How Octavia Spencer Takes Her Mother's Lessons to Heart

"She always dreamed for us and taught us to do the same for ourselves, beyond the boundaries the world placed on us."

Oscar winner and author Octavia Spencer, 47, can't wait to return home to her garden. She misses the roses and the daisies, the finches that alight on the trees. Most of all, she misses the stillness. Born in Alabama, sixth in a family of seven children, Spencer has known what it means to have to hustle from the jump, so she keeps busier than a hive of bees.

SL: Tell us about your childhood. You lost your father when you were young, and your mother worked multiple jobs to keep your family afloat.

OS: We had nothing, but we had a very strong mother who had a strong work ethic. She always dreamed for us and taught us to do the same for ourselves, beyond the boundaries the world placed on us. If I had listened to society, I never would have progressed to where I am. We had very little, but because of my mother, I knew my station in life did not dictate my path.

SL: How did your mother set that example for you and your siblings?

OS: She had mouths to feed, so she took on jobs to make sure we had everything that we needed. We seldom got what we wanted, but we had what was necessary. To me, being Southern means working hard and believing in yourself and God. It's having that strong sense of community, faith first and then family. It's funny—the majority of my friends in L.A. are from the South.

SL: Do you enjoy cooking and entertaining?

OS: Noooo. I am "the entertained." I go over to people's houses. Nobody who knows me wants me to throw a party for them; trust me. They'd rather I come over and bring a covered dish or a bagged salad.

SL: When you reflect on your life, what makes you the proudest?

OS: I'm proud of the fact that I'm surrounded by the loveliest people in my family and friends. We don't take our relationships for granted. My network of people helps keep me sustained, and I'm grateful for that.

SL: Do you ever find it hard to feel connected because you are on the road so much?

OS: No. I have a strong family base, and my friends understand what I do. When I'm back in town, we just pick up right where we left off with no hard feelings, no nothing.

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