Margaret Avery (born January 20, 1944) is an American actress, starring as Helen Patterson in the hit series Being Mary Jane.
Margaret Avery was born on January 20, 1944 in the small town of Magnum, Oklahoma. At a young age, her family left Oklahoma and settled in San Diego, California where Avery graduated from Point Loma High School and then attended San Francisco State University. She earned a degree in education, and worked as a teacher in schools in San Francisco, before she later moved to Los Angeles.
While working as a teacher in Los Angeles, Avery frequently appeared in plays around the city as well as singing at local nightclubs when she could find an opportunity. While appearing in small roles on television and film, Avery's first major breakthrough came in the year 1977 when she appeared in the film Which Way Is Up? where she portrayed a comedic preacher's wife. Her next major successful role came in 1984, when Avery was cast as Shug Avery in the film adaption of The Color Purple. Avery was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in The Color Purple.
Avery has also worked in several other films such as Scott Joplin, and more recently Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins and Meet the Browns among others. Avery is currently starring in Being Mary Jane as the family matriarch of talk show host Mary Jane Paul.
A divorcee and mother, Avery still resides in the Los Angeles area where she works with at-risk teenagers and battered women when she isn't acting.