Two actresses jumped into the spotlight of the entertainment industry at the age of 19 with their respective breakthroughs — maybe it ran in the family.
Those actresses, Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher, passed away a little over a week ago.
Reynolds may not have been as recognizable to high schoolers in our generation as Fisher was, but rest assured, her talents were numerous and impressive. She acted, sang and danced, and was, frankly, great at it. After all, she did all three in her most fondly remembered film, “Singin’ in the Rain.”
The widely-praised movie also underlined her tenacity and work ethic. In fact, she barely even knew how to dance when filming began, but in a matter of three months, she was on par with the Gene Kelly, according to Vox.com
Reynolds’ flexibility in learning translated to flexibility on screen — she played characters spanning “Unsinkable Molly Brown’s” rustic titular character, to, of all things, Kim Possible’s grandma, according to IMDB.
But acting was not her only contribution. According to HollywoodReporter.com, Reynolds was also a founder of the Thalians, an organization devoted to raising awareness of mental health issues.
Reynolds’s daughter, Fisher, was also an advocate for mental illness awareness. Fisher’s advocacy partially stemmed from openness about her own bipolar disorder, according to Slate.com. She passionately tried to destigmatize the disorder and get it to be taken seriously, rather than something people could casually joke about having.
Although Fisher was a mental health champion and actress just like her mother before her, she went about it in an entirely different way. With the wry humor — and perhaps excessive use of emojis — present in every tweet of hers, Fisher’s wit pulled no punches (and it was glorious).
It’s hard to discuss Fisher’s acting career without mentioning her most iconic role: Princess Leia from “Star Wars”. In fact, I watched the most recent “Star Wars” movie not long after hearing the news of Fisher’s death, and when Leia appeared onscreen for one last incredible moment, I nearly cried.
True, it’s important to remember she was entirely separate from the character she brought to life. However, as much as Fisher was definitely, absolutely not Leia Organa, Leia was created by Fisher’s own confidence projecting through onscreen, shaping the character into a role model. And, yes, Fisher was a role model too — a role model for girls seeing themselves in the princess from a galaxy far, far away and a voice for the mentally ill, wrapped in that wonderfully caustic humor.
Reynolds and Fisher’s careers began as mirrors — albeit warped ones — of each other, just like their contributions to society and roles in the public eye. Perhaps it’s fitting that what they’ve left behind is so closely intertwined.