Genevieve Collins. Photography by Owen Jones.

Genevieve Collins spent her entire career in the private sector, but public service is in her blood. Her grandmother, Calvert Collins, was the first woman elected to the Dallas City Council. Collins built upon that legacy with her own good work. After graduating from Southern Methodist University with a degree in business, she went to work for her family’s e-learning company, Istation, which provides schools with online reading and math programs. Collins started in the mailroom and worked her way to head of corporate strategy. In 2019, the lifelong Republican announced that she would challenge M Streets neighbor Colin Allred for the 32nd Congressional District seat. Allred held his seat by winning nearly 52 percent of the vote in the 2020 election, but Collins found her passion in the political arena. “I just need to find the next avenue to fulfill it,” she says. 

Why did you run for office?

I really thought I could do good. I know that sounds altruistic. I wanted to bring a sense of business sense and common sense to D.C. There are too many people who have been there too long. Overwhelmingly, it’s been the most positive experience of my life, despite 2020. Running for office, it forces you to understand your own belief systems. Oftentimes people believe what their parents believe or what they see on social media, but when you have to articulate that on a daily basis, you have to learn your beliefs and why that is. Everyone should do this at some point. Almost 160,000 people voted for me. Do you know how humbling that is? It’s incredible. 

“People hated Trump so much that it changed how people talked about our values. It became about him.”

What’s a memorable moment from the campaign?

I did a lot of speaking to young women in organizations that don’t often hear from Republicans. I said, “Let me share what I think, not necessarily about policy, but about how, as a young woman, to get involved in politics.” I was talking to these women, saying, “If you don’t know what you stand for, you will fall for anything. The most important thing you can do is understand why you believe these things. Once you do, it will never be taken away from you.” This girl came up to me afterward. She had just won an award for starting an LGBTQ chapter on her campus. I said, “Congratulations. Keep up the great work.” She said, “I don’t know why I’m talking to you, but I feel like you’re someone I can relate to.” We’re friends on Instagram, and we send messages to each other. Watching someone who I have nothing in common with believe I could be someone she could look up to, that’s the whole point. 

What was the hardest part of the campaign?

I almost died 20 days before the election. I had appendicitis as a manifestation of stress. I contracted sepsis and went into septic shock. I’m in the hospital, negotiating with the surgeon. I’m like, “I have got to get out of here. I have a debate tomorrow.” But there was good that came out of it. I got to talk to nurses and surgeons and doctors about what’s going on from a COVID standpoint. My TV commercials were on, and people were like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s you.’” 

Speaking of commercials, tell me about Texas Reloaded.

Dan [Crenshaw] called me and said [the commercial] is going to be Avengers meets Mission: Impossible. I said, “I’ve been learning some jiu-jitsu. How about I do a takedown?” That’s how I perceive Texas women. We’re strong, we’re fierce, we’ll kick your ass, and we’ll do it with a smile. Part of the point is Republicans aren’t perceived to be cool. How do we show who we really are? You’ve got a Hispanic guy, two women, an African-American and two white guys. How do we show we are young and inclusive and have new ideas?

How would you describe the state of the Republican party?

I think the Republican party is in a quandary. Fundamentally, Republicans believe in limited government. They believe you are better equipped to make decisions for your life than the government, but there are competing factions, and that’s where the party stands today. People hated Trump so much that it changed how people talked about our values. It became about him. 

“Republicans aren’t perceived to be cool. How do we show we are young and inclusive and have new ideas?”

How do you handle criticism?

I have a very dark sense of humor. People would say awful things, and I found it to be funny. I actively practiced not reading the comments. That was a mental health thing. I learned that strangely from Kim Kardashian. She said in an interview years ago that she doesn’t read the comments. In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, “haters gonna hate.” I don’t have to wear your perceptions. Why do I have to wear that instead of my authenticity? 

What is one thing readers don’t know about you?

I’m an adventurer. On New Year’s Day [in 2015], I wanted to have some incredible nature adventure. I got my two closest friends from college, and a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim hiked up a mountain together. We summited Mount Kilimanjaro. We left at 1 a.m. and got to the summit by 7 a.m. — 19,341 feet. I brought a Texas flag and a T-shirt from my favorite bar, Black Swan Saloon. Now I do an adventure every New Year’s. This year I went to Mexico — went scuba diving, snorkeling and hiking. 

What are you most proud of?

My favorite hobbies growing up were watching TV and eating, especially at the same time. At the age of 15, I discovered rowing. I’m really proud of starting the rowing team at my high school, Highland Park, in 2002. It got me a college scholarship [to the University of Tennessee] and it’s given hundreds of kids the same opportunity. 

How would you spend $1 million in our community?

I would invest in literacy resources. I think every child should be able to read. That’s the greatest gift you can give. 

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz, a daily devotional, a Deepak Chopra book and a chakras book. I’m not a yogi at all, but I’m curious about them. I picked up a book called The Man Who Built Washington [about John McShain]. I like learning about people’s experiences and how they affect change for good. He believed in what I believe: pragmatism and not purity. 

What does that mean?

It’s about learning how to work with somebody to accomplish legislation that allows everybody to win. There are factions in both parties that are more focused on socially driven issues. Republicans, it’s the pro-life movement versus Democrats’ pro-climate movement. Sometimes we can sacrifice getting stuff done because we believe so much in our pure values. But you’re elected to practically make people’s lives better. 

What do you love about East Dallas?

I was born and raised in Dallas. I’ve lived other places, but you realize how much you love a place once you leave it. Dallas just feels like family. You can talk to anyone in any neighborhood, and they’ll say Dallas is one big small town. It’s easy to love a city like that. People are kind. We’re welcoming, entrepreneurial, optimistic. I just want to be around people like that. 

What’s your go-to neighborhood restaurant?

Dream Café or Snappy Salads. 

Would you run for office again?

I would do it again 100 percent. I loved it, which probably means I’m a weirdo because it’s a hard thing to do. I didn’t do it for power or money. I did it because I think I could make a difference, and I still do. 

What’s next for you?

That’s the million-dollar question. I recognize that I enjoy working, but I also need to stay involved in some aspect of politics. I have a voice and perspective that can be more inclusive. I’m going to stay engaged and involved, whether that’s in the private sector or running again. I’m kind of enjoying some downtime. I worked 18-hour days for 18 months. I’m catching up on all my sleep and doing all of my house projects. 

Interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.