I've wanted to come to the U.S. since I was 8 years old. Every single year, my mom and I watched the Oscars. I always told her, 'I want to do that when I grow up. I want to tell stories; I want to be an actor and director.'
When you have girl children, they torture you! If at any moment of the day I ever think I'm remotely cool at all, which is hardly ever, I have two daughters who make sure that never happens. They say, 'Mom, you didn't really wear that?' And I say, 'Yes, and pretty much everyone saw it.'
Henry Hays was cheated all his life. He was cheated by his father who taught him to hate. His community taught him to hate. My mom told me, no matter what one does in life, he or she deserves some compassion, and I knew Hays deserved compassion more than anybody.
I am not a woman on Monday, an immigrant on Tuesday, a worker on Wednesday, and a mom on Thursday, I am all of those things all of the time, and I am going to fight for all of those things all of the time.
My parents were reasonably affluent in Kabul. In the States, we were on welfare. My mom became a waitress, and my dad became a driving instructor. That part of the American immigrant experience applies to people of any nationality.
I believe this with all my heart: The greatest coach of all time in my eyes is my mom. She's instilled in me a toughness and a perseverance and just a never-quit mentality, and I thank her every day for providing me, for what she sacrificed her life for.
It's tough growing up where I grew up. My family is very small and really tight. Just being around the neighborhood, my brothers were always around. I didn't want to be in any trouble because I knew my mom or brothers would find out. I didn't want to hurt their feelings. I just tried to do everything right.