Rosario Dawson: From Tenement to Tinseltown
By Dennis Hensley
Rosario and Housing Works
The teens who join Dawson at the farm have been brought by Housing Works, a New York-based HIV/AIDS housing-services organization, and as soon as Dawson hears this, her eyes well up. "When I was growing up, my mom worked at Housing Works, fixing up apartments that would get rented out to AIDS-affected families," she says. "She'd find out before the families moved in what their favorite colors were and try to [paint and] make it homey for them. So often, she'd come home crying because she would have just given a place to someone, and [then] they would die. Then she'd clean it out and repaint it for someone else. It was really hard having that type of mortality around all the time." But Dawson's mood brightens at another memory: She picked up her first fancy dress, a green-velvet number, from a Housing Works thrift shop. "I kept that dress for a very, very long time," she says. "I might even still have it."
Dawson is now straddling her honey-hued horse, Allegro, with whom she seems positively smitten: "For me, being on an animal out in nature, it just makes sense somehow." She slips her feet into the stirrups: "When you're on a horse, you feel totally connected and have a totally different worldview." Dawson glances around at the kids lined up in the riding ring. Reggie and Janelle are nervous, but Dawson instructs them to talk to their horses and stroke their manes. She gives Joslin a knowing, "can you believe where we are?" look, and the two burst into giggles. As the group moves around the ring, Dawson compliments the kids on their form and asks them what books they read, what music they listen to. She is making a connection, and it's not just with the horse. Meanwhile, the teens are thrilled to be in the presence of a real Hollywood celebrity.