I recall watching The Facts of Life quite a bit when I was younger.

The well-liked sitcoms and dramas from the 1980s were always entertaining and had an effect on viewers long after I was born.

There were not many television shows from that time period that lasted longer than ten years, but the Different Strokes spinoff did, and for good reason.

The well-known actress who fundamentally transformed television in the 1980s

The storylines and characters of the show continue to draw in a lot of fans.

But for admirers in particular, one particular figure stands out.

Many lovely memories from my youth are brought back to me by The Facts of Life repetitions.
When the show first aired in 1979, it quickly gained popularity.

The well-known actress who fundamentally transformed television in the 1980s

The main character was Edna Garrett, the housemother at a New York boarding school for only girls. Viewers saw Edna support the girls through their highs and lows while navigating her own life.

While Charlotte Rae, a talented actress, played Edna, there was a recurring side character who has inspired fans all over the world.

A recurring supporting role on the show was played by Geri Jewell as Geri Tyler. On the sitcom, Blair, one of the girls, had a fictitious cousin named Geri. Along with being well-known for her talent and sense of humor, Geri Jewell also made television history by casting the first actor with a physical disability, cerebral palsy.

The well-known actress who fundamentally transformed television in the 1980s

Even today, a lot of people still agree that Geri’s cerebral palsy was accurately portrayed. It was probably advantageous that Geri Jewell, the actress who played the part, actually suffered from the condition.

According to Mental Floss, Norman Lear allegedly spoke with Jewell before The Facts of Life was ever broadcast on television. After performing a stand-up comedy routine, Lear arrived at Jewell.

Jewell outlined:.

“I got a standing ovation, and I ran into Norman in the elevator. He continued, “You’ll hear from me very soon, youngster.”. Three months later, he called me and gave me the season two episode of “Cousin Geri.”.

The well-known actress who fundamentally transformed television in the 1980s

Due to a role that was created just for her, Jewell was able to depict her situation as well as the requirements of other people with disabilities. Geri, a recurring disabled character on primetime television, was the first, as was already mentioned.

On September 13, 1956, Geri was born in Buffalo, New York, in the United States. Sadly, Geri’s mother was involved in a car accident while she was pregnant, causing her to be born three months early. When she was 18 months old, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

The damage was considerable. During Geri’s acting career, Geri’s mother Olga gave the lone televised interview she ever gave and said, “I knew a lot about cerebral palsy, so I understood what I was in for.

While growing up, Geri was treated in the same manner as her brothers and siblings. Geri was present and engaged in play, fights, and laughter with her three siblings. Of course, she needed special care, just like any child.

The well-known actress who fundamentally transformed television in the 1980s

On the other hand, Geri received more care for a longer time and started physical therapy at a young age. To help Geri become as independent as possible, her parents encouraged her to eat with a spoon taped to her hand and a sandbag around her arm to calm her trembling.

She was raised with that mentality throughout.

They believed that if I didn’t learn to fight when I was young, I wouldn’t know when I was older, Geri said in 1984. ”.

In her autobiography, she listed the fundamental tenets of the conflict:.

The well-known actress who fundamentally transformed television in the 1980s

“Your mind is aware of what your body ought to be doing, but the body is not picking up the signals from the brain. By investigating how our muscles would operate if half of our brains weren’t on vacation, we can lessen the obvious effects of our impairment.

Before she finished seventh grade, Geri had no idea that she was “different.”. She had hoped to go to high school dances and sporting events with her sisters and friends, but that didn’t happen.

Even with her heart broken, her mother had no choice but to stand by her daughter.

Fortunately, Geri was able to get people’s attention by acting and cracking jokes.

She started doing stand-up comedy in 1978, and it all came naturally to her. Geri had always been a clown; when she was a young girl, she even fan-mailed Carol Burnett, her idol.

After being discovered while performing stand-up at The Comedy Store, Geri was given the opportunity to play a crucial part in The Facts of Life in 1980. She appeared in twelve episodes over four years before being fired in 1984.

Despite being a well-known actress in Hollywood, the producers decided not to extend her contract.

I was cash-strapped.

The well-known actress who fundamentally transformed television in the 1980s

My manager was arrested for embezzlement and securities fraud. I was compelled to appear on every major talk show to promote a book that had little to do with my actual problems while my life was a complete mess. It was spreading the myth that I had successfully overcame my cerebral palsy. In light of how I lived my life, it was hypocritical,” she claimed.

The good news is that Geri Jewell was able to stand back up, and after The Facts of Life ended, she kept on succeeding. She was a cast member of well-known TV shows like The Young and the Restless and 21 Jump Street, all of which had a lasting legacy.

One of her most recent and notable roles was in the television series Deadwood, where she played a character who had disabilities. There was also evidence of Jewel’s cerebral palsy.

Geri, a gay activist and motivational speaker, currently supports those who have disabilities.

Today is different because I’m more emotionally stable and less impulsive, allowing me to relax more. However, in the 1980s, when I was struggling with my sexuality, had a dishonest manager who stole all of my money, a program that didn’t extend my contract, and a book that was published that I detested, I couldn’t handle it. I’m surprised I survived those years at all. She remarks, “I’m lucky to still be alive.”.

I loved Gerri’s on- and off-screen humor, and she was one of my favorite characters on The Facts of Life.

How are you doing? Comment below with your thoughts to share with us! Jewell’s influence has left me speechless!