Fall is here. Golden leaves are shaking loose from their branches, and blanketing the sidewalks. Soon, winter will come, and after that, spring. Seasons fluctuate. We all know that. Yet, in the midst of it all, is perhaps the biggest season of Sherri Shepherd’s life, where the actress, Emmy-winning co-host of ABC’s “The View,” and author, is storming the entertainment industry with her laugh-out-loud humor, down-to-earth personality, and an angelic smile that can brighten any moment with its beauty and charm.
Though Shepherd humbly began her career as a stand-up comedienne, there is no doubt she is exploding into a media icon. Her name alone now commands a coveted Tuesday night slot on the Lifetime Network, where she stars in “Sherri,” playing a single mother whose husband (Malcolm Jamal-Warner) had an affair with a younger, White woman, a page straight out of Shepherd’s life and former marriage.
Part of Shepherd’s appeal is that she’s a good sport, who takes things as they come, and uses her influence to expose what most of us would want to keep private. Shepherd’s recipe for success is to be herself, no matter what; be real about the sadness and pain life can sometimes bring; laugh about that pain; then share it with others.
Co-host, author, and sitcom diva? Seems like Hollywood can’t get enough of Shepherd. Yet when she hears the word “mogul” attached to her name, she laughs. “That just doesn’t correlate with the woman at home in her sweats. When I picture this woman named Sherri with a big T-shirt on, and her son is playing with her wig and showing her his poop, I don’t feel like a mogul by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t feel like I have an empire, but I do feel like I’m living a dream. God is blessing me to do the things that I love doing,” Shepherd said.
High on the list of things she loves to do: encourage women—especially African-American women—to take care of their bodies, and to make people laugh. The latter is a gift that pours out of Shepherd as effortlessly as cream being stirred into coffee. “I love to make people feel better by laughing, so I know where I fit in this world,” Shepherd said.
If Shepherd seems to effortlessly embrace her success, it may be because even with a hectic, out-of-control schedule, one constant throughout her transition from funny lady to hilarious superstar, is prayer and meditation. “I have to give time to God, because if you make time for God, He’ll make time for you. I can’t function without prayer. Even this morning I was on my knees, and I was [thinking], ‘Lord, my knees are killing me,’ and I just got on my couch and looked at the sky, because sometimes it gets overwhelming with everything I’m doing,” Shepherd said. She doesn’t just spend that time reflecting on the grace she has experienced. She also prays for others.
Her faith and the support of friends enabled Shepherd to step out of her comfort zone to accept Barbara Walters’ invitation to join “The View.”
Shepherd admits that between caring for her son, who was born premature, and being fearful that she could not adequately do the job, she had declined more than once. Eventually, she accepted, and received a call from Star Jones (former co-host of “The View”), and was encouraged. “She told me don’t try to fill her shoes, but to be myself. I got over that I wasn’t supposed to be this legal brainiac or political analyst. I may not be able to take apart the ins and outs of the health care bill, but I know there is something I do that takes the pain away [from viewers],” Shepherd said.
On Nov. 7, Shepherd will make an appearance at Good Taste! Pittsburgh, where she will chow on local fare, and promote her new book, “Permission Slips: Every Woman’s Guide to Giving Herself a Break.” Shepherd said she was inspired to write the book after a series of negative critiques surfaced about an accidental slip of the tongue she’d made during “The View.”
“[With] everything I read, my spirit just got lower and lower. I told [fellow co-host] Whoopi Goldberg I felt stupid. She gathered all the ladies [of “The View”] around, and supported me. I realized we have to cut ourselves some slack, and I had to do that. Some of the stories in my life are quite painful. I was diagnosed with diabetes. Women have to give ourselves permission to drop everything,” Shepherd said.