One of the most recognizable faces in television and film for the past 40 years is Jenifer Lewis. Now, starring as the mother/mother-in-law in the hit sitcom, Black-ish, Lewis has become and embraces being the “mother of Black Hollywood”–which is also the title of her new book. She’s funny, witty, sexy, sassy, smart, insightful–all at the same time! No matter what she’s in, Lewis makes her presence known.
It’s no wonder, the actress, singer and dancer has been in over 260 television shows, 70 movies and countless stage shows. After 17 years of therapy and 10 years of being medicated for her bipolar disorder, she is a self-proclaimed lover of life and one who is open about her struggles, successes and overall life.
BlackDoctor.org sat down with the celebrity and her larger-than-life personality to find out how she “flips the script” and shows the other side of her life behind the camera.
BDO: No matter what age you are, your peers young and old always speak highly of you. What’s your secret to staying relevant?
JL: I have always known that I’m an alpha female. Natural born leader. Captain of the cheerleading squad. President of the class from 7th grade through senior year. I’ve always been a leader. Living out loud is something I’ve done all my life and continue to do. It describes me to a tee. I was given so many gifts: singer, actress, dancer, comedic timing. But it’s the the fact that I recognize those blessings as gifts. Being who you are totally is a gift. Be who you were meant to be and you will always be relevant.
I never knew I wasn’t a star. I honor the gift. Nothing could stop me. The dream is the thing that sustained me. It didn’t matter if the clouds were black, I had stuff to do!
After I finished college, I got my first Broadway show within two weeks of arriving. As most people in show business, we were able to hide our emotions. I had to express myself. Being relevant is all about being who you are no matter what you go through. I’ve been blessed enough to be able to do that for so many years, and I love it!
There is no greater journey than the journey within. But it was the dream that kept me focused.
BDO: What’s the key to you being personable?
JL: Look in the mirror and love what you see. African American women can be free. If there’s something negative around you, keep it moving! Life is too short for all that nonsense.
BDO: What is it you do to keep your skin and body healthy?
JL: With all the work that I’ve done, what I have grown to do is to absolutely love life itself. I love being alive. I’m honored to be in my skin and honor all of my senses. I hike mountains. I love breathing. I wake up everyday saying, ‘Here am I! Send for me, I’ll come!’ I am willing, ready and able to give back. I walk the walk. It took many years to get where I am and my life is living proof of what to do.
So it doesn’t matter if I’m not recognized in all the award shows, because I honor myself. I smell the roses. When you’ve lived in darkness and work yourself out of a hole… If you can look in the mirror and say, “I love myself,” how can you not be healthy?!
All it takes is an extra few minutes each day. When you are depressed, you don’t want to see people. You don’t want to…