Category Archives: Jenifer Lewis

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Featuring A Harlette: Jenifer Lewis Talks Activism, Kanye, Racism, And Bette Midler (Bonus Video)

New York Times
Featuring A Harlette: Jenifer Lewis Talks Activism, Kanye, Racism, And Bette Midler
By Interview by Lauretta Charlton
Oct. 30, 2018

Photo taken of Ms. Jenifer Lewis by 
Oriana Koren
Photo taken of Ms. Jenifer Lewis by 
Oriana Koren

Throughout your career, you’ve played various matriarchs — the mothers in “Poetic Justice,” “The Preacher’s Wife” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” the aunt in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and now the grandmother on “black-ish” — and you’ve named your memoir, “The Mother of Black Hollywood,” accordingly. Did you ever feel typecast? No, I love these roles. What has happened with the younger generation that started watching me on “Fresh Prince” is that I developed a relationship with them. I was parked on Santa Monica Boulevard just yesterday, and a young African-American woman stopped her car, and she just reached her hand out of the window and whispered, “Thank you.” What can I tell you, kid? I’m doing my best. Read More

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

5 Things We Learned From Jenifer Lewis’ Memoir ‘The Mother of Black

5 Things We Learned From Jenifer Lewis’ Memoir ‘The Mother of Black Hollywood’
Lyndsey McFail Nov, 23, 2017

Actress, singer, diva and the Mother of Black Hollywood, Jenifer Lewis is a force to be reckoned with. She’s played on stages with some of greats and has honestly played everyone’s momma, from Tupac’s character in Poetic Justice and Tina Turner’s mother, Zelma Bullock, in What’s Love Got to Do With It to Ruby on ABC’s, black-ish.

When Lewis released her memoir, The Mother of Black Hollywood, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on a copy to see what the actress had to say. Here are a few things we learned.

She hails from the Show Me State.

Jenifer Jeanette Lewis was born and raised in the small town of Kinloch, Missouri that bordered St. Louis and Ferguson, MO. As the baby of a seven-sibling family, Lewis described herself as being overlooked by her siblings, who coupled themselves off into groups of three, thus leaving her out. Although her family struggled to make ends meet, it never stifled her dream to make it big. As a child and into her high school days, Lewis shined and was a natural leader. She was class president for six years straight, a cheerleader and voted “Most Likely to Succeed.”

Fun fact: Lewis isn’t the first notable to come from that small town in the Show Me State. Congresswoman Maxine Waters and comedian, Dick Gregory both hail from Kinloch.

She’s open about her mental illness.

Growing up and well into her adult life, Lewis would suffer from maniac behaviors like feeling pressure to talk more than usual, distractibility, increased goal-directed activity, excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have high potential for painful consequences and other symptoms of bi-polar disorder. Like many African Americans, Lewis believed she acted the way because that’s how she’s always had been. It wasn’t until her adult life when she was in therapy and her therapist that she was diagnosed as bi-polar disorder.

Sexual freedom is not something she’s shy about.

If you follow @jeniferlewisforreal on Instagram, then you’ve seen her “For the D Challenge” video and know that she has “always loved a big D.” Throughout her memoir, she is very open and even descriptive in some instances about her sexual freedom. Although some of her sexual appetite may have been fueled by her bi-polar disorder, it didn’t stop her sexual experiences with men from across the country as she toured in various shows. Her little black book even includes Gregory Hines and Jon Voight (Angelina Jolie’s father) but we’ll let her give you that tea.

A star is born… in New York City.

Having moved to New York City after graduating from Webster University, Lewis wasted no time pounding the pavement and landed a role in the show, Eubie. She soon began making a name for herself and after Eubie ended she created her own one woman show at a NYC cabaret club. As her show became more and more popular amongst tourist and other actors in New York, Lewis got a call one night to join Bette Midler’s background singers, The Staggering Harlettes. Initially, Lewis declined stating she had her own and couldn’t make it to Los Angeles on the day they needed her. The same night the great Bette Midler called Jenifer personally to ask her to join the Harlettes and the rest was history.

Dreamgirls was a success with or without her.

When Lewis hit the New York theater scene, she was greeted with tons of prospect. One opportunity was Dreamgirls. Although the play was still being developed, Lewis was cast as Effie White. Lewis spent time evolving Effie’s character from attitude to wardrobe and more. In the end, as we all know, the part was re-cast to Jennifer Holliday, who went on to be forever remembered in the role, even after Jennifer Hudson’s stellar performance in the movie. The gag is even though the part was recast, Lewis still got paid throughout the entire run of Dreamgirls for her part in developing the character of Effie. In the words of Auntie Jenifer, “Merry Christmas!”



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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Book: Jenifer Lewis tells raw truth in ‘The Mother of Black Hollywood’

NBC News
Jenifer Lewis tells raw truth in ‘The Mother of Black Hollywood’
by Karu F. Daniels / Nov.14.2017 / 9:29 AM ET

Veteran actress Jenifer Lewis has a way with words — anyone who comes into contact with her can attest to that. For the better part of her nearly 40-year career on stage and in front of the camera, the scene-stealing powerhouse has gained a reputation for not only her acting talent but also for being a brassy diva with a heart of gold.

On any given occasion, she’ll refer to herself as an expletive — even going as far as to inject a four syllable word in between her first and last name when mentioning herself — with rapid-fire cadence. Read More

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Jenifer Lewis, Former Harlette, Is the Mother of Black Hollywood—and Has the Stories to Prove It

Vanity Fair
Jenifer Lewis Is the Mother of Black Hollywood—and Has the Stories to Prove It
NOVEMBER 13, 2017 11:34 AM

Jenifer Lewis speaks like someone who was raised on Broadway. Everyone is “darling!” and “honey!” She’s as easily given to singing as she is to speaking. She can regale you for days with stories about her magnificent career and off-screen adventures: doing readings with Oprah Winfrey,having heart-to-hearts with Carrie Fisher, hooking up with theater star Gregory Hines. For the last two and a half years, the actress—currently starring in Black-ish—has been channeling those stories into a scintillating, yet heartfelt memoir. It’s slated for a November 14 release, and it has a perfect title: The Mother of Black Hollywood. Read More

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Black-ish Grandma Jenifer Lewis & Former Harlette Opens Up About Her Battle with Sex Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

Black-ish Grandma Jenifer Lewis Opens Up About Her Battle with Sex Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

Jenifer Lewis is not one to hold anything back.

“We are as sick as our secrets, so I tell everything,” says the 60-year-old singer and actress, who lived with undiagnosed bipolar disorder and a sex addiction through her 20s. Read More

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Jenifer Lewis (Former Harlette), The “Black Bette Midler”, recalls one-night stand with Jon Voight

Page Six
Jenifer Lewis recalls one-night stand with Jon Voight
By Derrick Bryson Taylor November 2, 2017 | 11:52am

Jenifer Lewis bared her soul in her memoir “The Mother of Black Hollywood,” including the details of her sex addiction and a one-night stand with Jon Voight.

In the chapter titled “A Doll Named ‘Killer,’” Lewis, 60, recalls performing at Studio 54 one year for an AIDS charity and catching Voight’s eye.

Lewis, who currently stars on “Black-ish,” writes that she and Voight began their night with a walk through Central Park and took a romantic carriage ride.

“We talked about being from families of hard workers,” she writes. “We stared into each other’s eyes and kissed. We went to his room on the 35th floor of the Essex House. I was spellbound by his sensitivity and kindness … Let’s just say he was a real ‘Midnight Cowboy.’”

Lewis told Page Six it was a night to remember.

“It was a beautiful night. Hansome carriage ride. We walked. And he was very sweet, he walked me home,” she said before digging into his political views. “Of course now he’s a Republican and goes with the NRA.”

Lewis said she never wanted more from Voight, who at the time had won the Best Actor Oscar a few years before in 1979. “I knew that was a one-night stand,” she elaborated. “That was just some young, part of the sex addiction, part of the drama of being in my 20s … It was ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ child, please. I went in!”

Jenifer with Jon Voight

While Lewis isn’t afraid of possible backlash that may come from her book, some of the names have been changed, others haven’t. “Come for me, bitch,” she ribbed. “I’m right here. I know who I am. I’m not afraid of that because I know who I am.”

In the book, Lewis discusses her sex addiction, her bipolar disorder and 17-plus years of therapy to overcome it all.

“This book damn near killed me,” she quipped. “I have kept a journal since the seventh grade. Day to day. I had to go back and read all 63 of them. I’m 60 years old. But I had three filled with feelings. It was the biggest challenge of my life to write this book. There were several times I wanted to quit. It was a very difficult process, but I continued because that’s really all I really know to do.”

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Jenifer Lewis and Bette Midler backstage at “Hairspray”Getty Images
In the memoir — which also covers several dark moments from her past, including being molested by a pastor and calling out Jane Pauley for insulting her on the “Today” show — she also gives credit to Bette Midler for helping her career along.

“Bette has always been there for me,” Lewis said. “In my younger years, they were calling me the black Bette Midler. The quote was I was a combination of Bette Midler, Whoopi Goldberg and Mahalia [Jackson].”

She cautions that “The Mother of Black Hollywood,” out Nov. 14, isn’t a tell-all memoir, as there are more stories that didn’t make the cut. Instead, she considers it a learning tool.

“I didn’t want to preach nor teach in this book, I wanted to show my story, my song,” she advised. “This is what I did. You take from what you will … Don’t let me have written this sh-t in vain! You find some tool in here to help you make one more step to your goals, to your happiness.”

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Former Harlette, black-ish star, and Mega – Diva, Jenifer Lewis Has A Memoir Out Now: The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir



The “Mega Diva” and legendary star of Black-ish looks back on her memorable journey to fame and the unforgettable life lessons she learned along the way.

Jenifer Lewis keeps it real in this provocative and touching memoir by a mid-western girl with a dream whose journey from poverty to Hollywood will move, shock, and inspire readers.

Told in the audacious voice her fans adore, Jenifer describes a road to fame made treacherous by dysfunction and undiagnosed mental illness, including a sex addiction. Yet, supported by loving friends and strengthened by “inner soldiers,” Jenifer never stopped entertaining and creating.

We watch as Jenifer develops icon status stemming from a series of legendary screen roles as the sassy, yet loveable, mama or auntie. And we watch as her emotional disturbances, culminating in a breakdown while filming The Temptations movie, launch her on a continuing search for answers, love, and healing.

Written with no-holds-barred honesty and illustrated with sixteen-pages of color photos, this gripping memoir is filled with insights gained through a unique life that offers a universal message: “Love yourself so that love will not be a stranger when it comes.”

From her first taste of applause at five years old to landing on Broadway within eleven days of graduation and ultimately achieving success in movies, television and global concert halls, Jenifer reveals her outrageous life story with lots of humor, a few regrets and most importantly, unbridled joy. Candid, warm and wonderfully inspiring, The Mother of Black Hollywood intimately reveals the heart of a woman who lives life to the fullest.



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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Former Harlette Jenifer Lewis Gets Cast In ABC’s black-ish (Great Show!)

TV Line

ABC’s black-ish Casts Jenifer Lewis as Anthony Anderson‘s Mother

By  / September 30 2014, 10:58 AM PDT


You can’t spell “smother” without “mother” — a lesson that will be abundantly clear now that Jenifer Lewis(Meet the Browns, Strong Medicine) has boarded black-ish in the recurring role of Dre’s (Anthony Anderson) overbearing mom.

Lewis’ character Ruby is described as follows: “She smothers pork chops with gravy, Dre with love, and would like to flat out smother [Dre’s wife] Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), who feels the same way about her.”

RELATED black-ish Premiere: Did You Fall for ABC’s Newest Modern Family?

Lewis will make her first appearance later this season, according to the network.

RELATED Mistresses Renewed for Season 3

In its series premiere last Wednesday, black-ish drew 11 million total viewers and a 3.3 rating, demonstrating 96 and 85 percent retention out of Modern Family. For comparison’s sake, Super Fun Night (which led out of Modern Family‘s season premiere in fall 2013) only managed 75 percent retention.

Jenifer Lewis ADDED To “Black-ish”
Is ‘Black-ish’ the New ‘Modern Family’ or Is ‘Black-ish’ Just Foolish?
Color lines are blurred in ABC comedy ‘black-ish’

Color lines are blurred in Fox comedy ‘black-ish’ Read More

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Check Out Former Harlette And Diva On Her Own, Jenifer Lewis’s Webisode “Jenifer Lewis and Shangela”

Mister D: Bette doesn’t call her the funniest woman in the world for nothing. You need to check this out! Hilarious!

About Jen Lewis and Shangela

Jenifer Lewis and Shangela,” a scripted series, follows the comic adventures of Ms. Lewis and D.J. Pierce (aka Shangela) as the show biz mega-diva mentors the up-and-coming drag performer, who lives in the basement apartment of her Hollywood mansion. The series was directed by Emmy-winner Mary Lou Belli.

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VIDEO: Tease for New Web Series “Jenifer Lewis & Shangela”
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VIDEO: 1st Episode of New Web Series “Jenifer Lewis & Shangela” Read More

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