Jenifer Lewis has played the mother of many actors in Hollywood —from Angela Bassett’s mother in What’s Love Got to Do With It? to Tupac’s mom in Poetic Justice. On her birthday, we caught up with the talent about life, her book The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir and advice to young actors.
“I always knew I would write a book, which is one of the reasons I kept journals throughout my life,” she told ESSENCE. “But the thing that really helped me to decide is the Internet. I realized that I had the ear and the attention of so many people, especially young people, and the time felt right.”
“As I say in the book — I feel that I owe my story in the hope that it will inspire or entertain people — young, old, gay, women, whoever — to pursue their dream. Especially now, when we are in the midst of this enormous struggle for civil rights and for the environment.”
Acting has been Jenifer’s passion for years and having starred in numerous films, plays and TV movies, she knows a thing or two (or three) about what it takes to be the best.
“If you don’t love acting more than anything, then run as fast as you can in the opposite direction! If you love it, then every day, you must do something devoted to your dream. You are not an actor if you are not acting,” Lewis said.
Although we see the glitz and glam of her life and career, the black-ish actress also reflects on her youth as she wrote the book about some hard losses she had to endure.
“The hardest part of the whole experience was to re-live the death and suffering of so many of my friends because of HIV/AIDS. When you are in your 20s and 30s, you don’t expect to lose so many friends who are your age! We still have a long way to go in terms of awareness and making sure people who are living with HIV have our support.”
At the end of the day, Lewis hopes her memoir helps people to think something, or to feel something, that is useful to them.
To us, it definitely has.