By Laurean D. Robinson, MA
April 15, 2018
“I am a born entertainer. Even as a little girl, I dreamed of being a star. I would be an entertainer had I been born a hundred years earlier or later. Had I been born a unicorn or even been born on Neptune, I would be somewhere singing in somebody’s universe, filled with music and fire.”
This is hardly a revelation to the industry legend and performing dynamo Miss Jenifer Lewis who has the most impressive resume of acting and singing roles in all of Hollywood.
Another character she has taken on this last few years is that of an author of her memoir The Mother of Black Hollywood.
Her South Florida leg of her book tour has brought her to Lauderhill and ended at Miami’s historic Overtown Performing Arts Center where she entertained her book-toting audience with passionate anecdotes of her humble beginnings and hilarious hijinks.
When the ABC’s Blackish star arrived, she sashayed towards the venue’s stage like the born performer she has always been. But instead of remaining seated to answer audience questions, Lewis stood up and walked around amongst her adoring fans and attendants, creating a more intimate experience than your typical book event.
As she walked around holding her microphone, she shared her humble beginnings being the youngest of seven children in Kinloch, Missouri where she was the victim of child abuse. She described the limited socio-economic circumstances her mother came from that unleased the “rage” on to her own children.
Ms. Lewis also recounted her molestation by her church’s pastor that her mother was in love with and how its confession destroyed her relationship with her mother for many years. Yet despite this trauma, “Little Jenny” grew up to sing a solo “The Old Ship of Zion” with the church choir at five years old, graduaate high school and college and move to New York to focus on her performance career.
When asked how one can overcome the “Strong Black Woman” moniker that our culture brands us women of color with, Ms. Lewis gave an insightful subversive response – “LOVE YOURSELF.” She recognized that the stereotype exists but it only defines the wearer if it is accepted. “Stand in front of the mirror and say ‘I love myself’ as many times as you need to until you believe it.”
Her anecdotes shifted between posture corrections from Maya Angelou, silly exchanges with Blackish co-star Anthony Anderson and raunchy encounters with a South Beach homeless man trying to defend her honor as a lady.
Miss Lewis reminded you of your favorite aunt who lets you have a sip of her wine when no one is looking and uses her life as a master class of being a woman of color.
She also went into transparent detail about her bipolar disorder diagnosis and her struggle to come to terms with the condition, challenging her audience to get over the stigma of this illness so that people can get the help they need. When the recent People magazine cover story of Mariah Carey was brought up, Miss Lewis solemnly vowed to call her when she got home in Los Angeles to congratulate her on her bravery.
After the question-answer session finished, the photographer set up the space for all her fans to get their picture taken with their idol with her book.
As you can imagine, the line snaked almost out of the door and every few minutes, Miss Lewis stopped the photographer to share another funny story or emotional memory.
She was graceful and patient with every person who came to take a picture, exulting the motherly love she emits in her legendary roles in Poetic Justice, The Preacher’s Wife, Think Like A Man and The Princess and the Frog.
Miss Jenifer Lewis has shown all who know or want to know her story how powerful a positive self-esteem can be to propel you to greatness.