Aunt Esther From 'Sanford and Son' Started Her Career as a 15-Year-Old Model

LaWanda Page as Aunt Esther

Actress LaWanda Page is mostly known by her fans as Aunt Esther from the hit 1970s TV sitcom Sanford and Son, but she was also a model, dancer, and standup comic that released various comedy albums, one of which sold more than 500,000 copies. Page was raised in St. Louis, Missouri where she attended the same elementary school that her future co-star, Redd Foxx, attended.

She also performed the cigarette feat on an episode of Sanford and Son, but before getting her role as Aunt Esther, she had already evolved into a comedian and had been performing her comedy routine in nightclubs throughout St. Louis. Later, she moved to Los Angeles where she took on a gig dancing and worked as a waitress at the Brass Rail Club for 15 years.

She also toured the world performing her fire-dancing act at various nightclubs in countries such as Canada, Brazil, and Japan.

In 1973, she was actually planning to quit show business because she was caring for her sick mother. However, her old friend, Redd Foxx, wanted her to star in his show and recommended her to the producers of Sanford and Son. They were reluctant initially, but he insisted and called Page asking her to take the lead role of Aunt Esther, a Bible-toting and sharp-tongued character. The rest was history as the two developed hilarious chemistry on camera, and went on to make some of the funniest scenes in television sitcom history.

To date, she is remembered for her infamous catchphrase Watch it Sucker, which was also the name of her best-selling comedy album

Her career, however, did not end with Sanford and Son. After the show ended, she appeared on several episodes of the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast specials and also starred as a guest in episodes of other sitcoms throughout the 80s and 90s like Amen, 227, Diff'rent Strokes, Family Matters, and Martin.

Sadly, in 2002, LaWanda Page died from diabetic complications in Los Angeles, California.