3Qs: Leigh Anne Tuohy, United Way speaker

By Carlie Kollath / NEMS Daily Journal

EDITOR’S NOTE: There are an additional three questions to go with the three that were printed in Sunday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.

Leigh Anne Tuohy is the real-life Memphis mom in the New York Times best-selling book, “The Blind Side,” by Michael Lewis. Last year, the book was turned into a movie and Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for portrayal of Tuohy’s character.
Tuohy is an Ole Miss graduate and the adoptive mom of Michael Oher, who played football for Ole Miss and now plays for the Baltimore Ravens.
She is the keynote speaker at the Thursday campaign kickoff for the United Way of Northeast Mississippi. Tickets for the 7 p.m. event at the BancorpSouth Arena are $5 for students, $25 for general admission and $50 for reserved seating. Tickets for $100 also are available for a meet-and-greet with Tuohy before the event.
Tickets are available at the door or by calling (662) 841-9133.
Tuohy spoke via phone last week with business reporter Carlie Kollath.

Q: Have you been to Tupelo?
A: Oh certainly. Oh gosh, yes. I went to Ole Miss. I think the last time I was there was Michael’s senior year at Ole Miss. We had Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel (Hilton Garden Inn). It was lovely. (“Blind Side” director) John Lee Hancock and some of the movie people were there and they were all like, “Wow, this is really nice.” I think they were thinking we were going to eat fried chicken out of the trunk.

Q: You are an Ole Miss alum. What’s your pick for the next mascot?
A: We’ve been gone so much that I really haven’t kept up with it that closely. I’ve been home four days in the last 38 days.
I don’t have a favorite. I just would like it to be indigineous to the area, friendly, you know. Family-friendly.
Whatever we pick, there is going to be someone that doesn’t like it.
If I could have my wish, it would be that whenever they announce it, no one would make a single negative comment and would just try it and see how it plays out and then, after the fact, talk about it.

Q: You’ll be the keynote speaker at Thursday’s kickoff of the 2010 campaign for the United Way of Northeast Mississippi. What would you say to people who want to help but they don’t have money to spare?
A: Yeah, it’s great to have money to throw at a situation, but that’s just a sidebar. I could have written a check to Michael for every dime I’d spent on him. He wouldn’t have turned out like he did. Yeah, it’s great to have the financial part, but it’s not about the money. It’s about the time.
Introduce yourself to your garbage men and get to know them and find out how their lives are.
Go by a fire station and say “Let me answer the phone.” Go to your kid’s school and say, “Let me read a book.”
There are lots of ways that you can get involved that require zero money.

Q: You are a designer on the eighth season of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Any plans for a project in Northeast Mississippi?
A: It’s very covert. If I told you, I’d have to kill you. We’re sworn to secrecy. We just got done with one in Hamburg, Pennsylvania. We’re not allowed to talk about projects until they’re done.
The next one is out West. There are going to be ones in the South. And they aren’t all picked yet. One might get near there but I have nothing to do it. I can’t help in any shape, form or fashion. You’re wasting your 50 cents (by mailing a suggestion to me).

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 or 20 years?
A: I might have answered that question years ago, but I now wouldn’t dare answer it.
I think the end of our book said it best. We quoted Forrest Gump when he’s running and reporters are asking him where is going and he said, “I don’t know, but I hope I like it when I get there.”
That’s sort of like us. We don’t have a clue where God is taking this story and our life, but we hope we like it when we get there.

Q: Do you get any strange fan mail?
A: I’m getting lots of letters from stupid people.
Example: “I really want to take my wife on a cruise but I’m $400 short. Can you send it to me?”
Or, “I’m driving a really nice Toyota but I just saw a new one. Can you send me $18,000? I’d like to get my wife a new one for our anniversary.”
Or, “Our daughter is going to college, a good college, but we want her to go to Yale. She’d be an asset to Yale. Can you help us?”
And I go, “Really? Really.”