Jenifer Lewis

Published January 25, 2011

Jenifer Lewis’s innate ability to consistently captivate an audience stems from her versatile voice, her bawdy sense of humor and her powerful acting performances honed largely on the Broadway stage in such hits as Eubie, Comin’ Uptown, Dreamgirls, Rock and Roll, the First 5,000 Years, and Neil Simon’s reprise production of Promises Promises.

Lewis also appeared on stage alongside Meryl Streep in Shakespeare in the Park’s summer 2006 production of “Mother Courage and her Children.”  In 2008, she returned to Broadway to play ‘Motormouth Maybelle’ in the hit musical Hairspray and immediately after, starred as ‘Dolly Levy’ in the 5th Avenue Theatre’s hugely successful production Hello Dolly! 

It was in 1983, while touring with Bette Midler as one of her infamous ‘Harlettes’ that Hollywood “came a’ knocking at the door.” Once there, Lewis immediately garnered two NAACP Image Award nominations as Best Supporting Actress for her memorable portrayal of Tina Turner’s mother in What’s Love Got to Do With It and in the romantic comedy The Preacher’s Wife with Denzel Washington;  both earning her the endearing title of "The Black Mother of Hollywood.”

Lewis has appeared in over 60 motion pictures, displaying her versatility as both a dramatic actress and comedic star, in such films as Hereafter alongside Matt Damon and directed by Clint Eastwood, Corinna Corinna, with Whoopi Goldberg, Castaway, with Tom Hanks, The Antwone Fisher Story,  Renaissance Man, The Mighty, Sister Act, Dead Presidents, Blast from the Past, The Brothers, Mystery Men, Poetic Justice, Tyler Perry's – Madea's Family Reunion and Meet the Browns. In animation, she has lent her unique and distinctive voice to Pixar’s blockbuster hit CARS, Dreamworks’ Sharktale and Disney’s Oscar ® nominated The Princess and the Frog.  Lewis is set to revise her memorable role as ‘Flo’ in the upcoming Cars 2.

In television, she has appeared in 132 episodes of Lifetime’s number one hit series “Strong Medicine” as well as Boston Legal, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Shark, The Temptations, Friends, Murphy Brown, Girlfriends, Touched by an Angel, The Cosby Show, Courthouse and most recently, a recurring role on Tyler Perry’s hit TV series Meet The Browns. It was her role as ‘Jackie Washington’ in Lifetime’s cult movie “Jackie’s Back!” however, that firmly established her as a ‘Diva’ and an icon.

In 2007, Lewis publicly disclosed being BiPolar by writing and starring in her successful one woman show Bipolar Bath and Beyond, then appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to encourage its diagnosis and proper treatment.

Jenifer is the proud mother of her daughter Charmaine, whom she adopted through the Los Angeles chapter of the Big Brother/Big Sister Program and is a relentless supporter and activist to finding a cure for Breast Cancer and HIV/AIDS.

Written by BET-Staff

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