I don't read magazines. I don't have time... and therefore, I don't buy them. For some unknown reason, I've been receiving Glamour in the mail for months now... though I haven't so much as opened a single issue. Also, for some unknown reason, I've been saving every one in a pile, as if some magical day I'm going to find an extra few hours to just sit down and read through all of them... dream on!
Last night, after I cleaned up the mess my 16-month-old left in every room of the house, answered a few emails, wiped down the kitchen counters, highchair, and floor, scheduled a post on Facebook for my band, put up my guitar, and threw the 5th load of laundry in for the day, I sat down on the couch and decided that I deserved to ignore all the remaining piles and projects around the house, indulge in the rare silence I was experiencing, and actually open the issue of Glamour that had just arrived... after all, it said "25th Anniversary Women of the Year" on the cover, and after my evening... well....
Maybe it's because I grew up in LA (where you reside now), I crossed the country to attend college & chase a dream (like you, when you headed for Stanford), and now call Nashville home (where you grew up); maybe it's because I've identified a little too closely with some of the characters you've played (ehhh hem, Elle Woods...); or maybe it's because from what I, and a gazillion other fans of yours, have seen, you seem to be a sweet, down to earth, family person, who is also a smart, strong and resilient business woman.... whatever the reason, I've admired you for a while. While I'm not some die hard fan who knows everything about you, upon seeing your face on the cover, I was pretty much dying to read the article in Glamour. C'mon Nashville girl... let's see what you've got goin' on! Why are YOU a woman of the year?
And there it was. First thing on the page.
The article goes on to talk about some really cool things that I had no idea you'd done. You started a fashion line, Draper James, named for your grandparents, here in Nashville (which I can't wait to check out). You started #askhermore to encourage reporters to ask actresses more than the typical "who are you wearing" on the red carpet. And you started your own production company, which I knew, but I didn't realize was because you were feeling like there was a deficit in your industry when it came to leading roles for women. You said "I just kept complaining and complaining to my husband" and "I have this drive from my upbringing to be a doer, not just a complainer." The more Ikept reading, the more I kept thinking YES, YES, YES!
Like you, I grew up thinking the sky truly was the limit, and if you worked hard enough, you would achieve your goals. I wanted a career in country music, I wanted to get married someday, and I wanted to have children. Everything seemed like it was lining up... I got into Vanderbilt, landed great internships, scored a job at a record label right out of college, was hired away by two of the biggest songwriters and producers in Nashville to help manage their developing publishing companies, and was later signed as Martina McBride's first staff songwriter having my first song recorded and released as a single to radio during the first year of my deal.
... and then song after song that got recorded, didn't get released; female artist after female artist that I wrote with got dropped from their record deals; and time and time again my "holds" (the first step towards getting a song recorded) with the big artists like Carrie Underwood & Lady Antebellum, turned into months and years of hopes that didn't pan out. To say it was discouraging would be an understatement, but somehow my dream remained alive.
Like you, I've been noticing a "deficit" in "leading roles" for women in the country music industry. It's a boys club but there have always been strong women to balance it out. The whole patriarchal South thing you spoke of is still hard for this California girl to wrap her brain around, and quite frankly, the music that got me hooked on country music in the 90's, was that of the many female artists on the radio: Faith Hill, Deanna Carter, Martina McBride, Mindy McCready, Shania Twain, Dixie Chicks, and many more. At this very moment, of the top 20 songs on the radio, 4 of them are by female artists.
Like you, I felt myself complaining and complaining to my husband.
The funny thing is, you never know when or what is going to be the catalyst for you to go out and explore the unknown... take a chance... try a new angle of attack...
I found myself feeling what I'm sure a zillion women feel when they're in that tough spot in the prime of their childbearing years but not ready to put their other passions or careers completely aside: torn, frantic, completely unsure how to do it all, and yet motivated to do it all at the same time.
Early in my pregnancy, I discovered that one of my female co-writers, Morgan Leigh Garner, was due around the same time I was. We quickly bonded over everything from pregnancy to impending motherhood, and coincidentally (or not) her daughter, Hadley, was born late and Parker was born early, making them 4 days apart in age.
In the year (ish) that our daughters have been alive, we've nearly finished writing and recording our first EP; released our first single, "Things I've Learned;" recorded and released a music video for the song; gained over 5200 Facebook followers; toured in both Virginia and Tennessee; and have been guests on multiple radio shows... ALL without publishing deals or record label involvement, and ALL with our daughters in tow. Our first single was co-written with Morgan's 10-year-old nephew, Kaleb, who is fighting cancer for the second time. His dream is that there be no more childhood cancer, and that has become one of our missions, as well. Since May, we've raised around $13,000 towards his medical bills through the sales of our "Praying Helps" and "See The Good In All Things First" t-shirts, as well as a benefit concert we put together. Since it's release in September, our music video has already been viewed nearly 10,000 times and been shared by some of the biggest cancer sites in the country as well as numerous country music artists (CureSearch, CaringBridge & Martina McBride, to name a few). In addition to hoping people, and someday our daughters, enjoy our music, we want people to appreciate what we stand for as singer/songwriters, mothers, and humans. #wearehadleypark and #wearemore.
The purpose of my letter, Ms. Witherspoon, is merely to thank you for using your position to inspire others. Like I said, I don't read magazines, but your interview in Glamour was the exact thing I needed to remind me that there is no box, there are no boundaries, and I'm not alone in wanting it all... for myself, but more importantly, for my daughter. There is no one right way to do it, and the juggling act and how to balance it all will constantly be evolving and changing. Your personal philosophies sound just like those of Hadley Park, and I only hope we are able to inspire others the way you have.
I wish you the best of luck with all of your endeavors, and hope you enjoy your time away from filming with your teenage daughter and other children.