The comedian and 'SNL' alum is more candid than ever before in her new memoir 'Leslie F*cking Jones', out now
Leslie Jones can't help but be brutally honest.
Ask the hit comic and Saturday Night Live alum, 56, why she decided to write her life story now, and she'll keep it all the way real. "My agents called me up and said 'Hey, want to write a book?' And I was like 'Yea. Why not? F--- it'," she tells PEOPLE. "I knew that I would maybe write a book one day, like when I retired or something, but I'm kind of glad I did it now so I can remember some of it."
In Leslie F*cking Jones, available now, Jones remembers quite a lot. Some stories are heartbreaking, many are funny and most are inspiring. From overcoming childhood trauma and painful loss to her difficult journey to fame and recent health battles, Jones doesn't hold back. Most importantly, she couldn't be more proud of her journey.
"I proved myself right," says the star. "I'm actually funny and there was something about me. I'm Leslie F---ing Jones!"
Here are some of the biggest revelations from the star's new book.
Jones experienced painful trauma as a very young child.
Jones reveals for the first time that she was sexually abused when she was a toddler. “It was one of my babysitters who messed with me,” she writes of being assaulted at age 2 or 3. “Man I wish I could go back and fight that guy — that little girl couldn’t protect herself.”
The star writes that looking back at pictures now, she's noticed the light in her smile dimmed around that age. She is unsure if her late parents, Army veteran Willie Jones, Jr. and Sundra Diane Jones, were aware of what happened. But she says they are the ones responsible for instilling confidence in her as a child. Her mom would put her in after school programs and connect her with mentors while her dad would fill her with positive affirmations.
"My dad would always say to me, 'I don't care what they tell you, you can do whatever you want to do as long as you work hard,'" Jones tells PEOPLE. "'They're going to tell you you're Black, they're going to tell you you're a female,' he'd say, 'but none of that matters.'"
Jones and her younger brother struggled to find their way as teens.
In the '80s, Jones's family relocated from Memphis, Tenn. to South Los Angeles after her father landed a job at Stevie Wonder's radio station. Initially it was a tough transition for Jones who writes that she struggled early on with finding her social footing in a new high school before making a name for herself as a class clown and 6ft tall star basketball player.
But her younger brother Keith went through the most troubling transition, getting swept up in the gang violence that was prevalent in the area at the time. Jones writes that she wishes she could have intervened but the peer pressure he was under was too strong and from there his life went down a dangerous path.
Jones would have terrible fights with her father, who battled addiction.
Though she and her dad were incredibly close throughout her life, Jones shares that he descended into alcohol addiction after a series of unfortunate events, including losing his job and her mother suffering a debilitating stroke. When Jones was in college their relationship strained and at times he became physically abusive.
In one instance Jones writes that he struck her in the face, causing her to leave home and seek refuge with her boyfriend at the time. Both of Jones's parents died of heart-related illnesses in the early 2000s. Retelling painful moments, like those with her dad, while recording the audiobook for her memoir, "was very emotional, very hard," Jones tells PEOPLE. "I think I cried for the reason of, I made it through that s---."
After bombing in front of Jamie Foxx, Jones quit comedy for six years.
The star writes that she won her college comedy competition and set out to be a comedian in her late teens. One night she gave a particularly bad performance ahead of then largely unknown young comedian named Jamie Foxx. She says he stood up for her in front of the audience but later told her she needed to live more life and build more material before she could make it in standup.
Jones says she took his advice and walked away from comedy for six years. In that time she worked numerous odd jobs, from waitressing to marrying people to selling perfume. "If you want to be a good comic you're going to get taken through the ringer," Jones tells PEOPLE. "And no one is funny until after 10 years."
Jones made the choice not to have children early on.
Jones writes that while living with her longtime boyfriend, she became pregnant multiple times in her twenties. Each time she made the decision to have an abortion. She says she eventually learned how to practice safe sex and prevent pregnancy through educational services offered by Planned Parenthood.
Jones tells PEOPLE her fear of childbirth started after watching a video in her ninth grade health class. "I remember running all the way home and I looked right at my mom and said, 'I will never do that!'" To this day she says she doesn't see motherhood in her future. "I didn't get married and have kids," she says, "but I don't know if that's what I wanted," adding, "I've always wanted to take care of myself."
Jones's brother Keith died in 2009 and the loss gutted her.
The star writes that her brother's story is one of "sadness." He never fully found his way and struggled with homelessness and substance abuse before being found unconscious in a park in Santa Barbara. He died shortly after.
"When my brother died, I laid on the floor for two days," she tells PEOPLE. Then, "it was literally my right mind that said, 'Hey dude, we've got to pay rent. I know you feel bad, but what are you going to do?'" Jones says that the loss sent her into a deep depression but also caused her to lose all inhibitions about her career and go full throttle into pursuing comedy.
At 'Saturday Night Live,' Jones once told Melissa McCarthy she wanted to fight her for rejecting her skit.
After longtime pal Chris Rock helped her land an SNL audition, Jones joined the show's writing team in 2014. But early on she struggled to find her footing. In one instance she wrote a pitch for host Melissa McCarthy that didn't go over well.
"For the sketch," she writes, "Melissa and I would be talking to some guy in the club: 'You’re out there in this club trying to get these skinny pretty b----es? You know, when you go to her house, she ain’t going to have no food in her refrigerator, right? Me, I got a whole meatloaf and some mashed potatoes, some biscuits and string beans!'"
McCarthy wasn't feeling it and later told Jones she hoped the rejection didn't hurt her feelings. Writes Jones, "'You didn’t hurt my feelings,' I said, 'but I did want to fight you, though.' Thank God she laughed at that, because I just wanted to make her laugh."
Jones went on to make a name for herself, eventually becoming a full-fledged cast member known for her standout performances on the sketch show's popular 'Weekend Update' segment. She also writes that at times she had to fight stereotypes and push for diversity as one of few Black cast members on the show. She left SNL in 2019 and tells PEOPLE, "It's like a bittersweet thing. I realized I can only do so much in this machine."
Jones believes 'Ghostbusters' flopped because of poor editing.
The comedian doesn't split hairs when talking about her tough experience filming Paul Feig's all-female Ghostbusters remake alongside Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon. In her memoir she writes about everything from the vicious racist backlash she faced from online trolls when she was cast, to feeling like she wasn't valued on set. "Sometimes I was made to feel like I was just lucky to be there," she tells PEOPLE. "I was like, 'No, y'all lucky to have me!'"
While she enjoyed her time working with the director and actors, she says the producers made poor choices she feels caused the 2016 film to disappoint at the box office. Jones believes over-editing was to blame, with many of the best scenes ending up on the cutting room floor. "I feel bad for the movie that you guys got to see," she says, "because the movie that was made was freaking incredible."
In 2020 Jones underwent hemorrhoid surgery that left her bedridden for months.
The star reveals that she suffered from painful hemorrhoids for years before finally getting them removed just before the pandemic hit in 2020. "Let me tell you," she writes, "of all the funny things in this book, hemorrhoids are no joke." The recovery left Jones in excruciating pain from recurring anal spasms. She writes that this was actually the toughest time in her life and she fell into a depression.
The star credits DJ D-Nice's Club Quarantine sessions held on Instagram during the pandemic with helping her feel joy again amid her pain and the global health crisis.
After seeking therapy she is at peace with her past and excited for her future.
Jones, who writes in gripping detail about her many experiences with loss and trauma, says she's finally had the time and resources to do the work to make peace with it all. "I've been through therapy, everything that I need to get myself into a state of contentment with my mental," she tells PEOPLE. "When I was reading these stories now, I was able to take the time to go, 'f---, man, that s--- was hard when I was going through it."
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