(WBOY) – Actress Jennifer Garner has been featured in shows and movies such as 13 Going on 30, Miracles From Heaven, Dallas Buyers Club and Love, Simon. But did you know that the famous actress actually grew up in West Virginia?
One of the best West Virginia YouTube videos from this week is Jen Garner featured on Kerry Washington’s YouTube series, ‘Street You Gew Up On’ where different celebrities describe their childhood experience and its impact on their lives. Where most of Washington’s guests grew up in larger cities such as Jimmy Kimmel and Tarana Burke, Garner explained her experience growing up in a humble community in Charleston, West Virginia.
Even though the interview focused mostly on a single street in Charleston, elements of Garner’s early life show some of the ideals and experiences that West Virginians have from growing up in the hills. “Everything is on a hill in West Virginia,” Garner said to start her description of home. “You’re never somewhere flat.” Garner grew up in a small yellow house on Greystone Place in Rolling Hills. She described a narrow dead-end street with close neighbors and woods to play in.
Here’s what Greystone Pl. looks like on Google Maps.
“All the kids from around, we would play kick the can…and there were also crazy woods behind some of the houses, so we would go down and build forts and collect things and hide them.” One year, Garner said she got especially excited about collecting rubber bands. “They were just a treasure to me.”
Cooking was a tradition that was passed on to Garner just because she was around it constantly. She explained how making things was just such a huge part of what home meant. “There was not money for anything fancy, so Mom made everything. She made everything that we ate. She made everything we wore,” Garner explained. “God bless that woman! She made everything. We did not have potato chips unless she was there frying them.”
Beauty on the other hand, was not a matriarchal tradition in the Garner family. When asked about beauty, Garner said, “It was refreshingly absent from our conversations in a lot of ways.” She explained that her parents were pretty old-fashioned and that she and her sisters were not allowed to do certain things. “Our mom doesn’t wear makeup; we weren’t allowed to wear makeup. The Garner girls had a definite aesthetic. Our dad wouldn’t let us pierce our ears or wear nail polish or have layers in our hair or get a perm, anything like that.” She went on to say, “I was never one of those pretty girls.”
Her family had the same traditional attitudes toward dating. Garner explained that her dad had built a little bench under a Japanese maple tree where his daughters could sit with their “beaus” when they were “being courted.” “They were pretty old-fashioned,” she said.
Garner also explained that working became a huge part of her identity in her teen years. “I was always creating jobs for myself. I was always babysitting a ton and shoveling walks, anything; I was always finding a way–I liked to have a little change in my pocket.” Garner still keeps up her scrappy work ethic as an entrepreneur, actress and farmer, as she now helps run the farmer that she used to visit as a child. “[My cousin] would take me out on the tractor and let me drive the tractor…in my mind, it really stands out.” Garner’s kids now get to enjoy the farm; she said that her aunt and uncle who now own the farm will “have you out fishing in the pond, and on a hayride behind a tractor, and they’ll put you to work.”
Jen explained that she realizes that not everyone in West Virginia has the same incredible experience that she had. Her parents, she explained, grew up very poor. “I kind of was always aware of how lucky and how different our lives were because my parents had found their ways to college and what that had meant for my sisters and me. Then we were in West Virginia for my dad’s job, and thank god because it’s definitely my soul place in a lot of ways, but…We were surrounded my generational world poverty, so when I suddenly found myself with a little bit of a voice, I just said ‘who was helping kids in rural America?’…Right here in America, kids like my mom, who’s giving them a leg up? or in West Virginia or Mississippi, South Carolina?” Asking these questions is what got Garner involved in organizations to help rural kids in America.
Having traditional parents, playing in the woods and grubby reclining armchairs might thread through a lot of West Virginians’ childhoods, but not all of Jennifer’s experience growing up is relatable to the average West Virginian. Not every West Virginia teen played a stripper in If you want to learn Jen’s “sexy alter ego name,” you’ll just have to watch the full video.