CALIFORNIA’S COUNSELOR EXTRAORDINAIRE
By P.K. Greenfield
Stylist: Eduardo Lucero – Photographer: Russell Baer
Attorney, Human/Civil Rights Activist and one of the most eloquent, in-demand television commentators, Areva Martin, lives in the celebrity infused neighborhood called Hancock Park in Los Angeles. Manicured gardens, a tennis court, swimming pool, exquisite décor and historic mansions surround her — the region is flanked by Hollywood and the Wilshire Country Club.
Areva is the furthest thing from a Hollywood heiress and nothing was handed to her on a silver (screen) platter. She does not collect royalties while sunbathing in Malibu, lunching in Beverly Hills or raising cocktails in Bel Air.
Her days begin around 5:00 am tending to her family and reading every newspaper and scoping the credible and gossip media outlets, shortly after she throws on sweats and sneakers for her daily workout. After breakfast, the professional work begins, juggling and balancing everything from research libraries to court appointments to media junkets.
She is the judiciary triple threat: Intelligent, ambitious and articulate. She also happens to be a very beautiful woman.
Here is what Millennium Magazine recently discovered.
St. Louis Cinderella
Growing up on the indigent side of St. Louis, Missouri, Areva Martin witnessed and survived one of the major blights of American society. However, through family support, hard work, street and book smarts, she excelled past the projects and earned a degree from an Ivy league institution and celebrates a career both in the courtroom and the public eye.
We are all influenced by our hometowns and Areva’s Cinderella story comes from the land that was founded in 1764 by Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau and named after Louis IX of France. Her childhood was anything but regal and egalitarian. There is a touch of irony that the state motto is Salus populi suprema lex esto — The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.
“I grew up in a housing project in St. Louis with my grandmother who was a paraplegic and my godmother who earned a living as a janitor.”
Areva takes me on her journey from the ghetto and explains how a young woman of color made it all the way from dank expectations, grimy opportunities and dangerous corridors to a successful life that includes a secluded and opulent residence in the hills near Hollywood. It wasn’t a cakewalk. There is a proud tone in her voice and she selects her words with a clear, focused and specific vocabulary.
“By the time I attended the University of Chicago, I was ridiculed and made fun of for the way that I pronounced certain words and expressed myself. I stopped talking for a long time out of embarrassment. I had to work hard on my pronunciation, my diction and speech for many years and it’s rather funny that I make a living as a public speaker. People probably say now that I never stop talking,” she laughs.
She further explains that she would tag along with her godmother who cleaned offices during the day, picked her up from school and then continued cleaning into the night: law offices, accounting firms and other businesses.
“I witnessed this woman own her own home, buy cars and support our family. It had to be one of the lowest paying jobs on the planet but she was an incredible money manager. On top of that, I never heard her complain.”
“One of my mantras in life is ‘You will never outwork me’.” Areva talks about her work ethic and how early lessons helped shape her character by following her godmother around at work. “I was surrounded by powerful, resilient, optimistic, hard working, salt of the earth, women during my formidable years and they were like the backbone of my family and our community.”
When asked how she became interested in law, she replies, “I saw the injustice and the low expectations placed on me and the kids I grew up around. It bothered me. I didn’t know what needed to be done or what to do. My grandmother and godmother pinched pennies in order for me to go to a private Catholic school and that was where I encountered the upper crust, people from high society. When I got to college, I met these guys and they were going to Harvard Law School. I just thought I was equally if not smarter than them. I knew that I worked harder to achieve good grades. While they were at parties, I was in the library and that’s when I decided that Harvard is where I should go and I realized that this would be my gateway to make a difference. I applied to Harvard, Yale and Stamford and got accepted into all them. It was my ‘ah ha’ moment.”
When asked why she chose Harvard over the other Ivey leagues, Areva boasts about what an honor and humbling feat it was to be the first woman in her family to graduate from the country’s number one law school.
In the past several years, Areva has made a career as a spokesperson and legal advocate for children (one of her children was diagnosed with Autism). She founded Special Needs Network (snnla.org), an organization dedicated to providing advocacy, information and resources for those families with autistic children and similar conditions.
Dr. Phil & Hollywood Calls
Her transition from practicing law and civil rights advocacy to one of the most sought after experts on daytime talk shows and news broadcasts is a fascinating as her upbringing. Areva is a commentator on many topics including legal, social, lifestyle and celebrity issues. It started with a lawsuit brought to national attention after a teacher of autistic children was prosecuted on grounds of abuse in Las Vegas. It was the first case of its kind. Areva was in the forefront and Dr. Phil wanted to get involved. She was booked by one of his show’s producer and the segment went so well, they asked her to remain and talk about other topics of the day. This pivotal moment put her in the proverbial spotlight and her new career exploded across the media juggernaut with appearances on CNN with Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper, Good Morning America, Fox News, The Doctors, MSNBC, Al Jazeera TV and more.
“I realized that I have a knack for explaining the law in words that are understood by lay-people and I’m able to synthesize a lot of information into a short amount of time,” said Areva.
I asked Areva what advice she would have for a young person growing up in a similar situation as her childhood.
“There are no shortcuts to hard work. When you see your idols walking the red carpet or glossy pictures of them taken at a gala or premier, that is the end result of long hours of labor. My day starts at 5:00 am and often runs until midnight.”
It’s not all drudgery. There are relaxing and glamorous moments in her life. Time spent with her husband and children; a vacation when possible. And the day that Eduardo Lucero, an award-winning designer for the stars including Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria took off time to style this Russell Baer photoshoot at Areva’s home.
Her rags-to-riches journey continues with more altruistic endeavors and television projects that help spread her legal, social, lifestyle and civil rights commentary.
A fairytale life?
An easy road to the heights of Hollywood?