New York by Way of Purvis

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Lacey Chabert, a third grader at the time, gave no indication fame resonated in her future. A Purvis, Mississippi child who seemed void of musical talent, perplexed us all when she left for New York. As her Minister of Music at First Baptist Church, Purvis, I was more selfishly concerned about losing her mother, my church pianist. Julie, her mom, knew more about Lacey’s potential. They were New York bound and the rest is history.

Lacey immediately began doing commercials, appeared as a finalist on Star Search, and won a role that made her a star as young Cosette in Les Misérables on Broadway. Lacey landed her first big role in the hit series Party of Five as Claudia Salinger. Coupled with a regular role on All My Children, Lacey firmly established herself as a child actress. Lacey’s grandmother, and my church secretary, lit up every time she heard of new roles in Lacey’s career. Our church and the town of Purvis was a buzz of excitement as Lacey’s career took off.

With Party of Five, Lacey made the transition from a child to a teen actor. With her portrayal of Rachel Sawyer in Hometown Legend (2001), Gretchen Weiners in Mean Girls (2003), and Brooke Ellison in The Brooke Ellison Story (2004) firmly rooted her in teen/young adult roles. I, by accident, caught up with Lacy during the premiere of Hometown Legend at a mall in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I was traveling through Hattiesburg with my youngest son and a friend on the way to Mobile to meet the athletes for the Senior Bowl. An advertisement came over the radio about the premiere and my son, who thought Lacey was the prettiest thing he ever laid his eyes on said, “Daddy, let’s don’t go see the athletes, let’s go see Lacy.” That we did. We were an hour early but were the first ones in line to greet Lacey. On her arrival, Lacey did a local T.V. interview, and settled in to sign autographs. I said, “Lacey, you may not remember me but I was your Minister of Music when you were in the 3rd grade.” She blushed, and we chatted briefly about that time. I asked was her mother around. She said yes but did not know where. Having not seen Julie since her leaving Purvis, I went up a ramp to the theater looking for her. A lady was leaning over the rail above Lacey with her back to me and I said, Ma’am, could you tell me how to find Lacey’s mom? The woman turned and it was Julie.

We left celebrating Lacey’s success and knew much more awaited her. Indeed, much has come her way since. Her voice roles of Eliza Thornberry in The Wild Thornberrys TV show and two feature films, as well as Meg Griffin during the first production season of animated sitcom Family Guy, has made her a well rounded actress and famous. Awards have come her way. In 2005, Lacey won the MTV Award for Best On-Screen Team for Mean Girls, shared with Amanda Seyfried, Lindsey Lohan, and Rachel McAdams. In addition, she received honors from the Hollywood Reporter with receiving the 1997 and 1998 Annual Young Star Award for Best performance by a Young Actress in a Drama TV Series for Party of Five. Also, Lacey has been nominated three other times for work, 1999-2000.

Performance opportunities kept coming Lacey’s way in 2007. She starred in the FOX comedy pilot, The Hot Years and What If God Were the Sun? television movie. In February 2010, Lacey starred in the Hallmark Television movie, “Elevator Girl” and is looking forward to many other such roles. Watching Elevator Girl, I was proud to know this Mississippi girl was marking her spot in Hollywood. Though I had my doubts that a 3rd grader going to New York would ever be heard from again, her mom saw her potential. Truly, with talent, persistence, and charm, there is a way to New York from Purvis… from Mississippi. Lacey proved it.

write by Leighton

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