Rosie Perez had a bumpy road to Hollywood. In Handbook for An Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and my Crazy Mother and Still Came Out Smiling (With Good Hair) the native New Yorker talks about her struggles with a mentally ill mother, being the “affair baby” of her parents who were both married to other people and surviving Catholic school where many of the nuns she encountered were abusive.
Still, she found fame, first in Do The Right Thing, and then in movies like White Men Can’t Jump and Fearless, which earned her an Academy Award nomination. But of all the revelations in her book, the one that most are talking about is the night she hit legendary Soul Train founder Don Cornelius in the head with a chicken wing.
Here’s more of Rosie’s path to stardom.
How she got on Soul Train: “I was a college student in L.A. and I was studying biochemistry and at night we would have an organic chemistry lab class and after that lab class we would rush to [the club] because it was Ladies Night before 10 p.m. When I was there, I just loved dancing and I loved showing off and I can be honest, cause I’m grown. A guy came over and said would you like to be on Soul Train and I said “Duh,’ and a guy came over with me and my girlfriends and we got on Soul Train and it was wonderful.
How she left Soul Train: [Don Cornelius] didn’t like the way I danced because it was hip-hop and at the time, hip-hop wasn’t a big thing out there. They had dance crews but it was a different kind of style. It was too hard it wasn’t sexy. I won’t get into the real reason we got into a fight, but we definitely got into a fight and I was escorted off the lot. We were paid with a 2-piece Kentucky Fried Chicken lunchbox. I wasn’t aware of it at the time but I suffered from PTSD (from childhood abuse) and when he grabbed me I totally overreacted and I grabbed the first thing I could to hit him with and it happened to be a piece of chicken wing from the lunchbox and it hit him in the head and I was escorted out.
How she met Spike Lee: I went to a club that happened to have a big booty contest and I started to make fun of it by jumping on the stage and I thought I was going to get escorted out again, and Spike Lee came up to me and said “’Tonight is fate,” and I said “Oh honey, you wish.” And he asked me to audition for Do The Right Thing.
Her message to young people through the book: Anyone who has gone through a struggle and thinks they’re alone in the situation you can see that you’re not alone and that you can rise above it if you go and get help.
REGISTER NOW for the 2014 Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion taking place August 28- September 1, 2014 in Orlando, Florida! For booking information visit here.