‘She Was Doing Her Best’

Raised by her single mom who worked as an exotic dancer, Kelly is releasing her new memoir Tell Me Everything on May 2

Phylicia J. L. Munn

The twinkle lights above her cast a festive glow in the small storage shed that 7-year-old Minka Kelly was calling home.

Kelly’s single mother Maureen, who couldn’t afford rent at their apartment complex in L.A., had convinced the landlady to let them shelter in the 125-square-foot box. Already well aware that her life was different from those of other little girls, Kelly often accompanied her mom to Crazy Girls strip club where she performed as an exotic dancer.

“If she made a lot of money that night, we’d go grocery shopping at 2 a.m.,” the actress, 42, recalls in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “I spent a lot of my youth wishing my mom was something she wasn’t, wishing she was like the other moms. I only was able to really appreciate how special she was when I got much older. In fact when it was maybe a little too late.”



In her upcoming memoir, Tell Me Everything, Kelly opens up for the first time about her traumatic childhood, watching her mom, who died of cancer in 2008, try to make ends meet as she faced addiction and poverty. “My childhood was colorful and chaotic, unstable and inconsistent, unpredictable and hard a lot of the times,” says Kelly, who has starred on hit shows such as Friday Night Lights and Euphoria. “But the silver lining is that it made me a very adaptable person.”

For more of Kelly’s exclusive interview, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.

Related:Minka Kelly Reveals Details from Her Traumatic Childhood in New Memoir: ‘I Carried a Lot of Shame’

Kelly did not know her father, former Aerosmith guitarist Rick Dufay, who met Maureen in 1979. Her parents’ short-lived relationship led to Maureen getting pregnant. “My mom was on her own for a very long time so she was just surviving and doing her best and maybe not totally well-equipped to have and raise a child,” Kelly says. “But she did it anyway because she wanted me and she loved me to the best of her ability.”

While her mom weaved in and out of Kelly’s life into her early 20s, the two became estranged after Maureen asked her daughter for more financial support. They did not rekindle their relationship until after Maureen was diagnosed with colon cancer and given two years to live. Upon a therapist’s suggestion, Kelly confronted Maureen about their past.

Phylicia J. L. Munn

Phylicia J. L. Munn

“I saw her start to crumble in shame and regret and pain when she was already in so much of all of those things, and I just immediately thought, I don’t need to do this to her,” Kelly recalls. “I only need to forgive her and love her. She’s already broken. What is the point of pouring salt on the wound? I’m fine. I just want to take care of her right now.”

Related:Minka Kelly Says She Didn’t Feel ‘Comfortable’ with Euphoria Nude Scene on First Day of Filming

At the end, Maureen was in a hospice facility in Albuquerque. Kelly crawled into her mom’s bed and wrapped her arms and legs around her and held her as she died. One of her biggest regrets is not spending her mom’s last Thanksgiving together. “Because that was her favorite holiday, and she really wanted me to be there,” says Kelly. “I just was like, ‘Ah, I’ll see you for the next one,’ knowing deep down there wasn’t going to be another. And I think about that a lot. That still breaks my heart.”

Phylicia J. L. Munn

Phylicia J. L. Munn

Kelly wrote her memoir with the hope that it helps others who “might have complicated relationships with their mothers feel less alone,” she says. “And also to know that we don’t have to be a victim of our circumstance.” Looking back, she now sees her mom as “the most beautiful, free-spirited, big-hearted, deeply loving human I’ve ever known,” the actress adds. “She was very childlike and playful and a lot of fun, and that’s how I remember her. I probably would’ve described her differently when I was younger, but in hindsight, they become angels.”

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Tell Me Everything will be on bookshelves May 2.

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Read the original article on People.