Introduced to millions as “Cousin Geri”, Geri Jewell has risen to become a leading force in disabilities advocacy. Geri started her acting career as the personal choice of famed producer Norman Lear for her role as Cousin Geri on the ground-breaking NBC sitcom, “The Facts of Life”. With this role she became the first person with a visible disability to become a regular performer on a national, prime-time television show. During her run on the show she broke barriers by addressing issues of disability awareness.
Geri is not only an exceptional actress and comedienne, she is internationally recognized as a powerful and motivational speaker and trainer. She is famous for her uncanny ability to captivate the hearts of audiences by using humor to facilitate attitude changes. Geri brings to her presentations personal experience of having her behavior and actions misunderstood because of her cerebral palsy. By sharing her disability as her greatest blessing, and revealing insights about the world as she sees it, Geri turns the focus from disabilities to a true celebration of ability, resulting in an inspiring, empowering and healing experience.
Geri’s advocacy also transforms into her workshop and training skills. She is one of the original trainers in the internationally recognized disability awareness training program, WINDMILLS. Her knowledge of workforce development, transitioning, and human relation skills assists her in the development of many exciting workshops.
Geri continues to entertain many with her acting. She was personally selected to be part of the Emmy winning HBO series, “Deadwood” where she became qualified to be nominated for an individual Emmy for her portrayal of “Jewell”. She is also a re-occurring character on, “Young and the Restless” and was recently featured on “Strong Medicine”. If holding three roles at one time wasn’t enough, Geri just made her film debut in an independent feature that was recently shown at the Tribecca and Fort Lauderdale Film Festivals.
Geri has been honored by the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, DC with their highest honor, The Victory Award and participated in the inauguration of President Obama at the United Cerebral Palsy Power and Pride Ball, the first and only inaugural activity for people with disabilities.
The next chapter of Geri’s life is perhaps one of the most exciting. In April of 2011, she released her autobiography, “I’m Walking As Straight As I Can: Transcending Disability in Hollywood and Beyond”. Not only does she write about her journey as a person with a disability but for the first time discusses her struggles with her sexual identity over the years. It is a wonderfully open and frank look at both aspects of her life.
The book has also opened many new doors for her. She was selected to be a keynote speaker at the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and was recently selected by Ernst & Young to be their featured speaker at their annual luncheon at the Out & Equal Business Summit which attracted 2,600 hundred people from 46 state and 34 countries.
Even with all of her speaking activities she is continuing her acting career. She recently filmed her first episode of “Alcatraz”, a new FX series which will be airing in February of 2012.
“You are a tremendously bright, witty and endearing person, both on stage and off. Your speech was one of the true highlights of our conference: at the same time hilarious, moving, inspirational, and thought- provoking. I admire your dedication and your stamina...and appreciate the importance of the message that you deliver."
Jeff Schimber, Sr. VP