Before she took on the role of Paulina Price on Days of our Lives, Jackée Harry was part of an ensemble cast on the celebrated sitcom 227. On the NBC show, she played Sandra Clark, a role that garnered Harry an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress. Black History Month has the actress reflecting back on her historic win and how it changed her life.
Jackée Harry: A Lifechanging Trip To Paris
“Before #BlackHistoryMonth is over, here’s a bit of #BlackHerstory: It’s 1988,” recalled Harry on her Twitter feed. “Dangle earrings & massive wigs have me in a chokehold. I’d recently become the 1st black woman to win an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy so I took my sister, Brenda, to Paris to celebrate.
“We were walking in front of the Arc de Triomphe on a gorgeous day, and Brenda was being an unbelievable drag. She was begging me to go to Versailles, and I couldn’t think of anything that sounded more BORING.
“’Go by yourself,’ I said. ‘I don’t need to be bothered with you.’”
The sassy Days of our Lives thespian continued her story. “Well, THAT set her off! She shouted: ‘You think ‘cause you’re a big Hollywood star, you don’t need to act like a decent person or show a goddamn ounce of consideration for somebody else!’ Then she reached out, tore my wig off, and ran away with it.”
This made Harry very angry. “I cursed her up and down, child. I shouted after her, but it was too late. I was standing there, alone, no wig, my hair all a mess, right in front of the Arc de F**king Triomphe. Mortified.”
Furious, she took action. “At my hotel, I changed my flight home so I wouldn’t have to fly with her, then I didn’t speak to her for an entire year. But her words stuck with me. I started watching myself, noticing how I was acting, and I realized she was right.”
The incident caused Harry to turn within and figure out what was really going on. “I was a black girl in Hollywood, navigating a unique position alone. Cosby had won an Emmy. Robert Guillaume won. Isabel Sanford and Gail Fisher had too.
Her situation was rare and overwhelming in the Black community. Few understood the emotional impact behind the win. “There were only four people on Earth who knew what I felt like, and I didn’t have their phone numbers. I went off the rails.”
The DAYS actress weighed the benefits of having a community to receive positive feedback and experience. “If I had a support system of Black women who shared similar experiences or provided a sense of belonging, I might’ve navigated my situation differently.”
At last, she was able to view the shocking scene in Paris in a new light. “But I’m grateful I had another Black woman, my sister, to hold me accountable for harmful behavior and a conceited attitude.
“Black women, we have a long history of collective action and community building. Whether it’s organizing against racial discrimination and economic disparities, or as simple as helping someone get their ego in check.” Harry explained why there is still a long way to go. “We have to keep looking out for each other because our collective strength is what’s going to raise us up, individually and as a community.”
Jackée Harry left her Twitter followers with this thoughtful suggestion. “Now, go check on your sis.”
Black History Month is observed every year from February 1st to March 1st, honoring the struggles and triumphs of African Americans throughout history and paying tribute to their successes. Black Herstory honors the story of the struggles of Black women, whose stories often go untold.