Della Reese, the singer and actor best known for her role as Tess on the television show Touched by an Angel, has died. She was 86 year old.
"On behalf of her husband, Franklin Lett, and all her friends and family, I share with you the news that our beloved Della Reese has passed away peacefully at her California home surrounded by love," she wrote. "Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people. She was a mother to me and I had the privilege of working with her side by side for so many years on Touched By An Angel."
Reese began her venture into Hollywood as a singer, beginning with gospel before making hits as an R&B act. Soon after, Reese broadened her résumé and made her mark on television with the talk show Della, which ran from 1969 to 1970, making her the first black woman to host her own variety show.
That led to even bigger opportunities, like working with Johnny Carson, the former host of The Tonight Show.
"One day in the hallway, we passed each other and he said, 'How'd you like to try out hosting?'" Reese said in an interview discussing Carson. "And I said I'd love it."
That simple interaction led to Reese becoming the first black woman to guest-host the iconic late-night show.
In addition to Touched by an Angel, Reese is known for films A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Beauty Shop, and the Eddie Murphy classic Harlem Nights.