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Ringing in the New Year with Molly Ringwald

Ringing in the New Year with Molly Ringwald

Photo credit: Fergus Greer

Over the years, Housing Works has had the honor of working with some wonderful supporters who have aided us in our fight to end homelessness and AIDS. In December, we were thrilled to have Molly Ringwald host our 2012 Gin Mingle, who flew in from California just to host the special event. While better known for her acting, Molly Ringwald has also been a fierce advocate for HIV/AIDS issues, taking film roles tackling the issue and donating her time and energy to organizations such as Housing Works that work to end the AIDS pandemic.

In addition to acting and advocacy, Molly is also a celebrated author and singer. Her first novel, When it Happens to You was released this past August, and her second album is expected this April. We recently sat down with Molly to talk about her art, advocacy, and what she loves about Housing Works.

Housing Works: In a July 2012 interview with Kirsten Matthew in the New York Post, you describe Housing Works’ Bookstore Café as one of your favorite places in the city to have a cappuccino and read a good book. How do you first become acquainted with Housing Works?

Molly Ringwald: I don’t remember exactly how I first became acquainted with Housing Works, but I have been visiting and donating to Housing Works’ Thrift Shops since the 90s. Since I have and have had many friends who have been affected by HIV/AIDS, Housing Works has always been one of my go-to places.

HW: In 1992 you starred in “Something to Live For: The Alison Gertz Story,” which chronicles one woman’s diagnosis and life with HIV/AIDS in New York City. While Ms. Gertz went on to become a fierce AIDS activist until her passing in 1992, her doctors initially failed to diagnose her with HIV/AIDS because she was straight and wasn’t seen as “at-risk.” What drew you to this role, and how do you think AIDS messaging and education has evolved over the last twenty years?

MR: I was drawn to the role because I had many dear friends whose lives had been taken from AIDS, and at the time, HIV/AIDS still wasn’t in the national consciousness in the way it needed to be to exact change. Feeling that the status that I had gained from the John Hughes movies could make a difference, I made a PSA that showed at the end of the film, and within twenty-four hours following the premiere of the film, over 50,000 people called the national HIV/AIDS hotline.

Over the last twenty years there have been great strides in terms of AIDS awareness. Unfortunately I feel that there is a false sense that the disease is no longer a threat. While the drugs have been effective in controlling the effects of HIV, not everyone has access to them and people all over the world are still dying. It is important that we keep fighting for education and for a real cure.

HW: Many of your fans may be surprised to find out that you are also quite a stunning singer, with your album being released this spring. Are there any artists or musical influences that helped shape this first album, and can we look forward to a tour next year?

MR: I have been singing jazz since I was a child, and in fact, this will be my second album! The first was a jazz album that I released with my father when I was six years old. (Hot ticket item on ebay!). This second album really came out of my love for the great American songbook. I have been influenced by everyone from Blossom Dearie, Anita O’Day, Carmen McRae and Nancy Wilson. I will start touring the album here and abroad in select venues starting in April, when the album will be released by Concord Records.

HW: This summer you released When it Happens to You, a novel that has received critical acclaim, and was named Amazon.com’s “Best Book of the Month” upon its release in August. One of my favorite stories in the novel centers around a mother and her young son’s burgeoning gender identity. In what ways do you think art—acting, writing, and music—can serve as an avenue to explore identities and human experiences?

MR: I feel that my acting has helped my writing in that I have always been interested in character: what motivates people to do the things that they do, even at the risk of harming themselves and others? Music also serves my writing because I tend to pay attention to the sounds and rhythm, and I’m one of those writers who has to hear everything out loud in order to see if it sounds right.

I believe that ALL art is essential to understanding our human experiences. It is as important to me as places of nature and refuge. Without art, I think we would essentially go mad as a society. We all need to have art to turn to in order to help make sense of our existence and also just for the pleasure of feeling our hearts soar.

HW: What future writing projects might we expect to see in the future?

MR: I am currently working on adapting When it Happens to You for film and I’m also beginning work on my next novel.

Molly Ringwald’s novel When it Happens to You is available for purchase at your local bookstore and online.

You can also keep up with Molly by visiting her website, which features her current and future music, acting, and literary projects. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter at @MollyRingwald.

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