Fans of the daytime soap circuit may remember Victoria Rowell as the head of the Winters family in The Young and the Restless. Rowell’s character, Drucills, came from hard times — something Rowell can relate to. It’s been years since Rowell graced the Y&R set. Her childhood may have narrowed the lens for which the actress views all of her work.
Victoria Rowell’s early childhood is fraught with instability
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Long before the days of The Young and the Restless, Victoria Rowell was born to a family with four other children. According to Rowell’s 2007 memoir, The Women Who Raised Me, her mother, Dorothy Collins Rowell had schizophrenia with stays in psychiatric institutions through the years.
The day Rowell was born, her mother left three children home alone — all under the age of seven at the time. The state investigated the entirety of the situation and eventually took all the children out of the home.
Two siblings were sent to live with their biological father, Rowell and her two other siblings had nowhere to go when, according to Rowell, her mother’s family would not take them in. She did not know her father. The three then became wardens of the state.
Throughout Rowell’s early childhood, she was taken in via Holy Innocents Home and then by a foster mother on a West Lebanon farm in the form of Agatha Armstead, who already raised 10 children of her own.
The Y&R star claimed she only had contact with her birth mother “no more than three times” before her death in 1983.
Dancing and the love of a foster mother gave Rowell peace
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During those years Rowell lived with Armstead, she found her way of self-expression through dance. By her early teens, Rowell earned a scholarship to help her study ballet in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Following that, Rowell won another scholarship so she could attend the American Ballet Theatre school while moving in with multiple foster families after Armstead died.
With ballet under her boot, Rowell turned to modeling and acting in the late 1980s with guest roles in various TV shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
1990 marked Rowell’s first big break with the role of Drucilla Barber Winters in The Young and the Restless. The actress held the spot through 2007, earning 11 NAACP Awards and multiple Daytime Emmy nominations. However, y 2007, things took a drastic turn in Rowell’s professional life.
‘The Young and the Restless’ made Rowell a household name
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Fans of The Young and the Restless likely remember Rowell’s final episode. In 2007, Drucilla Winters disappeared within the show and Rowell vanished from the set — but not by her own volition.
The actress claimed the network had retaliated against her accusations that the Black characters on the set weren’t treated fairly. Her complaints, however, didn’t end with losing her job.
2015 marked Rowell’s lawsuit against the network after, she said, her attempts to get her job back failed.
“I have exhausted all my avenues of seeking employment, and I had to do this. This is an attempt not only to regain my own employment but to help others in the soap opera industry get in front of and behind the cameras,” Rowell said in a statement at the time.
CBS and producers denied any wrongdoing.
“I’ve suffered the consequence of that disparity, but I’ve moved on and reinvented myself,” said Rowell.
They settled the case in 2017 but Rowell still didn’t get her part back on Y&R.
Moving forward after ‘The Young and the Restless’
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PART ll For nearly 5 decades @SteveKentSony & others hv suppressed, denied black exec economic inclusion — refusing to hire Black Executive Producers, producers, head writers & much more in FORTY-SEVEN doggone YEARS! ENOUGH is ENOUGH! @SteveKentSony (blocked me y’all) you can no longer hv our viewership, our Procter & Gamble ad-buy $$$ in the BILLIONS and ignore ALL of our unified voices. When I asked for the missed Y&R episodes to screen for predominantly black Hurricane Katrina victims bussed to live in Los Angeles at The Dream Center Church, you pushed back asking WHY? add to that you had to think about it for a good while. NOT one Y&R exec attended to thank/greet your black loyal Y&R core audience. You sent them sandwiches.
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Now that Drucilla Winters is likely gone for good, Rowell paved another path. The star began her own production company that brought her hit TV series (and predominantly Black cast), The Rich and the Ruthless to fruition.
Rowell also utilizes her time advocating for foster care,
“I feel a lot of what I’ve accomplished in business comes from my foster-care experience, growing up on a farm in Maine,” she told Portland Press Herald. “Planting and pulling potatoes, wrapping pipes with electrical tape, you had to learn to get things done. It prepared me to live and to do business.”
The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on CBS.
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