I’ve lived in a lot of places due to my career, but let me tell you something — there’s no place like the South. The people, the customs, the food and the “Southern-isms” … it’s truly like no other place in the world. And about the Southern-isms, well, they have shaped me into who I am today.
Other than the “yes sir”s and “yes ma’am”’s, the big hair and the lingo I grew up with, I find Southern-isms to also be part of my success secrets. If it wasn’t for the foundation that my family gave me, I don’t know that I would have gotten to where I am or had the willpower to get it done. My family and my background still serve as my ultimate inspiration, and both my momma and daddy’s side have surefire Southern grit. Here are a few of my favorite Southern-isms that still motivate me to this day:
1. Go big or go home.
If I got a tattoo (which I won’t), it would likely say this: “Dream and dream BIG! Fire it up!” When it comes to my family’s playbook, it’s the go-to play. My daddy came from nothing and overcame much adversity. After he came home from the army, he was involved in a car accident that had left him for dead and in a full body cast for six months. He survived and chose to thrive! He taught me to take risks and not give up.
I started modeling when I was 19 years old fresh out of my sophomore year at Vanderbilt. Picture this: Molly Sims from Murray, Kentucky, walking into her first meeting at Next Model Management in pearls, pantyhose and a leather briefcase. I looked more “fish out of water” than model. They almost didn’t give me a chance from the get go. If it wasn’t for that Southern grit and determination from my family, I probably would have walked away rejected and gave up right then.
2. Always be nice (to everyone).
This is straight from my grandmother’s mouth. It didn’t matter who you were or what you did — she respected everyone. Be nice to assistants. Be nice to flight attendants. Be nice to your boss. Be nice, be nice, be nice. Don’t overlook anyone. That’s why I love going back to Kentucky. Even if you don’t know the person passing you, they will act like they do. It’s that Southern hospitality that I try to keep up still today.
3. Do, hope, love.
My brother Todd always says, “There are three things in life that you need: something to do, something to hope for and someone to love.” This is what keeps my head on straight. It’s pretty much the definition of sanity and, I’d go as far to say, happiness. As long as you can check those three things off your list, you are doing pretty good.
4. Find your church.
My upbringing taught me to always live for and believe in something bigger and greater than you. Maybe it’s your community, maybe it’s your family, maybe it’s your religion. Believe in something and find your purpose.
5. Persevere and pick a lane.
A great piece of advice from my Uncle Leslie: you’ve gotta pick a lane. You cannot drive in the middle of two lanes or weave in and out of them. Neither can you drive in all four lanes at once. Pick one. Choose your direction and drive. Southern grit is equal parts focus, perseverance and fortitude.
I may have worked years as a successful model and actress, but I’m still that girl from Murray, Kentucky. You know that phrase, “You can take the girl out of the South but can’t take the South out of the girl?” Yeah, that’s me. It’s those Southern-isms I hold close to my heart and something I’ll never lose.