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Sherri Shepherd has had a long career as a comedian but the funny lady with the huge smile recalls experiencing not-so-happy times while working on television during probably her biggest gig ever.

Shepherd opened up about her emotional time spent as a co-host for The View. The gig brought Sherri’s face and commentary into millions of homes daily and she worked alongside huge names in media but it wasn’t always sunny on set. She actually calls it “painful.”

“It was the most painful experience that I’ve ever gone through, but it was the best experience,” the actress recalls in PEOPLE. “Barbara was so hard on me. I cried for three years in my dressing room because she was so hard on me, but she did it out of love.”

Early on during her tenure, Wendy Williams commented that Shepherd could be “replaced with a potato sack” and no one would know the difference. Comments like these hurt Sherri, she says. Then one of Sherri’s comments about Christianity and the LGBTQ community in 2014 caused an uproar of hateful criticism.

“When people wanted to cancel me and take out full-page ads on me and take it outside The View, I would cry. Because I would go, ‘If you knew my heart.’ I came from doing standup and making people laugh and doing sitcoms.” She thinks we all need to slow down and lead with love. “I wish we were a culture of loving and going, ‘Let’s just see, hold on before we go, click, your entire life is done, your livelihood. You can never come back from this.’ Now there of course cases where it’s just like: You need to be in jail.”

What seemed to hurt Sherri most was honesty from her esteemed co-stars.“I love you,” Shepherd recalls Walters telling her one day. “I just need you to read a book, dear, and learn to defend what you believe. And speak up.”

Today, Sherri says she ‘leans on God’ as she still navigates her life and career. She also has longtime friends to call on.

“We all get together, Garcelle Beauvais, who I’ve known since the Jamie Foxx Show, and Kim Coles, and Niecy and others. We have dinner and we’ll invite a young actress to join. We get together, a bunch of us, just to uplift each other and keep each other going. We talk and talk — about money and kids and my divorces.” She laughs, showing her big smile — and a few tears. “And we listen.”

Could you have guessed being on ‘The View’ would be a painful experience for Sherri?

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