(born January 25, 1957) is an American film and television actress, comedian and singer.
Lewis was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a nurse's aide mother and a factory worker father. She attended Kinloch High School and then college at Webster University in Webster Groves, Missouri. Soon after, she arrived in New York City, Lewis debuted 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.
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). At the same time, Lewis was developing her nightclub act, The Diva Is Dismissed, an autobiographical comedy and music show in New York City cabarets. She performed the show off-Broadway at the Public Theater.
Actress Jenifer Lewis to give Webster University commencement address
“I realized my passion at First Missionary Baptist Church in Kinloch at five years old when I stepped in front of the choir for my first solo,” stage, film and television star Jenifer Lewis told all those in attendance during her speech for Webster University’s 96th Annual Commencement Ceremony.
She would proceed to take the audience from the Muny to church for a moment Saturday morning when she jumped into a spirit filled snipped of the song – the gospel standard “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” >>continue reading
Jenifer Lewis 2015 Webster University