Jenifer Jeanette Lewis (born January 25, 1957) is an American actress, singer and activist. She began her career appearing in Broadway musicals and worked as a back-up singer for Bette Midler before appearing in films Beaches (1988) and Sister Act (1992). Lewis is known for playing roles of mothers in the films What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993), Poetic Justice (1993), The Preacher’s Wife (1996), The Brothers (2001), Think Like a Man and in the sequel Think Like a Man Too (2014), Baggage Claim (2013), and The Wedding Ringer (2015), as well as in The Temptations TV miniseries (1998).
As such, Lewis earned the title “Black Mother of Hollywood”. She also provided the voice for Mama Odie in Disney’s animated feature The Princess and the Frog (2009). Additional film roles include Dead Presidents (1995), Cast Away (2000), and Hereafter (2010).
On television, Lewis starred as Lana Hawkins in the Lifetime medical drama Strong Medicine from 2000 to 2006. She also had recurring roles on sitcoms A Different World, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Girlfriends. In 2014, Lewis began starring as Ruby Johnson in the ABC comedy series Black-ish, for which she received two Critics’ Choice Television Award nominations. She is known unofficially as “The Mother of Black Hollywood” (also the name of her memoir) given her frequent matriarchal film and television roles.