Editor’s note: Every Friday, HLN brings you the "My First Time" series. It explores the first time your favorite celebrities did something significant or memorable (so get your mind out of the gutter!).
In this installment, actress Brenda Strong -- who plays Ann Ewing on the revived TNT drama “Dallas” -- spills some secrets from the show’s second season (which premiers on Monday, January 28) and opens up about her own personal struggles.
HLN: You play Ann, a very strong, self-assured woman. What was the first time you felt powerful as a woman in your personal life?
Brenda Strong: When I was in college, I decided to go after some scholarship money. I ended up winning the Miss Arizona pageant through a lot of hard work and ended up being able to afford my own education. I realized then that I no longer had to rely on someone. If I worked hard enough and created opportunities for myself, anything was possible. It was the first time I had true confidence in myself.
HLN: Does it take good role models to achieve that kind of self-confidence? If so, who are yours?
BS: I think role models are essential. My first role model was my mom. I’ve actually tailor-made a lot of Ann’s character as a compilation of my mom and grandma. They were both strong women who had a lot of integrity. They didn’t live easy lives, but lives they were proud of. My grandmother married a wheat rancher. She was an educated woman who was essentially removed from the city and moved to the country to raise a family during the Depression. That takes a lot of strength and character. She was a music teacher, too -- she taught piano. So I definitely made some of Ann after her strength and gentleness. And my mother, she raised six kids -- she was very resourceful. She taught me a lot about integrity, telling the truth and saying what you mean. Interestingly enough, those are the things that challenge Ann this year, especially telling the truth. She has some secrets to share this season.
HLN: Can you share some of those secrets with us?
BS: There are secrets in her past that she’s hidden from Bobby. She has a daughter who she thought was kidnapped and now has to deal with the aftermath, and it really challenges Ann’s relationship with Bobby. We also find out the exact events leading up to that -- it’s fascinating.
HLN: How different is your personality from that of your character?
BS: I’m much more passive. Ann is much more active in her expression. I think there are a lot of things we have in common -- we’re both fiercely loyal and care deeply for family. But she’s very different in her history, and as we find out more about the abuse she’s suffered, we’ll have more compassion and respect for who she’s become in spite of that. I feel akin to Ann in the amount of obstacles she’s had to overcome and that she’s been challenged and has risen above it.
HLN: Can you give us an example of a personal struggle you’ve overcome?
BS: I didn’t have an easy time conceiving naturally (I do have a son now). So through this challenge, I created a program for women that uses the natural process of yoga to help them feel more empowered in their ability to conceive. I’m the national spokesperson for the American Fertility Association, and I produce a line of DVDs that supports women trying to conceive naturally. Someone once told me, “Make your mess your message,” so I used something that was difficult for me to encourage others.