You may know Dawnn Lewis best from her days as Jalessa on “A Different World,” but this actress, songwriter, singer and businesswoman hasn’t slowed down with costarring roles alongside Eddie Murphy and other big names, running her own production company and readying her return to the New York stage in this summer’s revival of “The Wiz.”
Dawnn was the last original star of “A Different World” to join the cast, alongside Lisa Bonet and Marisa Tomei, in 1987. Originally, producers wanted someone younger looking to play the role of a freshman, but they decided to cast Lewis as a an upperclassman.
“It’s interesting because I’m actually younger than a lot of the other actors; but it was my height [that gave me an older look],” she remembers with a laugh.
Dawnn’s favorite episode of “A Different World” was when she and Jasmine Guy’s character Whitley played Gladys Knight’s Pips. She had met the soul singer a year earlier and was awestruck.
“She and I became friends and spend time together,” Dawnn says.
Dawnn remembers her “Different World” days with a smile. She wrote the show’s theme song and fought to have her name included in the credits for her work.
“This is show business, and you have to be mindful of the business part to last [in this industry]. We always hear of artists who end up broke and that doesn’t have to be the case.”
Dawnn works her stuff on the “Soul Train” dance floor in a scene from “I’m Gonna Get Your Sucka.”
Dawnn’s production company created the show “Black Jaq,” which was a pilot for ABC. Nia Long starred in the sitcom and Forest Whitaker was on as director.
Dawnn made her way to the big screen in 1988 as Cheryl in “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.”
Yep, that’s Dawnn under all that makeup as Blabberwart in the TV miniseries, “The 10th Kingdom”.
“I’ve had so many great experiences,” she says. “I’ve been a troll, played a slave and so much more.”
Dawnn gets into character on the set of “The Cherokee Kid.”
Dawnn left “A Different World” before the last season and landed a lead role on “Hanging With Mr. Cooper.” She and costar Holly Robinson Peete sang the show’s theme song with EnVogue.
Dawnn hangs on the set of “The Wood” with her delectable costars.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my career to spend time with some amazing people who I now call friends,” she says.
Dawnn and the cast of “The PJ’s,” which featured her and her “Dreamgirls” costars Eddie Murphy and Loretta Devine, squeeze in for a quick picture.
Dawnn started college in Florida as a opera singer, and became the pioneer of their major in musical theater. She also minored in journalism.
Dawnn and Anika Noni Rose may have been in love with the same man—Eddie Murphy—in “Dreamgirls,” but off-screen they quickly bonded.
Dawnn was honored to be hand-selected by “Dreamgirls” director Bill Condon to play the small role of Eddie Murphy’s wife Melba Early.
“He told me he needed someone who could make something out of nothing,” she says. “I was thrilled to be a part of it and to give good face.”
Dawnn works the red carpet at the BET Awards in 2004.
Wonder where all your favorite onscreen sisters have gone? They are hanging with Dawnn Lewis. Here’s a picture of Dawnn with Kiki Shepard, Jackee Harry and Victoria Rowell at a fundraiser for KiKi’s K.I.S. foundation for Sickle Cell. Dawnn is a board member and the group raised enough money for a bone marrow transplant for Paisley, pictured below.
Dawnn plays Dorien Wilson’s wife on the HBO series “Dream On.” The two were reunited as husband in wife in the stage play “The Divorce.” In real life she is open to meeting that special guy to share her fabulous life with—and isn’t waiting for Prince Charming to show up to have a great time.
Dawnn lends her voice to a fund-raiser for President Obama during the campaign. After years of fans and friends requesting her to release an album, she finally recorded “Worth Waiting For,” available in stores and online at Dawnnlewis.com.
In her busy schedule, Dawnn Lewis makes sure to carve out time to visit schools and inspire students.
Songwriting and singing have earned Dawnn many awards including a Grammy, a Trumpet award, two gold records, three BMIs, an Ascap award and NAACP Image award.
“I’ve had a very, very blessed career,” Dawnn says. “It goes through every genre.”
“I work hard but I also play hard,” Dawnn says. “I ride horses. I scuba dive. I play golf.”
Dawnn has enjoyed working with some of the hottest stars but makes it a practice not to date her costars or those she works with.
Dawnn starred as the lead in the original stage version of “Sister Act: The Musical,” and is excited to return to musicals in “The Wiz” this summer.
Since the age of 9, Dawnn has been on the stage and even appeared on “Sesame Street” at 11. And the multitalented entertainer has no plans of slowing down.