You have much to be thankful for this year.
There’s a roof over your head, for beginners. You know where your next meal will come from. You can read, obviously. Running water, electricity, friends, and family, the list goes on. Author Kim Fields (with Todd Gold) counts those happy things, too, and in her new book “Blessed Life,” (2017, Faith Worlds, $22) she knows who gets credit.
Born in Harlem with a pedigree in performing – her grandmother was a dancer; her mother, an actress –Kim Fields recalls how much she loved Harlem, but she says she “would not trade growing up in Hollywood,” which is where she moved with her mother when Fields was six.
At age eight, as her mother’s L.A. star was on the rise, Fields tried out for her first role in a TV ad, later appearing in other commercials. She met Janet Jackson and they often played together, a friendship that led Fields to an appearance on “Good Times,” as a friend of Jackson’s character.
Shortly after that first quick appearance, Fields was hired for a new spin-off television show, in part because she could roller skate. The show wasn’t a hit with audiences at first, but NBC had faith in “The Facts of Life.”
“Going through puberty on television was not fun,” says Fields but she “handled” things. It helped that her mother kept her grounded; finding a church and connecting with God at age fourteen also made a difference.
Those things helped Fields during her trials and lifted her higher when things were good. Friends helped her search for love, introducing her to men and offering support when love went wrong. Professionally, work came and went in large roles and small projects. Fields went to college, worked behind-the-scenes in the film industry, fell in love, and got married. When that relationship fell apart, she became depressed and stayed in bed for weeks, asking God if he “still got a plan, right?”
He did. It involved a new love, a family, more work, new focus, and maturity.
“What I’ve come to terms with,” says Fields, “is that as long as I’m moving forward…. I’m winning at least half the battle.”
“Blessed Life” is a bit of fresh air in the star-biography genre.
While so many Hollywood memoirs get over-saturated with chummy shouts of Look-Who-I-Know, author Kim Fields’ ubiquitous (in star bios) name-dropping feels incidental and totally natural here. Fields (with Todd Gold) doesn’t seem to be reaching to impress anyone; rather, her anecdotes are breezy and fun and pretty matter-of-fact, but she’s also open to laying out the ups and downs of being a child-star, grown up. Even that is told simply, but with just a little embellishment and a lot of gratitude.
Overall, we take the good, we take the bad, and we get a sense that the best aspects of Fields’ TV characters reflected the best of her, too. Most happily, this peek at stardom isn’t heavy on the drama and for that, reading “Blessed Life” is something to be thankful for.