Jenifer Lewis Delivers Marvelous Life Story With ‘Mother Of Black Hollywood’

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Jenifer Lewis’ book is exactly what anybody remotely familiar with her larger than life personality would expect – impeccable comedic timing, gloriously placed profanity and stories that keep you amused from start to finish.

“Girl, I put my soul in it,” Lewis said of “The Mother of Black Hollywood” as she prepares for the memoir’s November 14 release. “That’s all I had.”

Reading the book feels like Lewis is right next to you sharing the most intimate details of her life.

“I just told the truth in my voice – the way I knew how,” Lewis said.

Prepare to laugh, cry, gasp (with both shock and delight) and be inspired.

Her career on stage, television and film has spanned four decades. She is most widely known for playing the mother in countless urban films – which was the inspiration for her book’s title.

“The type of money they paid me, I would have played the daddy,” Lewis has often said.

She’s instantly recognizable for hundreds of roles, but not as many are aware of her St. Louis roots.

“Straight outta Kinloch,” Lewis said with her deep booming voice. “The roads were rocky, but the hearts were full. We were on welfare, but if somebody had a pot of greens you could stop by and get some. We made it. We did it. All those names – Uncle Dick, Aunt Rosie, Huckabuck, Cuckoo, Snookie and everybody– I tried to honor them with this book.”

She leaves no stone unturned with the timeline that includes the moment she discovered her talent as an entertainer.

Lewis found her destiny as a five-year-old when she blew the roof off First Baptist Church of Kinloch with her very first solo. Her ambitions led her to Webster University’s famously competitive theater conservatory. She landed on Broadway less than two weeks after arriving in New York to conquer the stage and never looked back. Lewis left New York for Hollywood – which had its ups and downs, but eventually led Lewis to her current role as Emmy-Award nominee Anthony Anderson’s on-screen mother in the hit ABC show “black-ish.” Through the book she hopes to motivate others to pursue their life’s passion.

“Find something you love and let it carry you through,” Lewis said. “Let it carry you through every storm – every earthquake, every tornado, every flood and every fire.

‘Use that love for that thing that your entire molecular structure wants and desires every day. Let it sustain you as it sustained me.”

She talks about the struggles of her personal life and living with an undiagnosed mental illness. “Mother of Black Hollywood” details the ease with which her career on the stage began – and the trials that came as she tried to transition into film and television.

‘The [expletive] is back’ 

Oddly enough, she begins they book with a confession that she had contemplated retiring.

“I decided that I didn’t want to hear anyone else say ‘next,’” Lewis admitted. But while on a cruise to get her mind right she said a prayer to the moon.

The call for ‘black-ish’ came immediately afterwards.

“Not even me could stop me,” Lewis said. “That right there is some powerful [expletive].”

She had been contemplating the book for years, but surprisingly it was the unrest at home that compelled her to move forward with making it happen.

“They showed me that they had courage and strength when they stayed in those streets,” Lewis said, speaking of the Ferguson protests. “I said, ‘I have to give them my story, because I am them.’ Through this book I hoped to say, ‘I want you to stand up and stay up. Know where you are going, so your great grandchildren will have air to breathe.”

It was no easy feat. In the book, her deepest secrets become public domain. She detailed molestation, an attempted rape, being addicted to sex and regrettable behavior that came when she was in the throes of manic episodes.

“I didn’t know how the world would take it,” Lewis said. “You sit there and you give your whole life. I had to go back in those rooms, with those men. I had to go back to those horrors. Looking at those pages, there were a lot of times when I wanted to just throw that [expletive] in the pool girl.”

She also shared that she had recently being victimized by a con artist.

“To this day that was the worst thing that ever happened to me,” Lewis said. “But guess what … the [expletive] is back.”

The day her mother passed away a man reached out to her and pursued a relationship and carried on for the sake of financial gain. “He was masterful girl. You know you got to be masterful to roll up on me. I’m from the streets. But he [expletive] with the wrong [expletive] – or should I say, ‘the right [expletive]. I am Dorothy’s daughter, and she did not play.”

Just like with everything else, she bounced back. The incident made her more aware.

“The way out was pay attention. When I didn’t pay attention, that’s when I got all [expletive] up and [expletive] over,” Lewis said. “The pursuit of happiness – people need to take that [expletive] to heart – because it is our God-given right.”

Helping others on the path to personal happiness had a hand in her opening her life to the world as well.

“I wanted to let everybody know that I came from poverty and I conquered a dream,” Lewis said. “If you get nothing else from this book, live out loud.

“Don’t watch life. Sing your song. Sing it loud. Tell the world who you are – tell the truth – and don’t be afraid.”

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