“Alive, Awake and Aware.”
That’s how Regina Louise responds to the question, “How are you doing today?” Unlike many who might engage in pretense or superficial pleasantries, she is intentional with every word that graces her lips; careful to consider that words spoken to herself and to others truly matter.
From the moment we engage by phone, at the height of a global health pandemic, her commitment to positivity and honesty are instantly contagious. Equally so is her propensity to express deep, meaningful gratitude.
It has been exactly one year since the release of her Lifetime TV biopic, “I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story”, and its message is just as necessary today as it was 365 days ago.
After quieting some distant noise in the background, she takes a moment to settle into herself and connect with me. Within the first two minutes of our conversation, the word resilience surfaces.
Resilient. Webster’s dictionary defines the noun as ‘able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.’
A fitting description for the author, child-care advocate and motivational speaker.
Where once she may have been the product of brokenness and instability, having navigated more than 30 group homes and psychiatric facilities, Regina makes it clear that daily, she chooses to thrive rather than survive.
Additionally, she fights to provide that same opportunity for others.
“There is a percentage of children that enter into the system because there is ABSOLUTELY no one- NOT ONE PERSON- to take them” she says.
“The conditions under which I was born, what’s built into them is failure, is loss of self, is zero agency and zero sovereignty. And what it did for me was the converse. I saw that I was a result of happenstance, an accident… an un-intentionality. So I made a pact with God to make my life intentional.”
As I listen, I grow increasingly intrigued by how well-adjusted and grounded this remarkable woman has become.
“Built into [those] conditions, I wasn’t expected to be much. So if I went with that and believed that… then that’s what would have occurred.”
Right now, as life seems to both spin wildly out of control and simultaneously come to a screeching halt at the hands of the Coronavirus, uncertainty is everywhere.
Job loss has skyrocketed, leaving millions of Americans to navigate through a disquietude that many have never known. For others, personal wars for mental wellness rage on as stay-in-place orders force support groups, recreational activities and long standing plans into cancellation.
And despite her current sense of security, Ms. Louise admits that she too, as a result of being human, struggles with uncertainty also. The difference? She has felt it before.
She knows well, the catharsis of allowing herself to lean into the feeling momentarily.
So in a written piece that she shares with me, she gives even the uncertainty a chance to exist rather than to fight it. And she does not mince words when letting me know that anxiety we are all experiencing for this brief moment in time is an unfortunate reality for children who are subjected to life in the system every single day.
“More than 7.7 billion people are currently living where I, as a foster child lived most of my life. Where the ground of normalcy was ripped from under my feet again and again and again. Where chaos and uncertainty were my daily bread as it is today for the unprecedented number of youth who are lost in this whole covid19 situation. That led me to go- why wait for other people to speak on uncertainty when maybe I can give uncertainty an opportunity to speak.”
And that’s exactly what she does.
Even after bearing her soul to the world on television, Regina Louise has more to give.
To thousands of her followers via Instagram Live, she frequently invites us into an ongoing dialogue that better equips people with an interest in advocating for foster youth. What’s more, she advocates for them by urging people to not only see the pandemic as an opportunity to serve. The chance to offer kindness and extend support to youth that are most in need exists everyday, not just in times of peril.
“What can you do to support foster youth? You can start a podcast! Allow them to be seen and heard, give them an opportunity to have their stories told, unabashedly, uninterruptedly. What would it be like to start a podcast- let them call in, have their voices registered in the American landscape and to have them stored as precious.”
By no means is Regina all talk either. While in quarantine, she’s taken her own advice by opening up her own platform on Instagram Live called, ‘Sweats & Stilettes’.
“Last week I took my own advice and went live on Instagram with a young woman who lives in a group home. She shared her story. People listened. And when it was over listeners sent her a Target gift card to celebrate the graduation she worked so hard for in light of the 3.3 million American high-schoolers who won’t “graduate”.”
The sessions which have already amassed a healthy following air every Friday during quarantine at around 12 noon CST. This week, Regina speaks with actress Angela Fairley who portrayed her in the film. “See?!” she told me excitedly. “I put my own advice into action!”
Much like a mama bear, she protectively points out the importance of not ‘pimping trauma’ by exploitatively sharing the stories of marginalized or underrepresented people.
Then with passion and love-laced admonition, she encourages anyone wishing to be of help to do so with caution. She warns against treating foster youth as “the other”. Important, given our default to often create lines of demarcation amongst ourselves.
As human beings overall, there typically seems to be an established difference between “us” and “them”.
Despite large gatherings being forbidden and self-isolation encouraged, we’ve found clever ways to remain connected. But during the pandemic, while we toss around slogans like, “We’ll get through this together.”, who does our ‘together’ really include?
On the anniversary of her heartbreakingly, triumphant film, Regina Louise, as she has done for decades, issues a challenge that our ‘together’ must begin to incorporate all of us, on every day.
Foster youth included.
Not only on days when the world is falling apart but also during those where opportunity to aid is plentiful. Not only in moments of convenience but also in those that require sacrifice.
When I ask her pointedly how to better achieve this, Regina Louise thinks for a moment before advising.
“Be the vulnerable observer.” She pauses. “Watch. Learn, without insinuating based on your own perspectives and your own privilege. See if you can be invited in.” And finally, after careful reflection and quiet consideration, she adds,
“And then… ask, ‘How can I be of service to you?’“
Regina Louise is a child-care advocate, motivational speaker and the author of Someone Has Led This Child To Believe and Somebody’s Someone. She’s the subject of the Lifetime TV Biopic “I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story” starring Ginnifer Goodwin and Angela Fairley. Ever approachable, you can find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter championing for fostered youth and making a difference.