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

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  • YMCA of Greenwich Harvest Art Week

    2014.10.18
     @ YMCA of Greenwich

    YMCA of Greenwich Harvest Art Week October 18 - 26, 2014 Join us for a week-long celebration of local art! Showcasing established and emerging...

  • 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...

  • Fine Dining at Crew to Benefit Child Guidance Center

    2014.10.20
     @ Crew Restaurant

    “I am a huge believer in giving back,” says Chris Geideman, Executive Chef and Owner at Crew in Greenwich. “As a community,...

  • 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...

  • 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....

  • Financial Literacy 2-Day Lecture Presented by Bob Salomon at YMCA of Greenwich

    2014.10.21
     @ YMCA of Greenwich

    Making sense of the world of finance FREE and open to all *Participants should pick up a copy of the Wall Street Journal on Oct.22, as Bob...

  • Paint the Town Pink

    2014.10.21
     @ Lux Bond & Green

    Key to the Treasure Chest Indulge yourself at an elegant but fun event presented by Lux Bond & Green and Anne Fontaine Preview the newest...

  • Meet Nomi Eve, Author of Henna House

    2014.10.22

    An evocative and stirring novel about a young woman living in the fascinating and rarely portrayed community of Yemenite Jews of the mid-twentieth...

  • Susan G. Komen CT Educational Session at YMCA of Greenwich

    2014.10.22
     @ YMCA of Greenwich

    FREE AND OPEN TO THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY! Learn about the importance of early detection and screenings Meet the men and women whose work is...

  • Greenwich Chamber of Commerce Networking Event

    2014.10.23
     @ Delamar Hotel

    Greenwich Chamber of Commerce will hold its October After Six Networking event. All are invited to exchange business cards, enjoy appetizers and...

  • October After Six

    2014.10.23
     @ Delamar Hotel

    Join us for After Six Networking at the Delamar Hotel

  • Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams

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  • Oktoberfest 2014 Greenwich United Way

    2014.10.24
     @ Loading Dock

    Greenwich United Way’s sixth annual “Oktoberfest” fundraiser is set for Friday, October 24 at Stamford’s Loading...

  • The Food Network Open Casting Call for Home Cooks

    2014.10.25
     @ My Cooking Party

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  • Greenwich Hospital Gala

    2014.10.25
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    It will be a Gala worthy of a doge when retiring Greenwich Hospital president and CEO, Frank A. Corvino, will be presented with the...

  • The Wilton Fall Antiques Market

    2014.10.26
     @ Wilton High School Field House

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