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Della Reese was born in the historic Black Bottom neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan to Nellie Mitchelle, a Native American (Cherokee) cook and an African American steelworker Richard Thaddeus Early. She is the youngest of seven children, but grew up as an only child.

Della Reese is an American actress, singer, game show panelist of the 1970s, one-time talk-show hostess and ordained minister. She started her career in the 1950s as a gospel, pop and jazz singer, scoring a hit with her 1959 single "Don't You Know?". In the late 1960s, she had hosted her own talk show, Della, which ran for 297 episodes. Through four decades of acting, she is best known for playing Tess, the lead role on the 1994-2003 television show Touched by an Angel. In more recent times, she became an ordained New Thought minister in the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in Los Angeles, California.

Della is married to a concert producer and writer, Franklin Thomas Lett Jr. They reside in Bel Air, California.