Interview: Wendy Davis

Interview by Brittani Lepley
Photography by Alexandra Valenti

You are the founding director of Deeds Not Words, an advocacy organization that helps encourage young women to become involved in politics and it has been your main focus as of late. Now that the 2020 elections are coming up, do you have any other big things on your plate?

I’m thrilled to be working to help young women turn their passion into effective activism. And, I’m seriously considering a congressional run in CD 21. Hopefully, I’ll have a decision made soon!

How did Deeds Not Words get its start?

Deeds was really a response to a recurrent question that I was hearing from young women, “What do we do?” It was clear to me that millennial and GenZ women were eager to make a difference, but needed a little help getting started.  So, three years ago, I started Deeds to try to help them do just that. Today, we have 19 chapters at colleges and high schools throughout the state. And our young women are responsible for the passage of significant legislation in their local communities, at the state legislature and on their own school campuses. They are leading the way toward making Texas a place that reflects their priorities, rather than a place that is hostile to them.

What are small steps you suggest women interested in politics take to become involved?

My three favorite words? “Just Show Up!” Pay attention to what is happening, particularly at your city council and in the state legislature. When you see something that you like, just show up and support it. When you see something that you know to be wrong, just show up and fight it!  Follow us at Deeds by signing up for our newsletter at deedsnotwords.com and you will find direction on how you can show up and use your voice. From there, your passion will lead you to the next step. Maybe you’ll decide to run or office yourself! In that case, we can connect you with organizations like Austin’s very own Annie’s List who can help you build the skills and the team you need to succeed.

What are your greatest lessons in leadership?

Be authentic. Be kind. Be true to your values and don’t hesitate to fight for them. Do a lot of listening along the way. Consensus begins when we listen to each other. Leadership naturally follows from that – from the simple idea that we should treat each other as we would like to be treated.

You’re incredibly stylish while on the job. What sorts of styles do you tend to on your days off?

Hair in a pony-tail, sneakers and yoga pants. Heaven.

Mario Correa has created a script based on your most notable moment: staging a solo 13-hour long filibuster blocking a Texas abortion bill. The film is called Let Her Speak and stars fellow Texan Sandra Bullock. What involvement did you have in creating the film?

I didn’t see the script until Mario had already written a substantial draft. I’ve had some input on it since then and will have more as it is refined and production begins. How surreal is it that Sandra Bullock will play me???

You have two granddaughters of your own — how do you begin to influence younger generations to become involved?

I’ve talked a bit about our work at Deeds. Young women need to be encouraged to believe that they don’t need to wait their turn to get involved and make a difference.  They can make change today, given a little guidance in how. As for my granddaughters, I hope they’ll grow up to be proud of their mom (my oldest daughter) and their Bubbie (my grandmother name). We are already including my two-year-old granddaughter, Ellis, in participating in some of our gatherings. I don’t think she and her baby sister, Sawyer, will ever know a world where they weren’t paying attention to public policy and how to use their voices to shape it. 

Finally, what is the most exciting thing you’ve seen happen in the last year in the state of Texas?

I have been in awe of our young high school and college Changemakers that we work with at Deeds. They are so articulate, so passionate and so fearless about demanding that their values be heard and represented in policy-making. They truly are making the world a better place for themselves and for all the women who will follow them. They live the reality of what it means to “just show up.” I couldn’t hope for anything more.

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Floral blouse and pink trousers by Giambattista Valli, white mules by Proenza Schouler

White dress by Celine, black pumps by The Row

White vest and trousers by Brunello Cucinelli, navy suede pumps by Gabriela Hearst