Nowadays the onetime foster child lobbies in Washington, D. for the Child Welfare League of America, which aids abused or orphaned children.(Her real-life work “came in handy” as background when preparing for her Distinguished Gentleman lobbyist role.) In 1990 she organized the Rowell Foster Child Fine Arts Scholarship Fund for children studying classical ballet, under the auspices of the Portland School of Ballet and the Ballet Theatre of Boston.It was her second foster mother, Agatha Armstead, who provided Victoria with a home life, in little Lebanon, Maine (pop. Armstead, who died in 1984, encouraged Victoria’s interest in dance.At age 8, Victoria received a Ford Foundation scholarship to study at the Cambridge (Mass.) School of Ballet and left Maine to spend the next few years living with three foster families in the Boston area.Her instructors demanded that the 5’7″ Rowell keep her weight below 100 lbs. “They didn’t want you to have breasts or bullocks,” she says.“You’d be surprised how some of us could go all day eating nothing but string beans.” After graduating in 1979 from Boston’s private Shaw Preparatory School, where she had a scholarship, Rowell won another scholarship to attend New York City’s prestigious American Ballet Theatre School.
“She could be tough one minute and tender to the point of tears the next,” says executive producer William Bell.“She might have been pressured by her white family,” Victoria says.“I knew she loved me, and I didn’t want to make her feel guilty.” Victoria didn’t meet her two sisters until, at age 2, she left her first, white foster family to join them in a black foster family, the Armsteads.Rowell had some success in commercials, earning up to $30.000 a year.