I’ll always remember when I got the green light. The director of my journalism school at USC, Bill Woestendiek, had landed me a huge "scoop" for my television production class. But what I didn’t know was that he was about to bless me with one of the most loving mentors I could have ever asked for.
It was 1988. I grabbed my notebook and clunky video camera. I put on the one presentable blazer I owned and left an hour early to guarantee I'd be on time. I got into my car and headed to Beverly Hills. I can still picture the long driveway that led up to that big, beautiful house. My nerves were on edge as I went over every single question I wanted to ask. I approached the tall doors surrounded by manicured bushes and, with a deep breath, rang the doorbell. Who would greet me? The butler? The housekeeper? The personal assistant?
The door swung open. It wasn’t any of those three. It was her! She was so petite. So beautiful. So warm. I couldn’t believe SHE answered the door.
"She" was "Dear Abby," real name Pauline Phillips, and she looked at me standing on her doorstep and said with this dynamic and engaging grin, “Hello Kyra Phillips! Are you my long lost daughter?"
"Phillips." It had never dawned on me. We had the same last name! I laughed, gave her a huge hug, and I entered her gorgeous home.
That is one moment I will never forget as I think about Pauline Phillips. I will also never forget going through all her personal photos of friends, family and special moments in her life. She loved to talk about all her famous friends and how they asked her for advice. But where Pauline got the most emotional was when she read me letters that people would send her. She told me she never had any formal training, but she understood life and she knew what was right and what was wrong.
She loved people, she loved children, she cared about those who were less fortunate than she was, and she gave me -- a 20-year-old struggling college student who was passionate about being a journalist -- all the time in the world.
Pauline and I stayed in touch for decades. She sent me Christmas cards with inspiring messages, she always took my call, and if I desperately needed advice… of course, I called her.
There was one piece of advice she gave me, however, that I have tried so hard to always follow. Pauline told me: “Kyra, whatever you do, always be yourself.”
Well, I wish I could say that advice has never gotten me in trouble, but I can say -- without a doubt -- it got me where I am today, and for that I am forever grateful.
Thanks, Pauline Phillips, my precious “Dear Abby” and compassionate mentor.
Your “long lost daughter,”