In times of need, you can always call on your sister-friends for support. Just ask The Talk host and comedienne Sheryl Underwood, a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., who credits the organization’s sisterhood with getting her through some of the hardest moments of her life, like the sudden death of her husband in 1990.
Underwood first joined the graduate chapter in Chicago and then moved to Los Angeles and joined the Alpha Psi Zeta chapter. Next up, she became a state and regional officer, followed by a national appointment as director and graduate member chairman of the board. Underwood served as president of the organization from 2008-2012 and has continued to use her celebrity platform to shine a light on the organization’s accomplishments.
Today, Zeta Phi Beta celebrates 96 years in existence and we asked Underwood to speak with us about her powerful journey with the organization.
ESSENCE: Happy anniversary! How has being a zeta changed your life?
UNDERWOOD: It changed everything in my life. When I crossed in June of “90”, my husband died August of”90″. There were so many Greeks at the service and the sorors from Zeta Phi Beta chapter did everything for the repast at my dad’s house. I had just crossed. So many Greeks from the Great Lakes and the Chicago area were there. They came because a member was in need.
ESSENCE: What other gifts did sisterhood give you?
UNDERWOOD: It made me feel like I could run my own company and like I can succeed in the entertainment business and evolve with the changes. At first I was considered a nightclub comic. It was Dr. Eunice S. Thomas, the 19th international grand basileus, that’s now triumphant. She was my mentor and if she wouldn’t have been my mentor, I don’t think I would have survived everything and knew what sisterhood was really all about and be successful in my company. She really guided me to let me know that you can do this and you can evolve into a finer woman. We all need that in fact.
ESSENCE: Does that sisterhood follow you everywhere you go?
UNDERWOOD: My sorors support everything I do. Not only do they call, but they tweet too, and you see them in the airport and you see them everywhere in all cities. It’s always a common cause. When they see me, sorors are like, “I’m so proud that you take Zeta, wherever you go.” Even when I went to the White House I was wearing royal blue. Not only does sisterhood propel me, but it guides me. It orders my steps and I think that is why we are so close on the The Talk, because when I came in, I just told them, “Look, we are all about sisterhood here.”
ESSENCE: What does membership mean to you today?
UNDERWOOD: You didn’t join for just a semester or just for college. This is for life and beyond. Every time I throw up the sign, or every time I wear some paraphernalia or our colors somewhere, what I’m really trying to tell you is this is a part of your life. It’s not your entire life, but it will never go away from you. Never.
ESSENCE: It’s clear that Zeta is where your heart is. What is your message for members who aren’t always as active as they want to be?
UNDERWOOD: Zeta is a part of your life, but you can’t make it your entire life. You have to have a husband; you have to work on your business. Everything that you learned coming into Zeta, you should take it all throughout your life. Then you have to know when to tell Zeta, I’m still here, but I’m not as present as I can be because I have to deal with these things, and then your sorors are suppose to stand in the gap for you.
THE TALK airs weekdays at 2p ET/1p PT on CBS.