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6 Life Lessons Learned From Leslie Jones’ Success Story

Image from the New Yorker

Image from the New Yorker

“I’m not perfect, but I’m starting to get comfortable, like a sweater you want to wear all the time.”  — Leslie Jones

If the name Leslie Jones doesn’t ring a bell, don’t think twice before checking out the newest Ghostbusters movie which debuted in July, a comical film from ‘98 called Wrongfully Accused, or even better — take a reach into her archives on Saturday Night Live to find Jones at her best, making laughter happen. 

However, life isn’t always so laughable as an African-American woman navigating a rather-segregated, predominantly-male career field. Ms. Jones never ceases to inspire us with her blustering courage and vibrant originality, revealing how being a badass with passion can get us places in life. 

1. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

“People get hung up on writing smart shit. To me, it’s more about performance.” — Leslie Jones

Of course it’s important to know the material before presenting or performing, but often times we become hyper-concerned with having the hardest-hitting line or most intelligent response. In reality, confidence is key and an honest remark can go a long way. If we believe in what we say, others will be compelled to jump on board too. 

As comedian Marc Maron said in an article featured in The New Yorker, “She has a presence, when you see her live, that is extremely rare and honestly, it has very little to do with what she’s saying. The first time I saw her, I was blown away, and yet I couldn’t tell you a single one of her jokes.”

2. Closed mouths don’t get fed.

To achieve our dreams, we must let go of our fears and whatever is holding us back. Believe it, feel it, live it and SPEAK UP. Ask for help when necessary, the worst they can say is no (and many times, they won’t). 

A fellow ‘80s comic who was far beyond Jones’ comedic status when they were both touring in the late in the decade, Chris Rock, saw her perform live again in 2012 after her initial impression nearly 30-years before. 

As recorded in Ready For Prime Time, Rock told Jones after her show, “You were always funny, but you’re at a new level now.”

Jones boldly and with direction responded, “You’re right,” she said. “But I’m not gonna really make it unless someone like you puts me on.” 

Rock appreciated her audacity and took a chance on Jones, adding her to his list of funny people. Soon after, Jones’ name began to fill the comedy scene of Los Angeles.

3. Know your audience. 

What sells one person may turn another away. It helps to feel out the audience before making bold propositions. Seek to understand their personal values and mentalities. Modify your tone and argument accordingly, then speak with mindfulness and purpose. 

“I can look into a person’s eyes for one second and go, ‘Don’t fuck with him — that’s somebody who won’t get over what you’re about to say’,” Jones told Andrew Marantz

4. The path to success is not always linear. 

Just after her decision to leave college and pursue comedy, Jones ran into a writer’s block and found herself struggling to develop new sets. After pondering friendly advice, Jones daringly took a 6-year leave from performing. In the meantime, she took up work as a cook, a cashier, and as a waitress. 

“I was the funniest waitress Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles ever had,” she said in an interview with Marantz. “Customers would be, like, ‘Didn’t I just see you on BET?’ I’d be, like, ‘Yep. Breast and a wing or leg and a thigh?’”

Sometimes straying from the beaten path can help us gain other practical life experiences. In whatever we do, we will find lessons within the journey. Jones’ hiatus gave her time to experience life from a new perspective and develop literature from those experiences. Eventually, her divergent path enriched her career by bringing her to a new opportunity with BET’s “Comic View”. 

Life’s a journey — embrace every opportunity with an open mind. 

5. Don’t let them steal your sunshine. 

After the premier of Ghostbusters in July, Jones was faced with extreme hate tweets which pushed her to leave the Twitter-verse. Online trolls sent racist comments along with pornographic images and heartless memes as described in The New York Times

“You have to hate yourself to put out that type of hate,” Jones tweeted in response to the harassment. “I mean on my worst day I can’t think of this type of hate to put out.” 

Jones has experienced many racist and sexist slurs for the better part of her career. In late July, Entertainment Weekly reported Jones’ strive for peace in the face of negativity — choosing to send out love and positivity with “hug someone”:

“Hurting people hurt people. Most of these people I don’t think they believe in the stuff they say. It’s just a lot of hurt, hug someone. We have to start there. So I won’t answer the trolls with hate anymore just love. And then block and report they ass lol. Won’t do hate anymore.”

6. Love always; love yourself. 

Jones told The New Yorker that though she still has extended family in Memphis, her mother, father, and brother all died within the past few years. 

“When death touches you that close, you say to yourself, ‘It’s time to start liking who the fu** you are,’ ” she said. “I’m not perfect, but I’m starting to get comfortable, like a sweater you want to wear all the time.”

After 25-years of building her confidence and career, Jones has made it through every trial and tribulation by staying true to herself, believing in her dreams and taking badass, courageous leaps which opened doors leading to her undying vision of success. 

Whatever we decide to be, let us be that well. Let us follow our dreams, be audacious, free our spirits and define ourselves.