Rita Moreno is more than an icon. She is a trailblazer who opened the door for non-POC performers to not only have a career, but to play roles than were more than the servant or the background character. She also dealt with mental illness and lived to tell the tale.
Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It premiered a couple of weeks ago on the PBS series American Masters. The documentary follows her life and career from her early days playing “ethnic” characters to her current status as one of the most respected performers in Hollywood. Best known for her role as Anita in 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story, it was one of the first (if not the first) fully fleshed out Latino characters on the big screen. Up until that point, Latinx performers either had to hide who they were (a la Rita Hayworth) or play a stereotypical characters ( e.g. Carmen Miranda).
While I was not surprised that she was sexually assaulted. Then, as now, women are still seen as sex objects to be used and thrown away when our usefulness outside of the bedroom has vanished. What I was surprised is that she has lived with mental health problems for decades and survived a suicide attempt. I found her honesty to be refreshing and comforting. It was as if she was saying “I did it, you can too”.
If I could, I would send an invite to watch this film to anyone whose life is complicated by mental illness. If it provides one person at least a brief respite from the mess in our heads and the push to ask for help, I would be satisfied.
Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is available for streamingon the PBS website.
It would be easy to wish, that as adults, the experience of our childhood have no effect on us. But the truth is that as much as we have grown up, who were and what we went through when we were young is always with us.
Growing up, writer Helen Fremont knew two certainties. The first was that she knew that her parents lived through and survived World War II, but refused to share the details with their children. The second was that what happened in their house stayed in their house.
Her new memoir, The Escape Artist, was published last year. Her story is that of long held secrets (her parents were Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland), mental illness, and the heart breaking discovery that her father wrote her out of his will. Add in the questioning of sexual identity and you have a messy youth that has the power, if allowed, to destroy the chance of having a productive and happy adulthood.
I loved this book. Her story has all of the complications that life throws at us. It was at times, painful to read. I kept wishing that I could have given her the innocence and happiness that I knew when I was a girl. I’ve read more than a few memoirs over the past few years. This book is one of the best.
We all have stuff in our homes. They speak to who we are, what we believe, and what our interests are. But there is a difference between just having stuff and letting it take over.
The A&E series Hoarders (2009-Present), follows the lives of real people who struggle with compulsive hoarding. Hoarding is defined as being unable to remove large amounts of unneeded goods from their property. In each episode, the subject works with professional cleaners and a psychiatrist or psychologist to get to the clean their home and get to the root of their distress.
Unlike other reality shows, this program does not mock the people it profiles or uses them to boot ratings. They are dealt with in a compassionate and realistic manner, offering support and help without demeaning them for their mental health issues. As a viewer, I want to reach through the television and hug them, letting that person know that everything will be alright.
There is no doubt that Britney Spears is an icon. She is one of those few performers whose name and work is instantly recognizable. It doesn’t take much to conjure up her image or one of her songs.
Since 2008, Spears has been under a conservatorship led by her father. At the time, it made sense. Given her the public mental health breakdown, it was obvious that someone needed to step in. To sit back and do nothing would have irresponsible. It was supposed to be temporary, until she was able to function as an adult. But somewhere along the way, it became more about using her a cash cow while treating her as a child incapable of taking care of herself.
It’s time for the conservatorship to end. If not wholly, reduced down so that she has some say in her personal and professional life. I also have to wonder if she were a man, would the treatment been different? I think so. There have been a quite a few male celebrities who also live with mental illness and have been open about it. They were not legally and personally shackled down as Spears has been.
If you were to enter the term “self-help book” into the search bar of any major online bookseller, the list of titles to choose from is nearly endless. It is head-spinning to consider the possibilities and perspectives that can help us overcome what is holding us back.
Sharon Dawn’s new book, Rainbow Vision Journal YELLOW: How to Take Control of Your Personal Well-Being and Happiness is the latest self-help book to hit the shelves. It would have been easy for the author to just preach to the reader about what they should or should not be doing. Instead, she asks questions and presents a variety of situations. It is then up to the individual to fill in the blanks and work through the emotional and psychological exercises. It feels like a therapy session that instead of being conducted in person or via telehealth, is a personal conversation the reader has with their inner selves. Allowing that person to work through their issues, it comes off as a natural and cathartic way to relieving ourselves of our burdens.
As someone who has been keeping a journal for twenty-ish years and has been in therapy on and off for nearly thirty years, I appreciate the insight that Ms. Dawn has. Therapy is great, but sometimes the therapist has an unwanted point of view that they inject into the session. A good therapist is an objective witness to our troubles. They listen to the patient and once in a while, provide examples from their own lives to help. But mostly, they are there is let the patient vent and provide guidance to help them achieve their goals.
I really enjoyed this book. Given the millions of people around the world who live with the various forms of mental illness, it is incumbent that we prove assistance in whatever way we can. By presenting Rainbow Vision Journal YELLOW: How to Take Control of Your Personal Well-Being and Happiness to the reading public, it becomes another tool in our collective arsenal to relieve those burdens.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
The original review published on Discovery can be read here.
Though it was not the complete literal gut punch the author promised, there were still parts of the book were emotionally difficult to read. What I appreciated was addressing the fact that many women these days are torn between the traditional idea of womanhood and living their own lives on their own terms.
A good biography does much more than provide the basic facts found on any general internet search. It introduces the reader to the real person that is sometimes hidden behind history and the PR machine.
I loved this book. As much as I knew about Ms. Fisher before I read it, I learned even more. She was intelligent, incredibly funny, smartass, loyal to those she loved, and vulnerable. What made this one special was that it showed her humanity. It is a complete picture of a woman who has inspired generations of fans, women, and those living with mental illness to not be afraid of being who they are.
Mental health is not a joke. Millions around the world suffer and live with it every day. The problem is that it does not get the same respect or treatment that physical health does.
In recent sports news, tennis player Naomi Osaka had to bow out of the French Open due to ongoing mental health issues. Instead of receiving the peace and the privacy that she needs to face her demons, she was attacked in the press and fined by the French Tennis Federation for not doing the expected interviews with the media. Among those who felt that they had the right to put their .2 in is Piers Morgan.
Does anyone notice that his response to Osaka’s decision was similar to the way he reacted to the interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry a few months ago? I think it says something about this man that he feels that he can publicly and verbally attack two women of color without getting any blowback.
I am grateful to those who have stood up for Osaka. If she has twisted her ankle and was laid up on the couch for a week, there would be crickets. But because she has chosen to step back and deal with her mental illness, everyone has an opinion. I have spoken frequently of my own mental health battles over the years on this blog. From my perspective, she made the right decision. As important as work is, we cannot function if we are unable to deal with what is holding us back.
I applaud her for being honest with herself and acknowledging the need for self care. My hope is that she will inspire others in a similar situation to do the same.
There is a Chinese curse which says, “May he live in interesting times.” Interesting times is one way to explain what is happening in the United States.
Last week, a 13 year old boy was shot and killed by police in Chicago. His name was Adam Toledo. He was murdered because the officers believed that he had a gun. Adding salt to the wound was the reference by Fox News host and all around asshole Sean Hannity that this child was a fully grown man. I see two issues with this story.
The blood of this young man is not just on the hands of the police officers who killed him. It is on everyone who played their part to get this supposed weapon into young Mr. Toledo’s hands.
Our local and national law enforcement department must be able to do their jobs. But they have to get it into their heads and their training materials that they are not avenging angels. The police are just one link in the chain of the justice system.
May the memory of this boy be a blessing and finally get us off our asses to stop police brutality against Americans of color.
In response to the umpteenth mass shooting in the United States since March, President Biden referred to this new wave as a national embarrassment. I can’t think of a better description of this unnecessary slaughter of innocent civilians. We can fix this problem, it doesn’t take a genius to put together a national law to prevent future events of this nature. The problem is that some Republican lawmakers are blind to the idea that any national gun control legislation does not infringe on the rights of gun owners who are of sound mind and followed the laws. It is a measure that desperately needed (and has been needed for more than two decades) to save lives.
I don’t know what it will take to wake this country up, but something has to be done.
The plot line of a biography is as follows: the person was born on x date, accomplished a, b, and c, and died on y date. From there, it is up to the writer(s) to add the details and color to the story they are telling.
Heather Clark’s biography of Sylvia Plath, entitled Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath, was published last October. Delving into Plath’s life and work (including The Bell Jar, one of my personal favorites), Clark takes the reader on a journey from Plath’s early years in New England in the 1930’s to her death in 1962 from lingering mental health issues. Using information that was previously unknown, Clark pulls information from interviews, unpublished works, and other documents to create a complete image of one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.
If there was ever a blue print on how to write a compelling biography, this is it. When I finished reading this book, I felt like I knew her. Not just as a poet and a writer, but as a human being. As a reader, it is one thing to connect to your favorite writer based on their work. But when you get to know them as an ordinary person, that is where magic happens.