We’ve seen advance quotes from Sandra Bullock’s interview in People, and when I say that they don’t do the interview even a smidgen of justice I’m not exaggerating. There’s little context given in the story for the interview, and it’s just a series of questions and answers. You can tell from the format that it was at least heavily edited, or maybe that it was even all written out ahead of time. Sandra could have had a whole team of people helping her come up with questions and change her answers until they came across precisely just as they wanted. Even with my cynical assessment of how the interview was conducted, I have to say that it was truly the most moving celebrity interview I have ever read. In fact I was sitting in my son’s karate class struggling not to bawl as I read it, and at one point I had to put it down because I was afraid the other parents would see me crying. Sandra has gone through some truly awful sh*t, but this strong, beautiful successful woman now has an amazing baby that she cherishes more than anything. The way she describes her life and makes sense of what she went through is truly awe-inspiring.
There’s no hint of false hope or that Sandra is putting on some kind of brave face to the world. She tells us that things were hard and she doesn’t blame or get into the details. She also tells us that her life has been changed so much by the love she has for her new son that she can’t get bogged down in those details. Everything was altered when that baby came into her life, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time for her. Just as the advance quotes could in no way capture this interview, neither can I. Here are some of the more moving things Sandra said/wrote that I haven’t yet read online.
When did you decide to adopt?
I don’t recall the big “aha” moment of when we decided. We spent so much time in New Orleans after Katrina, and one day it was just a feeling that came that instead of bringing another life into this world, that we wanted to reach out and find our child in New Orleans. There were so many children alone after Katrina, and for some reason we knew that someone would want to come into our lives. So we began the process of adoption about four years ago, never thinking about what [the child] would look like, whether it was a girl or a boy, what background – it didn’t matter. We somehow knew the right little person would come.
And out of the blue one day, Sunny proclaimed to me that we shouldn’t have another baby, that we should adopt. I froze. I had no idea where she got this, so I asked her why, and she said, “Because there are so many little babies that have no home, and we can share our things with them.” Profound for a [then] 4-year-old, but I didn’t want to get her hopes up, so I just diverted the conversation…
When did you first meet your son? What was that experience like?
To be totally honest, when we got the call that there was a placement possibility, I panicked. It came right in the middle of all the media craziness of awards season. I just didn’t understand why the universe was deciding a child needed to be with us now. Of all times! I was so afraid I would be bringing a child into this insanity, and I didn’t know how we could keep him safe and quiet. But Jesse told me to remember why I felt our child was in New Orleans, and why we started the process to begin with. The first time I met Louis it was like the whole outside world just got quiet. He was so small, so still. All the trivial things that I had allowed to take up so much of my time just didn’t have room in life anymore. All I said when I met him was, “Oh there you are.” It was like he had always been a part of our lives.
Life just shifted to be about Louis and what we needed for him. No hiccup. It just fit, and I never had another moment of worry again.
How did you tell your loves ones?
All that mattered was that the kids were okay with it, and I couldn’t have imagined a sweeter and happier response. They knew this had to be kept quiet, and I knew how hard it was going to be, especially when you are just bursting at the seams with pride and you want to scream it at everyone you see and meet.
We told only a handful of family and friends, and it then became their mission to make sure Louis was safe and happy and had everything he needed. You have no idea how many contraptions exist that supposedly keep your baby safe and entertained so you can just get a five-minute shower. We have them all. And he couldn’t ask for better siblings who love him with all their heart.
How did you decide on his name?
It was one of those first names that came to mind. Louis Armstrong’s song “What a Wonderful World” kept playing in my head when I looked at him, so Louis just seemed to stick…
Why did you keep it a secret?
So, so, so many reasons. The biggest being that the outside world was a little crazy then. Photographers waiting outside 24/7, people everywhere. We didn’t want this to be in his life. I also didn’t want Louis pulled into the awards season energy. I wanted him all to myself. But I had to smile at the parallels. Here I was promoting a story about a family who adopted a son, and here we were having done the same thing. If you had told me that this would happen, I would have thought you were insane. I never imagined I would say the words “my son.” People that I had worked with for years couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t let them into my house for fittings. I would have them meet me at random hotels down the street from the house, claiming work was being done…
On the red carpet at awards shows, we usually were working on two to three hours of sleep and I could not tell you what I said in interviews or onstage. All we were thinking about was getting home to Louis…
How hard was it to have a new baby and keep it all hidden?
It was only hard when I walked out the door. I never though anyone we shared the info with would tell anyone, and they didn’t. I never thought anyone we shared the info with would tell anyone, and they didn’t. It was hard, however, to not be able to just tell anyone and everyone how much I loved this little man. And how happy I was when he drank 3 oz. How we found the perfect diaper trash can that didn’t let the smell leak out. These were the most important things in my life, and I had to zip it once I walked out the door. And of course praying that the doctor’s visit was not trailed by seven dark SUVs with tinted windows. But on Oscar night, in my purse all I brought was a picture of my mom and dad at their wedding, pictures of the kids and a little lime green sock of Louis’ that kept falling out. No one figured it out when they would pick it up and hand it back to me.
After the Oscars, you learned that Jesse had cheated. To set the record straight, you had no idea about his infidelity until you were told a tabloid was printing a story about it?
Ah, the inevitable question. I had no idea about anything until the day when I got the call. It seems like a thousand years ago when this happened. All I remember is thinking I need to get Louis out of here before the vultures descend. But never in a million years did I foresee something like this happening. I wish it hadn’t, and it still doesn’t seem real.
How did you react to the news?
I did the only thing I could do, and that was pack enough clothes to live on, get all of Louis’ things and get out of town. My main concern was Louis. I wasn’t sure if I could go into deeper hiding than I had already been in, but again, that small group of friends and family made it their life to make sure we all had what we needed to heal and be safe and make sense out of all of it. These beautiful people in my life made sure I had the safety to grieve and feel everything I needed to, away from the outside world. And I had hoped my being away would help keep the media away from the kids while I tried to sort things out.
Are you filing for divorce?
Yes, I have filed for divorce. I don’t know what else to say. I’m sad, and I am scared.
Are you going forward as a single parent? Will Jesse have any formal parenting role?
I will be adopting as a single parent. Anything else will be taken day by day.
How would you characterize your relationship with Jesse now?
A different one. A bittersweet one. One of new understanding. One of forgiveness. One of support for his recovery. One that changed my life. I really don’t know how our paths will intersect in the future, but the father I have known Jesse to be with all the kids is one I hope Louis can experience one day, no matter how Jesse and I go on with our lives.
You’ve been a devoted stepmother to Jesse’s kids. Do you plan for them to stay a part of your life?
I don’t want to know what life is like without those kids. Jesse and I both know these kids are all that matter. Whatever we need to do, in the healthiest way, we are going to be co-parenting. I know my role is not one that exists on paper, but Louis is their brother, and Jesse and I will do whatever it takes for them to know that their world will not change and still be protected and safe and full of love. It will just have a slightly different dynamic now…
Now that you’ve gone public, how will you balance motherhood with your career?
I don’t know. All I know is that I want to be able to enjoy being a mom. Doing all the things moms get to do, outside in the sun, in the world. The career will have to wait for a bit. I don’t want to step into that world until I can find what room I left my armor in. You need tough skin to be in this business…
Any plans for the near future?
Feeling the sun on our face when we go for a walk, not having to lie or hide anymore. Not having my friends and family lie anymore. Telling everyone I meet about the most beautiful man I know, including his poop schedule…
Is there a positive lessen you have taken away from the last months?
To say that I am changed is an understatement. But that might not be a bad thing. I have learned a lot about what I am and what I am not. But the most important thing to me was to protect and know my truth. And the truth is simple. The things I hold most dear are things that could not have happened without Jesse.
Maybe I needed this rug yanked out from under me so publicly so that I had no choice but to look at what I needed to look at, both inside and out. And maybe [her late mother] Helga had some hand in this. She knows how stubborn I am. Maybe I needed this to happen so that I could be the very best mother to Louis. We wouldn’t know the sweet mooments in life unless we had the pain. And painfully, I’m going to miss so much.
[From People Magazine, print edition, May 10, 2010]
If you haven’t read People yet, at least thumb through it at the grocery store. There’s so much more in the interview, and I know I’ve typed up a lot of it, but it’s even longer. I run a gossip blog yet I haven’t bought a People Magazine in months. They’ve been running really dumb covers featuring faux controversial headlines and people like Kate Gosselin, Heidi Montag, and The Duggars. The past few weeks they’ve had more human interest stories, though, with Elin Woods, Elizabeth Edwards and other women who are facing infidelity and life changing events. I’d love to see more covers with stories like Sandra’s, about women who go through the toughest times of their life and come out a little worse for wear but having gained things that will forever enrich their lives. No one is quite like Sandra, though, and it will be a long time, if ever, before People or any other outlet will be able to come up with a story this perfect.
This issue, and this interview, will go down in history as one of the most genuinely triumphant and touching entertainment stories of all time. Woman wins Oscar, she gets massively betrayed, she goes into hiding and comes out with a baby. If this was as a screenplay it would have felt false and too “Chicken Soup for The Soul” schmaltzy. With Sandra as the real life star it comes across as bitter sweet and true. She’s known as America’s Sweetheart for a very good reason.