My mom and I are really close because she never tried to be my best friend. She's always been my mom. When I was growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, she was definitely the person who said what was what. Today, she's still the one who will say, "Don't try to fit in. Be a leader, not a follower. Be yourself. And don't let them take any more of those sexy photos for those entertainment magazines!"
When I was five years old, like every kid, I turned to my mom and said, "When I grow up, I'm going to be an actress." I guess she thought I'd grow out of it, but because I had a good imagination, she put me in drama classes where I could do plays with other kids. She's not a stage mother at all. She did it because she thought it would be fun for me.
Obviously, I didn't grow out of it, so years later, when I said I wanted to go away to a professional theater school, she was upset. She had encouraged me to do something she never thought would take me away from home. That was difficult for her but she still supported me. I was very heartened by the fact that even though she worried I was entering a life of poverty and rejection, she helped me go to the best theater school and pursue acting as a career, since it would make me happy.
My mother is warm, funny, and very, very wise. I remember when I was young, I didn't want to go to Greek school. She told me I'd be happy later that she was making me go. I went to Greek school from the time I was six until I was twelve years old. Now I love that I can read, write, and speak Greek, and she is gleeful that she was right.
My two sisters, brother and I play a game with her all the time by asking, "Mom, am I your favorite? Come on, am I?" When we're alone I'll sometimes joke, "Okay, Mom, we're alone now. You can finally admit I'm your favorite." She always answers, "You know who my favorite is - Cleo." Cleo was our family dog.
I don't know how she survived our teenage years. My brother woke up at sixteen, decided we were all stupid, and didn't talk to us for the next five years. I don't know how she got through it. My sisters and I didn't take any of her advice for years and now we go to her with everything. It's amazing how smart she's gotten as we've grown older!
We laugh our heads off about how my life has changed since "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" became a hit. She has said she's amazed at how quickly things happened and that she's proud of how I'm handling it. That means a lot to me. She's having a ball with it all, too. She's even talked to the press. One time she picked up the phone at home, and it was a radio station in British Columbia. The announcer asked, "Is this Nia Vardalos's mom?" And she said yes - she probably thought it was somebody collecting my student loan. They said, "We're on the radio. Can we put you on live?" and she said, "Sure!" I thought that was so funny. During the run of the film, she was interviewed a lot in the newspapers. Her quotes were really astute and wisely aimed at marketing the film. She'd say something like, "I'm very proud of Nia for writing a movie for men and women of all ethnicities." She was just trying to get more people to see it!
When we were trying to get the film made, there were a lot of setbacks. My mother kept saying, "Everything happens for a reason. There is a reason why this is being stalled." I think about the timing of when our movie did come out - everyone was ready for a nice family comedy. She was right about that, too.
I enjoy sharing this whole experience with her. She loves the stories of who I've met, where I'm going, what each talk show host is like, and so on. When I had dinner with the Queen of England, I insisted my parents be invited as well. It just wouldn't have been as special without them there. When I was traveling through Europe to promote the film, every time I got to a new city, I'd call my husband first and then my parents and say, "Woo-hoo! Hey Mom, I'm on top of the Eiffel Tower." "Hey, it's Thursday, I'm in Rome!" The first thing she'd say was, "Are you eating? Are you sleeping?"
The thing I really love about my mother is that she is an optimist. She will always find the bright side of any situation - not in a naïve way but in a work-through, find-a-solution way. I am so glad I inherited her Stubborn Greek Girl gene. If I start a project, you can bet I'm going to finish it. I definitely know my tenacity comes from her.
She taught me to believe in myself, to not give up, to see my ideas through. I'm glad I learned to listen to her advice. The film is a success because of everything I learned from her. I am here because of my mom.