Woman discovers star of favorite childhood TV show is her long lost birth mother
via Today

When Lisa Wright watched the mid-'70s TV show "That's My Mama" as a child, she had no idea that she was actually seeing her mother on the screen.

"I grew up watching my mother on TV and didn't even know it," Lisa told Today. "'That's My Mama' — that was our must-see TV. We all sat down and watched 'That's My Mama' every week, and who knew? No idea. ... And that's my mama!"

Lisa was born on Dec. 10, 1964 and her mother gave her up for adoption. The mother's face was covered by a towel after she delivered the baby, so she was never able to see her child. She only heard the baby's cries as they ushered her away.



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Fifty-four years later, in 2018, Lisa signed up for 23andMe to learn about her genetic heritage.

"I get an alert, and it says, 'This person is your uncle,'" Lisa said. So, she reached out to the man, named Carlton Moody, and asked, "If you're open to it, I would love to chat with you to see what all of this means." Carlton got back to her the next day.

The next day on the phone, he asked Lisa to tell him something about herself. "'I was told that my biological mom was very young when she had me,'" she told Carlton. "'She moved to L.A. because she wanted to be in Hollywood.' And then he just stopped me right there."

"So then I'm thinking, 'OK, here it comes. He's going to say don't ever call me again.' And so he goes, 'Lisa, you're my niece. We've been looking for you. We've all been looking for you,'" she said.

Lisa was excited to learn that her mother, Lynn Moody, lived in Los Angeles, too. And her name sounded familiar.

"Wait a minute, I know that name,'" Lisa told Red Rocks. "Sitting at my desk, I Googled Lynne Moody and when her picture popped up, I almost wanted to cry because it was the first time anyone had looked like me. I then realized that I grew up watching my mother on TV and didn't even realize it. It was amazing information but it felt like a dream."

Lynne has had a long career as an actor, starring on "That's My Mama" for one season as the groundbreaking mini-series "Roots" and its follow-up "Roots: The Next Generation." She also appeared on "Soap," "Hill Street Blues," "General Hospital," and "Knots Landing."

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"For 54 years I had to learn how to deal with the fact that I had a daughter out there, not knowing if she was dead or alive," Lynne said. "For the first time in my life, I was able to say, 'Yes, honey, I am your mother,'" Lynne said. "I was still nervous. I wasn't sure if she'd hate me, resent me, accept me, love me. I didn't know."

Lynne had searched for Lisa for years but kept hitting dead ends because the adoption was confidential. She even received help from revered "Roots" author Alex Haley, but he couldn't make any headway either.

Unfortunately, Lisa's adoptive parents weren't able to meet Lynne because they had passed away in 2006 and 2010. The mother and daughter have forged a deep bond since they were first reunited in 2018. Lisa has got to meet many of her aunts and cousins, and Lynne has gotten to know her grandson.

"It's a story about love and never giving up," Lynne told Red Rocks. I'm experiencing a new world as a result of what has happened and I couldn't be happier."

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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This article originally appeared on 08.30.14


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