‘RHOBH’ talks new memoir, Bill Cosby encounter

Who is Garcelle Beauvais? She’s still figuring that out for herself.

Her new memoir “Love Me as I Am” (Amistad, 240 pp., out now) is part of her journey of self-discovery to reach the proverbial G- (as in Garcelle) spot, as the actress, model and TV personality pulls back the curtain on her life and decadeslong career.

At this point in her life, the stories almost tell themselves for Beauvais, who is known for her roles in cultural touchstones including ’90s sitcom “The Jamie Foxx Show” and Eddie Murphy’s 1988 comedy “Coming to America,” as well as recent TV stints on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” (returning May 11 on Bravo for Season 12) and daytime talk show “The Real,” which was canceled last week after eight seasons.

“I think it’s important to share experiences that we can relate to,” Beauvais says. “I’ve discovered resilience, sisterhood … (and) also learned that I’m more sensitive than I thought I was.”

In the memoir, written with Nicole E. Smith, Beauvais recounts her immigration as a child to lily-white Boston from her native Haiti (she dedicates the book to her late mother Marie Claire Beauvais), her beginnings as a model in New York, her transition to acting in Hollywood, highs and lows in relationships and her path to motherhood.

Bringing a sense of vulnerability to the page was important for Beauvais, 55. From a golf date with Michael Jordan (yes, the NBA great) to her trials and tribulations with infertility, Beauvais unpacks some of her memoir’s biggest revelations with USA TODAY.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Question: What inspired you to write this book and tell your truth?

Garcelle Beauvais: I’ve been an open book pretty much my entire career, but it just felt like a good time, personally and professionally. I’ve made peace with some of my past, I’ve forgiven some people and I felt I evolved in a certain way of thinking. … I feel like the 50s are fearless. And I’m hoping women or men will be able to read this book and connect to it and feel inspired or understand me a little bit better. 

Garcelle Beauvais shares her experiences as a model, actress, mother and wife in her memoir,

Q: Is there a piece of criticism you’ve received in your life that has helped you grow?

Beauvais: For me, (it was) leaving Haiti, coming to America and learning English, and being the only Black kid in my school, and then being so excited when I was 16 about to turn 17 and we moved to Miami. I was so excited to go to school with kids that looked like me, had hair like me, you know, my people. And I wasn’t easily embraced because it was like, ‘Oh, she thinks she’s white. She speaks too proper.’ As hurtful as it was, those things made me strong enough to continue going in different rooms in different places in my life and being OK with who I am. Obviously that took progression to be where I am now, where I’m feeling like, “Take me as I am, love me as I am.”

Q: You write about inappropriate situations you faced in your childhood involving your mom’s boyfriend and your stepbrother.  How did those moments impact you? 

Beauvais: How that shaped me is being careful. My mom was very careful. The moment I told her about walking in and seeing (my mother’s boyfriend standing) naked in the bathroom, she immediately took care of that and with my stepbrother (who “kept trying to get me to try things on him that crossed the line completely,” Beauvais writes) as well, so I felt heard in that way. For me, it’s being cautious, but I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt a little more.

Q: Can you talk more about your infertility struggles and your relationship with your eldest son Oliver as he battled addiction.

Beauvais: I wanted to share his story without telling his story. It was important to me that it’s his story to tell, and I hope one day he’ll have a reason to share and be able to help other people. But for me, going through the silent pain when we were going through it was really hard, but then I felt like it could be a cautionary tale for my younger boys. Also who has a perfect family? Everybody goes through something. And it was important for me to show that it doesn’t matter what your life looks like on the outside, we all have struggles. 

We never talked about that stuff growing up. I didn’t want to continue that. With my infertility, I never really heard anybody really talk about miscarriages. If they did, they whispered it. So I want to sort of debunk that and have a conversation. 

Garcelle Beauvais opens up about Hollywood, relationships and motherhood in

 Q: What was your modeling experience like? 

Beauvais: I didn’t know you could be a model. I didn’t know what that was. But when I did get with (modeling agent) Irene Marie after driving to Fort Lauderdale and being discovered (by her), it was exciting. It was scary because I moved to New York at 17. But it also gave me a little bit of freedom because my father had come back into my life, and we weren’t getting along. I didn’t really bond with him, because he left when I was 3, so it gave me an out.

I lived with Eileen Ford (co-founder of Ford Models) for a couple of months because the models’ apartment was full. I made friends and the Ford modeling agency really takes care of their girls. I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m making all this money. Oh my god, this is incredible.’ And then I got in trouble because I didn’t know anything about taxes and finances, so it was definitely an important time in my life for a lot of different lessons. 

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Q: You mentioned your early work at the Playboy Club and your encounter later with Bill Cosby. With the recent Playboy series and the trial against Cosby, how did it feel revisiting those situations in the book and how do you look back on your experiences?

Beauvais: When I got the job at the Playboy Club, I got a fake ID so I could work there because I didn’t want to go back home and I was building my portfolio and I needed extra money. Then it was just really a cocktail waitress, but you’re dressed in a bunny outfit. They were very protective of the girls in the in the club.

With the Bill Cosby of it all, I was just a young girl. When everything came out about him, I obviously knew that that had been happening. And it wasn’t a time for me to share my story — I was going through a divorce, my kids were little and I didn’t want to bring that burden into their life. I also didn’t have any concrete (experiences) like some of the other women. This was really a feeling, once I had took that sip of the Sambuca — I wasn’t a drinker, I was so young — that something didn’t feel right. I don’t know if it’s the island instincts or just my gut saying “This doesn’t feel right and you need to get out of here as fast as you can.” And that’s what I did.

Q: On a lighter note, tell me about your golf date with Michael Jordan. What did you talk about? 

Beauvais: I had gotten hired (for a modeling job at Essence magazine) and I’m at the fitting and they said, “Tomorrow you’re going to be working with Michael Jordan.” Now the way they said it, it sounded like I should be impressed, but I didn’t know who he was. And I didn’t want to go ‘Who’s Michael Jordan?’ and feel like an idiot. So I go, ‘Oh, great.’ We didn’t have Google. (laughs) I show up for the shoot and here’s this tall chocolate man who had the nicest smile, who couldn’t have been nicer and cooler and everybody was buzzing around him, but he was so genuine.

I believe we went to dinner afterward. And then he was just such a gentleman, I didn’t even realize he was so big until I was talking to my family and I said something, and my brother was there in the background like, “You worked with Michael Jordan?” I had no idea. But to this day, if I ever run into him, we’re always happy to see each other.

Q: Your entrance into “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” as the franchise’s first Black housewife was such an interesting path. What have your first two seasons been like for you?

Beauvais: You can’t fathom how popular this show is. I’ve done amazing things throughout my career and worked with some incredible people, but I’ve never got more attention than the announcement of me joining “Beverly Hills.” It was surreal. The first year I have to say yes, it’s daunting. I’ve never done reality TV before. My second season feels more solidified.

(My co-stars) can walk in the room and be carefree, and we (as Black women) have to walk in the room and go, ‘How am I representing myself? How am I representing my people?’ I feel like the conversations I was able to have with the cast (in Season 11), they’ve never had before because they’ve never had a diverse person in the room and when you have that, you are going to talk about different things. 

Q: What are your relationships like now with cast members Dorit Kemsley, Lisa Rinna and Erika Jayne following the ‘Real Housewives’ reunion?

Beauvais:  Dorit and I are in a better place, and Rinna too. I can’t put all (the drama) away and say we’re best friends. So I always say it’s a work in progress. 

(Erika Jayne and I are) not best friends, obviously. But we’re friends and we’re in the same friend group. But you wouldn’t want to see someone go through that. It’s a lot. I think she’s doing the best she can. I didn’t really want to focus on it too much this season. We don’t have a resolution. But she was able to be lighter at times. And then when (Jayne’s ongoing legal issues with ex Tom Girardi) came up, it came out. But she she knows my truth, that’s for sure.

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