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Jenifer Lewis

Jenifer Lewis

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Also Known As: Jenifer Jeanette Lewis, Jennifer Lewis Died:
Born: January 25, 1957 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Kinloch, Missouri, USA Profession: singer, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

This flamboyant, gutsy singer and cabaret performer parlayed an autobiographical cabaret act called "The Diva Is Dismissed" into a buoyant career as a supporting player of in TV and film. Soon after she arrived in NYC, Jenifer Lewis began on Broadway in a small role in "Eubie" (1979), the musical based on the work of Eubie Blake. She next landed the role of Effie White in the workshop of the Michael Bennett-directed musical "Dreamgirls," but when the show moved to Broadway, Bennett chose Jennifer Holliday for the role. Undaunted, Lewis accepted a position as a Harlette, a back-up singer for Bette Midler which led to Lewis' first TV appearances on Midler's HBO specials. She also landed her first screen role as a result, appearing as one of the buxom chorines in the "Otto Titsling" production number in the Midler vehicle "Beaches" (1988). Simultaneously, Lewis was developing her nightclub act, an autobiographical comedy and music show in NYC cabarets. Word of mouth was quite good and she performed the show Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre.In 1988, Lewis relocated to Los Angeles and found herself in a decidedly dry spell, although she continued to hone her act. Finally, in 1992, she was cast as one of...

This flamboyant, gutsy singer and cabaret performer parlayed an autobiographical cabaret act called "The Diva Is Dismissed" into a buoyant career as a supporting player of in TV and film. Soon after she arrived in NYC, Jenifer Lewis began on Broadway in a small role in "Eubie" (1979), the musical based on the work of Eubie Blake. She next landed the role of Effie White in the workshop of the Michael Bennett-directed musical "Dreamgirls," but when the show moved to Broadway, Bennett chose Jennifer Holliday for the role. Undaunted, Lewis accepted a position as a Harlette, a back-up singer for Bette Midler which led to Lewis' first TV appearances on Midler's HBO specials. She also landed her first screen role as a result, appearing as one of the buxom chorines in the "Otto Titsling" production number in the Midler vehicle "Beaches" (1988). Simultaneously, Lewis was developing her nightclub act, an autobiographical comedy and music show in NYC cabarets. Word of mouth was quite good and she performed the show Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre.

In 1988, Lewis relocated to Los Angeles and found herself in a decidedly dry spell, although she continued to hone her act. Finally, in 1992, she was cast as one of the back-up singers to Delores van Cartier (Whoopi Goldberg) in "Sister Act." Goldberg sponsored several performances of "The Diva Is Dismissed" in the hopes of producing the show for HBO and while that did not come about, Hollywood took notice of Lewis. She became Dean Davenport for one season (1992-93) on the NBC sitcom "A Different World" and had a recurring role as Will's occasionally-visiting Aunt Helen on "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air." Around the same time, Lewis and practically every other black actress was auditioning for the role of Tina Turner in the biopic "What's Love Got to Do With It?" (1993). Although she had hoped to be cast as Turner, Lewis landed the role of Turner's mother and delivered a scene-stealing turn that garnered her attention. Other strong supporting roles followed, including Mrs. Coleman the Unemployment Office lady in "Renaissance Man" and as Whoopi Goldberg's sister in "Corrina, Corrina" (both 1994) In 1995, she was cast in maternal roles to Kadeem Hardison in the explosive "Panther" and to Larenz Tate in "Dead Presidents" before she accepted the role of a lesbian judge on the short-lived CBS series "Courthouse." Lewis returned to the big screen as Theresa Randle's telephone sex line boss in Spike Lee's "Girl 6" and as Whitney Houston's mother in Penny Marshall's "The Preacher's Wife" (both 1996).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Cars 3 (2017)
2.
 Playin' for Love (2016)
3.
 It Had to Be You (2015)
4.
6.
 Zambezia (2013)
7.
 Think Like a Man (2012)
8.
 Cars 2 (2011)
9.
 Hereafter (2010)
10.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Began performing her evolving cabaret act "The Diva Is Dismissed"
2008:
Co-starred in "Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns"
1991:
Played recurring role as Aunt Helen on the NBC sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air"
2009:
Voiced Mama Odie, a 197-year-old voodoo priestess in Disney's animated feature "The Princess and the Frog"
2000:
Cast as a series regular on Lifetime's "Strong Medicine," playing receptionist Lana Hawkins
2004:
Appeared in the comedy "The Cookout," co-written by Queen Latifah
2002:
Headlined and co-wrote the nightclub act "Now What?"
1984:
Appeared in the music documentary "Bette Midler: Art or Bust"
1994:
TV-movie debut, "Deconstructing Sarah" (USA Network)
1993:
Auditioned for the lead role of Tina Turner in "What's Love Got to Do With It?"; cast instead as Tina's mother Zelma Bullock
:
Became a Harlette, a back-up singer to Bette Midler
1994:
First screen collaboration with director Penny Marshall, "Renaissance Man"
1979:
Made Broadway debut in "Eubie"
1995:
Played lesbian judge on the short-lived CBS drama "Courthouse"
1992:
Cast as Dean Davenport on the NBC sitcom "A Different World"
1996:
Cast as Whitney Houston's mother in Penny Marshall's "The Preacher's Wife"
1992:
Played Whoopi Goldberg's back-up singer in "Sister Act"
1988:
Film debut, "Beaches" starring Midler
2006:
Voiced character of Flo in Pixar animated feature "Cars"
1999:
Starred in the Lifetime movie "Jackie's Back"
2011:
Reprised voice role in animated sequel "Cars 2"
2012:
Cast in the ensemble comedy "Think Like a Man"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"My mother was a maid. For my mother to be able to see me on television as a judge is a beautiful thing." --Jenifer Lewis in Out, December 1995-January 1996.

"I have a hundred names on a list of people who have died of AIDS. And when you experienced that silent war, there's only room for action. I'm not comfortable with people around me who try. Because 100 people who I've known are dead, you should do." --Lewis in the Los Angeles Times, October 19, 1993.

"I am sexual. Sexulity exudes from me. Even when I'm not putting it out. So who's behind Door Number 3 doesn't really matter. It could be a man or a woman, a goat or a chicken, five women or six men." --Jenifer Lewis in The Advocate, September 19, 1995.

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