Born in Portland, Maine, Victoria Rowell was raised in foster care for the first 18 years of her life. The love, guidance, and support of her foster families instilled in her the confidence and drive to succeed. At eight years old, Rowell received a scholarship to the Cambridge School of Ballet, through the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Following eight years of training, she flourished as a dancer earning scholarships to both the School of American Ballet and the American Ballet Theater by age 16. After dancing professionally with the American Ballet Theater II Company, Ballet Hispanico of New York, Contemporary Ballet, Twyla Tharp Workshop, and The Julliard School of Music Dance Extension Program with Anthony Tudor, Rowell decided to pursue a career in modeling. She successfully went on to grace the pages of Seventeen, Mademoiselle, and countless other magazines, soon choosing to become an actress.
Since then, she has established a remarkable acting career in both television and film. An Emmy-nominated actress, and the recipient of seven NAACP Image Awards, her credits include the television series Diagnosis Murder starring opposite Dick Van Dyke, The Young and The Restless, her films include Home of the Brave starring opposite Samuel L. Jackson, The Distinguished Gentleman starring opposite Eddie Murphy, Dumb and Dumber starring opposite Jim Carrey, Eve’s Bayou, and Feast of All Saints starring opposite Oscar winner Forrest Whitaker. In 2015 Rowell starred and served as Executive Producer on UPtv cable movie, A Baby For Christmas. UPtv boasts over 68 million subscribers worldwide. Rowell has participated in three of UPtv’s holiday movies, delivering the highest ratings in the networks history. Rowell was seen on the TODAY SHOW with Natalie Morales featuring foster care and adoption. Also in 2015, NETFLIX aired, November Rule, which Rowell is featured in, produced by Queen Latifa’s production company, FLAVA UNIT. Theatrically released documentary, A Ballerina’s Tale, starring Misty Copland, was selected for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, which Rowell appears in as an alumna of American Ballet Theater and diversity advocate in the arts. Misty Copeland recognizes Ms. Rowell as one of her mentors. In 2015, Ms. Rowell was invited by American Ballet Theater, Artistic Director, Kevin McKenzie to receive the American Ballet Theater/Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Teacher Training Accreditation.
Never one to forget her origins, even amid success, Rowell has been able to use her celebrity status to gain a voice for foster children. With the founding of The Rowell Foster Children’s Positive Plan, she succeeded in her goal, leading the cause of advocacy for foster children throughout the United States. Rowell tells the inspirational story of her rise out of the foster-care system through the stories of the incredible women who each lifted her up in different ways in her memoir, The Women Who Raised Me. She has published three other works in addition to The Women Who Raised Me.
In 2014 she celebrated fifteen years of collaborative service with The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a charitable arm of United Parcel Service endeavoring to build better futures for disadvantaged children and families in the United States. Rowell has been a guest panelist for RACE FORWARD and Color Lines, a continued expression of her long term human and civil rights advocacy with an emphasis on diversity in the work place and racial justice through research, media, and practice.
As an advisor and a former board member of Americans For The Arts, Rowell was invited to speak on Capitol Hill in 2015 on behalf the nations underserved before an audience of 500, including Congressional members. In recognition of National Foster Care Month in May, at the request of Congresswoman Karen Bass, Rowell was invited to speak. She has been recognized by 193 members of Congress for advocacy on behalf of education, arts, foster and adoptive youth, parents, social workers and volunteers, and founded The Rowell Foster Children's Positive Plan, lasting twenty years, raising awareness and funds for arts scholarships and college stipends.
Among many Commendations and two honorary doctorates from the University of Southern Maine and Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts, Rowell has been an invited advocate on Capitol Hill, a United States Conference of Mayors keynote speaker in Washington, D.C. She was awarded the prestigious United Nations Association USA-Pacific, Los Angeles Chapter Award in recognition of her contributions in education, human rights and world peace. Served on the board of American for the Arts, Princeton University Center for African American Studies Advisory (Eddie Glaude). Received The Black Women Physicians Award, The Madam C.J. Walker Legacy Award, Walter Mosley Author of Distinction Award. Victoria has received many arts awards and recognitions, including full scholarships to study classical ballet in New York City at American Ballet Theater and School of American Ballet.
Rowell received multiple civic awards, including The Betty Shabazz/Black Administration In Child Welfare ‘Dove Award’, The Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Woman in Achievement Award, The LINKS, Inc. National (Elizabeth Catlette) Award for Exceptional Service to Youth. The Sojourner Truth Black Education & Cultural History Award (Portland, Maine). The Whitney M. Young Jr. Special Award. Court Appointed Special Advocates - Dallas, Texas Award, 100 Black Men Chairman’s Award. She is a documentarian, home design expert-profiled by Oprah Winfrey in a 10 page feature story, millinery & costume designer. She is also a Tribeca Film Festival Jurist. Rowell was keynote speaker in Washington, D.C. for the United States Conference of Mayors on arts funding and advocacy, spoke on Capitol Hill in 2015 for National Arts Advocacy Day and National Foster Care Awareness Month. Rowell received the United Nations Association - Day Chair Award for her work in human rights and world peace.
Her messaging includes a commitment to providing pathways to leadership development for corporate leadership and students to impact their success in a multi-dimensional and culturally diverse environment. Research shows that an actively engaged executive or student will greatly benefit from their experiences and transfer those experiences into their chosen career with positive results and company growth. Rowell provides a leadership arena for employees and students alike - a platform to learn, articulate and demonstrate the skills needed to enhance company and school campuses and community. Growing up on Maine farmlands, she is a conservancy advocate and recommended speaker at National Flower Shows.
Rowell speaks on complete health care and the benefits of Bikram Yoga and vegetarianism. She lectures on retaliation in corporate America and served on the Advisory Council for Princeton University Center of African American Studies.
Praise for The Women Who Raised Me:
“A kaleidoscope of women comes to life in Victoria Rowell’s thoughtful memoir: Pragmatic New Englanders. Aristocratic ballet teachers. Heavily medicated divorcees. They are among the dozen or so women who raised her after mental illness waylaid her birth mother. But the author herself is the most compelling figure in the book. It helps that Rowell, a dancer turned actress best known for her role on the long-running CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless, writes with skill.”
“The strength and tenacity of Victoria had to come from somewhere. The compassion and depth of love had to have a genesis. Her commitment to the lives of others had to be ingrained in her somehow. Now we know where these things were born and nurtured. Her journey is one to be shared and absorbed by us all. To know her personally or through this tome is to be enriched beyond belief. I hope all who read this come away as I have...with a renewed commitment to life and others.”
—Samuel L. Jackson
“I know exactly where Victoria Rowell comes from. We both began life in the shadow cast by the absence of fathers. We both were in foster care and both developed a lifelong appreciation for those surrogates and mentors who gave us a chance to prove ourselves. The story of Victoria’s ascendance to achieve the American dream - as a classical ballerina, actress, activist, and mother - should soon be jumping off the bookshelves and onto the movie screen.”
—Chris Gardner, Author of The Pursuit of Happyness