Taking care of each other should be a priority, Whoopi Goldberg said, regardless of the differences between humans.
Glenn Close and Goldberg delivered ideological points like this one on Saturday afternoon at Presidents Hall in Franklin Hall. The two entertainers spent nearly two hours touching upon personal and professional life questions, as part of an unpublicized event called An Intimate Conversation on Life, Acting, and Mental Health.
The event was sponsored by the IU Auditorium, the Office of First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie and U Bring Change 2 Mind, the campus initiative to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
“We don’t have to keep putting everybody in boxes,” Goldberg said. “If they’re a human being and they’re being disrespected, you stand with them and have their back.”
An audience of about 250 people listened, laughed and provided their own questions for Close and Goldberg.
Mental health issuesaren’t new for Close. In 2010, she co-founded Bring Change to Mind, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and empathy about mental health.
“Stigma is the toughest thing to overcome,” Close said.
Close’s sister, Jessie Close, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her nephew, Calen Pick, was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Both were diagnosed prior to Close's involvement in Bring Change to Mind.
Close said she used to misread the face of her nephew, not noticing the fear he had of the world around him.
“We’re always reading each other’s faces,” Close said. “I think that happens a lot with mental illness. We misread somebody’s face because of their illness, but it doesn’t mean that that’s who they are.”
Clairessa Winters, a junior at Bloomington High School South, received her ticket to the event from her Black Culture Club teacher at BHSS. She said she struggles with mental health issues and wanted to learn more about it from people with a higher platform.
“I don’t come from a great home life,” Winters said. “So that’s basically where most of my mental health issues stem from. So knowing that Whoopi also didn’t come from a great line is a great advocate for me to come here.”
Goldberg, who is dyslexic, spent part of her childhood in a housing project in New York City.
Winters said it was different hearing mental health advice from celebrities compared to others like school counselors or parents.
“Hearing it from celebrities who go through this every day and play characters with these disorders and things, they know firsthand that it’s not an easy thing to cope with and its definitely not an easy thing to live with,” Winters said.
As a neuroscience major, senior Adefolarin Alade said she was interested in seeing how passionate Close and Goldberg are about mental health. She learned about the event through her role as a co-president of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students.
“I think it was just really fruitful just to go and learn about that,” Alade said.
Alade said her mother is a big fan of Goldberg’s. She told her mother a day in advance she would get to see Goldberg speak. Goldberg discussed autism, a topic Alade is interested in researching.
“For me, I’m just someone in school studying it,” Alade said. “I think it’s interesting to translate people studying it and researching it and then having them read that information and bringing it out into the public.”
Additionally, the event featured commentary from Close and Goldberg on a number of subjects, ranging from the Hollywood sexual harassment scandal to their acting careers and their favorite books.
Goldberg’s key piece of advice came from “Letters to a Young Poet,” a collection of 10 letters written in the early 20th century from writers such as Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke and Austrian writer Franz Xaver Kappus.
“Take the lead in your life,” Goldberg said. “If it’s not happening the way you want it to happen, make it.”