The Mother of Black Hollywood: Here Are 6 Films In Which Jenifer Lewis Played The Typical Black Mom We Know

BY Dora Abena Dzaka January 28, 2024 7:59 PM EDT

Jenifer Lewis traveled to Hollywood via Broadway and cabaret, but she was only able to land a few small film and TV roles. 

She made her big screen starring debut when the director considered casting her as Tina Turner’s mother in the 1993 film What’s Love Got to Do With It?

In the film, Jenifer Lewis also portrayed the matriarch, a part that would come to define her.

Equipped with her jaw-dropping one-liners, Lewis launched a nearly twenty-five-year career as the mother, aunt, or grandmother of stars such as Will Smith, Tupac Shakur, Whitney Houston, and others. 

At 67, Jenifer Lewis is a deserving recipient of recognition; in light of her six NAACP Image Awards and two SAG nominations

Let us revisit her iconic mother roles to remind her fans why she is referred to as The Mother of Black Hollywood.


In the ABC series, Lewis portrays the wise Ruby Johnson, the mother of Tracee Ellis Ross’s character (Rainbow) and mother-in-law of Anthony Anderson’s character. Black-ish lasted seven seasons running from 2014 to 2022.

Think Like A Man and Think Like A Man Too

Lewis plays Ms. Loretta, Terrence J’s overbearing mother, in these entertaining romantic comedy films.

Princess and The Frog

In the 2009 animated picture The Princess and the Frog, Jenifer Lewis portrayed Mama Odie, a 197-year-old voodoo priestess who lived deep in Louisiana’s marshes.

Meet The Browns

Lewis’s comic approach to the role of Vera Brown, the half-sister of Angela Bassett’s Brenda in Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns (2008), was evident in both the play and the movie.

What’s Love Got to Do With It? (1993)

 As the mother of young Anna Mae, played by Angela Bassett in the film, Zelma Bullock, Jenifer Lewis was dubious about her daughter’s infatuation with local musician Ike Turner. Although she thought Anna Mae would be a great asset to the family business, she harbored misgivings about both her professional life and her relationship with Ike.

The Preacher’s Wife (1996)

In The Preacher’s Wife, Jenifer Lewis portrayed Marguerite Coleman, a woman with strong feelings over the relationship between her daughter Julia (played by Whitney Houston) and Denzel Washington’s character, Dudley. She doesn’t hold back when she gives her daughter, played by Courtney B, advice regarding her marital difficulties.