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An Exclusive Interview With Erin Brockovich

The activist reveals what she's shocked to discover.

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Portrait of Erin Brockovich from 2015
Newspix via Getty Images
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Like most of us, Erin Brockovich is feeling a bit overwhelmed these days. After decades of being the person everyone else relied on, Brockovich wanted to find a way to empower people to fight their own battles. “Every person is a powerhouse,” Brockovich told The Girlfriend in an exclusive interview, “But I think most of us have forgotten how to get that message across.” That’s one of the main reasons she wrote her new book Superman’s Not Coming. “I wrote this book to help people help themselves and their communities. I wrote it so you can turn your anger and frustration into action,” Brockovich said. “Superman is not coming and I’m certainly not superwoman. I can’t be everywhere at once, but you can be there. You can change things.” 

Defying self-doubt

Though her name is synonymous with empowerment, Brockovich wasn’t always confident in her own innate badassery. “All of us have had a moment where someone sets us back and makes us self-doubt,” said the woman whose advocacy inspired the eponymous Academy-award winning film starring Julia Roberts. “The worst thing is when I self-doubt myself. Sometimes I think - maybe I do have a foul mouth. Maybe I do dress a certain way. So much of labeling and especially labeling of women gets put upon us.”As women, Brockovich said, “We’re often underestimated in general or because we don’t fit a standard of what we should or shouldn’t be.”

Trusting her truth

Before she became a household name, Brockovich was a single mom supporting her family by working as a legal assistant. It was her dogged determination and activism that allowed her to blow the whistle on the Pacific Gas and Electric Company having dumped about 370 million gallons of chromium-tainted wastewater in the area. “I knew something was wrong,” Brockovich said about her time there. More than that, “I knew I had to take action.” Her frustration with the situation comes through even now. “People said to me, ‘You’re not a scientist or a doctor, what do you know?’ I knew what I saw. I saw two-headed frogs in green water.” Two decades later, Brockovich is still advocating for others and changing lives on a daily basis.

Continued advocacy

Brockovich recently teamed up with RapidDeploy a technology company working to update antiquated 9-1-1 structures based on 1960’s and 1970’s systems. In late September, Brockovich partnered with the company for their virtual public safety conference, RESPONSE 2020. “I’m a military mom so I was thrilled to be working with Sally (Lawrence, E911 Coordinator, Sarasota County Public Safety Communications) who has been working in public safety since joining the military police corps more than 30 years ago.”

Brockovich paused before continuing. “I never want to make things gender issues but women, in particular, resonate with me because in so many ways we’ve been underestimated. We have these qualities of nurturing, empathy, protection, we can often see things others miss, but we question it for so many reasons because someone might have feedback we don’t want to hear. We think we’ve come so far but have we?” 

Brockovich was shocked to discover that 9-1-1 dispatchers were not recognized as first responders. All that changed last month when California passed a law that reclassified public safety dispatchers as first responders. “Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and they don’t always wear a cape,” Brockovich said referring to first responders. “They’re the first person you have contact within so many disasters and scenarios. Technology can place us in such advanced locations, and they can elevate emergency response systems and reach people faster and more accurately and save more lives.”

Brockovich’s besties

In addition to helping strangers on a daily basis, Brockovich always makes time for her girlfriends.

“In my friendships, we laugh, we cry, we take walks on the beach. We need each other and we need the support of each other,” she shared. Most of Brockovich’s friendships are decades-long. “We pick up like we never missed a beat.” And listening matters most. “We’re never afraid to have those really hard conversations. We know we can’t fix everything, but any insight we have is invaluable. Honest communication, really good friendships are about that.”

And like most long-term relationships, they’re not always smooth.

“Yesterday I got really frustrated. My best friend lives next door and I couldn’t get through on the phone and I just went next door and said – ‘get in’ and we drove to the beach. We walked and talked and caught the most glorious sunset and it was uplifting. And sometimes that’s all you need.”