(born October 17, 1972) is an American actress. She is best known for her roles in movies such as Dreamgirls
, Why Did I Get Married?
, Why Did I Get Married Too?
and the televisions series Hellcats
Leal was born in Tucson, Arizona
to a Filipino mother and an African American father. Her adoptive father, Jesse Leal, was a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force
and a police officer at Clark Air Base
; he married Leal's mother in 1972 and legally adopted Leal. Leal's mother, a housewife, later re-married to Elmer Manankil, the father of Leal's younger sister, Kristina.
With Bev Land, her ex-husband, Leal has a son, Kai Miles (born 2001). Leal is currently divorced with Land, which she discussed briefly in an interview with Essence
Former Guiding Light
co-star Yvonna Wright has said that she and Leal are close friends; the two starred together in a community production of Dreamgirls
in their hometown.
Leal's career began with the role of Dahlia Crede in the CBS
daytime serial Guiding Light
from 1996 to 1999. In 1998, she joined the Broadway company of Rent
. Soon after, she was cast as Mimi for the San Francisco leg of the first national tour of Rent
, staying with the company until it closed in September 1999. Leal also appeared on the 1999 original cast recording of the Off-Broadway musical Bright Lights,......