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

  • TREEHOUSES: Look Who's Living in the Trees!

    2014.06.21
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Saturday, June 21 - Monday, September 1 Hidden in the leaves, snug in the trunk or burrowed under the roots, what types of animals actually...

  • Exhibit: Tales of Two Cities: New York & Beijing | Greenwich, CT

    2014.05.03
     @ Bruce Museum

    May 3 – August 31, 2014 Tales of Two Cities: New York & Beijing This exhibition focuses on two of the world’s leading...

  • Saturday Vals Free Weekly In-Store Wine Tasting | Greenwich, CT

    2014.05.10
     @ Val's Putnam Wine And Liquors

    We will feature an array of new and different International wines that are selected by our staff as “Staff Picks Favorites” in...

  • Happy Hour | Greenwich, CT

    2014.01.26
     @ Morello Italian Bistro

    Refresh yourself with our famous Red & White Sangria! Don’t forget that during happy hour every day 4:30pm-6:30pm your 2nd drink...

  • Polo Benefit for Hope

    2014.08.31
     @ Greenwich Polo Club

    For the second year in a row, Virginia's House of Hope is having a fundraiser at the Greenwich Polo Club! Join us on Sunday, August...

  • 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!...

  • Animal Meet and Greet

    2014.06.22
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 22 - August 31, 3:30 - 4:00pm Stop by for a chance to meet one of our Overbrook Nature Center or Heckscher Farm animals up...

  • Bar: Live Music | Greenwich, CT

    2014.03.09
     @ Barcelona Greenwich

    Join us in Greenwich every Sunday for live music and half-priced bottles of wine!

  • Greenwich Harbor Sunset Wine Cruise | Greenwich, CT

    2014.06.05
     @ Delamar Hotel Dock

    The boat "Prudence" departs from the Delamar Hotel Dock on 500 Steamboat Rd. All the wine is sponsored through VALS with food...

  • Exclusive Tour of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Yale University Art Gallery

    2014.09.09
     @ Yale University Art Gallery

    Join JCC Greenwich for an exclusive tour with museum curator Elizabeth Manekin. The collection is noteworthy for exemplary works from the...

  • Understanding the Gaza War: Strategic & Political Implications

    2014.09.09
     @ Greenwich Library, Cole Auditorium

    Dr. Efraim Inbar is a Professor in Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and Director of its renowned Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic...

  • Bruce Museum: Look and See - Into the Deep

    2014.09.10
     @ Bruce Museum

    A program especially designed for children ages 3-5 years and their adult caregivers, who will explore the Museum’s exhibition through...

  • College Admissions Boot Camp | Greenwich, CT

    2014.09.13

    College Prep 360 will be offering two college admissions “boot camps” in their Greenwich office over the summer. The first workshop...

  • 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...

  • Greenwich Area Newcomers Annual Lobster Fest

    2014.09.14
     @ Tod's Point Clambake Area

    This is our kickoff event each year-held at Tod's Point Clambake area. The event is scheduled for Sunday September 14th starting...

  • Information Fair

    2014.09.16
     @ YMCA

    Our Annual Information Fair - This event showcases non profits , community businesses, schools and  services in the Greenwich...


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