Auburn alumna Octavia Spencer chosen for cover of Southern Living magazine

Published: August 28, 2019
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It’s not often a celebrity graces the cover of Southern Living magazine, but when the timing worked out for a beloved actress and Southern woman to make an appearance, Editor-In-Chief Sid Evans ran with it. Auburn alumna and Academy and Golden Globe winning actress Octavia Spencer opened up to the magazine about faith, Southern roots and life in Hollywood as the cover model for the magazine’s September edition.

“We have followed her career closely for a long time and we’ve been interested in having her on the cover for some time,” Evans said. “It was just the right moment. She has a lot going on right now, but this was the right time and fortunately she agreed to it.”

Spencer has starred in two movies released in 2019—Luce and Ma—but her interview with Southern Living focuses more on her life as a Southern woman than her life as a movie star in Hollywood.

Part of her time in the South included her years at Auburn University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and theatre arts in 1994.

Anyone who follows Spencer on social media has probably seen the actress show her love for Auburn from time-to-time, whether it’s sharing a photo with fellow alumnus Tim Cook or donning orange-and-blue jewelry as a nod to her alma mater.

“It’s clear that she’s proud of where she came from, and she is very proud of her time at Auburn,” Evans said. “She loves following the basketball team and probably any team that has the Auburn name on it. I think that it clearly left a big impression on her when she was there.”

He said Spencer is proud of her Southern roots.

“She focuses on the positive aspects of the South and represents a lot of positive things about the South,” Evans said.

Coupled with her pride of where she’s from is the strong faith she developed as a child.

“Her faith is really important to her, and I think it’s great that she is so open about that, particularly for someone who is experiencing so much time in Hollywood,” Evans said.

The Alabama native said the most Southern thing about her is her faith, Spencer said. 

“It is the guiding force in my life,” she said in the interview. “It keeps me grounded, aids in every decision that I make—the Golden Rule. It’s the foundation. With a rocky foundation, you will stumble, but with a solid one, you will flourish.”

Her openness about faith and upbringing is perhaps what makes her so relatable to her fans.

“The reaction that we’ve gotten to Octavia is so positive and so strong and really, people were just thrilled to see her celebrated on the cover,” Evans said. “People just love her and I think they really relate to her as a real person. They see her as someone they can talk to. There’s something very warm, I think, about her. She kind of cuts to the chase and comes across as someone who you could just walk up to and start talking to.”

Despite her fame, Evans said Spencer still remembers where she came from and the challenges she had to overcome.

“She lost her father early, she was raised by her mom with six siblings and she was dyslexic,” he said. “I think her mom had a huge impact on her and really helped her overcome a lot of challenges and have the confidence to get to where she is.”

There are a few other people who helped Spencer during her formative childhood years—her teachers.

“It was interesting to hear her reel off the names of so many of her grade-school teachers all the way through high school. She remembers all their names,” Evans said. “I think that her teachers made a huge impression on her and I think that that probably is also true of the teachers she had at Auburn. To hear her gushing about them in that way, I just think it says a lot about who she is and kind of how she got to where she is.”

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.