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The other side of Victoria Rowell: award-winning actress balances her onscreen work with her devotion to foster children.

For 16 years, we've watched Victoria Rowell's every move as Drucilla Barber Winters on the hit daytime drama The Young & The Restless. And for eight years she co-starred with Dick Van Dyke as pathologist Amanda Bentley in the hit drama Diagnosis Murder.

The award-winning status of the actress is well-documented, but the side of Victoria Rowell that most observers aren't aware of is her deep and lifelong commitment to America's foster children. While growing up, Rowell, 46, was a product of the foster care system, raised in foster homes for the first 18 years of her life. "I grew upon a farm with no plumbing and no telephone, she says. "But what was taught to me in that process was invaluable--that you learn to live in a certain-way and have tremendous respect for Mother Earth. To this day, I have a great respect for the most fundamental things. I cannot let water run!"

Born in Portland, Maine, she later moved to Massachusetts to study ballet and eventually became a professional dancer. Sixteen years ago, she founded the Rowell Foster Children's Positive Plan, a nonprofit scholarship fund in the arts and sports, that helps acquire job placement for those foster children who have reached the age of 18. "She goes above and beyond; she understands the struggles the children have," says Henry Acosta, executive director of the Rowell Foster Children's Positive Plan. "She travels the country, speaking to foster children, foster parents, and she brings celebrity friends [Magic Johnson, Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis, Jasmine Guy] to the cause. The lady does so much with such passion and energy. The Young & The Restless now has a storyline regarding foster care issues because of her concerns."

Rowell points out that more than 500,000 children are associated with the foster care system, with many of them being Black children. And she plans to continue crusading to bring as much attention as she can to the needs of the parents and, especially, the children who languish in the system until they age out. "I want my book [The Women Who Raised Me] to appeal to my teenage brothers and sisters. I want them to come away with a lesson on what to avoid and what to hold on to," she says.

To further deliver that message, one of her steps is hosting a star-studded high tea in Beverly Hills each year, featuring such entertainers as Wynton Marsalis to raise money for her foundation.

While her work with the foundation requires much of her time, movies and television work are, she says, "essential if you're going to stay in the game. It's really about staying in the race. And I'm a long-distance runner."

Her next race of sorts comes in the movie Home of the Brave, co-starring with Samuel L. Jackson in the film that focuses on how families deal with the Iraq War. "He's a military doctor, and he has extended his deployment, which puts added pressure on my character's role of his wife at home holding down the fort with children," she says. "The movie really speaks to how families endure crisis. It couldn't be more timely, considering the recent devastation [in Iraq]."

Although Rowell is extending her movie credits, it's her TV work that has won her most acclaim, especially on The Young & The Restless. "We've worked together for at least 10 years," says co-star Kristoff St. John, and it's always a wonderful surprise to see how inventive Victoria can be with her dialogue and costumes. Her reality is a wonderful thing to express on set. I've been blessed to have had her as a partner for all these years."

Sharon Case, who plays Rowell's friend on the show, has had similar experiences, but says some fans might be surprised by Victoria's off-camera antics. "She's the funniest person on the show, and I find her humor hysterical," Case says. "She's very elegant, professional and has a great sense of fashion, but she does a lot of physical comedy that has me laughing through my lines."

In the midst of the laughter, Rowell continues to be so committed to those children who are waiting and hoping for permanent, safe homes that she has made the pledge that--despite the TV and movie obligations--as long as she's living, she will be devoted to those who grew up the same way she did.

VICTORIA ROWELL'S FILMS

* Home of the Brave(2006), co-star Samuel L. Jackson

* Motives (2004), co-stars Vivica A. Fox, Shemar Moore, Golden Brooks

* Black Listed(2003), co-stars Harry J. Lennix, Richard Lawson, Heavy D

* Eve's Bayou(1997), co-stars Samuel L. Jackson, Diahann Carroll, Lynn Whitfield, Debi Morgan, Meagan Good

* Dumb & Dumber (1994), co-stars Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly

* The Distinguished Gentleman (1992), co-stars Eddie Murphy, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Charles S. Dutton
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Author:Collier, Aldore
Publication:Ebony
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:798
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