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Obscure Black C-Listers: Jenifer Lewis

14 March 2008 8 Comments

Even though Jenifer Lewis isn’t too obscure considering she’s been pretty much EVERYWHERE in tv and movies for the past 30 years, even if you knew her name already you probably didn’t realize that it only has one ‘n’. Jenifer Lewis is actually a real Diva – with years of experience on Broadway, she’s carved out a path for herself and her one-woman shows, which include singing and impersonations of various characters, and has dozens of credits to her name. I, for one, would looooove to see her show, because like most black c-listers she always plays the same part – if you need a loud, perfunctory auntie or mother who’s still “got it goin‘ on” Jennifer Lewis has been your best bet for the past 20 years or so (even though she’s only 50 now). I really like her EXCEPT the fact that she was in what I consider the worst movie ever, Nora’s Hair Salon. She played a loud, perfunctory hairdresser who – spoiler alert – lived on after her untimely death through her extra-special relaxer formula (back in my Brooklyn days I was watching this movie over the phone with some dude, and the thug actually cried…over some hair perm!). I’ll give her props for her season on A Different World as “Dean Dorothy Dandridge Davenport,” and further props to whoever wrote that uber-colored name into the show. I also loved her as Toni’s mother on Girlfriends, a perfect casting choice considering the near-congenital overbite but that give both her and Jill Marie Jones their characteristic look. I don’t do Tyler Perry movies (if I sound like a snob, that’s because I am one), but she’s in the new one playing a…well…you know.


  • AverageBro said:

    She was also the voice of the sassy green Deville in my son’s favorite movie (this week at least), Disney Pixar’s Cars.

  • A.S.K. said:

    Her best role: Angela Bassette’s mother in What’s Love Got To Do With It.

    The only person who can take a drag on a cigarette while squinting and exhale through the nose with more conviction than Jenifer is the chick who played Wesley Snipes’ wife in White Men Can’t Jump and Ice Cube and Morris Chestnut’s mom in Boyz In The Hood…

  • Thembi said:

    Haha, yes! Like she’s inhaling and blowing smoke at the same time.

  • Invisible Woman said:

    Worse than Nora’s Hair Salon squared was her movie “The Cookout”, which I don’t think will ever be replaced in my head as worst film ever made.

  • Julian said:

    I love her. I saw her at an event in LA, and these two gay white men were staring at her while she was drinking at the bar, cheesing real hard, like “I know you!” and she cut a look at them and growled, “What are you two daisies glaring at? Yes, it’s me and I love you too.”

    I’m pretty sure they orgasmed right there from all that divaness.

  • Aaliyah said:

    i have to co-sign on that. i LOVE her. my favorite is her role as the mom in THE BROTHERS. i love that movie, mostly because i love just about any romantic comedy (except Alex & Emma), but she was awesome divaness to the max!

  • Anonymous said:

    She had a movie out called Jackie’s Back and it was hilarious, it’s on DVD

  • jazzfan360 said:

    YES! Jackie’s Back is a great, great, great unsung contribution to pop culture. Jenifer Lewis is an incredibly dynamic performer, and truly one of my favorites. I’ve always loved her to death. But even I couldn’t suffer through more than ten minutes of Nora’s Hair Salon (and I’m a snob too, so you know I only even *attempted* it for her…well, and for Donn Swaby, a great actor in spite of the movie). She was great on A Different World and Fresh Prince, and doesn’t everybody have an aunt like her?

    I can’t stand anything by Tyler Perry, but I am really excited for her with the new movie, because it’s a major role that’s REALLY flashy and chewy (bipolar, alcoholic, screaming over-the-top aunt) and for some reason tons of people from all races love his stuff and so it’s a seriously high-profile gig for her, and that will lead to more (and hopefully better) work. Actually, it already has–I just read yesterday that she’s headed back to Broadway, replacing Darlene Love as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray. And good on her. I love that woman.

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