Charlotte Rae (born April 22, 1926) is an American character actress, singer and dancer, who in her six decades of television is perhaps best known for her portrayal of Edna Garrett in the sitcoms Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life (in which she starred from 1979 to 1986). She received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy in 1982. She also appeared in two Facts of Life television movies: The Facts of Life Goes to Paris in 1982 and The Facts of Life Reunion in 2001. She also provided the voice of Nanny in the cartoon 101 Dalmatians: The Series.
Rae was born Charlotte Rae Lubotsky in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Russian Jewish immigrants Esther (née Ottenstein), who was a childhood friend of Golda Meir, and Meyer Lubotsky, a retail tire business owner. She had two sisters (Miriam, a pianist, writer, and composer, and Beverly, an opera singer), and graduated from Shorewood High School in 1944. For the first ten years of her life, Rae's family lived in Milwaukee, after which they moved to Shorewood, Wisconsin. In a 2002 interview, Charlotte said she was interested in acting as a little girl. She did a lot of radio work and was with the Wauwatosa Children's Theatre. At 16, she was an apprentice with the Port Players, a professional theater company that came for the summer to Milwaukee, with several established actors such as Morton DaCosta, who was the director of The Music Man on Broadway. She said that she had great teachers at her high school, which also had a beautiful campus. Rae attended but did not complete her studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
When a radio personality told her that her last name wouldn't do, she dropped it, becoming simply Charlotte Rae. She moved to New York City in 1948, where she performed a lot of stage and theater, and lived there until 1974.