When you’re in the presence of a mega diva, you know it. I’m talkin’ about the multifaceted and multitalented Jenifer Lewis, who’s a smashing singer and cabaret performer, actor, producer and life counselor—my own moniker for her. The woman is all about discipline and belief in one’s self. Just watch.
With more than 300 appearances in film and television, she shines brightly in her latest movie. It’s a comedy, The Wedding Ringer from Sony Pictures, marking her fourth big-screen appearance with pal Kevin Hart. The undisputed “Black Mother of Hollywood,” Jenifer also rocks ABC’s hit show, Black-ish, as “Ruby” with Laurence Fishburne.
Other recent films include Think Like A Man, Think Like A Man Too, Baggage Claim and The Magic City. Jenifer played Tina Turner’s mother in What’s Love Got to Do with It and Whitney Houston’s mother in The Preacher’s Wife. Disney fans embraced her voice as “Flo” in Cars and as “Mama Odie” in The Princess and the Frog.
She was “Aunt Helen” on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and guest starred on Friends, Boston Legal and Girlfriends. For six seasons, Jenifer portrayed “Lana Hawkins” on Lifetime’s hit series Strong Medicine. In September 2012, Jenifer premiered in a self-produced Web series, Jenifer Lewis and Shangela.
With more than 30 years in music and theater, Jenifer’s presented more than 200 concerts in 49 states and on four continents. In April last year she received an electrifying standing ovation at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops orchestra. Don’t forget her one-woman show, Black Don’t Crack, her roles in Hairspray, Mother Courage and Her Children opposite Meryl Streep, and in Hello Dolly! Jenifer also toured as a “Harlette” with Bette Midler.
She cares. Jenifer supports and mentors youth from Big Brothers/Big Sisters and advocates for AIDS education and treatment and LGBT youth housing. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she openly takes on the stigma beast that often stalks people with mental illness. Her dedication to years of psychological and spiritual work has paid off handsomely.
After taping, Jenifer shared her life philosophies privately with me, and to recharge myself every morning, I just watch this. It’s her impromptu speech at the premiere of Baggage Claim. Use it. Don’t lose it. See her in The Wedding Ringer for some great laughs and follow her on Twitter @JeniferLewis. Get ready for her memoir in the near future, as well as announcements of more entertainment projects in which she’ll play a prominent role, no pun intended. (Well, maybe…)