A Harlem woman has filed suit against the production team behind the movie and current broadway hit "Sister Act," claiming that the story of the feisty street nun is based on her life in an uptown convent. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
Today, she's known on the streets of Harlem as Queen Mother Delois Blakely, but a half century ago, she was a wise-cracking nun with The Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary on 124th Street. Dressed in her habit, she ran the uptown streets with pimps, pushers and gangsters, trying to help save their lost souls from 1958 to 1968.
Shortly after she left the convent, she hired a literary agent to shop around her story, which was turned down by major publishers.
Blakely moved on and raised her disabled daughter and devoted her life to education, obtaining her doctorate from Columbia University. Decades later, she said she got shocking news from her friends who saw the blockbuster film "Sister Act."
"They say, 'Girl, they stole you,'" Blakely said. "It was like something just hit me in the seat of my stomach."
Blakely believes that Whoopi Goldberg's feisty character is loosely based on her life. She's filed lawsuit against Sony Pictures, Stage Entertainment and the screenwriters, seeking $1 billion in restitution.
"First of all, it's my name, Delores. They never changed the name," she said. "And why is it a black woman that looks like me?"
In the first "Sister Act" film, released in 1992, Goldberg plays a Reno lounge singer who is put in protective custody in a convent and most notably teaches the nuns how to sing with feeling.
"It is about my life. I sang in the convent, I played ball, but I hung out in the streets," Blakely said "They were always, like, my protector. When I was there, it was like, 'What's up? What's going on, sis?' And then the word got out on the beat that you could trust her."
A judge told Blakely that she waited too long to file suit and that the statute of limitations ran out, but she's hoping that her case is heard because "Sister Act: the Musical" opened at the Broadway Theater in 2011 and is on a global tour.
"This keeps it going around the world. Oh, yes," she said. "It's keeping it open all the way to China."
Blakely recently self-published her autobiography "The Harlem Street Nun" and calls it the "true story of 'Sister Act.'"
NY1 has reached out to the representatives of the Broadway play and the screenwriter for comment.