Watch Icon Jenifer Lewis Read From Her Autobiography, The Mother of Black Hollywood

In November, the actor Jenifer Lewis published her memoir,
The Mother of Black Hollywood, and it is a title she
earned. Since the 1970s and ’80s, she has been dominating
Broadway and movies with her effervescent spirit and voice,
starring in a slew of memorable, maternal roles, including
The Fresh Prince’s Aunt Helen as well as in Poetic
, What’s Love Got to Do With
Girlfriends and, most recently,

In the book, Lewis details her ambition and rise to iconic-mom
status in Hollywood and Broadway, while also illuminating her
struggles—with bipolar disorder, with addiction to sex. But as
Jezebel discovered when she visited us earlier this month, she
has dealt with life as it comes with enthusiasm, strength, and
inimitable charm. In this clip, her spirit and storytelling
skills—with her, a complete art form—come alive as she reads a
chapter from her book about a junior high school encounter with
truancy, “Fat Jackie, the town prostitute,” and her first-ever
lesson about sex. “Always! Check! The meat!”

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