Why I Give: Jenifer Lewis


My affinity for the LGBT community goes way back, so far, in fact, that they’re part of my extended family. Listen, we are all God’s children. We are not here to judge anyone. We are living in very strange times right now. We all know that love prevails, and it will. Keep loving each other and be kind to everyone and no matter what; the LGBT community will thrive and all of your allies will help to lift you up. Just know that Jenny has got you.

Let me break it down for you. When you have a life in the theater—that is how I started out—everyone is LGBT, and everyone is fabulous. The creativity in the community—from hairdresser to directors—is off­ the charts. If I’m not in a scene I’m always in the make-up room cutting up with the queens.

I’ve performed many of my shows at the Center’s Renberg Theatre over the years.  When I do a show there, I donate the proceeds back to the Center. You get to perform to the best, most diverse audiences, they have an incredible crew, and you get to give back. You step on stage and the love you receive is truly overwhelming.

It is much more than a show when you come to the Center. Cultural Arts Director Jon Imparato told me recently that over the years I have raised close to $150,000 for the Center’s programs. You have no idea how good that makes me feel.

It’s important to support the Center because we all have to do our part. I adopted my daughter, Charmaine, several years ago and she is now a beautiful young woman. Now, we both do our part. It is all about the resistance. March, write letters, make calls, do something to be involved. The Center is a great place to start.

When people ask what the Center means to me, I tell them,“Everything!” A few years ago, I took a tour with Lorri Jean, your amazing CEO, and I was speechless. I remember I got in the car afterward and just sobbed. I knew about The Village, but I had no idea the scope of work that the Center does—it is staggering. I want everyone who reads this to take a tour. It will change your life. There is no organization like it on the planet. Go check it out for yourself. Run, don’t walk.

Over the years, the Center has become an artistic home for me. It’s a playground for me to tell stories, make people laugh, and sing my ass off. I’m doing my next show on Saturday, January 26, which is my birthday. We will be discussing my book, The Mother of Black Hollywood, and I will be singing and showing out. It is a birthday party so we are going to raise the roof and carry on. Tickets are already on sale and it will sell out. I don’t want any of you calling me to get in because you tried to buy tickets late.

Jenifer Lewis co-stars in the ABC sitcom Black-ish and will perform her new show The Mother of Black Hollywood at the Center’s Renberg Theatre on January 26.

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