Sunday, May 19, 2013

Joyful Heart Foundation Gala: Yes, Risk Joy

The Thursday of the gala, me and my two friends I was going with all had hair and makeup appointments all day. We were all so excited up until the end of my makeup appointment because we realized we were gonna be super late.
We were all super stressed when we got back to the place we were staying, and we had to rush to throw our clothes and shoes on and then leave. So we run outside and try to flag a cab down. We jump in the cab and are stuck on the same block for about 10 min. it’s already 5 min past when we were supposed to get there and we were all the way across town. So we ask the cab driver how long it’s gonna take us to get there and he says a half an hour. So we say “eff that!” and get out. I suggest we get to port authority so we can get on the 7 at times square to take us across town.
So, in full makeup, hair, and dresses, we start SPRINTING to Times Square. My two friends take their heels off (I’m wearing flip flops) and we are legit sprinting there. I can only imagine what the people thought around us! At that point, you had to laugh. We were royally late, but the thought of what we must have looked like was hilarious.
We FINALLY get to the subway, hop on the train, get to Grand Central (the site where my SVU adventure first began in 2010!), we get off and sprint to Cipriani. FINALLY. We are there.
We walk in to this ENORMOUS hall, unlike anything I’ve ever been in before. We go in to get our seats, but see the “red carpet” line going on. Mariska is there in a gorgeous elegant white dress. I smile from ear to ear and get closer. Harry Connick Jr. is right in front of me, giving an interview whle I see Mariska, Kelli, and Danny posing for pictures.
We go and put our stuff down and find the rest of our group we were sitting with. Linda, who was kind of the head of the group, says to me, Meloni’s here!” and I almost die as my heart skips a beat.
Behind our table is the bar and ballroom where the photo booth is. The rest of the night is a bit of a whirlwind as we look for people we know. Linda said Meloni was sitting near the stairs at a table. I go over there and don’t see him, but see Belzer and his dog sitting with other people. He was talking to people and I didn’t want to interrupt but his dog was chilling near my feet so I asked if I could pet him and he smiled and said yes.
Then we walk over to the photo booth, andd Kelli Giddish walks by us and I call out to her.
“Hey Kelli!” she turns around. “I don’t know if you remember me, but I met you a few months back and your dog loved me.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right! How ya’ll doing?” We re-intrdouce ourselves and start to chat. I tell her that every time I see a dog I think of her, and I tell her about the video I got of my dog and my cat playing together. Kelli tells us that her knees are all scratched up from playing with Frannie at the park today. Then she looks around and says, “Don’t tell anyone this, but she’s gonna be in the finale! She chases down a perp!”
we all laugh and are like “no way!” and she is like a proud stage mom, super adorable. Then we ask her if she’ll take some photos with us and she says sure. So we go to the photobooth and we get some absolutely GREAT shots.
We keep walking around and see Danny. We say hi to him, make small talk (he doesn’t remember us which is fine haha) and ask if he’ll take a picture with us in the photobooth. He says of course but he’s gonna go get a drink first and then come back. We wait around for a while, and one of my friends hits me and points: “IT’S MELONI!” I almost die. But he’s talking so I wait as we weait for Danny to come back. Wihle we’re waiting, I see that Peter is free for a second so I take my chance and go up to him.
“Peter?” He turns around. “I don’t know if you remember me, but I had dinner with you and Mariska in 2011, when you were out with Neal and Mike Doyle. Dan Truly brought me.” He pauses for a secondbut then his face turns into recognition and he says, “Oh yeah! You were the weightlifter!” and he does a weightlifting motion.
“Thank you so much for coming tonight!” he says.
“Oh of course! I wanted to say thank you for talking with me because you were really welcoming that night and I really appreciated it.” He smiles, we make small talk, and then he runs off – poor guy was so busy!
After that I was super happy, and went back to the photo booth and saw that they had already gotten a photo with Danny. I was disappointed but I was glad I got to talk to Peter. He’s the nicest guy.
Social hour was about to end and we were gonna go back and take our seats. I saw Meloni just starting to walk back to the dining area, and I took my chance.
“Yeah?” He says as he turns around.
“I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m the weightlifter that Carlos Guerra brought on set in the summer of 2010 a couple of times.”
He also pauses for a second and then goes, “Oh yeah! You were with that guy!” (meaning my now ex boyfriend)
“Yeah my boyfriend, we were both weightlifters.”
“Oh yeah! What was your name again?”
“How ya been?” I’m now dying inside.
“It’s been a rough few years but I’m doing ok.” I augh and say, “You never lfited with us that sumer!” (that was what he said he was gonna do)
“You know,now I remember why I don’t. I usually only do hack squats, but the other day I was squatting and – boom – I blow my back out.”
“Oh man,” I say. “Herniated disk?”
“Everything,” he says. “I herniated a few discs in high school and it’s never been the same.”
“Yeah I remember you saying that.”
Then I ask him if he’d take a photo with me, and my friends got some AMAZING ones.
Then – OMG – I say to him, “You know you’re my ass twin, right?”
“Do people confuse our asses?”
“People call me Assy McBigPants #2.”
He laughs and gives me a high five and then we all go back to sit down. I literally almost died.
Then the entire program started. I got a lot of it on video, which was great. The beginning was mostly of peter hosting, and doing the hosting type speeches. The videos say more here.
But then the most incredible, difficult, and movin prt of the night came a little after the program started, which was when Mariska presented the “Heart of Gold” award to a woman named Sukey Novogratz. When she got up on stage, I recognized her because she was wearing a BRIGHT, hot pink gown. She started her speech with saying she hoped that she could get through it.
What followed was unlike anything I had ever seen. Or heard.
She then proceeded to tell the detailed story of her gang rape at the age of 17.
By the end the three of us – and most of the room – were sobbing. Perhaps the hardest part to hear was when she described the feelings she was left with – being a shell of a human being one of them. That was what did it for me. At the end, she said that that day when she was 17 was when she stopped singing (she was a singer). But that night, wearing her hot pink gown (which at 17 was what she wanted to get married in), she sang a song. To show she had her voice back. She started singing “Be OK” by Ingrid Michaelson. Ingrid then jumped up on stage to sing with her.
At the end, the entire room gave her a standing ovation. I clapped as hard as I could as teaers were streaming down my face.
Our main course was about to be brought out but I asked if my friends wanted to go to the abthroom with me to freshen up.
We got into the bathroom and I flung the door open and almost hit Julianne Hough and Kelli Giddish in the back. I apologize and try to clean myself up. behind me, my two friends are sobbing in the corner. I’m trying to hold it together but I’m crying too, but I stay in line cuz I legit hafta pee. But the other two are in the corner sobbing and I start crying too even harder.
Then all of a sudden, Kelli motions to the people behind us to close the door to give us more privacy. Then she walks over to us, and wipes the tears off of one of my friends’ shoulers that the other had smudged on there. As she wipes the tears away she says, “It’s gonna be ok. You’re strong,” and she grabs one of their hands (I cant remember who bcc I’m crying too hard) and then she walks out.
That was when I lost it. I completely fell to pieces, and the 3 of us were in a huddle with all these celebs in the bathroom, sobbing.
Then something even more amazing happened.
We were a mess in the bathroom. I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Then these two women who were behind us in line come over to us. I don’t even know what was said because we were too hysterical and I was completely in my own head. But the two of them took us under their wing. One of them said, “This is what joyful heart is all about – it’s about helping you guys.” Which of course made me cry even harder.
We went and sat out on the steps near the bathroom and I was hysterical. The two women come out and find us and sit with us. One of them said that her husband was a director on SVU so has been around the cause for a long time and is really passionate about it because a family member was sexually abused. I asked her who her husband was, wondering if id met him in 2010, and she told me, and I knew his name but hadn’t met him. we talked a bit, and she comforted all of us. I told her briefly my story and completely broke down again. They all said some wonderful things.
Then we went to go and sit down and try to compose ourselves, and when we got there Mariska was right in front of our table (what timing!). We were a mess, but our new friend and protector goes up to her. I was right behind. Mariska smiles and reaches out her hand to shake my hand, and I say, “It’s Rachel, Carlos’ friend from 2010.” “Oh hi!” she says, and squeezes m hand very tightly, in recognition. It was obvious we all had been crying. Maile was also with her and I shake her hand and say, “’m the one you emailed a few months ago when Mariska forwarded my email to you.”
She says, “That’s right!” and also squeezes my hand in recognition.
A this was going on, our new svu friend is simultaneously talking to Mariska, about us, probably asking her if we could talk to her, because Mariska says, “Not tonight, but I’ll call Sherisa.” She was way to sqamped, which we understood.
Our SVU protector says that we should come visit her at her table, which was right next to Mariska’s. We said we would (although we weren’t able to because the live auction took up the rest of the night).
A few minutes later Sherisa, who’s a counselor with JHF, came and found us. The three of us went into the ballroom to talk. We had a mini therapy session and talked about triggers, etc. Then we hear Mariska getting up on stage again, so we want to go sit down and watch the rest of the night.
When we went to sit down while things were going on, I see Hugh Jackman walk behind our table and go out the door to leave … and I almost have a heart attack.
Then Ingrid Michaelson performed. While she was perofming, I turned around and could see Peter and Mariska behind us. He was holding her tightly, and you coul see her sobbing and wiping the tears from her eyes.. then they danced for a little bit and then shared a passionate kiss. It was the sweetest thing ive ever seen.
After Ingrid performed, the live auction went on, which for us poor folk was kind of boring. But then, the fun part: the after party! Not in any particular order, because it was insane and fun and I was slightly tispy.
I met Andre Braugher! I went up to him to say that my whole family thinks he’s a great actor. He was very appreciative and when I told him my parents thought he was fantastic, he said, “Give them my regards.” So nice!
During the live auction, I had seen Jemima Kirke from the HBO show “Girls” walk b the table in front of us, and I flipped out.  So during the dance party, I found her and went up to her and just said how much I loved the show and how much I could relate because I’m 23.
“Oh thank you so much” she kept saying in her british accent. I told her I was like obsessed and watched the whole first season in a week. She said that’s better than doing it in a day which she knew someone did. I asked if they were filming season 3 and she said they were. Then I got a really cute picture with her. I think she’s a beautiful girl – very natural. Looks like she’s from seattle with what she wears. It was super cool!
Also got a picture with Danny.
Then we were standing next to our SVU protector and she all of a sudden says, “Watch out!” as I stepp on someone’s dress as they were running by me, and I looked up and it was Mariska. OOOOOPS! “I’m so sorry!” and she just laughs as she runs by e.
I also asked Peter to take a picture with me and we took it on the red arpet. It was super cute. I ojked how tall he is, and he said, “I’m a giant!” Truth.
Then, I found Sukey, in her bright pink dress. I go up to her and thanked her so much for sharing her story, that I feel all of that currently but that I was so inspired that she has overcome everything. She smiled, gave me a huge hug, and said that I WILL get to that point of being whole again. “I promise. You will get there.” I had chills.
Then I found Raul Esparza! And I immediately developed a huge crush on him haha. I went up to him and said that my family think that he’s the best ADA so far on SVU and that we’ve been watching it for years. He thank med. I was slightly tipsy at this point, so I don’t remember everything (and the music was blasting) but I asked him to take a picture with me. My phone was accidentally on video so his riend says that the photo didn’t flash and I realized it was on video. Then Raul goes, “You know we’re gonna look insane in that, standing and smiling forever?” I laughed. We took the picture and the ni talked to him a bit. I said that it was really weird seeing him in “Hannibal” the TV show.
“That character is super creepy. He’s so fun to play.”
“Then I ask him, “So are you really badass like Barba in real life?”
He replies, “You mean, do I walk around saying ‘Fuck you’ all the time to people? Yea-no.” He shakes his head and I laugh. Then he gets swept up in something else.
Then, omg, the threee of us find Warren Leight. One of my friends, Danielle, is extremely drunk haha. We got up to talk to him, and I think he was legit freaked out because we were all crazy haha. We were laughing and joking, and he asks us for our twitter names. I say mine, and that I was the one who had called his mom a hairy Italian by mistake.
“Oh yeah, I remember that,” he says and we laught. I ask him about the live tweet session for the west coast and he says that no one is up at that time to do it haha.
Then Danielle starts going on and on about wanting to be cast in the episode or something. Before he left, I asked him if Mariska was coming back and he said, “I hope so.” Uh oh.
At one point, Mariska was taking pictures with an older man at the photo booth, and I was standing there sipping my wine watching them. The pictures were printing out and the older man picked them up.
“That is so cute!” I say.
He smiles at me, and sticks out his hand to me and says, “My name’s Michael!”
I smile at his sweetness and shake his hand. “I’m Rachel.” I then ask him how he’s affiliated with JHF, and he says:
“I’m the director of photography on SVU.” Michael Green! I knew his name.
So then I tell him that I knew a bunch of people in 2010, and that the cameraman, Carlos Guerra, was a friend of mine and brought me on set.
“I was the one who first hired Carlos!” he says.
“No way!” I also tell him the other guys I know on set, and we chit chat. I tell him I’m getting help with writing, and then he points to a guy next to him and says,
“This is the guy you should talk to!”
This guy, sorta young, sticks out his hand and says, “I’m John.”
I shake his hand and inroduce myself and ask him how he’s affiliated with SVU.
“Oh I’m one of the head writers on the show,” he says, nonchalantly.
I almost have a heart attack.
So then we proceed to talk about writing for about 10 min, giving me all this writing advie in the middle of this crazy party.
He alludes to the fact that I live in the perfect city for writing, and I say, “Oh actually I don’t live in NYC, I live in Seattle.”
“Oh my fiancé is from Seattle!”
“No way!!!!” I couldn’t believe it.
“I actually might be in Seattle this summer. We should get together, maybe for lunch.” I couldn’t believe this – the head SVU writer, another screenwriter, is willing and wanting to help me out. So we exchanged emails and said we’d be in contact. Holy moly!
So then it was getting towards the end of the night. I see Meloni about to leave so I went up to him before he walked out.
“Chris!” I say and he turns around. “Can I have a hug before you leave?”
“Come here, baby,” he says and he gives me a big huge and kind of nestles my head under his chin almost kiss the top of my head.
OH. MY. FREAKING. GOD. I die a little bit inside.
Then I say, “I’m so sad because Dan said he invited you to my bday dinner but you couldn’t come.”
He frowns and says, “What? I never got an invite.”
“Nope, he never called me.”
I’m super sad! So I say, “Well if I ever get dinner with him again, do you wanna come?”
He does his Meloni nod and smile and says, “Yeah~!”
“Promise?” I ask.
“Yeah!” he says and smiles, as he walks away with his wife and I smile goodbye.
After that we wer ancing and “Don’t Stop Believin’” came on. Mariska is right next to us dancing with Krysten (another SVU set person who I had met earlier when I was talking to John Roche). So we were all singing and dancing together BELTING the song out. I got it all on video, and it was amazing.
After that Mariska was next to us and one of m y friends went up to her to thank her. I don’t know what she said to mariska, but mariska started to cry and gave her a huge hug. Then I went up to her and told her that I wasn’t sure if she believd my story when I emailed her and I asked her if she believed me and she nodded, looking teary eyed. Then we embraced or a second. <3 p="">
Then I was walking out near the lobby and found peter. I came up to him  (earlier I had said I was a survivor), and I say that I’m so grateful for all that they do. He gives me a GIANT hug and I say, as he’s hugging me,
“I love you guys so much. That sound sso stupid.”
He squeezes me even tighter.
“It’s not stupid at all,” he says back to me, still squeezing me.
He lets go of me and smiles.
“Stay strong,” he says, almost knowingly … and then he walks away.
I cried inside, so grateful, filled with so much life.
After that there was about one more song, then it was time to go home.
But it didn’t end there.
Saturday, our SVU protector, the director’s wife, met up with us. We ended up sitting down together, and sharing our detailed stories out loud, crying together, healing together. She had no reason to seek us out, to support us, but she did. And I am so grateful for that.

And that was it.
That week was the most incredible week of my entire life. So many emotions, so much crying, so much healing.
I came there with friends. I left with 2 sisters. And a brother. And an SVU momma.
The week has changed my life. I have never been filled with so much hope, joy, and love for these people. Mariska and Peter … they have forever changed my life. All of them have.
SVU has completely changed my life. Not only was it a dream come true in 2010, but since then, I have been completely transformed by the work that Mariska has done. She has entered my life, in one way or another, every time I’ve desperately needed her from 2010 onward.
Then Sukey. Sukey has given a vision of what I want to be in the future. I see what she has overcome, and I know I can too. I have never cried so hard in response to another person’s story. A beautiful, incredible soul.
Thank you, SVU, for making my dreams come true.
For surrounding me in an incredible community of survivors, thrivers, and dreamers.
For giving me a protector, who listens to me, believes me, and will be there for me.
And, most importantly, for planting the seed of joy in my soul, that I know will one day grow into a beautiful fountain of joy, blocking out the darkness.
Thank you, SVU,  Danielle, Kortney, my Special Vixen Unit, Joyful Heart, Chris, Sukey, Mariska, Peter.
Yes. Risk joy.
Xo, R



Kyle Jennings said...


Rach to the Izzo, you're quickly becoming one of my favorite people :) Your story as a survivor inspires me. I can't wait to get to know you better, girl. I'm always here if you ever need an outlet (though I know you have a lot) - I believe you, I think your strength is amazing, and I'm proud to be getting to know you. You're incredible.

Jessica Narvaez said...

Hi, I'm Jessica from Argentina, thanks for sharing this with all of us. I'm so far which unfortunately I can never meet Mariska, but thanks to his story I can feel a little closer, I love all you accounts that privilege to be there. A greetings to you Jessi.
I hope my English is not too bad, if you ask what is apologize!

rizzo said...

@Kyle right back atcha girl!!! xoxo
@Jessica, you are very welcome! Tu inglés es muy bueno, pero yo también puedo hablar un poco español, si es más fácil para ti =) (o, para que yo pueda practicar!!!!)