Kelly Chapman Meyer: The power of connections

The 2010 O Power List O, The Oprah Magazine | September 14, 2010

Kelly Meyer has helped raise more than $40 million for cancer research, lobbied Washington to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, built California’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum-certified home, held prominent positions with the Natural Resources Defense Council, and created a school program to combat childhood obesity, among many other accomplishments. Like all good activists, she’s passionate. Unlike most, however, on any given day Meyer might discuss the causes she cares about while surfing with an Emmy-winning actress or having dinner with an iconic movie director. Colorado-born Meyer, 49, lives in Malibu with her husband Ron Meyer, COO of Universal Studios and one of the most powerful (and well-liked) men in Hollywood. She has two children, two stepchildren, and the ultimate Rolodex, which she uses, strategically and tirelessly, to make the world a cleaner, healthier place. “I feel fortunate to have relationships and access to people who have the power to make real change,” says Meyer. Clearly, such clout can get you a great table at the Ivy, but Meyer aims it in a different direction: toward Washington and Sacramento, the commissions and boardrooms and senators’ offices where environmental and public health policy are made, community groups and schools that need help. Her latest initiative, the Teaching Garden, aims to coax schoolkids away from vending machines and pizza lunches to grow their own produce. Along with the satisfaction of tending their vegetables, they also learn about nutrition. “I read a statistic saying that, in the future, obesity-related illnesses would impact more children than drugs, alcohol, gun violence, and tobacco combined,” Meyer says. “Exposing our kids to nature by planting a garden seems like a small thing, but it’s not. There are many different kinds of power. It’s nice to be able to connect them.” — Susan Casey