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‘That little girl couldn’t protect herself’: Leslie Jones opens up about getting abused as a child in new memoir


Trigger Warning: This article includes references to sexual abuse

Disclaimer: If you need support or know someone who is struggling with domestic violence or assault or abuse, please reach out to your nearest mental health specialist, NGO or speak to someone about it. There are several helplines available for the same.

Emmy-nominated comedian and former Saturday Night Live star, Leslie Jones, is taking her candidness to a whole new level in her upcoming memoir, Leslie F***ing Jones, set to hit bookshelves on September 19. In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE magazine, the 56-year-old opens up about her painful childhood experiences and the challenging path to stardom, shedding light on why she’s chosen to share her deeply personal journey with the world. Here is what the star says about her childhood experience. Read on.

Leslie on getting abused as a child

Jones, known for her fearless comedy, expressed her relief at finally penning her life story, noting, “I knew I would write a book one day, but I’m kind of glad I did it now, so I can remember some of it.” However, she acknowledges that revisiting her past was an emotionally taxing process. Born Annette Leslie Jones in Memphis, Tennessee, to Sundra Diane Jones and Willie Jones Jr., Leslie’s early years were marred by a traumatic incident. At just 2 or 3 years old, she fell victim to sexual assault by one of her babysitters. 

Reflecting on this harrowing experience, Jones shares, “Man, I wish I could go back and fight that guy — that little girl couldn’t protect herself.” It remains uncertain whether her late parents were ever aware of the abuse, but Leslie believes that this ordeal cast a shadow over her early years, evident in the fading light in her eyes in childhood photographs. Throughout her life, Leslie Jones leaned on her father, Willie Jones Jr., for support and encouragement. He instilled in her the belief that she could achieve anything with hard work, despite the societal barriers she would inevitably face as a Black woman.

Jones fondly remembers her father’s words, “I don’t care what they tell you, you can do whatever you want to do as long as you work hard.” Her mother also played a pivotal role by connecting her with mentors and extracurricular activities to boost her self-esteem. Looking back, Leslie attributes her resilience and success to her parents’ unwavering support and guidance. Both her mother and father passed away in the early 2000s from heart-related illnesses, leaving behind a legacy of determination and perseverance that would drive her career.

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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.