Loida Nicolas Lewis’s memoir of love, marriage, and race 

Loida and Reginald: A fearless account of the Lewis’s 24-year marriage. Photos: ‘Why Should Guys Have All the Fun’

By Allen Gaborro

In 1967 a US Supreme Court ruling led to the legalization of interracial marriages. One such interracial marriage would be the union two years later of American lawyer Reginald F. Lewis and Sorsogon-born Loida Mañalac Nicolas. It would be the beginning of a beautiful and productive relationship that ended with the untimely passing of Reginald in 1993.

As a result of his entrepreneurial skills, Reginald would become among the richest Black Americans in the 1980s. A year after his death, his widow Loida would become the chairwoman and chief executive of the company her husband acquired in 1987, TLC Beatrice. Securing those leadership posts was one thing. But to be an effective executive was no easy task for Loida in what was considered to be a man’s world.

In her memoir “Why Should Guys Have All the Fun: An Asian-American Story of Love, Marriage, Motherhood, and Running a Billion-Dollar Empire,” Loida Lewis provides us with her collection of personal experiences and momentous turn of events that took place in her life. 

Serving as Grand Marshal of the Centennial Celebration of Philippine Independence Day in 1998, Loida waves a Philippine flag while marching down Madison Avenue in Manhattan. First row from left to right: Imelda “Mely” Nicolas and Carolyn “Mom” Fugett. Second row from left: Asunción “Chong” Mañalac-Capati, Suzzette Bagaybagayan Rutherford, (partly hidden) Mency Mañalac-Gardose.

Her book features some honest introspection and remembrances, unshakable familial bonds, the sentimentality of the tender mercies that fortified her soul and spirit, and the evolution of Loida Lewis’s business acumen.

During her “joyful” childhood with her well-to-do parents in the Philippines, Loida cultivated what would be a close, lifelong relationship with God. Her faith was never more conspicuous than when she narrowly escaped death from an accident involving a military vehicle. Loida writes that her father saw this episode as a blessed portent of things to come: “My escape from death is simply God’s affirmation that I’m going to be a great lawyer.” In 1974, she would be the first Asian woman to pass the State of New York’s bar exam.

Loida met her future husband Reginald on a blind date in 1968. In that first encounter, the issue of race came up when Loida innocently asked him “what’s it like to be a Black man in America?” A piqued Reginald responded “I’m international!’” adding that “I don’t encourage or embrace labels that allow people to pigeonhole me.” 

Loida astutely grasped the meaning of Reginald’s reply: “He doesn’t want me dealing with him as a Black man, but as a human being. So just like that, he erases the concept of race from our conversation, which impresses me further.”

Physics class at St. Agnes Academy in 1959. Seated from left is Bernarda Lita; standing are Edna Triunfante; Sr. Liboria, physics instructress; Leonor Cabigao; Loida Mañalac Nicolas; and Erlinda Gonzales.

Racism would continue to be a lingering issue for both Reginald and Loida as a wedded pair but it would not deter them from future success and prosperity. With their conjugal paths blossoming together personally and professionally, Reginald and Loida would emerge, thanks greatly to the former’s highly-lucrative investments, as one of Manhattan’s “power couples.”  Loida asserts that “my beloved and I are undoubtedly the only African American/Filipina duo in the mix.”

Reginald’s enterprising ascendancy would lead to the lifestyle of the rich and famous for the Lewises. Which brings me to the blind spot in Loida’s book. To be fair, Loida makes a concerted effort not to appear snobbish or haughty. And yet, more than once does she unwittingly boast about her and Reginald reaching the financial summit and acquiring the perks and extravagances that dreams are made of.

With what I would describe as her occasional subconscious victory lap taking, Loida lays out self-congratulatory offerings like “Landed Gentry, Here I Come!” and “there’s no question my family and I are bona fide One Percenters now,” not to mention having attained the lofty status of consorting with “France’s uber elite.”

There are also casual Freudian slips if you will, that trot out a summer home in the Hamptons, a Parisian haute couture wardrobe, sumptuous art possessions, and collector’s item furniture.

Guilelessly, Loida walks a tightrope between living and breathing humility (she writes that “the rapid rise in the wealth, luxury, and privilege that I’m experiencing with Reginald is also making me uncomfortable.”) and the innate human desire to proudly tell everyone what you’ve accomplished without in her case, sounding supercilious. A handful of exceptions in her memoir notwithstanding, she does her best to manage that equilibrium.

On deeper reflection, Loida Lewis has come a very long way. The sparks of what would be her inspirational and fortuitous existence came from the humblest of origins. Now in her eighties, Loida has accumulated the wisdom of the ages and with that wisdom has realized her aspirations with the praise, respect, and admiration of her peers and loved ones.

Loida and Joe Biden in Las Vegas in 2020, where Loida’s campaign work with the Asian American Pacific Islander Victory Fund helped Biden to secure the White House. Photo by Adam Schultz / Biden for President

Pre-Order her book today thru Amazon.com Search Loida Lewis, and

Why Should Guys Have All The Fun?

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