2015 Honoree

Melissa Joan Hart

Actor, director, producer

…“I think a woman should absolutely be allowed to make the choice for what happens with her body, but sometimes this choice affects another life. Let me just say I am pro-women, I am pro-family, pro-choice and pro-kid.”…

Who inspires you the most?

My mother has always been the force behind me in all that I do. She was never quick with the compliments but when you get one from her, you know you deserved it. She was also very understanding of the mistakes I would make growing up and because of that, it made me very aware of my behavior. I never liked the feeling of having to disappoint her when I behaved badly.

What do you now know about yourself that you wish you knew ten/fifteen/twenty [depending on age] years ago?

That all the gossip and worry and heartbreak will wash away in time. Everything works out for the best in the end.

Fill in the blank: You can never have enough

KISSES

What City best describes your personality?

Florence, Italy. It’s the center of the renaissance and is saturated in art and culture but so rich in history and tradition inside of a laid back attitude. I am very drawn to the different lives people lived in times before ours, especially in this city that is almost frozen in a time when everyone was pushing for an awakening.

What gets you through even the toughest days and what are you most grateful for?

My husband! When he wraps his arms around me or kisses my forehead, I feel so at peace.

What socio-political women’s issue do you care about the most?

The violence and oppression women face in many countries around the world still. The Boko Haram and ISIS are disgusting examples of groups that aim to harm women and children.

Do you feel that women are typically presented fairly in the media? Why or why not?

I think we all need to be kinder to others and especially kinder to ourselves. More loving of our bodies, and gracious about our aging.

Although there is supposed to be a separation between Church & State, religion still seems to govern many political decisions regarding women – abortions, birth control, etc. –usually from men. What is the best approach to shift power over women’s bodies to women?

I think a woman should absolutely be allowed to make the choice for what happens with her body, but sometimes this choice affects another life. This is a tricky question for me to answer seeing that I just completed a movie (God’s Not Dead 2) in which I learned that the separation of church and state is not in our Constitution or in our Declaration. It was actually from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson who was explaining to people that they could feel secure to practice their religion any way they saw fit without worry that the government would persecute them for their beliefs. Let me just say I am pro-women, I am pro-family, pro-choice and pro-kid.

What is your best read? Favorite character you would most like to be?

I always identified with Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye growing up — wanting to find myself and someone to lean on, all the while trying to do something noble like save the children from losing their innocence. But now that I am older and out of my adolescent angst, I am drawn to Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Hunger Games series; women who are fearless and protective.

What will it take for women to be viewed as equal to men? Are sexist jokes problematic, and how do you feel about people’s view that women should just “lighten up” about them?

We live in an ever-changing world that we can’t begin to keep up with. I think we are too hard on ourselves and our fellow women to begin with. Until we start to care more about brains than beauty, and we all stand together as a sisterhood instead of catfights, we will not be able to garner the respect we deserve. But there is also an interesting dynamic to work in a predominantly male business like filmmaking and easily impress people with your skills. As a director, I often find people underestimate me, and the reason I know this is the amount of praise I get after I accomplish the job. It’s like Viola Davis said at the Emmys, it’s getting the opportunities to impress people that are the most difficult.

What was your best decision to date? Worst decision?

I have no regrets because every decision I have made, got me to the point I am at today. I feel so blessed to have my health, my family, three healthy children, a strong marriage and a successful and fulfilling career. I really couldn’t ask for more! But since you asked, best – marrying Mark…. worst – not taking the roles in a few horror movies in my 20’s because I wasn’t a fan of the genre.

Within the past few years, social media has exploded. How can women use it to market themselves without seeming narcissistic?

My biggest pet peeve with social media is when it keeps us from being truly social. When families and friends sit around a dinner table on electronics instead of having real conversations with the people in the room. But mostly I can’t stand when people post from the car, that’s just not safe which makes you seem extremely narcissistic!

Write a fortune you’d like for all women to receive in a fortune cookie.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!

If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

Teleporting. I’m terrified of planes and hate packing!