Bernadette Stanislaus (b. 12/22/1953) is a native New Yorker, born and raised in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Her parents, Gregory and Eula Stanislaus raised their only daughter to always carry herself with dignity and class despite her economic status. In an episode of TV One’s Life After, that featured Stanis she shared an important lesson taught to her and her two brothers by her father, “What’s around you, does not have to be in you,” said Stanis. She applied this same mindset to the character of Thelma Evans, who like herself grew up in an inner-city housing project. It also helped her to survive the trappings of Hollywood once she became a star.
In another interview on Life After, Stanis recalls this experience and speaks candidly about almost missing her shot at stardom. According to her she decided at the last minute she no longer wanted to go to the pageant. Her mother having already spent a lot of money in preparation for the event, assured her with only a stern look and a few choice words that indeed, she would be in attendance despite her earlier proclamations. Had it not been for her mother’s persistence she would’ve foolishly missed an opportunity of a life time.
In an Essence article, Stanis states that the writers in the beginning were not quite sure what to do with her character. “Well, they didn't know how to develop Thelma at first so they used to just have me in the bathroom all the time. For six months I would come and say, "Hi Mom. Hi Dad." and then go to the bathroom,” says Stanis. It was Esther Rolle, her mother on the show, who went to bat for her and demanded she be given more to say. “After that, Thelma was on the run. I thank Esther for that,” recalls Stanis.
At some point in her life, Stanis developed nodules on her esophagus that required she have surgery to remove them. During her recovery period, which lasted about three months she wasn’t allowed to speak at all. It was during this time that she began to write personal stories and poems for her own entertainment. Shortly afterwards she coined her first book, an idea that stemmed from her helping a close friend deal with her relationship issues. Situations 101: Relationships The Good, The Bad…and The Ugly was published in 2010. She’s gone on to pen three more books to much success.
In 1974, she married her high school sweetheart Thomas Fauntleroy, the marriage lasted only two years. She has two daughters, Dior Ravel and Brittany Rose with her current husband of thirty-five years, Kevin Fontana.
No matter what BernNadette Stanis meant to you growing up watching her on Good Times, her impact in television history is undeniable. Her iconic role of Thelma Evans, America’s first black teen idol, will forever be cemented in Television history.
By Lisa Mack~
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