Portrait of the Actress as Activist

The young woman wears a dark, strapless, floor-length dress. She sits with her legs crossed and hands folded. Her long hair, pulled across her breast, flows to her waist. Eyes downcast, she looks pensive and expectant. The painting is almost Chekhovian, evoking the feeling of turn of the century Russia.

This is the portrait of a young Polish actress – not at the turn of the century but during the 1980s. Beata Pozniak is a timeless soul; she could thrive in any era. Years before she was discovered by Oliver Stone, Pozniak earned her way modeling and posing. Allowing herself to be the artist’s subject only deepened her acute sensibility and sensitivity.

The somber expression she wears in the painting speaks of the trouble she witnessed in her native Poland. Pozniak lived at the epicenter of the Solidarity movement and witnessed the oppression of friends and relatives under martial law.

That experience fueled Pozniak’s sense of social justice and commitment to activism. The actress/artist/writer/filmmaker almost singlehandedly convinced Congress to recognize International Women’s Day in 1994 – 79 years after it came into existence.

I met Beata Pozniak Daniels at a function on the Westside a few nights ago and was captivated by her energy and fire. She’s married to an architect and they have a son. She told me about her work on behalf of women around the world, so was it coincidence that she once played the President of the Earth Alliance on TV’s Babylon 5? She was also Marina Oswald in Oliver Stone’s JFK on the big screen and you may also recognize her from Mad About You and Melrose Place.

International Women’s Day was founded in revolutionary Russia in 1915 and spread throughout Europe and Asia. Celebrated on March 8, it’s a day to recognize women in positions of leadership and influence. In some cultures you’ll also find husbands, sons, brothers and fathers making gestures of appreciation to wives, mothers, sisters and daughters.

Today, with so much talk about leaning in, marriage equality and reproductive rights, Pozniak Daniels’ message is especially relevant.

When I asked her if she encounters skeptics who think an international women’s day is patronizing of women, she exclaimed “It’s not patronizing, but almost shameful that we still need to have a special day to recognize the contributions and potential of women. I hope there will come a time when we can dispense with the title and have a People’s Day!”

And so, the pensive actress in the painting has evolved into an indefatigable champion of women as well as the underserved and oppressed.

With LA Mayor Eric Garcetti
On March 8 in Los Angeles, Pozniak Daniels will be recognized for her efforts at a luncheon celebrating International Women’s Day, sponsored by the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom. She’ll be joined by actress Mimi Kennedy and activist and screenwriter Lila Garrett. More information is available here.

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