Sheryl Lee Ralph Says That Racist Comments Did a Number on Her Confidence for Years

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Sheryl: Oh, absolutely. I’ll never forget the time, I think it was Titanic, and there was an actress in the movie, she was about 98 years old, she got nominated for an Oscar or invited to the Oscars, something like that. And she was an actress and she said—

Rachel: Mm-hmm.

Sheryl: “I’m 98 years old and here I am.” And I was just like, “Yeah, that’s right. Here I am 40 years and, and now I am an overnight sensation.”

Rachel: [Laughs.]

Sheryl: “Thank you.”

Rachel: Right. This many years in the making. And I, I think that, you know, again, I think people who are even in their twenties and thirties feel like it’s too late for me. I am, I’m, you know, my time has come and gone and they feel like they can’t achieve these things. And so I think, you know, 40 is an age when I think people kind of start to freak out of like, it’s too late for me. And so I wonder if you have any advice, like how you were feeling when you were turning 40 and what you wish you’d known then, or maybe advice you’d give to other people who are about to reach that age.

Sheryl: Oh my God. Turning 40. I took a picture of myself on that day. I wonder where it is.

Rachel: [Laughs.]

Sheryl: And I remember thinking, “I’m a woman now.”

Rachel: Mm-hmm. [Laughs.]

Sheryl: “I am a woman now.” And then I think soon after I would, you know, I hit a rough patch in my career and I was really questioning, you know, “What do I do from here?” And I ran into a big-time casting agent. And, uh, she asked, “What, what, well, what are you doing now?” And I said, “Well, you know, I’m not doing too much.” And she stopped and turned around and looked at me and she said, “Oh, do you know who you are?”

Rachel: [Laughs.]

Sheryl: “Because if you are not doing anything, it must only be because you don’t want to do anything.” And I was like, “Wow.”

Rachel: Right. Wow. [Laughs.]

Sheryl: Wow. And it just sort of changed things for me. It changed, you know, how I saw myself and, you know, what I was gonna do and what it would take to start all over again. And, um, I literally did that for myself. And it was, these were the, I made some moves that, you know, it felt like the beginning, but it felt like the beginning that I needed to keep on striving to climb that mountain to reach my goal.

Rachel: Mm-hmm. Well, my last question for you is, What is the best advice that you’ve ever received?

Sheryl: Oh my God. I would have to say my Aunt Virginia, well really wasn’t my aunt, but always felt like.

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