I didn’t have a name for what my condition was until I was thirty-three-years-old. We’re each works-in-progress for as long as we live, and I was no different. When you’re in emotional distress, your life can feel like you’re spiraling up or down at any given moment. If these ups and downs are extreme and chronic, they do damage to your mind, body, and soul, and your relationships with other people, including those who care about you most.
Recovery and healing require patience, something that is difficult for many people, and certainly was difficult for someone like me. But, I learned to submit to patience because it was either go step-by-step or die. Having patience means knowing that it is never too late to get well.
Wise words from the diva of all divas, Jenifer Lewis. In her memoir, The Mother of Black Hollywood, Ms. Lewis details her pursuit for stardom, her life in Kinloch, Missouri and the mental illness that plagued her throughout.
Jenifer Lewis is a name and a face that is instantly recognizable in the Black community. She has been in countless films, plays and television shows, including Friends, both Sister Act movies, Strong Medicine and is currently on the hit show ‘black-ish. Eleven days after graduating from college, Ms. Lewis was already performing on Broadway, and she hasn’t looked back. In her book, she details her triumphs, struggles, heartbreaks and joys in her own way, in her own style. Reading her story was eye-opening for me because I had no idea how long Ms. Lewis had been in show business. But I also had no idea about her struggles with bipolar disorder. People, it is truly a miracle that she is still here with us today, as the disorder was almost unbearable for her. She does not spare us, but instead gives us real accounts of what she went through and what it took to finally battle her demons.
What I loved about The Mother of Black Hollywood was how open Ms. Lewis is about her life. She didn’t hide anything, because as she learned during her rise to fame, secrets cause nothing but problems. And she was refreshingly honest about herself. I especially appreciated her openness about the many friends she lost during the AIDS epidemic. Those friends were real and she felt the devastation of their loss firsthand at a time when people weren’t trying to talk about it.
Jenifer Lewis is truly an icon and her work speaks for itself. But her memoir just gives us all one more reason to love her. Pick up a copy of The Mother of Black Hollywood to find out why. I highly recommend it.