Her Story: Jewel Thais-Williams

Jewel Thais-Williams was the first Black woman to own a disco in the United States. A businesswoman, activist, and healer, Jewel Thais-Williams, stood up against hate and discrimination. She is also a national role model when it comes to serving the less fortunate. This is Her Story.

Jewel Thais-Williams knew from a young age that she wanted to be self-employed. Growing up Black and in poverty, Thais-Williams believed that the best way to acquire wealth was to own her own business. She started working at age 9 and would daydream about how she would run a business. 

She graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in History. It took her 14 years to get her degree, but she persisted. Her first business was a boutique that she owned with her sister. In 1973 she bought a bar and opened Jewel’s Catch One on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, making her the first Black women to own a disco club. She decided to start the club because she experienced discrimination at clubs around West Hollywood, because she was black, female and queer. The Catch One was a safe space for everyone regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation.  It became a hub for Hollywood stars, including Donna Summer, Whoopi Goldberg, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Janet Jackson, Madonna and many others. It was the longest running Black club in America.

Jewel went back to school, and in 1998 got her Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine from Samra University. She opened a non-profit called the Village Health Foundation.  She wanted to help support and educate lower-income communities on nutrition and living a more healthy lifestyle. Jewel helped start several AIDS organizations. She also opened first shelter for women living with HIV/AIDS and their children in South Los Angeles.

Jewel is the original Dancing Queen. She’s also an angel in our eyes, for creating a safe space, for bringing people together to see that their differences can be celebrated on and off the dance floor. For being a champion of health and wellness in communities that need it most. She Made History over and over again.

Links to Learn:

Jewel’s Catch One – Documentary


Jewel Thais-Williams

About The Author


Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.


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