Actress Jenifer Lewis returned home to the St. Louis area ahead of her upcoming conversation at her alum Webster University for a fundraiser featuring her latest book, Walking in My Joy in These Streets.
“I was standing there thinking, ‘What a headline. Actress Jenifer Lewis was Gored by a Cape Buffalo in the Serengeti.”
Lewis was planning her obit while staring down the huge mammal that looks more like a fat steer, with extremely long curved horns. She almost celebrated her demise while on safari in Africa.
“Do I take risks? Yes, I do.”
She listed those risks and rewards in her new book from HarperCollins Publishers. She would share them at Webster University where she graduated from the Sargent Conservatory in 1979. The Kinloch, MO., native lives a life of calculated risks that culminated in entertainment success so solid she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in July 2022. The 65-year-old I Love that for Youco-star remembered what she told witnesses at the time.
“It wasn’t the work on-camera and on-stage that got me to where I am. I always had talent. It was the work I did off.”
In her early 20’s Lewis was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental illness that she describes with heartbreaking accuracy.
“Those dark rooms. Those dark clouds. That extreme depression and that mania. Oh Lord! That dangerous mania. Speeding the car. Oh, the spending! God help us all.”
The American Psychological Association says not all those living with the disorder experience the depression Lewis describes, but they all experience mania. That mania can also show in long hours with no sleep and constant activity.
With several books and countless speaking engagements, Lewis bares all about her diagnosis. During this time when mental illness is often blamed for atrocities like mass shootings, she wants everyone to know that mental illness does not equal evil.
“I didn’t know I was sick, but my mama taught me to care about people. She taught me generosity. That’s why I give back so much now.”
So when she received her Hollywood star, she took a second to lovingly admonish her fans, “Get you’re a—out and vote!”
In her new book, she gives others the courage to push their limits, find what they love, and live as if their obituary will be printed tomorrow.
“I went out in the Pacific Ocean. Three big waves came. I was washed. The lifeguard came about and pulled me out.”
And through her book, she wanted others to know that what does not kill you gives you a chance to try it again.
“Think I’m not going into the ocean again? I live while I live.” Fans at An Evening with Jenifer Lewis can learn all about the risks she took while living her best life. The ticket price includes a copy of her latest book, while supplies last. Lewis will appear at the Webster University Loretto-Hilton Center on Saturday, November 5 at 5:30 p.m. CDT. Proceeds will benefit the Jenifer Lewis Endowed Sargent Conservatory Fund. Learn more at Webster.edu/JeniferLewis