Image by Jan Alexander
From the moment when I began writing my first book, about growing up in foster care, and the follow-up book (my graduate thesis) detailing my adult adoption by the beloved counselor I met while living in a children’s shelter, I knew that a film version had to happen. I felt this truth deeply.
I was disappointed at not having stories like mine represented in mainstream media and uninterested in waiting for someone else to come along and legitimize not only my experience but that of the disproportionate numbers of Black children marooned in the foster-care industrial complex.
No one, and I mean no one, was running to the screen with the story of a Black orphaned girl embarking on a (s)hero’s journey and coming into her lived experiences on her own terms. That is, until I decided to follow my instincts, which pointed to the fact that the only way to change the system was to confront it with a narrative counter to the current one of limited to zero visibility for the demographic I spent most of my adult life advocating for and representing.
I pursued the optioning of the film of the first book, and the story of my reunification with my counselor and her subsequent adoption of me. And later, and in the course of losing everything, completing the two degrees, building a speaking/coaching business, and training and certifying to become a Hoffman Process teacher, I managed to hold fast to the deep desire to bring my story to the small screen, also known as television. In 2018 I sold the life rights and the film went into production.
The Power of Love and Spirit
My hope was that if I could get this film made, people from all walks of life and faiths would have a chance to experience the power of love and how Spirit triumphs in the lives of those who dare to believe. As faith would have it, late one night I clicked my way upon a series that premiered on OWN called Greenleaf, produced by Oprah Winfrey. Only a few moments in, and I knew I’d found the perfect actor to play the Gwen Ford character in the Lifetime biopic about my life.
For those of you who have seen I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story, you know exactly who Gwen Ford is. (And if you haven’t seen it, she was a social worker at the children’s shelter where I stayed for some time as a child.) Gwen is no joke. She’s not having any of it. In order to play Gwen Ford, one needed to understand the importance of respecting and holding on to not just a sense of Blackness but also a commitment to fight for what it means to be all in with being Black.
The fact that Kim Hawthorne’s television character in Greenleaf embodied the nuanced qualities of a woman from thirty years ago was nothing short of a miracle, and there just aren’t enough awards to bestow upon her talents. All I can say is that Spirit’s fingerprints were all over what happened next. I bolted upright in bed, pressed the rewind button, and began my character study of Mrs. Kerissa Greenleaf.
Have you ever had a feeling that arrived in full technicolor and like a peacock spread itself wide all up in your gut? That’s what this was. I knew that our film needed the depth of Kim Hawthorne’s acting skills in order for us to have the perfect trifecta: the protagonist, the dynamic character, and the antagonist! Just from watching Kim on screen I could detect her genius ability not only to play the antagonist but to become the essence of that character.
I was like, “Wait a friggin’ minute. That, that, is Gwen Ford.” I jumped out of that bed as if ready to go fisticuffs with somebody. “Gwen, what the hell? How’d you get into my television screen and all up in my bedroom as if we were ever friends?” Oh, I was on a roll. “Gwen, how did you find me?” There is no one else to play that role, my spirit said.
The next morning, I texted Howard, the film’s executive producer: Kim Hawthorne. Greenleaf. Must have her. No one else. She is actually Gwen Ford.
I was not surprised when later I heard that Kim had snagged the role. Several times while on set I had to leave because the similarity between the two women was more than I could handle. The voice, the tone, the straight-up-with-no-chaser sensibilities. The gives-no-f**ks attitude. The short-cropped ’fro. It was too much for me, and yet perfect for the film.
Following Kim on Instagram gave me more insight into her true character, the fierce Black woman and actor who lives her day-to-day values as a Christian woman walking her talk. I caught up with her just a few days after the season finale of Greenleaf. I wanted to know what was true for her regarding her life and her relationship to God.
"How Would You Use Me Today?"
I get up some days, and the first thing I ask God is, “How would you use me today?” Because there is no point in my even existing if I am not going to be an instrument. Yesterday my friend said to me, “Kim, your heart is pure, you do for people, and God is always going to honor that.”
I knew I wanted to act when I was eight years old. I was at school, in the second grade, and a performance troupe came to the school. As I sat in the auditorium watching those people perform, something in me said, This is what I want to do. There was never any doubt or second-guessing. I was laser-focused from the age of eight.
Later I went to college on a partial scholarship to study classical music because my most natural talent was singing. But what I really wanted was to act. My mother was strategic. She said, “You know you can sing. Get the scholarship for singing, then once you are in there, you can move over to acting.” So that is what I did, and I became an actor.
And every time the acting life became tough and I wanted to quit, I would think of Oprah and say to myself, Oprah has gone through so much, a lot of what I have gone through too, and she’s never stopped. So if Oprah can do it, so can you.
This is where God entered the picture. We had just completed our first season of Greenleaf and were having dinner together. Oprah was there, and as we were wrapping up she said, “I’d like for you all to go around the table and share what you’ve gotten out of the first season. How has Greenleaf changed your life?”
When they got to me, I said, “Greenleaf has given me a testimony.” “What do you mean?” Oprah asked. I said, “It is a very lonely life to be an artist sometimes — and we have our moments when we just want to give up. But there is always something that makes us keep going. For me to be able to sit here at this table thirty years into a dream come true and to be able to look at the person who got me through all those times I wanted to quit but didn’t, it’s just a miracle. And to be able to tell you to your face that you are the reason I am on your show, well, Greenleaf has given me a testimony.”
Oprah broke down and started crying. We were all crying. I said, “To be here, to be able to say that to your face, Miss Winfrey, ain’t nothing but God.” My being able to tell Oprah, “Thank you for being who you are so I could be on your show” is a miracle. People think miracles have to be like, your blindness is healed or something. But miracles happen all the time.
I have on my Instagram page, this came to me in Spirit, “Stop asking God for a miracle. We are a miracle. What more proof do you need than us existing here like this? We are the miracle.”
If you were to take a moment and consider the beliefs held and the actions taken by Kim in her journey toward the fulfillment of her dreams, you might quickly recognize how she harnessed the qualities of what she believed to be true about herself and the world. She had an experience of observing her own future in the presence of other actors living their truths. She allowed her spirit to guide her, to listen as the still, small voice inside said, “I want to do that.”
We’ve all heard the axiom “Spirit moves in mysterious ways,” and this truth is borne out by the fact that Kim was afforded the opportunity to live her dream. And she had the chance to say thank you to the one person who encouraged her to keep going when giving up was but a yes away.
Listen to your spirit.
Tune in to how your spirit communicates with you.
Consider how you might pay the best of your hopes forward.
Cultivate a relationship with your faith.
Take a risk, a leap of faith.
Believe in yourself.
Don’t give up.
Have a contingency plan that supports you in not giving up.
Grab whatever writing tools you prefer, and spend some quality time with your spiritual self.
* After reading about what Spirit and God meant for me and for Kim, how do you feel inside?
* How do you interact with your soul?
* What language feels true for you?
* How might you express having a relationship with God?
Go easy, go tenderly, paying attention to what you’re feeling in the moment. Be sure to give yourself whatever you need: compassion, generosity.
* What tools can you reach for from your unconditional-love toolbox?
* How will you use the tool to pour kindness into yourself ?
Be certain to: Close your writing down with a moment of silence. Be sure to thank yourself for the time you’ve spent loving yourself.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library, Novato, CA. ©2021 by Regina Louise
www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.
Permission Granted: Kick-Ass Strategies to Bootstrap Your Way to Unconditional Self-Love
by Regina Louise
Live unapologetically, fearlessly, and fabulously! Get ready to discover and implement practical, fierce, and fun ways to manifest your desires in every personal and professional sphere. With verve and heart, Permission Granted illustrates proven paths from “you couldn’t possibly” to “just watch me!” You’ll begin to deeply understand who you are and what you have been through, moving toward self-compassion and learning to give yourself the care and support you may have lacked.
Author Regina Louise took herself from a childhood in solitary confinement in a residential treatment center to college and the creation of several successful businesses. She now works to show others how to dream and do no matter what. Her book is undeniably inspirational for anyone striving to get out from under limiting beliefs — their own as well as others’.
Click here for more info or to Order This Book. Also available as a Kindle edition and as an Audiobook.
About the Author
Regina Louise is a sought-after speaker, teacher, coach, and author. Her writing and advocacy work have been recognized with numerous awards.
The Lifetime movie I Am Somebody’s Child was based on her bestselling memoirs. Currently a Hoffman Process teacher, she leads workshops and speaks frequently throughout the country.
Visit her website at www.iamreginalouise.com/