• American actor Haywood Knowles Nelson Jr. born in New York City on 25 March 1960
• Appeared in 13 movies and TV series prior to retiring in 1990 and returning for another film role in 2003
• Most known for playing lead character Dwayne Nelson in the popular comedy series “What’s Happening!”
• Founded his own company in 2009 and is now its CEO
• Married three times and has three children with his second wife Diana Ramos

Who is Haywood Nelson?

American former actor Haywood Knowles Nelson Jr. was born in New York City, USA, on 25 March 1960, making Aries his zodiac sign. He appeared in only 13 movies and TV series prior to retiring in 1990, returning for another film role in 2003. Haywood’s probably still known best for playing the lead character Dwayne Nelson in the popular comedy series “What’s Happening!”, which also starred Ernest Thomas and Danielle Spencer. The series aired from 1976 through 1979, follows the lives of three young adult black friends, and won one of its four award nominations.

Haywood’s been staying away from the media’s attention since 2003, and it’s believed that he founded his own company in 2009, and has since been working as its CEO.

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Education and early life

Haywood was raised alongside his siblings in New York City, by their parents about whom he’s yet to speak in public because he respects their privacy; some sources mistakenly claim that Haywood’s brother was the late American singer-songwriter Prince Rogers Nelson.

Haywood was thrown into the entertainment industry at quite an early age, and was six when he began appearing in commercials for companies such as Duncan Hines, Johnny Lightening and Hot Wheels. He was 11 when he made his debut TV series appearance, playing Jerry Smith in the soap opera “As the World Turns”, which aired from 1956 through 2010 and won 90 of its 546 award nominations.

Haywood continued acting throughout his education; he matriculated from a local high school in New York City in 1978, and then chose not to attend college.

Roles in movies

Haywood’s debut film role was playing Ronnie in the 1972 drama “If You Give a Dance, You Gotta Pay the Band”, and he gained recognition in 1974, playing Freddie in the family drama “Mixed Company”, written and directed by Melville Shavelson, and which starred Barbara Harris, Joseph Bologna and Tom Bosley. It tells the story of a basketball coach who’s been talked into adopting three children of mixed ethnic backgrounds.

In 1978, Haywood played Man in Disco in the popular musical comedy “Thank God It’s Friday”, directed by Robert Klane, and which starred Donna Summer, Valerie Landsburg and Terri Nunn. It follows the staff and clients of the disco club The Zoo on a Friday, and the movie won three awards, including an Oscar for Best Music, Original Song.

The year 1981 saw Haywood play Kowalski in the horror “The Santa Suits”, which Eric Weston wrote and directed, and which starred Clint Howard, R. G. Armstrong and Joe Cortese. It follows a military cadet who’s learned to summon demons and cast spells. This was Haywood’s final movie role prior to retiring, however, he returned in 2003 to appear as himself in the comedy “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star”, which Sam Weisman directed, and which starred Alyssa Milano, Mary McCormack and David Spade. It follows a former child star who’s now in his 30s, and has hired a foster family to re-create his childhood; the film won one of its two award nominations.

Roles in TV series

Haywood played Marshall in the 1975 episode “The Family Man” of the comedy “Sanford and Son”, and in 1975 and ‘76 portrayed the same character in the comedy “Grady”, created by Redd Foxx and Bernie Orenstein, and which starred Whitman Mayo, Carol Cole and Joe Morton. It follows the life of Grady who’s just moved to Los Angeles, California from a small town.

The year 1977 saw Haywood appear in an episode of both the crime action “Kojak” and the musical comedy “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour”, and the year 1979 saw him play Randy Judd in the episode “Sudden Death” of the sports drama “The White Shadow”.

From 1985 through 1988, he portrayed the main character Dwayne Nelson in the comedy “What’s Happening Now”, which also starred Ernest Thomas and Shirley Hemphill, and is a sequel to the above mentioned series “What’s Happening!”

Haywood’s final TV series role was playing Lyle Peters in the 1990 episode “The Book” of the crime comedy “Dragnet”.

Other credits

Haywood sang the songs “Jingle Bells” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful” in the 1978 episode “Positive Identification” of the series “What’s Happening!”, and the year 2003 heard him sing “Child Stars on Your Television” in the movie “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star”.

Haywood’s appeared in an episode of various talk-shows, including “Life After” in 2012, “Unsung Hollywood” in 2014 and “The Wendy Williams Show” in 2022.

Awards and nominations

Haywood was nominated for a Gold Medal for Favorite Child Star at the 1977 Photoplay Awards.

Love life and wife

Haywood’s married thrice. His first wife was non-celebrity American Sheryl Piland – they exchanged vows on 13 June 1981 but divorced in 1984.

Haywood and his second wife, another non-celebrity American Diana Ramos, married in 1987, and she gave birth to their three children in the following six years; Haywood and Diana’s divorce was finalized in 1998.

Since 2014, he’s been married to his third wife, American legal advisor Khnadya Skye Nelson; she’s of Ethiopian, Egyptian and Arabic descent, was born in Nubia, Egypt and raised in both Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Washington, D. C.

Haywood hasn’t talked about other women whom he’s been with, he’s married to his third wife Khnadya Skye Nelson as of February 2023, and has three children with his second wife Diana Ramos.

Interesting facts and hobbies

In 2007, Haywood worked at IEG Holding as their digital media executive.

He was to play the lead character Michael Evans in the critically acclaimed comedy series “Good Times”, which aired from 1974 through 1979, however, the producers eventually changed their mind and instead hired American actor Ralph Carter.

Haywood’s passionate about music, and can play the drums; his favorite genre is jazz.

He once handed in his English assignment while attending high school, and told his teacher to hold on to it, as it had his autograph which would be worth a lot when he becomes famous.

More than 1,100 people are following Haywood on Instagram today, and he’s posted close to 50 pictures and videos onto the network.

Some of the actors whom Haywood enjoys watching the most are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith and Denzel Washington, and some of his favorite movies are “The Terminator”, “Bad Boys” and Independence Day”.

Height, eyes and wealth

Haywood’s age is 62. His eyes are brown and he’s bald, he’s 5ft 6ins (1.68m) tall and weighs around 165lbs (75kgs).

Haywood’s net worth’s been estimated at over $1 million, as of February 2023.


As Managing Editor at The Biography, I oversee a skilled team to produce insightful biographies of influential figures. My responsibilities include managing the editorial process, conducting detailed research, crafting engaging narratives, and ensuring the accuracy and quality of our content. At The Biography, we aim to deliver in-depth profiles that provide valuable insights into the realms of business, entertainment, and more. Our commitment to meticulous research and dynamic storytelling highlights the significant journeys and successes of inspiring individuals.

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