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Actor Kristen Bell is as famous for helping rescue dogs as she is for starring in hit movies and TV shows like Frozen and The Good Place. When she’s not helping homeless pups find human families, she’s advocating for the health and wellness of underdogs everywhere.
This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This story was produced by Deborah Goldstein with sound design and mixing by Jason Sheesley. It was written by Frances Thomas and edited by Abby Sher. Fact-checking by Joe Rhatigan. Narration by Therese Plummer. Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi. Thank you to the whole Rebel Girls team who make this podcast possible. Stay rebel!
|Once upon a time, there was a girl who felt put on this Earth to care for dogs–especially underdogs. Her name was Kristen Bell.
One day, while volunteering at an animal shelter, 25-year-old Kristen locked eyes with an old black lab named Sadie. Sadie was in bad shape after surviving Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst hurricanes in US history. She was missing nearly all her teeth, and she couldn’t hear out of her right ear. Staring into Sadie’s big black eyes, still so bright and eager even after all she’d been through, Kristen knew what she had to do. She adopted Sadie on the spot.
|I’m Therese Plummer. And this is Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.
A fairy tale podcast about the real-life rebel women who inspire us.
On this episode, Kristen Bell — actor, activist, and advocate for furry friends in need and mental health awareness.
|Kristen was born in 1980 in Huntington Woods, Michigan. She was always drawn to animals, especially dogs. In fact, when she was five, she insisted on eating dinner next to her dog, licking up food from a dog bowl on the floor!
Kristen wasn’t afraid to be herself. What kid likes brussels sprouts more than burgers? Kristen, that’s who. Meat just never tasted right to her. So, at age 11, she became a vegetarian. See, Kristen believed that her actions could make a real difference in the world. Becoming a vegetarian was just one of many steps she took to stand up for animal rights.
She also started volunteering at a local animal shelter. Cradling homeless pups in her arms, she felt this incredible connection to them. One day, when a litter of puppies arrived at the shelter, Kristen couldn’t bear to say goodbye at the end of her volunteer shift. So, with her parents’ permission, she fostered the entire litter until every last puppy found a home.
Puppies cooing, softly barking
|Kristen’s home was busy. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and both got remarried, so Kristen had a lot of step- and half-siblings. She loved growing up with such a big family, but sometimes, it was hard to get a word in edgewise. One way Kristen got their attention was belting out showtunes and television commercials.
Picking up on Kristen’s penchant for performance, her mom took her to audition for a local theater production of Raggedy Ann and Andy. Standing alone under the blindingly bright spotlight, Kristen felt her knees buckle and her belly churn. She was so nervous that she forgot all her lines and burst into tears.
Even though she botched the audition, the director of the play cast her in two small parts: a banana in act one, and a tree in act two. Not exactly starring roles, but enough to encourage her to keep trying. With every performance, Kristen stood a little taller and sang a little prouder. And a few years later, in high school, she landed the starring role of Dorothy in the drama club’s production of The Wizard of Oz!
It was a long way from playing a banana! Clicking her ruby red slippers in front of a packed auditorium, teenage Kristen looked out and saw hundreds of eyes staring back at her, rapt with delight. She felt radiant up on that stage.
Footsteps walking up to stage for audition
|Kristen left Michigan at 18 to study musical theater at a world-class acting school in New York City. It was the first time she’d been away from home all by herself. Well, not entirely by herself — she snuck her pet rabbit into the freshman dorm!
Coming from a small Midwestern town, Kristen wasn’t used to the bustle and confusion of the big city. It was exciting, but also pretty scary. Kristen also started experiencing a heavy feeling that she couldn’t shake. She was often exhausted overwhelmed, and sad. She felt like there was a dark cloud hovering over her — even when the weather report said it was sunny.
Kristen had no idea what was happening to her. She called her mom, Lorelei who was a nurse, and tried to describe what was happening. Lorelei said she thought what Kristen was going through was depression. She also said that other people in their family had it, too.
It was a huge relief for Kristen to hear that she wasn’t alone. And it was an even bigger relief to hear that there were things she could do about it, like talk to a therapist and take medicine to rebalance the chemicals in her brain. With her mom’s help, Kristen learned to handle her heavy emotions and find the sun shining through the clouds.
|SFX: thunder in back of dark cloud reference
|Kristen spent the next few years auditioning for every play, movie, and show she came across. And soon, she got her big break. At age 24, she was cast as an undercover teenage detective in a TV series called Veronica Mars. Kristen was thrilled! And once she got the hang of her busy filming schedule, she realized there was just one thing missing from her life.
Her connection to animals.
Kristen found an animal shelter near the TV studio and figured out a way to volunteer there during her time off. And that’s how she came to meet Sadie, the black lab who survived Hurricane Katrina.
Soon, Kristen adopted two more dogs to be Sadie’s playmates — Lola and Mr. Shakes. Lola was a corgi mix who loved to snuggle, nuzzling in Kristen’s neck and showering her in kisses. Mr. Shakes was not so easygoing. He freaked out whenever the doorbell rang and was slow to warm to new people. Kristen devoted herself to helping her three furry friends enjoy their new home, giving them each lots of hugs and treats. And over time, they learned to trust her and love each other.
|Kristen knows that as a famous actor, people listen to what she says. That’s why on social media and the red carpet, she speaks passionately about the need to foster and take care of animals. She’s also become an advocate for honest conversations about mental health. She encourages her millions of followers to get regular mental health check-ins and to be open about their feelings.
Rebels, not all of us are celebrities like Kristen, but we do have important choices to make every day. Some are small, like what to eat for breakfast, and some are big, like how to treat others. And every choice is an opportunity to do something good.
Like Kristen says, “I feel better about myself when I’m considering that every choice I make affects something or someone else.”