It’s been over 20 years. And yet, despite the years and many achievements, the environmental activist is still and always associated with the Hollywood bomb who embodied her character on the big screen. Quite a comparison, we agree.

“I’m Erin Brockovich, not Julia Roberts!” “This is how the tall blonde with platinum hair presents herself when she gives conferences, especially on Thursday evening, at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal.

Because yes, Erin Brockovich was passing through the metropolis, albeit for a quick visit of less than 24 hours. The real Erin Brockovich, it should be noted, was indeed at the International Eco-citizenship Summit⁠1, as a featured speaker, alongside former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“Yes, it’s huge, I’m a little overwhelmed,” confirms the visibly intimidated activist and author, met shortly before her conference on Thursday. I’m nervous. But it’s okay, nervousness. As long as it motivates you to do the job well! And the work here wasn’t exactly about the environment. Rather, she taught us an important lesson in motivation.

Tall, thin, in stilettos and a chic jacket, dressed all in black, except for her bright pink fake nails, Erin Brockovich does not have her tongue in her pocket. And we expected it. Let’s say she’s outspoken, borderline stiff and above all unfiltered, just like you know who in Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 cult film. With a handful of years older, but just as much determination in tone.

Straight away, she says:

“She is glorious and lively, I am not all those things. »

Nevertheless, the character, if you want to know everything, is indeed close to the real thing. “Yes, really very true”, confirms the one who has since founded her own consultation box in addition to hosting two shows (Challenge America with Erin Brockovich and Final Justice).

At 30, divorced, head of a single-parent family, and without much education, dyslexic as a bonus (although that, Julia Roberts was not), the young woman with plunging necklines who won beauty contests actually has more or less least forced his lawyer’s hand to give him a job. “I pestered him until he gave me a job. I’ve always been a bit of a nuisance…”

But how did she do it? Because that’s not all. Recall that Erin Brockovich then searched, investigated and finally revealed a case of drinking water pollution in Hinkley, California. With her boss, the lawyer Ed Masry (Albert Finney in the film), she especially succeeded in extracting 333 million from the Goliath of energy in the United States: Pacific Gas

“I’m dyslexic,” she answers a little off the question, but not so much. “Very early in life, I understood that if you don’t fit into the norms of society, if you don’t exactly match the expectations, you will be rejected. »

We put you in a box, then. “And me, because I dressed a certain way, because of my way of speaking or my lack of education, we said to ourselves: but how did she manage all this? ” The answer ? “I’m smart,” she cuts through with her trademark determination. Tired, above all, of being told that she was neither a lawyer nor a doctor. But she retorts.

A matter of common sense, what: “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if you have two-headed frogs or murky water, you have a problem.” »

Certainly. Still, you had to have some nerve to dare. Why she ? Alone, against all odds? ” And why not me ? […] You have to stop asking yourself this question: why me? Turn the question around: why not! […] And this is where you take action. […] That’s what inspires me, ”says the one who has published a number of books, the latest of which, Superman’s Not Coming, deals specifically with civic engagement.

What also inspires him: “people”. “Sometimes I think nothing changes. But what can and does change: It’s us, the people! And that invigorates me. There is hope, because we are making a difference. »

Erin Brockovich does not hide it: ten years ago, tired, she still thought about quitting. “And then my granddaughter was born. So I’m suing for her. ” Moral ? “People have to believe in them,” concludes the self-taught activist. It is also the story of his life.