Ben Vereen

Emmy & Tony Award-Winning Performer/Actor
Fee Range: $15,000–$25,000 [FEE NOTE]
Travels From: California

Few entertainers today are as accomplished or as versatile as Ben Vereen. His legendary performances transcend time and have been woven into the fabric of this country's artistic legacy. A Tony Award winner for his renowned performance in Bob Fosse's "Pippin," Vereen has gone on to solidify his place among Broadway royalty with starring roles in such Broadway productions as "Wicked," "Fosse," "Chicago," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Hair," and "I'm Not Rappaport."

A legend not only on stage but also on screen, Vereen is best known for his iconic role as "Chicken George" in the groundbreaking television miniseries "Roots". Recently, he guest starred on the television shows Grey's Anatomy (which won him a Prism Award), "Tyler Perry's House of Payne", and "Law and Order: Criminal Intent". He also appeared in the Emmy-nominated made-for-TV movie "An Accidental Friendship", for which he earned a NAACP nomination. Vereen currently has a recurring role on the hit CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother".

In the face of his professional successes, Vereen has encountered his share of adversity. In 1987, his 16-year-old daughter Naja was killed in an automobile accident, a devastating event that shook him to his core. Then, in 1992, Vereen himself was in a serious car accident that led to a devastating stroke; as a result, he almost died. He was transported by helicopter from Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu on June 9th, 1992 to UCLA, where he was hospitalized for 42 days, 23 of which he spent in the ICU. For his entire stay in the ICU, he had to communicate by spelling on a board. Vereen was later transferred to a neurological and rehabilitation hospital where he lived for seven months. As a result of his multiple injuries—including the loss of a carotid artery, removal of his spleen, a broken leg, abdominal injuries, and a tracheotomy—Vereen had to undergo arduous physical and occupational rehabilitation in the ensuing months. Quite simply, although it was never simple for Vereen, he had to learn to walk, talk, and sing again.

Through persistence, an indomitable spirit, and excellent healthcare, Vereen miraculously recovered ten months later and was back on Broadway. "After all the years I spent helping other people with benefits and telethons and raising money for wheelchairs, all of a sudden I was using a wheelchair and I realized, ‘Wow! This could happen to anybody.'" Vereen credits the timely care and treatment he received from his doctors, medical technicians, nurses, and therapists for his speedy recovery and ability to sing and dance again. It was this experience that has empowered Vereen to tour around the country at hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and hospital foundations and galas, sharing his message about showing up for life and the importance of quality care.

Adding to his string of hardships, in December 2007 Vereen was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. He quickly embraced his diabetes, speaking publicly about the disease whenever possible. Vereen started the diabetes campaign S.T.A.N.D. (StandforDiabetes.org) to encourage people to talk about the disease. He is also the spokesperson for sanofi-aventis, a world leader in diabetes care.

Putting his misfortunes behind him, Vereen has pushed forward and used the lessons he has learned to help inspire and encourage others. He has become one of the most requested speakers on the lecture circuit among audiences of all ages. His strong sense of social consciousness has enabled him to reach out to his audiences and convey to them a deep feeling of understanding. His topics range from overcoming adversity, arts in education, black history, motivational topics, recovery through physical and occupational therapy, and the importance of quality healthcare. He also acts as spokesman, spearheading a proactive and preventive campaign for those living with diabetes.

Vereen sees his work on stage as a metaphor for his work in life. "Life is art," he said. "Whatever we do in life—whether it's performing or teaching or writing or raising kids—is a form of art. Whatever you do, if you embrace it, it will move you to the next level."

Because Vereen credits many of his mentors, including Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra, with setting him on the right path, he likes to do the same for other people. That's true whether they're entertainers, like the R&B superstar Usher, or youngsters living with diabetes. These days Vereen is on a mission to awaken people to the gift of life.
 

Most Requested Topics:

  • Steppin' Out Live with Ben Vereen: Steppin' Out Live with Ben Vereen is a one-man show that has been dazzling audiences from Hawaii to Abu Dhabi. A unique blend of artistry combining a tribute to Broadway, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr., it features such hit songs as "Surviving Gravity," "My Way," "Mr. Bojangles," and "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries." A contemporary and timeless journey, each performance is filled with song and dance, stories of his life, and a great deal of humor. This program is perfect for foundation galas and hospital fundraisers.
  • Learning to Live Again - Ben's Story of Rehabilitation: After suffering an accident so severe that it nearly took his life, entertainer Ben Vereen required intense physical and occupational therapy to learn to walk, talk, sing, and even live again. In an inspiring and motivating presentation, Vereen share his personal journey and the importance of the rehabilitation he received. He imparts a message of hope, conveying to audiences that, without the help of a dedicated team of doctors, nurses, and physical and occupational therapists, he would not be performing today – or living his life to the fullest.

Special Topics for Black History Month

  • From There to Now: African Americans in the Civil War. Actor and keynote speaker Ben Vereen discusses the roles African Americans played in the Civil War, where these soldiers came from, and how they managed to survive – not only in the army, but as black Americans in a tumultuous time.
  • Black History in Youth: Vereen explores the past and the present, discussing the youth of the black history movement.
  • Holding On to Our Heritage: In schools today there is a lack of black history, claims Ben Vereen. Join him as he poses the question, "How do we hold on to our heritage?"
  • Who Are We Now?: Vereen opens up an honest dialogue, asking, "How did we go from being 'colored' to being a 'negro' to being 'black' to being 'African American'?"
    • From Roots to Now: Ben Vereen, who played "Chicken George" in the iconic miniseries Roots, talks about history through the lens of shooting Roots as well as through the scope of where black history is today.

Overcoming Adversity

  • Diabetes: Taking Control & Living Your Life