Agapi Stassinopoulos
Photo: Courtesy of Agapi Stassinopoulos
Actress and author of the recently released Unbinding the Heart Agapi Stassinopoulos and her sister Arianna Huffington were raised by their influential, courageous mother, Elli Stassinopoulous in Athens. Despite marital troubles and limited financial circumstances, Stassinopoulos taught both her daughters to always have an open heart and "an unshakable trust in life." Today, Agapi explains what we all can learn from Greek mothers about life, love and "being your giant self."

1. Goddesses never rush.

As women, we're powerful, my mother always told me. We're Aphrodite. We're Athena. We're Artemis. We're Hera. We're the goddesses of the beauty and wisdom, the goddesses of the hunt and the moon, and the goddess of marriage and childbirth. We're not the goddesses of the cell phone or the microwave.

A few years ago, my mother and I were looking for an apartment in New York (we used to live together). We saw one place, and my mother said, "It's very nice here. Very nice." But it was too expensive. There was no way we were going to live there. Then the housekeeper came in. The next thing you know, Mom was sitting there on the sofa with the housekeeper chatting about England and a recipe for yogurt. I said, "It's 12:30. We have to go. The next apartment!" And she said, "Darling, don't rush me. This is a moment. I don't miss the moment. Not for real estate."

2. Give it your full attention.

When I was young and I couldn't do something like get dance steps right or remember my lines in a play, my mother would say, "Oh, darling, give your full attention. If you're not succeeding, you haven't given it your full attention yet."

When I was 14, right after my father left us, I said, "Mom, I want to go to drama school and become an actress." My mother, my sister and I were living in the middle of Athens in a one-bedroom apartment, and a girlfriend at school had told me about The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. I engraved the initials on my little desk as a reminder—RADA. Every time I looked at this engraving, it reminded me of the goal.

Knowing how badly I wanted to go to drama school, despite our home situation, my mother said, enthusiastically, "Okay, you will! You will go to drama school!" She then gave my dream her full attention. She said, "Let's find you the teacher who can get you there! Let's find someone who graduated from RADA."

So she asked everyone she knew, "Do you know anybody who finished RADA?" And finally somebody did—a Greek actor named Fesos Thesos.

So we all went to see Fesos Thesos in the biggest Athens theater. And we went backstage to meet Fesos, and my mother said, "Hello, I'm Ellie, and this is my daughter Agapi, and she wants to go to RADA." Thesos then connected me with his own teacher, and, ultimately, I was accepted at RADA and went to England—even with Greek (not English) as my first language.

Next: What it means to "change the channel"


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