Actress Melina Kanakaredes, star of television's Providence, shares how her grandfather made her feel connected to her family's legacy.
My grandfather always told me, "You know you're American first, but you're a Greek-American, which makes you a better American." It sounds sort of old-world and very sweet, but what he meant was that you should embrace those things that are most special and different about you. Because of him, I'm still Melina Kanakaredes and not Melina Kane or Melina Kaye.
When my grandfather died, I was crushed. But I saw for the first time that he'd had huge setbacks in his life. I'd never thought the things that had happened to him were tragic or unfair, because he didn't. I looked back on all that he did accomplish, and I wasn't afraid anymore. I realized that it's okay to take risks and make choices based on your heart as opposed to your pocketbook or anybody else's opinion. The day he died was the day I stopped straightening my hair and stopped trying to be somebody I wasn't. Thanks to him, I knew I could go after what I wanted most. If I tried and failed—big deal. You just keep going.
From the February 2001 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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