Bright lights. Adoring crowds. We live in a celebrity-soaked culture and often see ourselves as inconsequential or too dull to influence anyone like the luminaries splashed across mass media. Misguided thinking? Absolutely. Everyone has the potential to positively change lives.
This from an award-winning singer, actress and entertainer Rebecca Holden, who has walked plenty of red carpets in her day.
“Young women come up to me and tell me they want that Hollywood dream,” Rebecca told me. When she asks why, the answer always disappoints her. Like many, they seek fame and fortune, recognition and acclaim.
“That means nothing to me,” said this self-described “nerd,” a straight-A student who grew up in Dallas. “Hollywood was as far away in my life as you could imagine. I thought I’d be a piano teacher.” But “when God places something in your path, it behooves you to express appreciation for the opportunities He’s given you.”
You obey not because of your own ego, and a longing for praise, she said, but because you could connect with others on a deep, personal level and then make a positive difference in their lives. “It raises everyone. It’s a unity like no other. That was, to me, always the desire.”
I agree. Everyone has the potential to positively change lives…but I’d no idea how she’d helped shape the lives of others.
That’s because I didn’t know who she was.
Rebecca is a former “Breck girl” model, who gained notoriety in the 1980s playing April Curtis in the wildly popular Knight Rider series about a modern-day crimefighter who used the technologically advanced KITT car to bring justice to evildoers.
But I’d never watched Knight Rider.
And therefore, didn’t follow her career or pay attention to her appearances on magazine covers and a plethora of television shows, movies, and commercials. I didn’t know that this classically trained pianist and singer had sung opera and pop, big band, and country.
And until just recently, I had no idea of her globe-trotting ways meeting tens of thousands of people at charity events and special conventions held just to celebrate the Knight Rider series.
“When you hear their stories, you’re in awe,” she said of her fans. One young man made a particularly strong impression. Raised in a small African village, he approached her at an event in Las Vegas, and said, ‘“My family didn’t own a TV, but our village did. That’s how we watched Knight Rider.’’’
She continued, “He took the show’s message of how one man can make a difference to heart.” He went to Stanford University and earned a Ph.D. in international relations. Working now at the United Nations, she hears from him to this day.
“As an actor you never know whether a show will connect with people. I am honored to be a part of this.” As she said, everyone has the potential to positively change lives. Even a 40-year-old television show.
Rebecca’s Latest Film Role
Rebecca is talking with me because of my buddy, Executive Producer Dan Searles. He asked if I’d like to talk with Rebecca about her latest role in his upcoming Western, Was Once a Hero. He made an electronic introduction, and I followed up with a text, by then well-versed on who she was.
“Any friend of Dan’s…as they say.” Her text message included three emojis: a thumbs-up, hearts, and praying hands. When she suggested in another text that I look at her website, I told I’d already taken the deep dive.
“Ha! You’re terrific. Visiting tomorrow will be fun.”
And it was.
Channeling the Important Women
Before signing on to any project, Rebecca always asks, “Is the script well written? If it’s not on the page, it will never be on the screen.” Luckily for Dan, who cowrote the screenplay with Paige Smith, the script passed muster.
“It’s a little gem of a script…lots of family values… The way a person writes speaks to me about who they are.”
Over her decades-long career, Rebecca has portrayed all types of people. A villain. A flirt. A betrayed evangelist. In Was Once a Hero, Rebecca plays the tough and gritty “Millie,” a former woman of the night, a saloon girl, waiting out her final years in an abandoned town where the movie’s defining moment occurs.
How’d she do? I asked Dan. “She is tough and loving and loyal not above using violence… She channels Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke.”
Rebecca clarified. She channeled the personalities of “women who are heroes in my life.” Her grandmother, who “didn’t take guff” off anyone, and her mom, who knew how to handle a gun having been raised on a cattle ranch in West Texas.
“My mom was my rock, my go-to.” she said. Her voice broke.
“I’ve been truly blessed. My parents were moral people… parents first and friends later, ” she continued, recalling the breakfast-table discussions and long drives to and from dog shows where her family competed full-bred Bassett Hounds. “I yearn for them every day.”
Everyone has the potential to positively change lives. And it was evident that her now-deceased parents had made a positive difference in hers. As do her two sisters. “We talk or text every day.”
“Don’t Tell Me You Can’t Do Anything”
She seemed to have a strong sense of self. Commonsense. Furthermore, she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. Over the past few years, for example, much has been written about influential men who promise roles to aspiring actresses in exchange for sexual favors. Of course, I asked the question.
“I had such wonderful parents. I knew how to handle it,” she said. “You don’t agree to go to a man’s home or hotel room at two in the morning. You quietly excuse yourself and leave the room. Too many girls, though, give in.”
When the topic turned to another form of abuse where victims truly have no choice, her voice became more impassioned. “It’s an evil world and we don’t know the half of it… I think some people want to dismiss child trafficking as a conspiracy theory. They make the choice not to know.”
But purposeful ignorance aids and abets, she continued. “You can have conversations. You can share your thoughts. Awareness is everything. Don’t tell me you can’t do anything.”
Our time together was ending, but I had one more question. What is your legacy, Rebecca?
“We don’t really want to think about the end of our lives, do we?” She paused. “I hope I’ve been a good daughter, sister and friend…a good example to those who looked up to me. I hope I’ve lived up to the principles that my parents demonstrated…that God sees me as one of his beloved children.”
Everyone has the potential to positively change lives.