In 1992, entertainer Joilet Harris took the bravest move of her life, quitting corporate America to pursue her lifelong dream.
“I always wanted to be a performer, and I didn’t want to leave this earth thinking what would have happened if I...,” Harris says. “So I had to follow my heart.”
Obviously, she made the right decision, for over the years her talent has been rewarded with a Barrymore Award for “Caroline or Change.”
In addition to developing her own cabaret shows, Harris has toured internationally as a vocalist, receiving rave reviews playing the title role in “Ella, The Ella Fitzgerald Story.”
On television, Harris has been seen in the recurring role of Officer Caroline Massey on “The Wire,” as well as in guest starring roles on “New York Undercover,” “Law and Order SVU” and more.
Her screen appearances include “Rocky V,” “Beloved,” and “12 Monkeys.”
She’s now getting ready for a new summer cabaret series at Off Boardwalk at The Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City, running four Friday nights only July 5-26.
“In the show, which I call ‘Summer Love With Joilet,’ I’ll be singing love songs from different eras. Of course, there will be Ella because that’s my heart. There will also be some Natalie Cole, Nancy Wilson, Chaka Khan and others. Some will make you want to fall in love, while others may make you want to leave,” Harris laughs.
Raised in Germantown, Harris says she grew up talking and singing. And although her parents urged her to become a lawyer, that just wasn’t for her. Instead, one day in 1981 when her cousin let her know that Freedom Theatre was conducting auditions, Harris decided to try for a role in “The Gospelers.” She won a role and so began a successful career that has lasted for decades.
After Germantown High School, Harris went on to attend Temple University, although an illness kept her from graduating.“The path that everybody takes is not always the same, but we can ultimately reach the same place. I believe that life skills are just as credible and valuable as book learning,” Harris says.
But show business isn’t always the easiest business to navigate.
“On the plus side there’s the freedom to play different people. However, on the minus side there’s the rejection to face, the uncertain finances and the lack of security,” she says. “We don’t work consistently so we have to figure out a way to make everything work when we’re not working.”
And today, while she admits she thoroughly enjoys everything she does, she does still have one desire. She admits, “I’ve done the life story of others, so if I could get what I want for the future, it would be to find someone to write my own life story and put it out there. I think it would make a very interesting read.”