A Lasting Legacy

Susan Fales-Hill: a balance of wit, elegance and introspection



Susan Fales-Hill

When she delivers the keynote address for the Greenwich United Way’s annual Sole Sisters’ luncheon on April 24, Susan Fales-Hill may reflect on the meaning of legacy. The author, television producer and arts and education advocate can address the subject from many perspectives: Her critically-acclaimed memoir, Always Wear Joy, explored her upbringing as the biracial daughter of Haitian-American Broadway star Josephine Premice and Mayflower descendent Timothy Fales. She’s written for such groundbreaking sitcoms as The Cosby Show and A Different World. And she’s an elegant style icon frequently gracing the Vanity Fair’s “International Best-Dressed List.” In anticipation of the Sole Sisters’ luncheon, Greenwich magazine dialed up the New York City resident for a chat.


GM: You’ve been part of some iconic television shows. How do you find the current state of the sitcom?
“If you asked me eight years ago, this would have been a depressing conversation. I was walking around saying, ‘It’s over, it’s done; I have nothing to watch.’ Today, however, I think there’s an incredible renaissance going with shows like Modern Family, Mom and Hot in Cleveland. As I enter perimenopause it’s nice to have something I can relate to; things that are so well written and really make me laugh.”

GM: How do you remember your time at The Cosby Show?
“The first thing that comes to mind is the privilege of being around the mind of Mr. Cosby. He’s the closest thing to a genius I’ve ever met and he had such an encyclopedic knowledge of so many things. But here’s the thing I really loved: He’s an opponent of the comedy of cruelty. It was never about putting people down. He got his laughs without being mean.”

GM: You left Cosby for A Different World, which was considered groundbreaking television too.
“I think we had every race, religion, background in the writers’ room; this incredible eclectic mix, and [producer/director] Debbie Allen was kind of our Pied Piper. We were able to tackle things that weren’t appropriate and just wouldn’t have worked for The Cosby Show; topics like race, date rape, class, even AIDS. We knew what we were doing was historic.”

GM: You spent years on the “International Best-Dressed List,” but I understand you’ve “retired” from shopping.
“Well, it started with my daughter when she was four (she’s now eleven) and I came home with yet another party dress for her and she said, “Mom, really, don’t I have enough?” Out of the mouths of children. I had like eight closets with clothes falling out of them and then the recession came [laughs] and I decided to stop. I have enough to wear for anything I could possibly ever do—besides maybe meeting the Pope—and I don’t think that’s happening soon.”

GM: What was your mother’s most enduring legacy?
“Three things: Dignity, joy and love. She was so proud—in the right way—of her heritage as a black woman. Here’s my mother born in 1926 in New York when there was still de facto segregation. Yet she never took a job that would denigrate herself or the African-American image. She also used humor as a weapon. At one time she happened to have an all-white band. When asked by an ignorant person if she was colored, she leaned in and whispered, “No, but my musicians are.’”

GM: What's your message for the Sole Sisters’ luncheon?
“I like the idea of talking about emotional legacies. So many people focus on what they are going to leave their children in their wills, but your emotional legacy is going to impact your children a lot more than what’s in their trust fund. Though my mother hasn’t been around me in a while, she’s always with me and those lessons I got from her are like a bottomless well you can always draw on.”

 

Greenwich Agenda

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     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • SPLURGE Matches Scarf Donations for Cancer Patients

    2014.10.01
     @ SPLURGE

    SPLURGE and the Cancer Institute at Greenwich Hospital are partnering to bring comfort and encouragement to cancer patients.  From October...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

    2014.09.18
     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...

  • Breast Cancer Alliance's Go For Pink Shopping Event

    2014.10.02
     @ Greenwich Avenue area

    Breast Cancer Alliance announced that it is partnering with Greenwich merchants for a special day of events and shopping on Thursday, October 2nd...

  • New Goergen Lecture

    2014.10.02
     @ Bruce Museum

    Reflections on Highlights of the Hohenbuchau Collection featuring Peter C. Sutton Known today as the "Golden Age" of Netherlandish...

  • Muddy Up 5k Adventure Run & Family Fun Walk

    2014.10.05
     @ Camp Simmons

    Are you ready for some MUDDY fun? Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich is proud to host the 3rd annual Muddy Up 5k Adventure Run & Family Fun...

  • Muddy Up 5k & Family Fun Walk

    2014.10.05
     @ Camp Simmons

    Race starts at 9:15 a.m. REGISTRATION HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO MON. SEPT. 29 at 8:00 A.M. DON'T LIKE THE MUD? SPONSOR A CLUB MEMBER TO RUN...

  • Sweat for a Cause

    2014.10.05
     @ SoulCycle Greenwich

    The Young Women's League of New Canaan (YWL) is sponsoring its first fundraiser of the season, "Sweat For A Cause" at SoulCycle...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

    2014.06.15
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • Tuesday Toddler Tours

    2014.10.07
     @ Bruce Museum

    Come to the Bruce this fall to take part in our exciting new children and family programming! No advance registration is required and programs...

  • Flower Power

    2014.10.08
     @ SM Home Gallery

    SM Home Gallery show featuring two Greenwich based artists: Margaret Bragg and Penny Putnam. The art show runs thorough November 22nd....

  • Lyme Research Alliance 3rd Annual Golf Tournament

    2014.10.09
     @ The Stanwich Club

    Tee up and raise funds & awareness for Lyme disease awareness at one of the area’s finest golf courses. The golf tournament is part of...

  • Exhibit Ira BARKOFF

    2014.10.11
     @ Canfin Gallery

    “The beauty of the physical world becomes a metaphor for the capacity of the spirit to reveal itself". Ira Barkoff Evocation of...

  • Outdoor Arts Festival

    2014.10.11
     @ Bruce Museum

    Come and enjoy the Bruce Museum’s 33rd Annual Outdoor Arts Festival. More than 85 artists from all over the country, many of them new to...

  • Lookbook Live Tour

    2014.10.12
     @ Westchester Mall

    In September + October 2014, Simon will team up with three of the world's top fashion magazines, Glamour, GQ, and  Vogue on a nationwide...

  • The 29th Annual American Artisan Show

    2014.10.17
     @ Wilton Historical Society

    This nationally recognized fundraiser is held on the grounds of the Wilton Historical Society, and features 25 artisans who will show their work...


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