Tag 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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Monday, April 23, 2018

Bette Midler with Charlo Crossley & Jenifer Lewis singing Miss Otis Regrets on Johnny Carson’s final show with guests.

Bette Midler with Charlo Crossley & Jenifer Lewis singing Miss Otis Regrets on Johnny Carson’s final show with guests.

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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, February 19, 2017

BetteBack June 12, 1999: Bette Midler To Appear in Jenifer Lewis’ ‘Jackie’s Back’

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Black-Ish: The One Where Ruby Was A Background Singer For Bette Midler

Black-ish Recap: Doctor Dre
By Nichole Perkins
May 15, 2016 Read More

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Friday, May 13, 2016

A deceptively simple episode of Black-ish changes everything (Bette Midler was a sub-plot)

A.V. Club
A deceptively simple episode of Black-ish changes everything
By LaToya Ferguson@lafergs
May 12, 2016 1:31 AM



Until Dre goes full “Dr. Mom”/“Dr. Dre” in “Daddy Dre-Care,” the episode is almost shockingly—and kind of frustratingly—simplistic for Black-ish. Everyone in the house gets sick with the flu, and Dre doesn’t want them to take him down. There. That’s it.

It then begs the question of exactly why the show would bring out the big guns for this particular episode: Showrunner Kenya Barris pens “Daddy Dre-Care,” with executive producer Jonathan Groff in the director’s chair, after all. Plus, with Dre’s opening voice-over, it almost feels like Black-ish missed the bus on Mother’s Day for ABC, especially since it already covered “Daddy’s Day.” The episode is almost a fever dream itself, as Dre is the only one at 100% while every other available (no Pops this week) member of the Johnson clan is down for the count and, in the kids’ case, reduced to loud voices. Basically, Dre doesn’t know how to take care of his kids—and he really doesn’t need to take much care of his wife and mother—and the kids refuse to be anything other than spoiled brats about that. It’s arguably not the best use of the actors’ and the show’s strengths.

Then “Dr. Dre” (get it?) enters the picture, and the bumpy episode kicks into a much-needed second gear. And it’s not just needed because of how simple the plot is but because of how obnoxious the children are in the flu state. Yes, Black-ishhasn’t shied away from showing the Johnson kids in unflattering and even spoiled states, but the cartoonish screeching and complaining pre-“Dr. Dre” mode removes any real characterization that typically goes with that. I‘ll be honest: Unlike Kenya Barris and a plenty of Black-ish viewers, my perspective for this episode and series as whole is one of a non-parent. Sure, the kid version of me completely feels Dre when he voice-overs that moms don’t get sick, because they totally don’t, but the “charm” or memories of taking care of flu-riddled kids is completely lost on me. And it loses the characters themselves in this case, with the exception of Zoey’s very in-character complaint during in the children’s initial screams:


So the “Dr. Dre” shift solves this not just by placating the kids and appeasing to their love (and Dre’s skill) of flash (a flu fort, liquid medicine shooters, fried chicken noodle soup, but NO Wolf Of Wall Street moment) but by turning “Daddy Dre-Care” into an episode about the very concept of adults being adults. In Dre’s case, that’s just being a present father in a way he hasn’t gotten to because of work. In Ruby and Rainbow’s case, that’s actually seeing each other as two mothers and even two women instead of just natural mother-in-law/daughter-in-law enemies. All that one takes is some intense nausea and Bette “Beth” Midler discussion, the latter based on Jenifer Lewis’ real life history as a Bette Midler back-up singer. As funny as the Ruby/Bow antagonistic relationship can be, it can also get very old, very fast on Ruby’s side of things. So the two of them actually getting to know each other outside of the context of Dre (because of course Ruby had a life before Dre) is just what the doctor ordered. As is a little awareness, really:

Bow: “We were doing so good.”
Ruby: “I now see that I may be the root of our problems.”

That’s already a big twist as it is, and it’s not even the big twist of the episode.

The twist about Bow’s pregnancy is something the episode earns, and it then makes the reason for the behind-the-scenes team up of Barris and Groff completely clear. The Beaches scene begins the teasing with Bow’s “I wonder what our next chapter’s gonna be,” a line that Tracee Ellis Ross nails but also feels especially suspect in any standard episode of Black-ish. But the keys to the reveal are Bow’s nausea even though Ruby (her symptom-mate) hasn’t vomited him three days and the even more obvious moment of her looking through a family photo album, right before she tells Dre. The episode actually lays the groundwork even earlier on by making it clear (with the kids) that Bow is probably more precise than actual medical equipment: She would have hada feeling something besides the flu was up with her body before she even took the pregnancy test. So now, five children—that’s what’s on the horizon for the Dre and Bow. Six, even, if twins run in their family.

Basically, Dre and Bow should be happy they have Black Nanny around. And Ruby, of course.

Stray observations

  • Early in the episode, as Dre is freaking out about possibly missing work (even before the work scene), I found myself thinking that Dre might just actually lose his job in the season finale—especially remembering that the finale is aGood Times-themed episode. Obviously, the introduction of a pregnancy makes that the worst timing ever, but I actually think the show could and would go there.
  • Speaking of work, I’ve realized I’m extremely attached to the name “Lido’s Place.” I wish it would stick, though I also think the work scene in this episode was pretty unnecessary overall. On the plus side, Charlie and the reminder that things are still up in the air about lay-offs.
  • Macaroni, spam, and grape jelly, Ruby? The first two would’ve been fine together. Alone. Also, I’m traumatized by Ruby “suck[ing] junk” out of baby Dre’s snotty nose.
  • As much as Dre is in full-on Dre Mode in this episode, I found his “bleachy water” spray and “I GOTTA LIVE” to go with it way too funny each time it showed up. The same goes for my feelings about Jack eating all of Ruby’s leftovers—including trash hot dogs and trash butter—which benefited greatly from Jonathan Groff’s directing. As did the Ruby/Bow scenes in general and the Dr. Dre montage. Like I said: This episode brought out the big guns.
  • Dre drank bleach, you guys. You can say he gargled and spit, but you know some bleach went down his throat.
  • Bow: “I think we should quarantine her. Oh, I know where! At her own house, where’s supposed to live.” Before Bow said this line, I was honestly wondering if Ruby had moved in and I missed something.
  • Bow: “It’s flu season, and you decided to hit up a trifecta of communal hand-eating gatherings?”
    Ruby: “Rainbow, whatchu got against the church raising money for the pastor’s legal defense fund?”
  • Sick Josh looks like Vincent D’onofrio in Men In Black.
  • Bow: “Medicine. Food. Comfort. M.F.B. Magenta. Filing. Cabinet. … It’s an old ad man memory trick. … Stong visual images. Magenta. Filing. Cabinet.”
    Bow: “What does that stand for, Dre?”
    Dre: “…”
  • While it’s still just whining, the kids worrying that Dre couldn’t get the medicine doses right is a lot easier to take (especially given Bow’s noted medical precision) than the idea he’d mess up soup. Which comes from a can.
  • As someone who considers MTV’s The Challenge one of her great loves, Ruby’s reveal that “Syrus from The Real World” was one of her lovers meant so much to me. Even more than “wrestling legend Junkyard Dog.” I’m going to rewatchThe Gauntlet 2 now.
  • I feel like this episode would pair well with The Bernie Mac Show’s “Pink Gold.”
  • Fun fact I learned because I could’ve sworn Anthony Anderson was actually inDaddy Day Care: Daddy Day Camp (the sequel) was Fred Savage’s directorial debut. This is as good a reason as any for Fox to renew The Grinder.
  • Also: The movie Anthony Anderson was actually in was My Baby’s Daddy, a movie I have not seen and cannot believe was reviewed on this site.
  • Read More

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