FRESNO– An entertaining and enthusiastic Sheryl Underwood, co-host of the CBS daytime Emmy-nominated talk show, “The Talk”, captivated a packed auditorium on Monday night, as part of Fresno City College’s Speakers Forum lineup.
Underwood, a 1985 graduate of Fresno City College (FCC), spoke about a range of topics, including racism, police treatment of African-Americans, and even presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
Despite touching on some serious topics, the well-loved TV host kept her talk, aptly titled “The Funny Side of Life,” light by infusing humor into sharing the challenges in her life.
As she appeared on stage, the large crowd, largely comprised of African-American students, greeted her with loud cheers and seemingly endless applause. The TV personality, philanthropist and businesswoman quickly got comfortable on stage and started with a story about asking her father to permit her to deposit some cash into his bank account.
Back then, she told the audience, her comedy job paid her in cash, and when her father asked how much she was depositing, Underwood told him she took out “15 stacks.” Her father was amazed, she said.
“Years later, when my father died we cleaned up my father’s bedroom [and] that deposit slip is under the lace rug in the dresser,” Underwood recalled, “My father used to pull it out and gaze at it because he was proud that his daughter was making that in one night.”
Underwood, co-host of a program viewed daily by more than three million people, stressed that despite her fame, she strives to stay grounded.
“Never forget how you got to where you got, where you came from and don’t forget your people,” Underwood advised the audience. “Don’t forget your culture.”
Underwood explained that before getting the invitation to become a co-host of “The Talk” she had been planning to return to FCC to teach communications.
Underwood shared how she first found out she would have the chance to be a part of “The Talk,” when a CBS representative called her. At first, Underwood thought the caller was a prankster, until they called again and asked her to meet with the co-hosts of the highly rated show.
She first met with Sharon Osbourne, a co-host who became ill threw up on her during their meeting. Underwood said she prevented any information about that incident from leaking to gossip outlets, and eventually accepted the job.
Underwood’s presentation was not all laughs; she also addressed the recent controversy which ensued when she made comments regarding some African-Americans’ hair, saying it was “nasty.”
Underwood has since apologized on air, saying, “There is a responsibility to being on TV, and there is a cultural responsibility when you make a mistake that really hurts people. I am so sorry to my community and my people for hurting you. I’m asking you for forgiveness and I will work hard to make it better.”
Audience members largely seemed to have forgiven the star for her gaffe, and many seemed touched by her words.
Karina Peterson, a public health major at Fresno State, attended the event with her mom, an FCC student. Peterson said she treasures Underwood’s advice to never forget one’s roots, especially within the African-American community.
“[Her talk] really touched on different aspects that actually happen in people’s lives,” Peterson said, adding that she found Underwood’s talk funny as well as thoughtful.
FCC business major Chante Cowings said she attended to show support for African-American women, and because the local TV star has “great wisdom to give out” about how she gained success.
At a reception following the talk, students gathered around Underwood and lined up for selfies with the former FCC student, who had some final words for her audience.
“I’m still one of you,” she said.