Sheryl Underwood is a comedic actress and panelist on the daytime television show “The Talk,” but she’s more than just another celebrity, she’s refreshingly nice and candid about most things in her life.
Underwood has worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years and credits her routine on Russell Simmon’s “Def Comedy Jam” as a platform for her comedic career in the business. Her warm energy is identified with infectious laughter; through her charm, she reminds us that she’s a southern gal at heart. With no shy bone in her body, Underwood manages to give anecdotes of comedy, while also educating anyone who will listen.
After talking about how she balanced a career as a comedian, solider life in the reserves and being a graduate student; Underwood also discusses her struggle with her health. While in her 30’s, she began to experience discomfort in her stomach area. She describes it as feeling like an orange was underneath her whenever she lay down. When she went to the doctor, he provided her clarity into what she was experiencing. Underwood was diagnosed with having uterine fibroids [non-cancerous tumors that form in the uterus and affects 80 to 90% of African American women by age 50].
When the benign tumors returned in her 40’s, she was faced with a difficult decision. Underwood opted to have a partial hysterectomy. After the operation, her bladder dropped, and she began to experience bladder leakage.
Her struggle with bladder leakage has encouraged her to bring awareness to the issue and team up with Depend in a social movement, called Underwareness. Underwood spoke with “Examiner.com” about her career as a comedian, dating and her journey with bladder leakage.
Sheryl, I have to admit, I would get into a lot of trouble sneaking to watch you on “Def Comedy Jam” as a child.
… Well, I’m glad you had a chance to check that out.
Yes, I don’t think I understood at the time the explicit jokes, but I laughed each time.
It was a great platform for female comics, absolutely.
Something I’ve always wondered, why did you carry your purse on stage?
Do you want the real answer or the comedic answer?
I want the real, raw answer.
The real answer is when I went to tape “Def Comedy Jam” I had already taped one TV show, but this was the most prestigious for standup comics, so the stage manager just said, “Give me your purse.” I thought he had authority, so I handed him my purse. It made me feel insecure like I was missing something because I always carried my purse after I finished the set. I used to walk out the club, get in my car and go home because I was working on my master’s degree, I was in the reserves, [and] I had just got married.
Once my career started to progress, I didn’t have a lot of time. I had to manage my time. I would just walk out and get into the car. I had to study; I had a thesis to write, and a term paper. I always just carried my purse so I could walk right out of whatever the venue was. Once they took my purse, I thought “wow, is this the way it’s supposed to go?” Then I thought about Minnie Pearl. There were two people who were carrying their purse in comedy; Minnie Pearl and Moms Mabley. I thought, “Maybe if I attempt to emulate them, people won’t know that psychologically this makes me feel better.” Plus my money was in it… all my money and my lipstick, you know. Before I had to wear Depend, I was wearing other stuff that Kimberly-Clark made.
How did you get involved with the Depend “Drop Your Pants for Underwareness” campaign?
I had an issue with fibroids in my 30’s. It’s prevalent [among African American] females. I listened to the old wise tales [of] drink corn water, that’ll make it shrink. Embolization wasn’t the thing that was going to solve the problem for me, so I had [a surgical procedure called] myomectomy where my uterus had been reconstructed because I had about 15 fibroids in my uterus – three very large ones almost the size of grapefruits, and I had 12 clusters of fibroids. I had a fabulous black [ob-gyn], and [I] still go to him. The fibroids came back in my 40’s, and I had to consider having a hysterectomy. I let him give me a partial hysterectomy, and that’s when my bladder dropped.
When my bladder dropped, I started to suffer from bladder leakage. [I thought], “Come on, you’re in comedy.” I was out there still partying. Puffy [the singer also referred to as Diddy] was throwing parties; I was still dating athletes [and] going to all-star games. I wanted to be secure, and I wanted to be jazzy. Once I discovered Depend, and it made me feel secure, I was more confident. I can put them on under my jeans [because] for the sista’s, you have to have that curvaceous shape. Dudes like a little onion to bring tears to [their] eyes. So I wanted to be cute, and Depend allowed me to do that.
Speaking of dating, did you ever have to disclose to a guy that you were wearing a Depend?
Oh yeah, I let them know it’s in my suitcase, it’s in my bag. I was dating this dude recently, in his 30’s, and he came into the room and said “what’s that?” and I said “that’s Depend.” And all he said was, “Oh, right on!” It ain’t no shame in my game. I want people to know that there’s nothing wrong with it. There’s no big deal in wearing it; men who are suffering with prostate cancer, which is more prevalent in African American males; women who have just had babies or partial hysterectomies, and up to 65 million people suffering from bladder leakage, a little less than 50 percent of them are under the age of 50. I’m in my 50’s which is the new 30, and I am the bomb. You’re going to know that I wear Depend because that’s how I roll.
Do you ever experience bladder leakage from laughing?
That’s where most of it was coming from, either laughing or sneezing. When you have that sort of bladder leakage, Depend will catch all of that.
Is it easy accessibility to use the restroom?
It’s just like wearing cotton underwear. You use it just like underwear, and what’s great about it is you feel secure. Women go through the change and have night sweats and have a little bladder leakage, now you have to get up and wash all of that. You have to wash your sheets, your comforter; you have to wash whatever you’re wearing [like] your nightgown. I think that with Depend, you don’t have to do all of that laundry; you don’t have to send your clothes to the dry cleaners. I was wearing some very expensive garments as the President and Chairman of the Board for [international black Greek sorority established in 1920] Zeta Phi Beta.
… I have a bomb car, and I do not want to mess up my seats. I want to empower women, especially women of color to understand that if you suffer from bladder leakage, don’t let it get you down [or] stop you. I’m still exercising, [and] I know you exercise. When you’re on the treadmill, [and] you’re getting down, you have your headphones on, [and] 45 minutes later, you have to go to the bathroom. When you get off, all of that’s gone. That [isn’t] a pause if you had to get up and go to the bathroom. For me, I don’t go through that anymore. I can go from machine to machine. When you see that footage they recorded on me, I’m killing it in the gym with my trainer. I’m killing it wearing my Depend.
I did see the video, and you’re looking great!
I have to do more cardio to get my stomach down, but my “bootay” is still looking “cutay.” I look good! I give it up to myself and pat myself on the back, and I have a good trainer. I want people to know that you can still have a full life. I’m doing Pilates, yoga; I’m hiking, and playing tennis. I’m trying to get me a little retired athlete, [but] I have to go on the golf course to get him. If I can get that retired quarterback from the Seahawks… yeah that’s me right there, he is fine!
Underwood is encouraging everyone to participate in the social movement through Depend called, Drop Your Pants for Underwareness program. The movement helps to remove the stigma for the 65 million Americans who experience bladder leakage. To participate, visit the website. For every pants drop, photo and video shared using #Underwareness and #DropYourPants, Depend will donate $1, up to $3 million, over the next three years to charitable organizations that advance the research and education of bladder leakage.