In 1989, five years after The Cosby Show aired, a new black-family sitcom made its way to prime-time television, and the world was introduced to the Winslows on Family Matters.
The Winslows were a family from Chicago, and the series started out with patriarch Carl (Reginald VelJohnson); his wife, Harriette (Jo Marie Payton); his son, Eddie (Darius McCrary); elder daughter, Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams); younger daughter, Judy (Jaimee Foxworth); and Grandma Estelle, also known as “Momma Winslow” (Rosetta LeNoire).
What made the Winslows different from the Cosbys is that they were a middle-class working family, with the father a cop and the mother an elevator operator. But as with the Cosbys, the Winslow family had their fair share of laughs, and each episode seemed to end with a lesson learned. And there’s one lesson we all learned by the end of the show’s fourth season: Everyone is expendable, even if you’re just a kid.
By the middle of Family Matters’ first season, the world was introduced to Steve Urkel (Jaleel White). The high-pants-wearing caricature of a nerd was like a fourth child for the Winslows—so much so that the producers of the show eventually decided that the Winslows needed only two children. With the addition of Urkel’s character, as well as Richie, Harriet’s nephew, and his mother, Rachel Crawford (Thelma Hopkins), the show took off and became a success, with all of the shine on Urkel, of course. But something weird happened at the end of the fourth season. And to this day in pop culture, many people reference the fact that Foxworth’s character, Judy, was sent to her room and was never to be seen again.
Judy was gone, and the Winslows had only two children. There wasn’t a storyline in the “Mama’s Wedding” episode that mentioned Judy disappearing. It just happened. No one ever mentioned Judy again. But pop culture and television fanatics never forget anything, especially when a magazine such as Entertainment Weekly publishes a Family Matters reunion photo shoot and Foxworth was suspiciously omitted.
To say Foxworth’s life hasn’t been a crystal stair would be an understatement. After being let go from the show at the age of 13, she seemingly disappeared from the spotlight, only to re-emerge years later in adult films. Most people were shocked to learn that the little girl they came to love as Judy was now taking a different route in her acting career. But Foxworth isn’t ashamed of the path she chose, and years after battling substance abuse and getting her life back on track, Foxworth wants her story to be told.
After seeing the EW cover with the original cast of Family Matters, social media had one question: “Where’s Judy?” So I searched for Judy and found her. Now a mother of a son, and just putting the final touches on her book about growing up as a child star, Foxworth wasn’t at all shocked to see the cover. Although she received her walking papers from the show, she’s still close with Payton, McCrary, Williams and Shawn Harrison, who hilariously played everyone’s favorite goofball Waldo Gerlado Faldo.
“I was not invited at all. I wasn’t even contacted,” Foxworth said in an interview with The Root.
“Shawn [Waldo] sent me a text two days before it was released. He asked if anyone contacted me, and he just wanted to let me know that EW contacted them to do a reunion cover. And he just didn’t want me to be shocked when it came out,” Foxworth continued.
Foxworth may not have been shocked by the time the story and photo shoot were published on EW, but she was upset. After years of taking the high road, she’d had enough. Not only were people on social media questioning EW’s motives, but so was she.
“The people in the picture are more important than the picture itself. It was a slap in the face from Entertainment Weekly. I don’t think there’s any good explanation. If they want to use adult films as the reason, I’m not the first person to do adult films and won’t be the last,” Foxworth said.
So why did Judy’s character get cut from the show to begin with? Well, it could have a lot to do with White’s character becoming the star of the show. Foxworth said that her scenes and lines began diminishing little by little, and even though she was just a kid, she knew something was going on. And then she vanished completely.
“The producers felt that they could do it and no one would notice. They’d done it with previous shows they had. They figured no one would really care. My fans took notice of it,” Foxworth said. “They figured they could just throw me away, no explanation at all. Some of my cast members knew before I did.” And even with Payton fighting for her to stay on, the producers still got rid of her character.
As season 4 came to an end, Foxworth definitely got the feeling that things were about to change. She said that her TV dad came up to her and told her she was a great actress and a beautiful girl. And then came the hiatus, which she noticed was longer than usual for her, and her mother finally explained to her what had happened.
“It affected my self-esteem as an actress. And I started feeling like I wasn’t good at my job,” she explained.
When Foxworth saw the photo shoot and even noticed the Momma Winslow photo on the living room coffee table, she knew that being omitted was deliberate. She also felt that her inclusion could have been a huge talking point.
“By being included, it could have started a conversation about how certain people in a family don’t always do what everyone agrees with. Sure, I did adult films, but the only people that are going to be shocked about it are kids. It’s not shocking. I did not kill anyone. I didn’t murder anyone. The only pain I inflicted on anyone was myself,” Foxworth said.
Nowadays, Foxworth isn’t looking for anyone’s approval. It’s been over a decade since she’s been in adult films, and now she only wants to be the best mother she can be for her son. But she also wants people to know that she’s speaking out because she’s tired of being trampled on.
“You can’t let people trample all over you. At some point you have to speak out. And let people know some things are not OK. I had to speak out and say something,” she said.
This week, EW has profiled every living cast member from Family Matters except for Foxworth. There has even been mention of a reboot, and Foxworth does note that she would have no problem doing one with the cast—if invited, of course. It’s that same cast she still considers family, and to this day doesn’t have any ill will against anyone. But EW? That’s another story. They’re the ones who made her feel a certain way.
The Root contacted EW’s editor, who has written several of the cast updates, and asked why Foxworth was omitted, but has not yet received a response.
“I’m not that little girl anymore. Judy and Family Matters don’t define me. What defines me is how my son turns out. I don’t want people to look at my past, and even this situation, and judge me. I am extremely happy in the place that I’m in right now. I’m just trying to live my best life.”
And as the show’s theme song went, “When days go by, there’s room for you, room for me, for gentle hearts an opportunity.” Foxworth definitely deserved the opportunity to appear with her TV family, and it’s unfortunate that the powers that be didn’t make that happen.