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How Ava DuVernay Changed My Way Of Thinking

Ava DuVernay. Damn. I’ve interviewed countless celebrities, writers, producers, directors, and influencers in my day. Countless. When I was invited to attend the red carpet premiere of A Wrinkle in Time and heard that Oprah was on the roster for interviews, I think I fell right off my couch. I scanned down the rest of the list and was thrilled to see some powerhouse names, but little did I know that one woman would change my perspective on life.

Let’s talk about Ms. Ava DuVernay.

Meeting Ava DuVernay And Supporting Wrinkle In Time

Ava DuVernay with Audrey McClelland and Vera Sweeney

You might know Ava DuVernay from her previous work. She is an all-star in her own right. She doesn’t need a single headliner to introducer her, to open up for her, to help bring in a crowd.

But full confession – I was new to her space. Of course, I heard of Selma and 13th over the years, but I didn’t register that she was attached to the projects because I’m not the type of person that looks at credits in that way.

So, while everyone else in the room was levitating right before her entrance, I sort of sat back, collected myself, and kept an open mind.

Fast forward to me hysterically crying at the after party and hugging her while telling her that she was my blessing from the trip. Yes, that really happened. No, really. Go to 3:54 if you think I am kidding.

I often say that I am “just a girl from Queens.” As a first-generation American, child of divorce, who has a father living somewhere in this state who wants nothing to do with her, I guess you could say that I succeed in spite of.

And while people look at me and see someone who is very put together, I know my beginnings and my secrets. I know all that I have to do to remove the self-doubt every single day from my soul. I know how I have to remind myself that I am worth it and that I am loved – maybe not by everyone who SHOULD love me – but I am loved nevertheless.

So, hearing Ava speak about gratitude and about self-acceptance, was almost too much for me to process. I didn’t KNOW our interview was going to be so profound. Truly!

Ava DuVernay Interview Quotes

Ava DuVernay Interview For Wrinkle in Time

There are a few things I want to share with you first before I get into the movie quotes. Ava DuVernay is the type of person who knows everyone’s name on set. She always makes sure the environment is friendly and inclusive.

Why would you not? I mean why would not? I used to be a crew member. I used to be a publicist and I would on to sets and I would be only one of the few women and one of the few black people – and probably the only black woman so many times-  but regardless of who I was like so many directors just didn’t know their crew members’ names. I thought how disrespectful. These people were here before you got out of your trailer. They set up the trailer that you can go into. This is someone’s father or mother who’s been here since five o’clock in the morning. You know, everyone’s working hard. Like how do you walk pass people and not know their name? And yet that’s the culture of our industry.

It’s the culture of a lot of industries in this country. My father –  recently departed – laid carpet and flooring in people’s homes.  He’s the kind of guy that you would pass by, just pass him by. My aunt, Denise, who passed away some years ago – who I really know would love this movie – was a nurse at night. She would take the bus. She was the kind of person you would just pass by and no one knows how extraordinary they were. They were great people. You can’t pass people by.

Ava DuVernay with Vera Sweeney

In a Wrinkle of Time, the IT (or the darkness or evil – however you want to look at it) is responsible for people feeling negativity. In order to defeat the IT, you have to find joy, love, light. Easier said than done, right?

I asked Ava DuVernay when she finds herself falling into negativity, how does she shake it off?

Ava DuVernay

How Does Ava DuVernay Shake It Off?

Yes, wow. What brings me light when I’m in a dark place? You know, I do this thing all day and I don’t talk to a lot of people about it but I do this thing all day where I count gratitude. At the end of the day when I say goodnights to myself and to the universe or to God I’ll say “thirteen” or “forty seven” or whatever. So today I’m on 19. You all are 20! Some days you’re going through the day and you’re like “I got three. Good night.”

But it’s my little prayer and I count for gratitude the little pieces of things that I have gratitude for – a smile, a person that lets me in the left turn lane when I know it was wrong and I shouldn’t have been there, the parking spot there, just little things. If you just take a second to acknowledge it, it gives you a little jolt of joy, just the little pieces because I work so much. You guys have families and kids. It’s hard to find the time-  the vacation, the massage, the big joyful things, right? You just count them through the day and they give you a little kick.

I mean… can we stop and talk about this for a minute? This is just so very powerful for me. We live such FAST lives. Busy is the new black, right?

Everyone wears busy like a badge. We fill up our days until they are overflowing just to prove how needed we are, but you know what? When you live like that… you don’t have enough time to notice the moments that truly matter. I had an epiphany a few years back about busy and I shook that label right out of my life.

Now, I take each day and I embrace it with both arms – even if it’s just me and my three babies on the couch watching Coco. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, but am I aware of all the goodness that is happening around me? Am I absorbing all the light that I am blessed enough to receive?

God is everywhere. You just have to be open enough to see him. Same thing with good things/moments/people. There are so many things to be thankful for in our everyday lives and they will pass us RIGHT BY if we don’t notice.

Hearing what Ava DuVernay did awoke every cell in my body. So insanely powerful. Count your blessings. Literally, count your blessings. The little moments – that perfect cup of tea, that snuggly kiss goodnight, the first bloom of a flower. It’s all right there for us to receive. Take the gifts! You just have to want them.

If that isn’t a life-changing notion… I just don’t know what would be!!

Related: A Family’s Guide To Creating A Gratitude List

Ava DuVernay Disney Interview

Now onto Wrinkle in Time. Ava wanted to make this film for children! She had her heart set on creating a film that would inspire our youth to look inside themselves and see all things great and wonderful.

 I just really wanted to make a film for kids right now. I don’t have children. I don’t have children by choice. I always said that my film are my children. You know, I put my blood into them. It’s really what has my name on it. It’s what I’ll leave behind in the world and so to be able to make something specifically for kids was very emotional for me.

Meeting Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon And Mindy Kaling #WrinkleInTimeEvent

Rowan Blanchard Opens Up About “Wrinkle In Time” And “Still Here” #WrinkleInTimeEvent

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Wrinkle In Time Costume Designer Paco Delgado Talks Inspiration

A Wrinkle in Time is a movie that is very inclusive and representative and that was intentional. Ava wanted to make sure that her audience would walk into the theatre and see a version of themselves on the big screen.

Mindy said something really incredible during the press junket. She said that she loved sci-fi growing up but sci-fi didn’t love her. She never got to see herself in it as a girl but particularly as a brown girl. Specifically as an Indian girl with dark skin. So, to be able to be in a film where there are representations of her, representations like Storm was so important to her. I think it was the same thing for me, you know. Storm’s a little girl from the inner city who wears glasses, who doesn’t know how fantastic she is and I related to that. I remember being that. I remember dreaming about all the things I wanted to be and not knowing if I could be them. Not seeing anything in my world beyond my mom who loved me and my family who loved me to tell me you can do it and nothing else said you can do it.

School didn’t say you can do it. Society didn’t say you could do it. Nothing said you could do this. Nothing said you can be here and direct this movie. You know, nothing said that you can do any of it and so you have to find it in yourself and that’s what this book says. That’s what the movie is saying and so I related to Meg very much, very much.

The Moment Ava DuVernay Made Me Lose It

And that’s when I lost it in the interview. Full blown shaking in my seat. I want Wrinkle in Time to succeed because I believe it has a powerful message that our children today need to hear. But I also want Wrinkle in Time to succeed because Ava’s heart is in its DNA. And yes, that girl with glasses from the inner city freaking grew up and made a Disney movie. BOOM! GET. IT. Because if there is a lesson in all of this, it’s that determination, drive, passion, and heart can truly push you forward in this world. She is talented to her core, but she was born to rise. And as Ava rises, she is taking plenty of people with her. The good people do that. Don’t ever forget it.

Have I mentioned that I am a fan??? I know this is a long post. I am going to end it with one more quote!! We asked Ava about casting the MRS. What that process looked like for her –>

Mindy Kaling was the first person who came to my mind ‘because I knew I wanted an African American Mrs, a Caucasian Mrs. but I also wanted a Mrs. that was something else. First I was thinking Latina or Asian, but then I thought oh, gosh Mindy Kaling! The part is interesting because she doesn’t say a lot since she speaks only in quotes for a long time. It was important to have a comedic actress who can do a lot with a little –  body language, looks, things like that. She comes from the comedy world so she was perfect for a Chaplin-esque part. She’s stunningly gorgeous but, you know, she can pull it off. I remember one studio executive was like do you need that close up of Mindy in the cave when she like closes her eyes?

I was like yes. Child, yes we need it. She looks fantastic.

I love her and her face and then Oprah!  The way that Oprah came to be – she just wanted to hang out in New Zealand because she had gone to the South Island in New Zealand and I said “Where are you gonna be hanging out? Do you wanna work? Do you wanna do a little something?” And so she came on board.

Reese is someone I’ve long admired because you know, Reese could have just been content to be a really beautiful blonde actress in town and that would have been enough. We would have applauded her for it. But she said no I am a pretty blonde actress, producer, entrepreneur, designer.

Reese has a clothing line, a book club, she’s producing movies for other people, she’s producing movies for herself. She has a family. I mean she’s like a super woman. I don’t even know how she does it all.  I really look at people like Reese as a black woman we can look at someone like Reese and say “she is privileged”, you know? Blonde, beautiful, perfect. , We overlook those women too because a lot of those women have a real fire in them and they have something to combat against too. The preconceived notion of who they are and to have to fight through – that is also a fight. It’s a different fight. It’s not my fight but it is also something to push against and she’s really done that. So, those three ladies are magnificent together and just lucky they all said yes.

Guys, are you with me on this? I mean… AVA! I cannot! Amazing woman. Amazing creator. So very blessed to have had the time with her while in LA.

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*Disney invited me to attend the red carpet premiere of A Wrinkle in Time. All opinions are my own. Travel and accommodations were covered.

Jennifer H

Friday 9th of March 2018

I can SO relate to some of your story as well! I had an awakening as well listening to Ava. She is so powerful with her words and I'm so grateful we had the opportunity soak in some of her goodness.

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