I was born and raised in the segregated South. I would say things and people would say to me, “Where the hell did she get that idea from?” So I grew up knowing I had been born in the wrong place. Not necessarily with the wrong family—I guess I had the right mother, she was really quite wonderful. I just always knew I had to get out of there, so I got out of there three weeks after I graduated from college.
And I came to New York. I started out in the Summerstock Theater in Long Island, not as an actress, but making hamburgers! Running the concession stand for people who were there. There was such competition between the stars and the wannabes. It was kind of amusing. It was quite an experience.
Then I moved to Chile. I had always wanted to live in a foreign country so I moved to Chile and that really gave me my career because became an ESL, bilingual teacher. I designed and coordinated ESL programs and I was really loved by my students and I loved them. It was really quite great. My life hasn’t been like other peoples, but living in a foreign country in a desert, ten thousand feet above sea level, and working in a mining camp just gave me my life basically.
And because I was in a mining camp, there were a lot of guys. I was invited to join a table that was all men. I was the only woman that was ever allowed to sit at that table. Another female tried and they said, “Sorry, only Leathea can sit at that table with us, so you may leave.”
I’ve always been an outsider everywhere I’ve been. It’s not that I thrive on it, but I had to learn how to thrive on it. I had to learn to accept that and to accept myself.