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Victoria Principal: campaigning for a change.

Victoria Principal Campaigning for Change

Sitting propped among pillows on the couch in her comfortable Beverly Hills home, Victoria Principal is a surprise. Even without much make-up, she's a stunning, classically beautiful woman. But she's so tiny! She's extremely petite--almost fragile-looking.

That fragile demeanor is misleading, however, because Victoria Principal keeps her 5'6" frame in tip-top condition. All 112 pounds of her are strong, lean and firm, kept that way by a regular workout schedule and a commitment to healthy eating and living.

It could be said that Victoria's physique matches her personality. She's friendly, outgoing and warm, but there's no question that underneath that veneer is a strong, determined woman who knows what she wants and won't settle for less. And that sureness of purpose has gotten her where she is today.

And where is she today? Smack in the middle of starting a production company, producing and acting in several television films, and gearing up for the shooting of her own television series, which she'll also be producing.

Although the public hasn't seen much of Victoria since she left the popular CBS series Dallas, she has been busy! The woman who portrayed sweet, pretty Pamela Ewing is now showing the world that behind that beautiful facade lie brains and ambition!

A quick laundry list of Victoria's recent projects shows the surprising diversity of roles she has chosen. Her first movie after leaving Dallas was the CBS drama, Mistress, in which she played the title role. This past February, CBS aired the movie Naked Lie, in which she portrayed an assistant district attorney in the murder case of a prostitute. Later this year, she'll appear in Nightmare, an NBC drama about a woman who commits murder to protect her child, and in an ABC film that has not yet been named.

Victoria not only acted in each of these, she produced all but one of them. She's also producing her upcoming television series, Sparks, in which she will portray a politician, as well as a film she wrote called Scandal Kills.

With all this diversity in her roles, has it been difficult for her to break out of the public's view of her as Pam Ewing? "It's a barrier that is a double-edged sword," admits Victoria. "It's very hard to break out of a character you've played for nine years if the public loves you as that character. But I feel that I've certainly overcome whatever obstacles I've had in breaking down that intangible barrier, and America has allowed me to go on to other characters."

In the midst of all her film projects, she is also setting up offices and hiring staff for her brand new production company. In fact, she's got so many irons in the fire that she's barely had time to catch her breath, but she loves what she's doing. "My days are very busy and extremely varied," says Victoria. "And of course, I still have a home to run, a marriage to maintain, and my own physical care to be concerned about."

Dedication to a cause

In spite of her hectic schedule, Victoria does manage to make time for the things that are important in her life. Her husband, her home and her health all fall into this category. But Victoria has another passion into which she funnels her never-ending energy - the fight against arthritis.

For four years, from 1983 until 1987, Victoria served as the Arthritis Foundation's National Campaign Chairperson. During that time she traveled the country making public appearances, filming public service appearances, filming public service announcements and doing media interviews on the subject of arthritis. It's a subject that strikes close to home for the actress -- her father has osteoarthritis and her mother has lupus, a serious, arthritis-related disease.

Two years ago, Victoria decided to specialize her efforts on behalf of the Arthritis Foundation in the area of government affairs. "I discovered during my chairmanship that the area I most enjoyed and reaped the most benefit from was in government," Victoria says. "And by 'benefit,' I mean not benefits for myself, but for people with arthritis. When my chairmanship was over, the position of Ambassador for Government was created for me because it had been such a synergetic relationship."

As Ambassador for Government, Victoria has brought issues of importance to people with arthritis to the attention of legislators in state capitols around the country and in Washington. And she has been very effective in getting laws changed.

Victoria puts it this way: "It's important to have someone who can spearhead a move in terms of changes in government, and very often -- whether it's right or wrong -- someone with celebrity status can do that. I feel that I've been able to make more headway than a person who walks into a room and is an unknown quality."

A prime example of the headway Victoria has made is the issue of Medicaid payment for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). When a state faces budget constrictions, these arthritis medications are often the first to be cut, due to their high cost. But many people with arthritis depend on these medications.

Through personal meetings with elected officials, letter writing campaigns and telephone calls, Victoria has convinced legislators throughout the country to continue -- or in some instances to reinstate -- Medicaid funding for these important arthritis medications.

In Washington, Victoria has met with senators and congressmen on a variety of issues important to people with arthritis. She has stressed to legislators the importance of quality care for people with chronic diseases, the need for greater emphasis on arthritis research, and the need for services for people with disabilities.

Several years ago, when the Arthritis Foundation was campaigning for the creation of a separate institute for arthritis within the National Institutes of Health, Victoria was at the forefront of the battle, urging lawmakers to lend their support. And her efforts, along with those of thousands of volunteers nationwide, paid off. In 1985, the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) was created, and federal support for arthritis research rose 26 percent in its first year.

Victoria's work in government affairs on behalf of people with arthritis has given her some strong opinions about the state of health care in America today. "I think we need a sweeping reform of the health care system," she says. "Health care is extremely expensive, and many people cannot even get adequate health insurance.

"It seems to me that we have varying degrees of health care in our country now," she continues. "Superior medicine is reserved for people with superior incomes. And inferior medicine is reserved for people with middle and lower incomes. Unfortunately, I don't really know what the reform should be -- if I did, I'd be in Washington making the laws!"

How can other people who aren't celebrities help make the government aware of the needs of people with arthritis and other disabilities? Victoria suggests that they write to their representatives in the state and federal government about their concerns. Changes in government come about when enough people voice their concerns to the people who make the laws. She adds, "People can also volunteer to do government affairs work with the Arthritis Foundation. Probably the best and most immediate way would be to get in touch with the local chapter and see what you can do within your community."

Making time to give

Why does this extremely busy woman keep making time in her hectic schedule to help the Arthritis Foundation? "It's a very gratifying endeavor," she explains. "There is the immediate gratification I feel when I see the smile of someone with arthritis whom I've just spoken to or spoken out on behalf of. Then there is the feeling that comes from seeing long-term hours, days and years of effort culminate in something like the separate institute for arthritis--that kind of gratification is indescribable."

Victoria becomes reflective for a moment, then continues. "You know, I originally got involved because my parents have arthritis. But as the years have gone by, I've developed personal relationships with other people who have arthritis all across America. I'd have to say that over the years, my admiration and respect have grown, not only for the many dedicated Arthritis Foundation volunteers, but also for the children and adults I've met who battle arthritis every day of their lives."

Victoria Principal is one woman who doesn't sit back and let things happen -- when she sees something that needs to be done, or a cause that deserves support, she jumps in and gives it her all. She's a woman who has worked hard for success in her lifetime, and is now riding high on her achievements and enjoying the fruit of her labor. Her boundless energy and determination -- the same qualities that make her such a success in her career -- have undoubtedly helped to make life better for all Americans with arthritis.

PHOTO : As Ambassador for Government, Victoria Principal has stressed to legislators the importance of quality care for people with arthritis. Here, she visits with Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Arthritis Foundation, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article; fighting arthritis
Author:Witter, Dianne C.
Publication:Arthritis Today
Date:Jul 1, 1989
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