Just Remember Where They Came From

They’re like those flashing neon signs on a dark night.
For the people who can’t see how a country kid can make a success out of a simpler upbringing, I offer exhibits A and B – my most recent “Hollywood” interviews.
The one kid used to sit next to me in home economics. We had to make thumbprint cookies and devise a lunch menu together.
We got the same education. We were offered the same opportunities.
And we took different paths.
He’s an aspiring actor whose moments in television shows and an Old Spice commercial garnered him a spot on Extra TV’s America’s Most Eligible Bachelor list.
I’m a writer with a home, a daughter, a husband.
We’re writing small town success stories as we walk down two separate planes.
Because, let’s face it, I got a case of the giggles rewatching Thelonious Johnson’s Extra TV clip on YouTube a few days after it aired. He’s not the sexy young thing with the six-pack abs to me – he’s the pain in the butt boy who I had to cook with in home economics.
And I’m proud of him.
Proud because he’s doing well. His star is ascending. Just as I’m writing, writing, writing, he’s acting – and he loves it.
I’m proud too because he gets to represent the rest of us. TV, movies, the bright lights of Hollywood are their own form of success – they’re not better or worse than what the rest of us have – but they’re easy to recognize. A clip on Extra is real, watchable proof that “he done good.”
So too has Risa Machuca, the Liberty girl who admits she’s not doing what the other Class of 1994 grads are doing these days. She’s not settling down, raising a family.
Ironically, to her that is success – what so many of us take for granted. But Machuca linked her star to one of the brightest lights in the music biz and rocketed into the atmosphere.
Now she’s out on her own and smashing down barriers right and left. She’s a success story if we’ve ever seen one – a self-made success story at that.
My pride for TJ may be muffled by the giggles that he himself admitted would come from the people who “knew him when” as they watched the cameras panning his stomach as he climbed out of a pool soaking wet.
We can’t see him the way the world apparently does.
But I look at Machuca without the lens of familiarity, and I’m proud of her. I’m proud that she’s tackling her dreams. I’m proud that she embraces her past and has made it a part of her future.
That’s what makes her, makes TJ signs for the non-believers. Two kids raised in the country who’ve “made it,” they have let me write their stories in their old hometown paper.
They haven’t forgotten where they came from, because the country makes something out of all of us – even the big stars.


  1. Well Jeanne we are all proud of TJ. But we are proud of you to! Do you realize how many people read your column? So you are kinda famous to. I never miss your column. I find it funny,true, and down to earth. You should be proud of yourself. One day we will need your autograph to. From a DV buddy shannon Norton

  2. Ok, Shannon officially made me cry. Thank you honey!

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