'Black-Ish' Star Jenifer Lewis Can Sing — Here's a Look at Her Impressive Music Career

Before Jenifer Lewis starred in 'Black-Ish' and 'Grown-Ish,' she got her start on Broadway and as Bette Midler's backup singer.

Sarah Kester - Author
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Mar. 13 2024, Published 3:12 p.m. ET

A woman of many talents, Jenifer Lewis has been acting since the '80s and has more than 300 credits to her name to show for it. Some of her most notable roles include Sister Act, The Princess and the Frog, and Black-ish. In 2024, she made a cameo in Jennifer Lopez’s film This Is Me… Now.

Many of her roles involve singing. This is no coincidence — the Missouri native is a triple threat as an actress, dancer, and singer. Here's a look at her music career.

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Jenifer Lewis's singing career began when she got her start on Broadway.

After majoring in theater arts at Webster University in Webster Groves, Mo., Jenifer packed up her life and moved to New York. With her immense talent, it’s no surprise that she booked her first job on Broadway only two weeks later — a small role in the 1979 show Eubie.

With a knack for the stage, Jenifer landed Broadway show after Broadway show, such as Comin’ Uptown with Gregory Hines and Rock and Roll: The First Five Thousand Years. Throughout her career, she has starred in several major roles.

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This includes Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray, Yvette in George Wolfe’s Mother Courage, and playing herself in her one-woman show, The Diva Is Dismissed.

Jenifer Lewis was a backup singer for Bette Midler.

Jenifer had been working at Don’t Tell Mama, a cabaret bar, when the Hollywood icon recruited her to become one of her Harlettes on tour.

At the time, a 1983 article from the New York Times gave Jenifer's singing chops and star potential a rave review.

“She already has the aura and the confidence and the projection of a star,” the article read. “She is the very essence of show business — a singer with a dazzling voice, a high-kicking dancer, a lusty comedienne, a coiled spring of energy.”

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You have probably heard Jenifer Lewis's singing voice in film and on TV.

Jenifer’s recognizable voice has been heard a lot over the years, particularly by Disney fans.

She provided the voice of Mama Odie in the animated feature The Princess and the Frog. She got to reprise her vocal role for the re-opening of Tiana's Bayou Adventure ride at Disneyland and Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

Jenifer has also lent her voice to other voice acting roles, such as Flo in Cars and Cars 2 and Motown Turtle in Shark Tale.

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In her personal life, Jenifer has become a mental health advocate by sharing her experience with her bipolar disorder, which is a mental health disorder characterized by “unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and concentration" which can "make it difficult to carry out day-to-day tasks,” per NIMH.

In Jenifer's Memoir, The Mother of Black Hollywood, she revealed how an undiagnosed bipolar disorder and sex addiction caused her to behave in her 20s.

“Performing on Broadway was a rush," she wrote.

"The applause coming over the footlights was like a tsunami in slow motion. The crash after the show, I assure you, is just as intense,” she continued.

“Let’s just say that post show I had a sort of habit of sex serving as a night cap. I was Cleopatra, Pam Grier, Marilyn Monroe, and Jezebel rolled into one. For me, nothing could extend the thrill of a standing ovation like great sex with a gorgeous guy.”

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