Originally from Buffalo, New York, she is most famous for her role on the television program The Facts of Life from 1980 to 1984. This role made her the first person with a disability to have a regular role on a prime time series, as well as the first actor with cerebral palsy to be featured on a TV series. She began her career doing stand up comedy at The Comedy Store in 1978. In 1980, she performed at the 2nd Annual Media Access Awards, when she was introduced to Norman Lear by producer, Fern Field.
Jewell appeared as the recurring character "Jewel" on the HBO original series Deadwood from 2004—2006.
Her autobiography I'm Walking as Straight as I Can was published in 2011 by ECW Press. The title refers to the facts that she has cerebral palsy and is a lesbian.
Jewell's original autobiography, Geri, published in 1984, was a way for readers to learn more about her personal and professional life, even though her personal life was hanging by a thread at the time.
It did help children get comfortable dealing with a person who has a disability, and taught them the value of a good sense of humor, so I’m not going to knock the whole book. But it was such lighthearted fluff given that I was struggling so much at the time. Like I said, I had a manager who was a crook. People in my life were manipulating me and taking advantage of me. Then The Facts of Life did not renew my contract. Years later, they offered me one episode during the fifth season, and my new manager, Richard Lippin, who was trying to fix all the previous manager’s mistakes, turned it down. He felt that after everything that I’d done for Facts, it was a slap in the face that they would only offer me one show. If I had had it my way, I would have accepted it anyway. But I don’t blame him, because he was right. The problem was that he thought I was indispensable, and they didn’t. He figured that they would come back with something better. And—oops!—they never did. He told me not to worry about it, that I was going to find other work because I was very talented, and I was the first person with a disability to break ground in a series.