, Sheree and Lori) were surrendered to child services.
While living in Maine with foster mother Agatha Armstead, Rowell, then 8, began ballet lessons. She received a Ford Foundation scholarship to study at the Cambridge school of ballet. At 17, Rowell received scholarships to the School of American Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
She also became a member of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority (which is made up primarily of African-American women).
After dancing with the American Ballet Theatre II and the Juilliard School of Music Dance Extension program with Anthony Tudor, Rowell accepted guest artist teaching posts in New England.
In the 1980s, Rowell became an in-demand runway and catalogue model. She began to take acting lessons, and earned featured roles on television shows like The Cosby Show.
In 1990, she was cast as street urchin-turned-fashion model Drucilla Barber on the long-running soap opera The Young and the Restless. Rowell became a fan favourite, and was nominated for three Daytime Emmy awards in 1996, 1997 and 1998.
She won 10 NAACP Image Awards for her portrayal of Drucilla.
Rowell's first run as Drucilla was from 1990 to 1998. She briefly returned in 2000, then returned on a permanent basis from 2002 until early 2007.
Rowell's departure from Y&R in April 2007 generated some media coverage and controversy. Rowell expressed her anger about backstage politics at the show, and in particular, how those events impacted her and prevented her from being nominated for a Daytime Emmy.
Rowell also indicated that she felt the African-American presence on the show was fading. Rowell told TVGuide.com, "Even iron bends."
Sony, who produces Y&R, is said to have ordered her character's "death" to prevent the character - and actress - from migrating to sister show The Bold and the Beautiful.
Rowell also played Dr. Amanda Bentley on the CBS series Diagnosis: Murder. For much of Rowell's stint on the show she was working on that show and on The Young and the Restless simultaneously.
One episode of Diagnosis Murder centered around murder on the set of The Young and the Restless; Rowell was featured as Amanda and Drucilla in that episode.
Rowell has also made appearances in several feature films, including Dumb & Dumber, Barb Wire, and Eve's Bayou.
Rowell's first marriage was to Tom Fahey in 1989. They had a daughter, Maya, and divorced the following year. Rowell had a long-term relationship with musician Wynton Marsalis, and the couple had a son, Jasper. (Jasper played Rowell's son CJ in Diagnosis: Murder.)
In 1990, Rowell founded the "Rowell Foster Children Positive Plan", which gives emotional support and financial aid to foster children, especially to those who aspire to become actors and dancers - the road Rowell took.
In 2003, Rowell was a special guest on the talk show Dr. Phil, in which she gave an emancipated foster child a job, medical and dental care, and a scholarship from her foundation.
In May 2006, Rowell was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the University of Southern Maine in recognition of her work for the benefit of foster children.
In 2007, Rowell published a memoir of her life that focused on her time in foster care. Entitled "The Women Who Raised Me", Rowell discusses all of the foster mothers who cared for her and for her sisters.
She also pays tribute to the women in a documentary film, "The Mentor", that she participated in.