Image: Cherie Johnson

A chance occurrence in Houston, Texas, brought a big change to Cherie Johnson’s life. A one-time child actress in Punky Brewster and a star of Family Matters, Johnson has had a taste of fame. But she never imagined the way that she would give back to the community in Houston or what she would spend her days doing.

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A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Johnson saw her name up in lights after uncle David W. Duclon got NBC to run a show that he’d invented: Punky Brewster. Naturally, Johnson was perfect for the role of Cherie since it was based on her own self, and she and the show proved successful. She moved on to Family Matters, where for nine years from 1989 she starred as Maxine Johnson.

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Johnson’s talents are by no means restricted to acting, although she continued to pop up in guest roles after Family Matters ended. She produced several films, but her big side job proved to be writing. Johnson penned a couple of novels and works as an editor at Fever magazine. Perhaps this is what has led her to work as a spokeswoman for a literacy campaign.

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However, even a woman of Johnson’s varied talents may not have expected the outcome when her sister showed her an opportunity for business in a run-down part of Houston in 2012. Johnson told Houston website Culture Map, “Right now you have a day care on one end [of] our shopping center and crackheads on the other. And here we are, right in the middle. We’re determined to make this work, though.” And the business that she created hired five people straight away.

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The opportunity was a restaurant called Datt’s It. And celebrity or not, Johnson didn’t just leave all the work to someone else. No, she got stuck in, and visitors to the eatery could find the actress and writer bussing tables. However, times can be tough in the restaurant business, especially in a challenging area of Houston, and sadly Datt’s It did not survive.

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