As far as I’m concerned, Jenifer is a national treasure. She acts, she sings, she dances, and if you have her tell it, she was raised on the Broadway stage. Along with performing in her own one-woman shows, she’s played damn near everybody’s momma or favorite auntie on television and in film. She’s also been known to steal a scene or two, but it’s not on purpose. She’s just doing her.
I interviewed Jenifer a while back and when I asked her to name her favorite actor, she took a long pause. So I tossed out some names to get the ball rolling and she nodded in agreement, but only about a select few. Then she spoke up. “You really have to bring it to entertain me, honey,” she said, and tossed me her signature side-eye. “When I’m on screen, have you seen me give 100 percent... or 500 percent? I require that from everybody.”
For the record, she finally did give kudos to a fellow thespian whom she felt deserving – Morgan Freeman – but her words really struck me, and I think of them often. While I certainly appreciate being entertained, what I took from our chat is that giving your best is key, whether you’re performing for an audience, working the register, teaching math class or making your mark in the boardroom. It’s about showing up and representing yourself, well and consistently.
So, as I pay this life lesson forward today, I’d also like to thank Jenifer for keeping it real and reminding us to stay on our toes. Giving 500 percent of yourself might sound like a whole lot, but if you’re not willing to go hard, shouldn’t you be heading home?
Regina R. Robertson is the West Coast Editor for ESSENCE Follow her on Twitter @reginarobertson.