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

  • Meet Bestselling Author Ayelet Waldman

    2014.10.30
     @ Organic Planet

    On October 30 at 10am, JCC Greenwich will present New York Times bestselling author Ayelet Waldman, who will discuss her latest novel Love and...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • Flinn Gallery Art Opening

    2014.10.30
     @ Flinn Gallery 2nd floor

    FLINN GALLERY Opening Reception 'IN FOCUS' Thursday October 30, 6 - 8pm Seven artists share their visions - Carolyn Conrad,...

  • 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...

  • 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....

  • IMAGINE CANDY- SWEET TASTINGS!!!

    2014.10.24
     @ Imagine Candy

    Imagine Candy located in Scarsdale Village- Winner of 2014 Best West of Westchester by Westchester Magazine- holds a Belgian Chocolate and Candy...

  • Harvest Fair and Gift Show

    2014.11.01
     @ Second Congregational Church

    Event Will Include Hay Mazes, Games, Crafts, Food, Holiday Shopping The community is invited to a Harvest Fair and Gift Show on Saturday, Nov....

  • New Fitness Class: SalsaTone

    2014.11.01
     @ Latin Moves Dance Studio

    Starting November 1st ~ Every Saturday morning 10 to 11 AM Instructor: Melissa Lopez Start your weekend off right with this exciting cardio...

  • Lynne Scalo Design Opening

    2014.11.05

    Please join Lynne Scalo, Greenwich Magazine and athome Magazine to celebrate the Greenwich showroom opening of Lynne Scalo Design Cocktails...

  • Breast Cancer Alliance Benefit Luncheon & Fashion Show

    2014.11.06
     @ Hyatt Regency Greenwich

    Breast Cancer Alliance to Host Branching Out, Coming Together, Aspiring to a Cure 19th Annual Benefit Luncheon & Fashion Show: November 6,...

  • Free Screening of Documentary ' Children of the Inquisition'

    2014.11.06
     @ Bush-Holley House

    Join filmmaker Joseph Lovett as he presents his documentary film and multi-platform project of personal exploration and...

  • P.A.L.S. 2nd Annual Soarin' Soiree~ November 7, 2014

    2014.11.07
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    You are invited to join our State Senator, L. Scott Frantz and our First Selectman, Peter J. Tesei, for an awe-inspiring evening to benefit Patient...

  • John Hardy Event

    2014.11.08
     @ Bloomingdale's

    John Hardy One of a kind. One at a time. Each by hand. Bloomingdale's is inviting YOU to meet the head designer Guy Bedarida as he presents...

  • Olivine Gabbro Opening

    2014.11.08

    Olivine Gabbro invites you to join them for their Opening Party! DJ | Cocktails | H'Orderves | Gift Bags Made to Measure Beautifully...

  • Meet Joshua Safran, Author of "Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid"

    2014.11.11
     @ YWCA Greenwich

    Meet the author of this powerful memoir. Joshua Safran is an author, attorney, occasional rabbi, and nationally recognized advocate for...


Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. Henry & Me
    Greenwich
  2. Go For Pink
    Greenwich Avenue
  3. Joie Shopping Event
    Joie Greenwich
  4. 100th Annual Hunt Ball
    Conyers Farm
  5. 6 Ways to Practice Mindfulness
    Simple steps to get the most out of each moment