@JackeeHarry on Love, Legacy and the Women Who Changed Her Life

Like many women, Jackée Harry is a surrogate sister-friend in our minds. The “227” and “Sister, Sister” star continues to bring an unforgettable dose of sweet and sass to the stage and screen. And with more than 25 years in show business, Harry has no plans of slowing down. The southern star tells how she stays active off camera, which famous women shaped her career and why she wants more women to chase their dreams.

What women have inspired you the most?

Personally, Della Reese is one of my idols. She’s a wonderful woman, a great and loving leader, and a minister now. She was one of the first women to be on the night show with Johnny Carson for years. Nobody talks about her like they do Joan Rivers. All my teachers also inspired me and molded me into who I am. Professionally, Diahann Carroll is my goddess. She taught me about jewelry (laughs). I know it sounds superficial. She taught me to separate real diamonds and pearls from fake ones. The meaning of that is what’s important in life and what’s not. She showed me how to relax in your celebrity and not be afraid of being successful. Because a lot of people are. They get up there and don’t want to outshine anyone. Sometimes you have to stand out.

Very true. It was inspiring to see you try and get fit in front of the world on Celebrity Fit Club 2. How was that experience and what workouts do you do now?
I tell you one thing. It is a drag for people to watch you lose weight. It’s no fun at all. It was a good thing to do; I just won’t to do it again. It’s hard to lose weight. Food is like love and you gotta have it. Now, I run and hike. I hiked about eight miles the other day. It’s fun because I like looking at people and the scenery.

Speaking of reality TV, you and Regina King were hilarious on Andy Cohen’s show. He also mentioned your ringtones available with lines from “227,” which is smart as another stream of income. As an entertainer, was the business part always important to you?
No. With so many reality shows and the ways things are going, you have to find your niche. I hate to say that at this stage of my career, but I have to find where I belong. It’s not easy figuring that out, but I am.

You certainly have a special place with many of us. So what is the Jackée legacy?
Maybe the fact that I have lasted this long. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the way people treat me. We don’t always think its important but it is. I’m glad I am here and want to help other young women achieve their goals and not be afraid. Sometimes it’s not easy to last. You look around and you are alone. There are more Black actors but still not enough. I encourage all my young sisters to stay strong and stay committed. If you want to have family or children, you can do that. If you have a commitment to the arts – singing, dancing, acting- don’t forget it and hone it. My main message is children grow up and they leave home and you are left. Always have something of your own.