Denise Black was born as "Denise Nixon" on 16th March, 1958 in Emsworth, Hampshire. Her mother Stella was a bank teller and father Don Nixon, a Lieutenant engineer in the Navy. She has an older sister Carol who works as a dentist. Denise was educated at Girls Public Day School Trust in Portsmouth and excelled at 'O' levels. She left school and took various jobs including working in a local mental home and studied Psychology at University of London. After graduation she began travelling and went to Gibraltar before moving to the West Indies, where she was when she decided that she wanted to become an actress.

Her first professional role was as a cat in Miniatures at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre before she went on to work in several fringe theatres. After gaining her equity card in 1980, Denise joined the Actors' Touring Company and performed Shakespeare plays in countries as far apart as South America, Israel, Greece and Yugoslavia. On her return to England, Denise teamed up with Josie Lawrence and Kate McKenzie at the Newcastle Playhouse in La Pasionaria and to further their interests in music and singing they formed the jazz group "Denise Black & the Kray Sisters". Her friendship with Josie Lawrence landed her parts in Saturday Live and Josie.

Denise then joined Julian Clary on stage at the Donmar Warehouse in London. The following year Denise took a break from acting whilst expecting her first child. In 1988 she appeared at the Oldham Coliseum in The Threepenny Opera, the following year she toured with Art of Success. In 1990 she made her television debut in Casualty as a street hooker and also on stage at the Bolton Octagon Theatre in Stop Children's Laughter. Denise also appeared on screen as Carrie Evans in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes and on stage as Goneril in King Lear. In 1991 she toured in Twelfth Night with the Cambridge Touring Company and gave birth to her second child.

In 1992, Denise appeared in The Bill, played a Gypsy in A Touch of Frost and a Policewoman in Between The Lines before joining Coronation Street as hairdresser Denise Osbourne, a role she played until February 1996. She then played clairvoyant Eve August in Dangerfield and appeared in her husband's musical Mad And Her Dog. In November she returned to Coronation Street for another six months. She then joined Lesley Joseph in Channel 4's adaptation of Macbeth before filming the mini-series drama The Things We Do For Love in which she played Patricia Phoenix as a young woman.

In 2001 she was a main panellist on Loose Women and returned again in 2003 as a guest panellist.

She is also strongly involved in fringe and alternative theatre, and is now getting involved in production. Indeed, most of the production work for Mad and her Dog was organised by her from the Coronation Street Green Room, and this was one of the contributing factors which led her to leave the programme - although she did return to resume the role for two months in 2007.

Other more recent TV credits include minor roles in Dalziel and Pascoe, Doc Martin, Robin Hood, Doctors, Holby City, Exile and Midsomer Murders.

Black appeared in Emmerdale as Joanie Wright between June and November 2013. She reprised her role in June 2015, and remained with the soap until the character was suddenly killed off in January 2017.

Denise lives with her husband, musician and composer Paul Sand who she met at an audition and their children, Sam, born in 1988 and Dandy, born in 1991. They now live in Brighton.

Denise was born with a condition that caused her fingers to deform and cross over each other.

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