Jenifer Lewis Discusses Memoir, ‘black-ish,’ Personal Trauma And More During South Florida Dream Book Tour
Annie in “Poetic Justice,” Mama Odie in “The Princess and the Frog” and currently Grandma Ruby in “black-ish.” Those are just a few roles actress Jenifer Lewis has played throughout her notable Hollywood career.
Lewis has portrayed motherly roles for most of her career, leading her to name her recently published book, “The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir.” She recently came to Boynton Beach, Lauderhill and Miami as part of the South Florida Dream Book Tour to discuss her memoir.
The Dream Book Tour is a series of events where authors come to South Florida and talk about their books in intimate settings. Individuals like Alice Walker, Cookie Johnson and Morris Chestnut are also participants in the book tour series. A portion of the proceeds collected are donated to local charities, along with books from each author.
“We wanted to pair authors; we wanted to see live and local authors that need the exposure,” Sophia Nelson, founder of the Dream Book Tour, says.
“The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir” is Lewis’ first book. It was released on Nov. 14, 2017. In the book, Lewis shares where she was when she got the call to be on “black-ish,” and how things have changed since then.
“We wanted Lewis to come into Lauderhill to talk about her experiences,” Ken Thurston, city commissioner of Lauderhill, says. “Her presentation to the audience was profound and genuine.”
In the book, Lewis writes about getting her first Broadway play 11 days after graduating from Webster University. She also shares her experience of being molested by her pastor.
“I talk about my molestation in this book. That chapter is called ‘It Ain’t That Kind of Call Mother****,’” Lewis says. “I got enough courage to call him after two years of therapy and 20 years of suppressing my pain.”
During her Dream Book discussion at Lauderhill, the actress explained how the molestation happened and how she lost so much within seven seconds.
“We were in the car talking about my potential career. He touched my breast and tried to stick his tongue down my mouth,” Lewis says. “When I resisted, he stopped and we drove in silence. I went to tell my mother but she was in love with the pastor and did nothing.”
Lewis continued, saying, “Let me tell you what he took from me in seven seconds: Because he was a man of God, he took God; my mother was in love with him, so he took my mother; and since we talked about my career, he took that too.”
Lewis encouraged the audience to be agents of change, and to seek help if they have been victims of sexual assault.
“One in three people have been molested. If you have, tell somebody, tell anybody. Because when you tell somebody, you can breathe,” Lewis says.
The actress also went into her vices during the event, as she talked about her sex addiction. According to Lewis, at age 33 she had a breakdown when shooting the movie “The Temptations.”
At that point, she called her therapist and said she needed help. "'I am sick and I need help’ are the most difficult words to say,” Lewis says. “Addiction is like being in a dark room alone, eating yourself to death. Keep good friends around you so they can say, ‘Hey come here, that's enough. Now you go and get yourself some help.’”
Lewis concluded her talk by encouraging the audience to get journals and write their feelings in them.
“Write those feelings down; get them out of you,” Lewis says. “Let the tears fall if they must. Let them fall because they are the elixir that cleans the soul.”
To find out more about the South Florida Dream Book Tour, visit southfloridadreambooktour.com.
Photos courtesy of David Muir
Want to be in the know about all the best events, restaurant openings and more in Boca Raton and Delray Beach? Sign up for our Boca Agenda, a biweekly newsletter that lists things to do in the area. Want a print subscription? Click here.