Victoria Rowell is best known for her TV roles on “The Young and the Restless” and “Diagnosis: Murder.” You may not know it, but she’s an active community servant. The actress believes in the act of passing positivity and encouragement forward. Rowell is a proud supporter of the Carrie Steele-Pitts Home (CSPH). Chartered in 1888, CSPH’s mission is to maintain a family environment that fosters the physical, educational, social-emotional, and spiritual development of each child. This home holds such a dear place in her heart because she, too, is a foster child, the nurturing care provided by her foster parents helped her become the woman she is today.
On March 24 at 7 p.m., Carrie Steele-Pitts Home (CSPH) will present the 130th Anniversary Honors Gala at Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta. This year, Rowell has been chosen to host the event. Her goal is to raise $500K, which will be used to support education funding.
Rowell spoke with rolling out about her career and connection to the organization.
As a woman of color, what do you consider your superpower to be?
My superpower is nature and the women who raised me in foster care. Some were meant to be raised by one mother; I was meant to be raised by many. It’s a composite of all the women. That composite is powerful.
What key skills or qualities make you unique?
What makes me unique is that the cornerstone of my strength has been a rare kind of hardship. I think if you are an orphan of the living, it requires an intestinal fortitude to survive. That has made me a warrior at work; in life, I stand up for justice … It’s been instructional for me and invaluable in Hollywood. Foster care has built an intestinal fortitude in me to be brave and courageous in the face of a David and Goliath fight. I’m proud and grateful for my background because it is the cornerstone of my strength.
Why is it important for women of color to lead or work in leadership roles and decision-making capacities?
It’s important for women of color to be in leadership roles because we will hire other Black women; we will hire judiciously. I have had the great privilege to have worked in this business for 30 years. I have worked for CBS, Sony, and Viacom collectively. I haven’t had one opportunity to direct, to write, to produce and it’s absurd. To see the success of A Wrinkle in Time and Black Panther, Shonda Rhimes … to see the success of other writers and producers is important. Bob Johnson just gave me an opportunity as a Black female producer, writer, director and actor. I have been pitching for many years. I can give you examples of how difficult it is for an African American to get anything done. When the executives look back and say they don’t know what to do with that story, I say well, of course, they don’t; they are not me. You can’t produce something you don’t know. Mr. Johnson has rebranded with RLJ Entertainment, with The Urban Movie Channel (UMC) as one of their outlets for streaming. In 2017, they licensed my original soap opera, “The Rich and the Ruthless.” We became their most-watched program still selling a subscription. We were picked up for a second season, which will drop June 15. We’ve been nominated for seven awards. I’m ecstatic to have a home for content that bespeaks my ability.
If you could thank any Black woman history maker for her contributions to society, who would it be and why?
Black women’s influence in my life is fraught with significance. It is not any one woman that I would pin. It could be an Ida B. Wells, a Sojourner Truth, my primary foster mother, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Barbara Jordan, Janet Collins. It’s so many women and not just Black women. I credit my own mother, who was white, who birthed me with no prenatal care when her family turned on her for having a Black child. She is just as significant to me. When I look in the mirror, I see a Black woman. Carrie Steele was an extraordinary woman who took in Black babies who were abandoned in Atlanta. When I learned of CSPH, the oldest foster care home in the nation, continuously running, I said, “I am in.”
How do you feel about the hashtag #CollaborationOverCompetition? What qualities or values do you deem indispensable in your business partners or collaborators?
I saw all the nonsense about Black Panther is number one; Ava DuVernay is number two and we push back on that as a community. I think that there is a strong awareness that you aren’t going to divide and conquer — that is a slave-ology way of thinking… and times up. If you are going to compare Black Panther to A Wrinkle in Time, we want to see a comparison to every other movie that just broke. We understand that this is a tactic that has been used for 400-500 years and that is not something that we’re interested in. We are about collaboration and uplifting.
As a successful woman in entertainment, what is your greatest or proudest achievement?
I survived. 75 percent of the foster care population ends up in prison because we are emancipated with nothing. We look to third world countries and say, “Isn’t that a shame,” but we don’t even look to ourselves. When you emancipate 25K children a year left to their own devices [without] any services, they turn to crime. So, I survived. I stumbled; I fell, but I would get back up. I have been taught you don’t stay down.
What thoughtful or encouraging piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Keep that youthful light on. You have to protect our youthful joyful spirit. This is at the heart of defeat when you allow outside entities to chip away at your gift because they are afraid to do it themselves.