Interview with Regina Kelly, the Woman Behind American Violet

by Melissa Silverstein on April 17, 2009

in Movies

Regina Kelly - photo by John Shearer/WireImage.com

Regina Kelly - photo by John Shearer/WireImage.com

Regina Kelly is real the woman behind the film American Violet.  She answered some questions about what it’s like to have a film made of your life.

Women & Hollywood: How did the film get the title American Violet?

Regina Kelly: It started off as American Inquisition.  But there is a violet in the film that starts out shiny and bright which represented how my life was before the drug raid and then when I am in jail it the violet looks dead, but I am able to bring it back to life and it shows I am getting my spunk back and how life goes on after all the struggles.

W&H: Your story is incredibly impressive.  How did it get made into a movie and is the movie close to your experience?

RK: The film is 98% accurate.

W&H: How does it feel to have a movie about your life?

RK: It’s so overwhelming.  Never in a million years could I have imagined that I would be going through this.  My main thing is to get the message out there that even though it is my story these are issues that people around the world go through on a daily basis.

W&H: And the message is?

RK: The war on drugs is really the war on minorities and it’s killing us, disrupting homes and taking children away from their parents.  We need to start holding people accountable for ruining other people’s lives.  If it could happen to me it could happen to anybody.  We have to do something to change these laws because it is making it easy for DA’s to ruin our lives.

W&H: He’s still the DA?  How is that possible?

RK: Yes, he’s been running unopposed and no one will run against him because they are afraid.

W&H: This is a man who clearly violated your civil rights, he lost the case, you got a settlement and people still did not vote him out of office?

RK: They did not vote him out.  Some vote but the majority will not vote and no one will run against him.

W&H: This seems like a great film for Michelle Obama to get involved with.

RK: That is our goal.  Barack Obama has given a billion dollars in the stimulus package to support the war on drugs.  He needs to be made aware what this money will do.  It will do further harm.  We can do other things with a billion dollars besides waste it on the war on drugs.

W&H: I learned from the movie that the more convictions they get the more money they get.

RK: Yes, that has to change.

W&H: How did they approach you to make the movie?

RK: I got a call from Graham at the ACLU.  I didn’t think it was going to be a movie.  I thought it was going to be a documentary.  Bill (Haney, the writer and producer) came to the house and took some photos and they produced a piece on the war on drugs.  I thought that was it.  Two years later I got a call saying they needed me to come to the New Orleans set.  That’s when I found out about the movie.

W&H: What do you think of Nicole Beharie’s performance? (the actress who plays you in the film)

RK: She is amazing.  They could have easily cast a famous actress.  I honestly don’t feel they could have done it justice like Nicole did.  She is so great.  She was so nervous about playing me and I had to make her understand she did a terrific job.

W&H: What do you want someone to walk out of the movie thinking?

RK: That no matter how hard things get in life never ever bend your morals.  Stand up for what you think is right for yourself no matter what the situation.  Everything happens for a purpose.

W&H: How does it feel to be a role model?

RK: I don’t know if I am a role model.  I took a stand for my children to show them that if I lose my freedom I’m going to lose it fighting.  I just wanted them to know that we can get through anything no matter what.  I did it so they could look up to me and respect me for my decisions.

W&H: Do you still live in the same community?

RK: I just moved a couple of weeks ago.  I moved because I couldn’t do it anymore.  The raid was in 2000 and there was still retaliation.  I was not able to get a job since 2000.  When it got to the point that my kids couldn’t work because I am their mom it’s time for me to leave because its my battle not my children’s.  I just wanted to be in peace.

W&H: So you won but you lost.

RK: Yes

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

d April 23, 2009 at 8:18 PM

What a bittersweet ending to the interview and her struggle so far. Thanks a lot for the interview Melissa! When I first saw the trailer, I just kept thinking how is this possible? The fact that it’s 98% true makes it all the scarier. I hope a lot of people see this one. And I am glad that she was actually happy with what they turned out.

smooth27 April 25, 2009 at 7:52 PM

Regina – I am so glad that you stood up for what was right. Your story is a blessing that will continue to make people aware of the injustice out there. The movie truly blessed me. God bless you and your family.

Ronda July 19, 2009 at 8:30 PM

Oh my gosh Regina!!!
I just finished watching the movie. I felt so many emotions during while watching, happy, sad, furious, sick, pissed, all of that!! I pray that God continues to richly bless you and your family. Thank you so much for standing up for what you believed and thank you for sharing! It must have been extremely hard. But you did it girl! You are favored by the most high!

Geri Wright July 23, 2009 at 10:24 PM

I am not at all surprised about what happened to Ms.Kelly after all, they have been doing this to poor blacks for Centurys. There is Justice and there is “Just Us”. And then then the fading white majority had the audacity to question whether or not the Puerto Rica Justice nominee would be impartial in her rulings. Have they ever been impartial when itanding came to the treatment of Black and Brown defendants. Bravo to Ms. Kelly for standing up for her rights. Ms. Wright

Geri Wright July 23, 2009 at 10:26 PM

I am not at all surprised about what happened to Ms.Kelly after all, they have been doing this to poor blacks for Centurys. There is Justice and there is “Just Us”. And then the the fading white majority had the audacity to question whether or not the Puerto Rican Justice nominee would be impartial in her rulings. Have they ever been impartial when it came to the treatment of Black and Brown defendants. Bravo to Ms. Kelly for standing up for her rights. Ms. Wright

Tishara Collins August 14, 2009 at 9:11 PM

I was so impressed by this movie and the flow of my emotions were phenominal. I appreciate the strength of Ms. Kelly. We all as black people face injustice on a daily basis. It really doesn’t matter what we accomplish or how we try and better ourselves there is always some ignorant person out there to try and tear US down. We as a people need to stand up together united as one, similar to what Dr. King did and demand our rights.

Christopher "Big Star" Johnson September 3, 2009 at 2:56 PM

Regina, the movie was phenomenal the acting was phenomenal, but most of all I was impressed by your phenomenal spirit!!! To actually fight for something you believe in despite the overwhelming odds that was against you. That is something that is rare these days. Just like the movie indicated 90% of blacks arrested, whether innocent or not plea bargain. Thus, giving the world an indication that we are all guilty when that is not the case. You were innocent and you stood up for that fact for your daughters, town, for America and most of all for yourself. Kudos to you Regina!! I only hope and pray that more people view this movie and take it to heart!

deidra September 20, 2009 at 4:59 PM

Regine i think what you did was very brave and took alot of courage. I just finished watching the movie and immediately went to the internet to find any information about you that i could. I just want you to know that you should be really proud of what you have done. I know it wasn’t easy. And being that beckett is still in office, it’s clearly not over. But you hold up head up and be proud, because i know that there are so many people who wish they would have dine what you did.
Deidra

MiamiGurl920 October 17, 2009 at 10:38 PM

beautiful movie and a phemononal movie, so many emotions were in my heart, pissed off that beckett is still in office. Nicole Beharie is such a good actress, I kno’ she’s goin’ places. But Ms. Regina Kelly, U are a phenomenal woman, and u teach a powerful lesson in believing in yourself, thank-u.

Nevenka November 7, 2009 at 1:10 PM

Dear Regina,
I have just finished watching the movie. I am speechless and I am crying. I have been in the USA for 20 years (I am from Europe) and didn’t know that such humiliation still exists. I believed, people can dislike others but they just kept that as opinion for themselves. The Bush is from Texas….and he didn’t know what was going on. Once again I am so glad I voted for Obama.
I am sending you and to your girls all my love. They are so blessed having such mother.
God Bless You and Your Children!
p.s.
You made a good decision by moving from that town.

annette December 29, 2009 at 11:20 PM

I just wacht the movie and iam so glad u did what u did the some people would not did the same u stood up for u ur girls and ur people meaning the ones the need it u we are not surprised that this days are still people jugging colors and diferents cultures and we thank you that even as painfull u share ur story with us we still learning. may God bless u ur girls ur family and the people who help u to get justice and may God be with u aLL THE TIME AND UR FAMILY.

Andrea December 30, 2009 at 10:57 PM

I just finished watching the movie and I still can’t believe that this happened in 2000 in the US and not some third world country. I just had to come and google your name to see if this was as real as the movie. I don’t think I could have been as brave as you were. What you done was very selfless and God’s blessings be upon you and your family. I am glad you have now moved, I think you’ve endured enough and are deserving of fresh surroundings and peace.

F wilson January 7, 2010 at 10:38 AM

I have not been fortunate enough to have seen the movie. I just became aware of it through googling NAACP Image Awards and seeing a commentator speculate on the lack of nominations for “American Violet” I wondered “What is this movie?”, “Why haven’t I heard of it?”, and last but not least “Why wasn’t it nominated or even first recieved the attention given to other movies ie “Precious”?” Nothing against that movie, but the message seems to be more important because many people in middle America are unaware of what is going on. I have suspected, but never had such confirmation as what I see in the trailer alone. I say it is further proof of a problem systemic to “keeping people ignorant”, “keeping the image of poor black people as criminals and immoral” etc…

JUNE February 22, 2010 at 4:58 PM

I HAVE NOT WATCHED THE MOVIE YET, BUT I DO AGREE WITH A LOT OF WHA REGINA SAID IN HER INTERVIEW. IT IS SO HARD TO GET CORRUPTED PEOPLE OUT OF OFFICE. PEOPLE LIKE THAT SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO RERUN FOR OFFICE.

Starr April 17, 2010 at 4:39 AM

I watched the movie and was very moved. I was inspired and will make a difference with what I learned and took to heart from the movie. I am from the south and know that bout this and thank you for sharing your story so that the ignorant system will be exposed for what it is for that is the only way things change. May God bless you richly!

Diana May 10, 2010 at 5:06 AM

Regina what an amazing woman you are…you are a real inspiration to women all around the world….I saw your movie just a few days ago ,and i cannot tell u the emotion that i felt,
its people like you that make a difference in this world…
i wish you and your family a life full of peace and love.

Debbie July 3, 2010 at 10:22 AM

Regina . . . thank you for standing up for all of us and fighting injustice. I am dismayed that the DA, John Pashcall, is still in office. He should have been removed by the Bar, if not the people of the town.

BRIAN August 28, 2010 at 3:53 AM

I JUST SEEN THE MOVIE.. AND IM GLAD U STOOD UP FOR YOURSELF AND THE NEIGHBORHOOD BABY IM GLAD YOU DIDNT TAKE THAT PLEA..

Robertta Morales January 12, 2011 at 7:13 AM

OMG I just watched this movie and it was wonderful! That woman was courageous to go against that crooked D. A., she fought for what she believed in and i commend her. More power to her and may God Bless her as well as everyone affected by this madness.

Robertta Morales January 12, 2011 at 7:13 AM

OMG I just watched this movie and it was wonderful! That woman was courageous to go against that crooked D. A., she fought for what she believed in and i commend her. More power to her and may God Bless her as well as everyone affected by this madness.

Letitia May 19, 2011 at 10:30 PM

I think that Regina had courage and I would like to thank her for her unselfishness. I would also like to thank her mom for raising a upstanding daughter.

lynette mitchell May 19, 2011 at 10:31 PM

I am a mother of four and i am soo proud of Regina Kelly for standing up for herself and her children, i cried the first time i seen the movie, i felt her pain as i watched her fight for her family, i just want her to know that i appreciated all that she did, she is a HERO in my heart and i want her to know that. I respect her soo much for being able to get through her challenges, God gave you all the strength and courage to speak for others and for your family, may God continue to BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY….

Voy Cooks May 19, 2011 at 11:31 PM

I agree with all of the commenters who pointed out Ms.Kelly’s courage. But a lot more focus ought to be put on the that racist district attorney and the corrupt criminal (in)justice that that gives him a platform to ply his dirty trade. To be sure, he is not an abberation down there in Bush country. The system is corrupt all across the nation. Until there is oversight of D.A.’s and an end to the ridiculous practice of prosecutorial immunity for them these scourge will continue to terrorize communities with impunity.

REGINA KELLY October 30, 2011 at 5:41 AM

Hello everyone! I am Regina Kelly, the woman who inspired the movie, American Violet. I just wanted to get on here to simply say THANK YOU! Thank you all for giving me inspiration. I knew my decisions would have good AND bad consequences. Sometimes my days feel a lil dark and its just great to know that everything my children and I went thru was not in vain. I am currently still traveling the world doing my motivational speaking on the movie along with domestic violence and teen pregnancy. Thank you all again and may GOD continue to bless each and everyone of your steps in life.

Regina Kelly
P.O. Box 90428
Houston,TX 77290
Gina5kelly@yahoo.com

rue February 15, 2012 at 12:32 AM

I just finished watching the movie. Lots of emotions and encouragement. Your post about giving talks around the world has made it even better. Thank you and blessings on you. It takes faith to draw strength like the woman who touched the hem of the garment of Jesus.

Jack April 8, 2012 at 10:08 PM

Texas, the last place I would live. Glad for your outcome, sad for all you had to deal with but what is the mentality that that man got re-elected?

Geraldine Carter June 1, 2012 at 2:39 AM

God Bless you Ms. Regina, I was born in 1955 and during that time blacks were still being lyunched in this country; which did not end with the civil rights bill being sign. I am not surprise at what happen to you and your personal experience with the so called justice system. Thank God, that the TRUTH cannot and will not remian hidden. The TRUTH has it’s own vioce and that voice belongs to God.

tracy white June 12, 2012 at 4:59 PM

Hello Regina, i watched your movie last night American Violet and was appalled at how blacks are done especially down south. I want to thank you for standing up for your rights , i can only imagine what u and your family endured. your courage has inspired me to stand up for what i believe in and mean what i say. I have passed this on to my sons also who are ages 24 & 22. May god countinue to keep you, your mother, and your beautiful children in his care.

Acquita August 7, 2012 at 1:41 PM

OMG I just watched this movie for the first time on BET. I never knew anything about what happened to Ms Regina Kelly. I just wanna say u are a very very strong woman and may God continue to bless u and your family!

Kay November 13, 2012 at 4:02 PM

This movie tell us how to stand for right even when its not popular . But that how real change is made. Ms Regina Kelly is a hero for civil rights. The list keeps growing thanks you. You made a diffrent.

peter January 17, 2013 at 9:03 AM

What a movie.Racism Is a seriouse issue in many countrys today.Regina u did what was right.to fight for ur rights and for your children.i now how u felt i was always accused for committing something that i never did. I have seen the movie over six times and it has moved me everytime.thankyou for sharing your storx.

REGINA KELLY April 24, 2013 at 1:59 PM

I pray this is movie is one that stays strong on the world’s mind and hearts. Again I would like to say thank you to everyone who has supported this message, my struggle and my determination for change. The fight still continues today and things like this continue to happen in every minority community around the world. PLEASE call your local offices and hold your officers accountable. LOCAL. STATE and NATIONAL…..STAY INVOLVED

Gina5kelly@yahoo.com
ReginaKellyAV@gmail.com

Proud of You! May 10, 2013 at 3:04 AM

I have a plaque, given to me by a good friend, that reads “Virtue is it’s own reward.” You are living proof of that. All reformers pay a price for taking a stand; if it was easy to stand up to corruption, everyone would do it! To do the right thing when it’s easy is no big deal, but to stand firmly for justice when there’s a price to be paid for doing it—that’s heroic. And once you’ve done that, you will never fear anything or anyone again! Now that’s a pretty great thing.

richard May 11, 2013 at 3:03 PM

Extremely shameful that this happened especially this day in age. Unfortunately this will continue despite Obama being in office. Contrary to what many black people believe Obama is just another puppet of the establishment. He will continue to deceive liberal whites and blacks alike with his phony speeches. He is continuing with the same agenda as his predecessors. Wars,droning attacks, removing civil liberties. His wife is no better

richard May 11, 2013 at 7:14 PM

Obama is still supporting the war on drugs. He will not stand up to the drug czars, the same way he does not stand up to the military industrial complex, the banks , the big corporations. When he leaves office very little will have changed, him and his wife are just out for their own glory. Ron Paul was one of the only politicians that spoke out about the war on drugs.

Here Comes the Judge August 10, 2013 at 6:11 AM

Richard this is not the forum for your comments. This is about a woman standing up despite all adversities fought the good fight of faith and was victorious in the end. Don’t take away from unrefuted facts in your efforts to Obama bash. Do that on his cite not the interview for Ms. King.

Kassel star arias October 20, 2013 at 2:30 AM

This is one white woman who wishes more of her race would stand up and be counted for what is right. Justice for all? What a joke! If it hadn’t been for the Jewish and African American men representing her cause on the authority of the ACLU, you, Regina, would be rotting in court while a small percentage of whites slept on while the devil rocked the cradle. You are a woman of great courage. That courage was instilled in your heart by a power bigger than all the ignorant bigots you went up against – God Almighty! He tells in his word that no weapon formed against us shall prosper. You Rock!

LaCaundra December 29, 2013 at 3:02 AM

I do a lot of Google-ing on a variety of subjects and read comments all the time, but this is the first time I’ve felt compelled to comment. I first heard the story involving this case in a documentary, but never knew there was a movie made about it. I just finished watching it, and I must say to you Ms. Kelly that I deeply admire you for your strength to press forward with holding the DA accountable after the charges were dropped and you could’ve easily walked away.I admire your courage to stand up for what was right when you could’ve taken the plea deal. And I admire you for showing your children that if they tell the truth and not let anyone influence their way of thinking, no matter what, integrity can never be taken away. What a beautiful life lesson you have shared with them, and us! Thank you!

Lydia Negron January 3, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Thank you Ms Kelly!

You are an inspiration and example to what each of us can do in times of hardship and duress.

May you continue to be a voice for those who don’t have your fortitude.

I hope to one day have the privilege to hear you speak.

In peace.

pam January 3, 2014 at 6:52 PM

regina thanks for sharing your testimony God brought you out I look at the movie it given me hope to believe in God for better things to come thanks

Davina August 9, 2014 at 7:12 AM

Just watched your movie, really powerful, I am from NZ and we understand what goes on for use over there and we support use, and cannot belive that man did not lose his position, its sad to see that white power is still a major issue and it shows that it is obviously supported by many people in power over there. so from us maori here in NZ we support your cause of fighting for equality.

Lisa November 17, 2014 at 1:25 PM

I’m confused. She got a settlement and continued to live in the projects? Why in God’s name would anyone live in the projects if they didn’t have to??? Friends, family, I get that. But move the hell out of there, and move your family out too.
Just saw the movie today. Really good. Compelling story. I’ve always felt very strongly about the whole “plea bargain” situation. It’s a bad thing. If you’re innocent, don’t plea!!

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