There’s been an outpouring of love for Carrie Fisher over the past few days that, quite rightly, isn’t only focused on her work and the iconic character that she played, but who she was as a person and the strength she inspired in people. It makes me sad that I’ve only seen Debbie Reynolds being celebrated because she was an actress of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Or Carrie Fisher’s mother.
It’s understandable. She was of a very different generation and most of us are probably less familiar with her. However, I want to talk about how Debbie Reynolds was an incredible woman in her own right.
Debbie Reynolds was a survivor of childhood abuse. She was a mental health advocate for most of her life. In 1955 she became a founding member of the Thalians — an organization dedicated to mental health causes — which she led for almost 60 years.
She was a valuable and fierce ally to the LGBT+ community. She hosted AIDs benefits years before Reagan even publicly acknowledged the disease. She bearded for gay men to protect them from homophobia and discrimination that would prevent them from getting film roles.
She was a strong, compassionate woman who — on top of raising her own two children, with no help from their father — raised the three children of her second husband by his late ex-wife, even after he gambled away all of her money and left her flat broke.
So here’s to Debbie Reynolds. Her legacy — like her daughter’s — is more than just who she was on camera. I’m full of gratitude. The world is better place for all that she left behind.
R.I.P., space grandma.