Sheryl Lee Ralph admits her first reaction to being asked to host pre-and post-Oscar coverage for CNN and HLN wasn’t what one might expect. “I was so scared I cried,” says the actress and singer.
That’s because she had just been in an automobile accident, “and I had the worst whiplash ever. I was sitting there in my brand-new, no license plates Prius at Sunset and Highland, and I got hit from behind. It was awful.”
But she didn’t want to turn down the choice assignment. “It’s like, God puts these things in your path and I just thought, ‘I know you didn’t bring me this for me not to make it work out.’ The next day, I found the therapist who could help me, Dr. Craig Liebenson” of L.A. Sports and Spine, a chiropractor who’s worked with dozens of elite athletes. “I thought, if he could get Kobe through a championship, he can get me through the Oscars.”
Over the past couple of weeks, she’s since been through a battery of tests and adhered to a recovery regime including hot packs, cold packs, breathing exercises, lots of rest — she’s been sitting out Academy Awards parties — and more. What it hasn’t included is “prescribed pain medication. Another doctor prescribed some, but I said, ‘Look, I can’t think with pain medication. I have to be sharp. I have to be clear. My brain has to take in information about quite a few people.'” Learning about all the nominees is, as she notes, “like a college course. You have to be able to recognize people, know what they’re wearing, what their process was.”
We caught up with Ralph, a.k.a. the tireless AIDS-HIV advocate, a.k.a. the wife of Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes, while she was getting some Oscar-time pampering. That included a massage, a pedicure, and application of Long Mi eyelashes — at Beverly Hills’ L’Ermitage Hotel. The hotel also is hosting Academy Awards time gifting suites, so there is certainly no shortage of stars on hand to collect everything from designer clothing and jewelry, to trips, to “fabulous barbeque sauce” to “crushed ruby lipstick from Holland.” That’s Sheryl Lee’s favorite item at the gifting suites so far. “I love it. I’ve always loved red lipstick. And this has real rubies in it. I’ll have a million dollar smile for real.”
She tells us that Steven Tyler was “coming out just as I was going in. I’m sure he was collecting some things for his daughters.” Of course.
MEANWHILE: Ralph, who shares hosting duties with HLN anchor A.J. Hammer, will definitely be on the lookout for 14-year-old “True Grit” nominee Hailee Steinfeld come Sunday (2/27) night. The Best Supporting Actress hopeful has one of Ralph’s favorite stories. “‘True Grit’ is such a young woman’s movie; it’s about a little girl’s true grit. How does a little girl overcome what was expected of women in the 1800s — which was nothing. And if they dared fight, it was okay to beat them. But this film wasn’t marketed to young women at all. They left Hailee out of all those ads, even though she was so deserving of attention,” the performer points out. But Hailee is getting plenty of attention now. Says Sheryl Lee, “Whatever is for you can’t not be for you.”