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Renee Zellweger Wins Oscar; Katy Classmate Shares Memories


February 10, 2020

By Natalie Cook Clark

Katy’s own Renee Zellweger took home the Best Actress Oscar last night for her portrayal as Judy Garland in "Judy." The seasoned actress is no stranger to success and has been known to mention her Katy roots.

Renee Zellweger accepts the Best Actress Award at last night's Oscars.

Renee Zellweger is recognized world-wide as an Academy Award-winning actress, but people in this community proudly point out she’s a Katy, Texas girl. Born on April 26, 1969 in Katy to immigrant parents, Zellweger enjoyed her childhood growing up here.

High School Friend Recalls Times with Actress

“We were in Ms. Smith and Mr. Williamson’s speech and drama class,” says Pam Atchley Joseph, who was friends with Renee in high school. “She was a cheerleader and ran cross country track and was always the nicest girl.” Joseph's mom still lives in the Katy home where she grew up in West Memorial. (Pam Atchley pictured above next to Renee)

“She was a great actress even then,” recalls Joseph. “She was always getting all the lead parts to all the plays.”

While in Katy, Zellweger participated in many activities demonstrating just how versatile she is. She attended Katy High School and was a cheerleader, gymnast, on the speech team, and a member of the drama club. Joseph says Zellweger was liked by both teachers and students and had a reputation for being kind. The last time she saw her former classmate was on graduation night in 1987.

Childhood Home Now on the Market

Zellweger’s childhood home in Katy has been in the news lately. The spacious home, with a large yard, went on the market for $750,000 a few weeks ago and the listing is still active. The home is located at 26607 Willow Lane in Katy. (Photo source: HAR)

Zellweger graduated from Katy High School in 1987 and went to the University of Texas in Austin, where she also studied drama. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

In 2016, Zellweger made a secret hometown appearance back to Katy High school where she had a chance to visit with her cheer instructor, Patty Henson, teachers, coaches and other Katy Tiger friends. Pictured below with Coach Mike Johnston, Patty Henson, and Coach Gary Joseph.

From Early Roles to Breakout Star

After starring in a few Independent films, Zellweger appeared in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation," alongside fellow UT student, Matthew McConaughey. Zellweger’s breakout role came by playing a single mom and love interest to Tom Cruise in the 1996 hit film ‘"Jerry Maguire."

Other big roles include "Bridget Jones's Diary," "Chicago," and "Cold Mountain," for which she won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.

Becoming Judy

Zellweger recently portrayed the late Judy Garland in "Judy." The film takes place thirty years after the actress played Dorothy Gale in classic movie "The Wizard of Oz." The film portrays Garland’s known drug problem, financial and family struggles, and her overall depression as a fading Hollywood star.

Zellweger also received Best Actress recognition from the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice and the Screen Actors Guild Awards this season.

Judy Garland died on June 22, 1969 (the same year of Zellweger’s birth) at the age of 47 from an accidental drug overdose.

A Class Act at the Oscars

In her Academy Award speech, Zellweger paid tribute to the late Judy Garland as well as the “heroes who unite and define us.” At the conclusion of a ceremony that often referenced political issues, Zellweger’s heartfelt speech received a huge applause.

Watch Zellweger's Acceptance Speech

Zellweger has been known to reference her Katy roots in talk shows and interviews. Watch her perform a Katy High School cheer for Jimmy Fallon.

After earning the highest acting award, twice, Zellweger should have her pick of upcoming movie roles. Her fans in Katy will surely be watching and cheering on their hometown girl.


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