1. People & Relationships

Geraldine Ann Jewell - Cerebral Palsy

By

Disability:

Cerebral Palsy

Geraldine Ann Jewell:

Geraldine Ann Jewell, a.k.a. Geri Jewell, was born on September 13, 1956 in Buffalo, New York. Geri was born with cerebral palsy, due to an accident her mother suffered while she was six month's pregnant. A car had lost control and had hit Geri's mother in their front yard. Geri was born prematurely the following morning, weighing a mere three pounds. In her book, I'm Walking as Straight as I Can, Geri details the entire incident, complete with her first press release. The local paper wrote about the accident and gave the headline, "Precious Jewell in the Glass Case." It would be several months before she could survive outside of an incubator.

Survive, she did. Even though doctor's suggested that she be given up and raised in a state institution (for the good of the mother and child!), her parents stood firm and insisted on bringing up their own child, disabled or not.

At the age of 22 she worked as a comedienne at The Comedy Store. Two years later, she was introduced to television writing great, Norman Lear. The rest, as they say, is history. She became the first disabled actress to land a recurring role on a television series, as well as the first actress with cerebral palsy to have a recurring role on a television series. The ground-breaking television show was Facts of Life, and Geri appeared on the show from 1980 to 1984.

Career

Geri's career didn't end with the Facts of Life, rather it had just begun. She went on to appear on several television series including On Stage America, 21 Jump Street, and most recently, Deadwood (on HBO), Alcatraz and Strong Medicine.

Geri completed the movie Pie Head: A Kinda True Story in 2012, and as of this writing, was filming the movie My Next Breath, of which she is the producer. The movie is scheduled for release in 2014.

Awards

Ms. Jewell is the recipient of several awards for her work as an advocate for the disabled. She has won the following awards for her efforts:
  • 1992 Founders Award
  • 2005 Independent Living Legacy Award
  • 2006 National Rehabilitation Hospital Victory Award

Books

Geri has also penned several autobiographical books, providing personal details about her life working as an actress, being disabled, and in her second book, as a lesbian. The titles are as follows:
  • Geri, 1984 with Stewart Weiner
  • I'm Walking as Straight as I Can: Transcending Disability in Hollywood and Beyond, 2011 with Ted Nichelson and Patty Duke

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.