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Meet Trailblazer Gretchen Bergman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gretchen Bergman.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Gretchen. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My background in dance and theater led me to a professional career as a dancer, choreographer, model, fashion show producer and fashion editor. I started my theatrical fashion show production company, Gretchen Productions in 1979. Fashion choreography became my specialty, allowing for a creative blending of my artistic and professional pursuits. My vision is an exciting union of dance, theater and apparel, creating moods and images to support styles and themes. We’ve produced and directed shows throughout Southern California for charity organizations, conventions and corporate clients.

I’ve enjoyed several roles in my lifetime, but the most important role is motherhood. My sons were bright and beautiful but they struggled with substance use disorders for decades. My older son was arrested when he was 20 years old for marijuana possession, which led to a decade of cycling in and out of prison for non-violent drug offenses. As a mother, I felt it was my duty to learn as much about this disease as I could in order to advocate for appropriate treatment, and it was obvious that a punitive approach to a public health problem was highly destructive. I co-founded my non-profit organization, A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) in 1999 and I serve as its Executive Director, Our mission is to reduce the stigma associated with addictive illness through education and compassionate support and to advocate for therapeutic rather than punitive drug policies. This advocacy organization has grown by leaps and bounds and we have been instrumental in changing laws and policies. I started our national Moms United to End the War on Drugs Campaign in 2009 and we now have representatives in 35 states advocating for harm reduction strategies and restorative drug laws.

I still lead and am passionate about both Gretchen Productions and A New PATH. They fill my creative soul and my drive to be a voice for change and a protector of human rights and dignity.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
With Gretchen Productions, it was a fairly smooth transition from model/dancer to fashion show producer, but of course, there were struggles. The creativity is easy, but the business and financial part has at times been difficult.
I would suggest taking business and marketing courses because even artists need to be able to do all aspects of their company. I continue to do this work because I enjoy it so much and view it as the canvass for my ideas, but it isn’t very lucrative, so I advise young women to be sure they love and are committed to the process.
My journey with A New PATH has been filled with struggles and roadblocks, but I am so proud of our successes and accomplishments. I tell people that when they hit a brick wall, instead of beating their head, they should go around the corner and see if there is another way in. Stigma runs deep, and old belief systems are hard to break down, so we need to listen and be creative in reaching out to educate and enlighten the public and decision-makers to make needed reforms. Change doesn’t come without conflict.

We’d love to hear more about Gretchen Productions and A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing).
Gretchen Productions brings a fresh new look to the presentation of fashion. We are known for our entertainment value. By combining all of the artistic elements (dance, music, theater, lighting effects, written word, and fashion design), we create something sparkling and unique. We are able to both inspire and entertain. I work with some wonderful non-profit organizations and enjoy highlighting their missions. I also produce Bridal Bazaar shows and enjoy the challenge of presenting gowns in new and innovative ways.

This year we are doing our 15th annual Strut for Sobriety!, where Gretchen Productions provides a fashion show and entertainment for an awareness and fundraising event to benefit A New PATH. Models in recovery are highlighted in the show, which includes singers, dancers and professional models. Because I wear so many hats on this day and am so passionate about this cause, I am most proud of this event.

A New PATH is a parent-driven advocacy organization, which sets us apart from others. Using the moral authority of moms, we are able to advance changes of drug policy for the sake of our children and future generations.

Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
I was raised on an avocado ranch in Escondido, California, where my two sisters and I ran through the groves, made forts and were able to expand our imaginations. Our lives were filled with outdoor activities as well as cultural opportunities. I always wanted to be a dancer and my older sister wanted to be an actress, so my mother drove us from lesson to lesson after school. I think my father instilled in me that I could be anything I wanted to be, so it was fine to want to be a performer, but he also told me to learn to type so that I would have something to fall back on.
I believe that the value of hard work, honesty and integrity were instilled in us. And, my parents loved each other well, so that was indeed a gift they gave us.

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Image Credit:
Geni Cavitt, Krista King

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