Black-ish: What Is Ruby’s (Jenifer Lewis) Background That Is So Interesting, But Rarely Mentioned?

Black-ish: 10 Hidden Details About The Main Characters Everyone Missed
FEB 04, 2020

Bette Midler and Jenifer Lewis backstage after Jenifer's concert at Lincoln Center 2019
Bette midler and jenifer lewis backstage after jenifers concert at lincoln center 2019

You might have been watching ABC sitcom Black-ish since the beginning, but you still might not know everything there is to know about the Johnsons.

ABC sitcom Black-ish has been so well-received that it spawned two spin-offs: Grown-ish, which stars the eldest daughter Zoey and her life in college, and Mixed-ish, set in the ‘80s and following mom Rainbow’s upbringing with hippie mixed-race parents.

The series is both hilarious and deep, often tackling major issues, especially those relating to race. Andre “Dre” Johnson and Rainbow “Bow” Johnson are well-to-do black parents raising their five children in an uppity suburban neighborhood that is mostly populated by whites.

Over the years, we have gotten to know the Johnsons pretty well. But here are 10 things you might not know about some of the main characters.

10. Dre Doesn’t Know How To Swim

Dre Doesn’t Know How To Swim

Dre loves a lot of things that involve the outdoors, like driving down the open road, chilling by the beach, and playing sports. But he is totally not into swimming. In a recent episode, when he and Bow meet a young and in love couple taking surfing lessons, Dre declares that he wants to do the same.

“You can’t even swim, Dre,” Bow tells him. That would probably make surfing difficult. Nonetheless, despite having five children and vacationing often, Dre never learned the important life skill.

9. Bow’s Surname Was Already Johnson

Bow’s Surname Was Already Johnson

Bow is a strong, independent woman. So we can totally see her not taking her husband’s last name, or adopting a hyphenated surname in order to keep her own identity after getting married. Except, she didn’t have to make that choice.

Both Dre and Bow had the surname Johnson before getting married, which means Bow didn’t have to change any paperwork in order to take on her “married” name. And she never really had to reveal if she did or not. There was no relation between the two, but Johnson, of course, is a pretty common name.

8. Bow Was Raised By Hippies

Bow Was Raised By Hippies

While this fact isn’t so hidden now with the spin-off Mixed-ish airing on television, Bow had a very different upbringing than Dre. She was born to an interracial couple with a black mother and white father.

She and her siblings Santamonica and Johan lived with their parents in a hippie commune until trying to integrate into life in the suburbs in the mid-‘80s. Her mother was a lawyer while her father was the stay-at-home parent, which wasn’t typical of that time period.

7. Junior Can Speak Fluent Dothraki

 Junior Can Speak Fluent Dothraki

Junior is a big fan of everything in nerd and geek culture, so it’s no surprise that he loved the series Game of Thrones. So much so, in fact, that he can speak the fictional language Dothraki fluently.

In the HBO series, Danaerys is sent to marry Khal Drogo, who is the leader of the Dothraki people. The language is spoken throughout, and you can even study it online to learn, which Junior obviously did. San athchomari yeraan (Which means “much respect!”)!

6. Diane Doesn’t Cry

Diane Doesn’t Cry

Not only does she not cry because she seemingly doesn’t know how to, but Diane has shown some really troubling traits over the years. She had court-mandated therapy when she was 10 years old, and claims to hate just about everything. She thrives on having enemies, even saying that they give her strength.

She owns three crowbars and a pair of nunchucks, has an obsession with fire, and is generally considered mean or scary. So really, not knowing how to cry is just the tip of the iceberg with her.

5. Jack’s Nickname Is Party Time

Jack’s Nickname Is Party Time

Did you know that Jack’s nickname is Party Time? The name was given to him because of his great dancing abilities. Given that his short height hinders his ability to be really good at basketball, another passion of his, the dancing skills provide him with a sense of self-confidence and pride.

Diane’s twin, Jack, is a very different personality. And while he might not be as intelligent as Diane, he is indeed always the life of the party, cracking jokes and having fun.

4. Zoey Might Actually Be Rick Fox’s Child

Zoey Might Actually Be Rick Fox’s Child

It’s just a joke, but a recurring gag on the series is that Bow once met the famous basketball player and actor Rick Fox, and, maybe, just maybe, Zoey could potentially be his child. Because could Dre really be her dad?

The joke begins in an episode when Dre is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and he has a dream that he is dead and Rick Fox walks in and kisses Bow. Meanwhile, the kids yell, “New daddy!” as he walks in, much to Dre’s horror.

3. Dre’s Type 2 Diabetes Are Sort Of Forgotten

Dre's Type 2 Diabetes Are Sort Of Forgotten

You might have forgotten about this because it was so long ago, but one episode of the series centers around Dre being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. This terrifies him, leading him to have the aforementioned nightmare that he died and Rick Fox took over as dad of his family and husband to Bow.

The episode sheds light on the difficulty of such a diagnosis and the major life changes Dre must make in order to deal with it. However, the issue is strangely never mentioned again.

2. Pop Can’t Go To Canada

Pop Can’t Go To Canada

While we know some things about Pop’s mysterious past, like that he used to steal TVs while pretending to fix them, he spent a lot of time (and money) at the track, and is one of the only ones of his friends who is not currently in jail, there are still some things that are unknown about his past life.

For one, for example, he is not allowed into the country of Canada. No one really knows why, but chances are it has to do with something questionable he once did there, probably even illegal.

1. Ruby Sang Backup For Bette Midler

Jennifer Hudson in Black-ish

We mostly know about Ruby’s (Jenifer Lewis) past in the fantastical stories she likes to tell, including ones that are very unlikely, such as that she breastfed Dre until he was 8 or that there were only nine numbers when she was young.

But outside of being a single mother who had a tumultuous relationship with Dre’s father and multiple affairs, including with Dre’s high school teachers, Ruby also claims to have been a successful singer. She claims to have sang back-up for Bette Midler and even once starred in a movie.

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2 thoughts on “Black-ish: What Is Ruby’s (Jenifer Lewis) Background That Is So Interesting, But Rarely Mentioned?

  1. I wonder how surprised the author of this article would be if she found out that Ruby’s claims are actually based on Ms Lewis’s real-life entertainment history …

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