Jennifer's acceptance speech for the Artistry Award at POWER UP's Annual Gala
Jennifer: "I think I am an actor because I've always loved being part of a story. When I was a young girl, when my mother would tell me a bed time story I would beg her to make me a character in the story. "Please put ME in the story," I would say. And as a result when she wasn't reading Greek myths to me she would make up these stories with me in them. Jenny walked through the forest. Jenny fought dragons, and in another more practical story Jenny always counted her change when she went to buy milk from the store. There were a variety of fictions. I think from an early age we all see our life as a narrative, and the narratives to which we are exposed oftentimes shape the narratives we create for ourselves. Through our imagination and through exposure to the imaginations of others we are constantly in the process of creating ourselves.
And as I got a little older, and I was more aware of television and magazines, I searched for images of girls that looked like me. As a biracial girl growing up in Chicago there wasn't a lot there, positive or otherwise. I mean, I had Spock. And that was kind of it. And I think my theme song was Cher's "Half-Breed." As for being female, the only women who had any kind of power were either witches or scantily clad blonde genies who were running around furniture to escape certain rape from some horny guy, which was really weird. And in that case, I thought I'd chose being a witch.
Somehow my story just wasn't there. I was too young to start reading Faulkner; I hadn't seen Imitation of Life and so I wasn't aware that I was supposed to be the insane, oversexed tragic Mulatto gal. Certainly my otherness was sometimes so palpable it was a wonder that anyone could see me. I was that invisible. And certainly when society fails to write your story there is an unspoken message that the story is not worth telling. And yet somehow -- I don't know: I think maybe it was the Greek myths with all the powerful shapeshifters and half-human/half-beast deities, or the Jenny makes perfect change storyline, I don't know -- I thought perhaps, just MAYBE I was different for a reason. Like it wasn't some horrible mistake to go completely undocumented in the world.
As an actor I have been very aware of the stories of which I am a part. And as an actor I have been very aware of the times when I am able to play the "other" and happy to have those opportunities -- the majority of which have come from Showtime. When I met with the producers of The L Word, led by Ilene Chaiken to talk about the show, my character Bette was initially not biracial. And I suggested that the character be made biracial so I could serve all those people who were like me that had never seen themselves represented except for maybe in a Benneton ad. Ilene embraced the idea because she is that kind of spirit. She knew that I, too, wanted to feel a sense of belonging -- not just belonging in a corporate sense -- but belonging in the true sense, both as an individual and as a part of her story. I am so happy, and so honored that I am a part of Ilene's stories week after week, and that we have people like Rose Troche and Guin Turner to help tell those stories.
I am extremely grateful to my family at Showtime: Matt Blanc, Gary Levine and Faye Katz. I am particularly indebted to Jerry Offsay who gave me so many opportunities to play in an array of amazing stories including Twilight of the Golds and A House Divided. I am grateful to him for suggesting me for the part of Bette. And I am equally grateful to the innovative and groundbreaking Robert Greenblatt for using his vision to guide The L Word to the next level. His knowledge and enthusiasm have truly ignited the second season, and I feel very proud to be a part of The L Word.
The notion that I am a part of a narrative where I can offer up some sort of mirror, however imperfect, to someone who may have never before seen themselves represented is very exciting. To know that you EXIST and then to know that you exist in a larger, beautiful context and then finally to know that WE ALL exist as one larger, extended group is very fulfilling. To elucidate those connections that lead us all into the state of belonging to the family of humanity is one of the things The L Word strives to accomplish.
To love, to love, to love. to love. Even when you think the heart is exhausted by anger and fear and hurt and disappointment and the latest presidential election. To love. That is the task which connects us all. That is the narrative to which I hope we all can strive.
Love is large; love defies limits. People talk about the sanctity of love -- love is by definition sacred. Not some love between some people, but all love between all people. How can anyone say that one person's love is more sacred than another person's? if indeed it is love, it is sanctified. If it is indeed love, the right to marriage is not questionable. In my mind nothing pleases God more than love. I do not think it pleases God to codify bigotry. I do not think it pleases God that fear guides the hand of the law in the name of a cultural war.
Desmond Tutu once said that the great problem of our age is one of belonging: Who is the insider and who remains on the outside? Who will exact the spoils and who will suffer? These groupings are realities but they are also fictions put forth by people who benefit from the politics of division. The audience who watches The L Word are a diverse group. And what does that mean? Despite all the shameful efforts to divide this country over issues like who gets to choose, who gets to call themselves a patriot and who does not, and who gets to marry and who does not, people, not just gay people, not just horny hetero guys, but a lot of people are interested in the stories about a group of lesbians in West Hollywood. And in those stories about a group of lesbians in West Hollywood people recognize their own humanity.
It has been said, "History is written by the victors." I take this to mean we can make ourselves victorious by writing, and then rewriting our own stories. In a country and culture so dominated by media, by the manipulation of words and stories, telling the tales of people whose stories historically have not been told is a radical act and I believe an act that can change the world and help rewrite history. Imagine if all of our stories were told. Like the chart on The L Word, one day all the narratives would intertwine, and we would discover the power of our collective imagination, and we would see that to be victorious is not to have won simply for your own sake but for the sake of others.
Again, I thank POWER UP for the encouragement. Good night."
transcript by Motaterz