‘I am Now at the Happiest Place In the World’: Actress Jenifer Lewis Denies Retirement Two Years After Recovering from Near-Death Plunge from Balcony

While promoting her new Disney project, actress Jenifer Lewis reflected on her illustrious career at 67 including a recent revelation two years after a 10 feet fall.

In November 2022, the seasoned Broadway performer was in an accident that nearly ended her life while vacationing in the Serengeti region of Tanzania.

Her role on “black-ish” as grandmother Ruby had ended five months earlier, and she planned to retire.

jenifer lewis on 10 foot fall
Jenifer Lewis is living life with no regrets two years after falling from a 10-foot balcony. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)

But tradegy struck when Lewis fell off a hotel balcony and into a pit of “pitch black” darkness. She recovered quietly and only recently began sharing her story of how she heard a lion roaring while waiting for help and had to relearn how to walk after the freak accident.

“I ain’t going nowhere, that’s why God sat me down from that fall,” Lewis told Atlanta Black Star during an exclusive interview on the red carpet premiere of her new project.

“He said, ‘let me show you what it feels like to sit down. Let me show you what it feels like to sit down Ms. Lewis, now get up and do what you know you ‘posed to be doing,” she shared.

Unfamiliar with the property, the “Meet the Browns” star explained that she walked onto her deck to view the infinity pool but tragically fell into a dry ravine filled with boulders and sharp rocks due to an unclosed section of the deck.

She was airlifted by a team from Doctors Without Borders to Nairobi, Kenya, where she learned she had fractured her acetabulum, the hip socket. She endured a nine-hour surgery, replacing her acetabulum with titanium.

Following three blood transfusions, six days in the ICU, and a total of 10 days hospitalized, Lewis emerged from this ordeal physically and mentally challenged but profoundly grateful to be alive.

“The Jamie Foxx Show” star described her path as one marked by hard work and noted her profound sense of pride to still do the things she loves.

She was asked at a promotional event for the new project, “What is the challenge that you’ve had to overcome and you’re now in this moment here in the present?”

After noting that this was a great question, Lewis dramatically said, “Well let’s quote the song ‘Almost There,” which was sung by actress and fellow performer Anika Noni Rose in the “The Princess & Frog” movie.

‘Trials and tribulations, I’ve had my share.’ The difference between me and Tiana, I’m not almost there. I’m there,” Lewis continued saying.

“I’m 67 years old, young lady and I have been to the mountain top and I have been in the valley, and here I am now at the happiest place in the world. It doesn’t get any better,” said the author of “The Mother of Black Hollywood.” “But it’s work. Don’t let me be flippant about it. Life is work.”

Lewis began showcasing her work ethic and skills on Broadway in the 1979 musical, “Eubie” and later in the workshop of “Dreamgirls” as the original Effie, which went to Jennifer Holliday,” and “Hairspray.”

At one point, the multi-hyphenate became a “Hartlette” background singer for Bett Midler before kickstarting her career on television in shows in the 1990s like “Murphy Brown,” “In Living Color,” “Roc,” “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper,” “A Different World” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Decades after getting her first acting gig, she started getting cast in films like “Sister Act,” “Poetic Justice,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “Think Like A Man,” and multiple Tyler Perry movies. She has also starred in series and voiced characters in animated series such as “The PJs,” “Girlfriends” as Toni Child’s mother, and kids shows like “Big Hero 6: The Series” and “Princess Power.”

In 2018, Lewis was cast in the ABC sitcom “black-ish” as grandmother Ruby, a role that lasted six years and introduced her to a new generation of fans. While on the show, she used her platform to talk about her bipolar disorder.

In her autobiography, she shared that she was diagnosed with the disorder in the 1990s and has since become a vocal advocate for mental health awareness. While she has explained how frightening it was for her before she got help, the scariest and most threatening moment to her livelihood was not the management of her mind, but body.

“I was like, hey, whatever you want, babe, just don’t throw me down no more,” added Lewis during her interview.

This level of resilience has fueled her disposition while filming and promoting the new Disney attraction.

“Tiana’s Bayou Adventure” is slated to open at Magic Kingdom Park in Walt Disney World Resort on June 28. This highly anticipated ride will transport guests through the vibrant Louisiana bayou alongside Princess Tiana and her friends, offering a blend of captivating storytelling, water rides, and thrilling moments.

Lewis, who voices Mama Odie in “The Princess and the Frog,” praised the ride’s creators for their authentic representation of New Orleans. She noted that the experience beautifully captures the essence of the Big Easy.

According to Lewis, the director meticulously ensured that the music, cuisine, and unique nuances of the city were faithfully represented in the amusement park attraction. This dedication to authenticity makes the attraction a true ode to New Orleans culture.

“They captured New Orleans beautifully. They captured the culture from Mama Odie’s beignets. You’ll see,” she said.

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