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BernNadette Stanis: 'Good Times' Thelma, Then And Now

Entertainment | August 30, 2020

BernNadette Stanis played an important role as Thelma Evans on the '70s sitcom Good Times. Though the goofy JJ, played by Jimmie Walker, is often remembered for his antics and his catchphrase "Dyn-o-mite!," every goofball needs a straight man. Thelma was smart, reasonable, and more serious than her scene-stealing older brother, and unafraid to take the wind out of his sails during their spats, which were common on the show.

Jimmie Walker was twice nominated for an Emmy, Esther Rolle (who played Florida Evans) was nominated once, and John Amos (James Evans Sr.) was a Broadway actor who earned his Emmy nomination for Roots. Stanis' performances may have been overshadowed by her co-stars, but she hardly went unnoticed -- she was a very popular character and the object of many a teenage crush. If Thelma's sex-symbol status is news to you, it might be because you weren't buying Jet and Ebony in the mid-'70s.

Bernadetta Stanislaus Was A Teenage Miss Brooklyn

Source: (Pinterest)

Bernadette Stanislaus was born on December 22, 1953 in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in the projects. She initially tried out for the dance program at Juilliard but did not get in because they were looking for ballerinas. She tried out again, this time for the acting program and was accepted. As a teenager, she entered Miss Black America pageants. She won the title of Miss Brooklyn, and then became the first runner up in the Miss New York pageant. 

Norman Lear Saw BernNadette's Potential

The cast of Good Times. Source : (Socialite Life)

While at one of the pageants, Norman Lear spotted her and approached her mother to convince her to get young Bernadette to audition for his new show, which she did. The show, of course, was Good Times, which was a spinoff of an existing successful show Lear had created -- Maude. Maude itself was a spinoff of the show that made Lear famous, All In The Family.

Bernadette Stanislaus ended up improvising during her Good Times audition and her career began. She chose her stage name of BernNadette because she imagined that having the capital N in the middle would make her name fancier, and she was told that she needed to use a shorter last name. Esther Rolle, her costar, suggested “Stanis”. As BernNadette Stanis, she became known for her role as Thelma Anne Evans on Good Times, the stereotype-breaking sitcom that featured a black family living in the projects. Just as the show was ground-breaking, Thelma was as well. At 16, Thelma was the first African American teenage girl character on television (although BernNadette was 20 when the show debuted.)

BernNadette Stanis Was An 'It Girl'

Source: (Pinterest)

Because of her role on Good Times, she became an “it” girl, influencing fashion trends and becoming a role model. Her costar, Jimmie Walker thought that she could be more successful if she could be featured on pin-up posters, as men did find her beautiful. However, Norman Lear and John Amos resisted the idea. 

 According to Stanis, she was a lot like the character she played on the show; she too was raised in the projects and wanted to be a “good girl”. She also had a close relationship with her mother and was a bit feisty. The show ran from 1974-1979.  

Stanis Did 'The Love Boat,' 'The Cosby Show' And More

Left: BernNadette Stanis with Fred Grandy on 'The Love Boat.' Right: In an autographed publicity photo. Sources: IMDb; eBay

After Good Times had run its course, Stanis appeared on The Love Boat, The Cosby Show, The Wayans Brothers, and Black Jesus, among others. She also appeared in a few minor movies in the early 2000s and was in a music video in 1993, "Car Hoppers" by Positive K. 

Stanis Has Been Married Four Times

With her daughters. Source: (Twitter)

She first married her high school sweetheart, Thomas Fauntelroy in 1974. They divorced in 1978. Her second marriage came in 1979, to Darnell Johnson, a nightclub owner. In 1982, she married her third husband, Terrence Redd in 1982. Kevin Fontana was her fourth husband, and she had two daughters, Dior Ravel and Brittany Rose.

Bernadette Stanis Is A Published Author

Source: (AmoMama)

She published her first book, Situations 101: Relationships The Good, The Bad & The Ugly in 2005. The book did well and she was able to travel around the country meeting people as she participated in book signings. The success of the book encouraged her to write a second. Her mother had accompanied her as she traveled and they decided to write a book together, but her mother had Alzheimer’s and it got worse, so Stanis shifted her focus to caring for her mother. On the night her mother died, she decided to write a book called The Last Night, focusing on caregivers. She finished it five years after her mother died.  

She Named Her Foundation After Good Times

With her mother. Source: (ILoveOldSchoolMusic)

Her mother’s disease also influenced her to start a foundation dedicated to Alzheimer’s. Stanis was watching a Good Times rerun one night as her mother was in the grips of the disease and did not recognize that Thelma was actually her daughter, even though she consistently recognized BernNadette. This incident inspired the name of her foundation: Remembering the Good Times. Stanis also released Situations 101: Finances. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and For Men Only, which was a collection of poetry dedicated to the men who supported her.

Tags: BernNadette Stanis | Childhood Crushes | Good Times | Ladies

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!