The word “genuine” is defined as “free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy; sincere.” If someone was trying to put a face to that definition, it would be 55-year-old actress Laura Linney. And that’s what nearly 800 Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon guests learned on Friday, October 4, at the Omni Dallas Hotel to benefit The Family Place.
And it seemed so right to have a woman, who had not only survived in an industry fraught with challenges but thrived, since the day’s focus was on female empowerment with Lavina Masters, who was raped at the age of 13 and had championed the passage of legislation — the Lavinia Masters Act — safeguarding sexual assault victims, receiving Real Life Hero. Still another nod to such determination was the selection of the 2019 Texas Trailblazers, who were champions in the corporate world — Beth Garvey of BG Staffing Inc., Mandy Ginsberg of Match Group, Kim Lody of Capital Senior Living, Melissa Reiff of The Container Store, Lori J. Ryerkerk of Celanese, and Jill Soltau of JCPenney.
But before the luncheon officially got underway, a meet-and-greet took place in the Fair Park I Room that was filled to the max with folks like U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, Katherine Wynne, Lisa Ogle, Megan Flanagan, Cindy Stager, Jane Henderson and her son Gibbs Henderson, The Family Place’s Board of Directors President Emily Maduro and Regina Bruce, who wanted a photo opp with Laura.
Ironically, no one knew that KXAS’s news co-anchor Meredith Land, who was to interview Laura, was making news herself. She had announced that she was pulling back on her duties at the anchor desk. Yes, she would still be doing the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts, but she was no longer be at the anchor desk for the 10 p.m. broadcast.
Co-Chairs Marjon Henderson, Marisa Howard and Samantha Wortley welcomed the audience including Brent Christopher, Sally Stephenson, Diana Hamilton, Lisa Shirley, Cara French, Wendy Messmann and County Commissioner Clay Jenkins who brought along his mom JoAnn Jenkins and reported that 85% of domestic violence victims are women. Marjon and Samantha also explained that the colorful pieces of cake at each guest’s table were in honor of Marisa’s birthday.
The Family Place CEO Paige Flink announced a $25,000 match had been made by Stephanie and Travis Holman. Less than 15 minutes later, $11,685 had been raised.
Expanding on the understanding of abuse, Paige explained that financial abuse is one of the key elements in domestic abuse. Whether it’s in the workplace or the fear of not being able to get away from an unfit home, The Family Place clients can achieve freedom thanks to the Dignity at Work program that provides emotional and professional counseling enabling victims to be financially independent of their abusers.
On the other side of the workplace spectrum, The Family Place has created the Work Strong program to enhance the safety of women in the workplace. “It is designed to help companies address gender-based violence that happens in the workplace as well with sexual harassment and is brought into the workplace by employees, who suffer from gender-based violence at home.” The plan is to work with companies to recognize signs of such abuse and how to deal with it.
She then encouraged guests to contact Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz regarding the passage of Violence Against Women Act that had already been passed in the House of Representatives.
At 12:30 p.m. Meredith and Laura took their places on the stage for a chat including such highlights as:
- Laura had been filming the third season of “Ozark” until 3 a.m. in Atlanta and caught the red eye to make it to the luncheon.
- Her parents split when she was six months old and she saw her playwright father [Romulus Linney] every other weekend. “That was a problematic relationship. There was a lot to negotiate there with parents that didn’t always see eye-to-eye.”
- She was a “closeted actress,” working backstage until attending Brown University, when she got the acting bug. The next stop was The Juilliard School. “I am an introvert by nature.”
- Social media — “Evolution is evolution. Businesses evolve. Marketplaces create new traditions and new perspectives. I have a really hard time when people say their brand and they’re talking about a person. For me a brand is for an inanimate object that is fixed… a commodity is to be sold…. that does what it does and has one function and one function only…I feel like we have so much more to offer than one function and one function only. And I’m not in a cardboard box on a shelf. So I understand the business perspective of a brand and I under how economically how you can use that. I feel that it is dangerous when it comes to representing people, connection and a deeper understanding of who we are and how we relate to each other. It’s been interesting just to see generationally what’s happening with that.”
- Worst advice — In 1991 she went to an audition wearing pants. She had been told to “wear a skirt… a short skirt. I was given a real dressing down afterward. I thought, ‘Not gonna do that.’ …I tend to think what I do is a vocation and not a profession… Fortunately I have always had some kind of internal navigational system that let me not be afraid to not follow the rule.” Didn’t get the part.
- Best advice — It came from fellow actor Gabriel Byrne when she was going through a rough time. He told her, “There is no way through it but through it… You’ve got to go through it. Stay present. Stay connected. Do not abandon yourself. And I learned from him that to sit in discomfort is a very important thing to be able to learn how to do; to not be afraid of discomfort; to not deflect discomfort; to realize that it will pass; but to somehow harness your fear when things are uncomfortable and not skip the lessons that come from discomfort.”
- Her work ethic — “I work hard. I show up. I get along with other people… I was born with a great disposition for this business…. I don’t mind rejection. I don’t take it deeply personally. It always hurts. It stings… But I love what I do so much that I somehow don’t take it personally and realize that it wasn’t meant to be and maybe I wasn’t right and that person is better. I’ve seen a lot of people who can’t navigate it.”
- Motherhood — “I had a child when I was 49. I had to wait for this child. It all made sense.”
- Balancing her life — “You just do it. My life is really good. I hate those moments when I think I’m not doing things well.”
- Her character on “Ozark” — “I love her because she’s so immature… She’s impulsive. She’s a terrible parent. She’s just awful. She’s shrewd. She’s really smart. She’s very reactive. She great fun to play.”
- “Ozark”‘s success — She attributed the success of the show especially to three great men (Jason Bateman, Patrick Markey and Chris Mundy). “They’re really exceptional because they’re really good to the women and that’s really unusual.”
- Harvey Weinstein — “It was bad. Everybody knew it. There are very many others [like him]. But it’s in every profession… I was a little older. I was 34-35. I was able to sidestep the situation.” She recalled sitting in a hotel lobby like a call girl to have an audition in a hotel bedroom.
- Recommendations — “Everyone needs to mentor someone. The more women talk to other women, it’s important to pass down. They need our foundation.”
- Abused woman from her past — As a child, she recalled a women who lived on our floor who wore glasses and a hat. “Years later I realized that she was being beaten by a man who came into town.”
All too soon the conversation was over and rewarded by a standing ovation, as Laura headed back to the airport to fly back to Atlanta to her day job.