A podcast offering tips and tricks for reinventing yourself by former More Magazine Editor In Chief and creator of CoveyClub.com, Lesley Jane Seymour.
134: Emily Rapp Black (Reinventing the way the world thinks about imperfect)
“I grew up with a disability. I had an artificial leg since age four. I didn’t realize it was anything. The goal was to pass and be as normal as possible. At puberty that screeched to a halt.” So begins CoveyClub founder, Lesley Jane Seymour’s fascinating conversation with Emily Rapp Black, author of the upcoming book, “Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg.” Black, whose previous memoir, “Sanctuary” is a brutally honest portrait of a mother struggling to balance the joy of motherhood with the tsunami of grief of losing her first born to Tay-Sachs disease-- says her disability meant she was “always really open. I never had really any privacy. People were asking me rude questions in elevators since age four.” Black, who is now an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at UC-Riverside and at UCR School of Medicine intended to follow in her minister father’s footsteps by attending divinity school, says she was in Korea on a Fullbright when she “had a breakdown...I’d never thought about being a disabled woman.” Her new book was inspired by a visit to Frida Kahlo’s home La Casa Azul and the exhibit of the corsets and braces and artificial limbs Kahlo wore that she saw on display. “I had a huge body emotional reaction,” Black says. “I had a back brace and the leg…[Kahlo]’s such a pop culture icon. There are CVS socks with Frieda Kahlo’s face on it. But what does it mean? No one remembers she was an amputee.”
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#133: Kerrigan Behrens (When trying CBD Is your Aha moment)
After college Kerrigan Behrens, now Co-Founder and CEO of Sagely Naturals (https://www.sagelynaturals.com/), grabbed a job at UBS because her brother seemed to like banking. Her hobby was creating lists of restaurants from which she advised friends and co-workers like a concierge. Deciding restaurant management would be more fun, Behrens entered business school, eventually landing a stint with Wolfgang Puck and later Taco Bell. “I loved new experiences, the high and the low,” she says. “But I found myself writing my own job descriptions for restaurants which couldn’t pay me.” Behrens met weekly with a friend from business school (Kaley Nichol) who was thinking about quitting her own banking job. “Then I used CBD,” says Behrens who had long suffered from endometriosis and lower back pain. “I realized I could feel better, not because I took a Vicodin!” With CBD products hard to find in 2015 she and Nichol quickly launched Sagely Naturals, a collection of CBD, hemp-derived roll-ons and creams, and rose quickly into 15,000 stores across the country (including CVS, Sprouts and Ulta). Then Covid19 hit and Sagely Naturals had to pivot to online. “Pain, stress, trouble sleeping; every problem was exacerbated during Covid19,” she says. Luckily too, “people were looking for help.”
#132: Bevy Smith (It gets greater later)
Imagine that at 45 you nab your first TV show, your second at age 50. You snag your first book deal at 53. Now imagine that you decide your passion project is acting. You get called in for one scene but they like you so much they call you in for a second episode. As Beverly “Bevy” Smith, author of the new memoir, "Bevelations: Lessons from a Mutha, Auntie, Bestie" (https://amzn.to/3qVjRAZ), claims: “There is one mantra to live by: it gets greater later.” And she’s got the receipts to prove it. Smith grew up a nerdy, shy but “spoiled” kid in Harlem trying to fit in with “a bunch of mean girls.” She broke into the cliques by dressing well, dancing, and having a quick wit. Attitude served her well and made her tons of money as a fashion advertising executive when she landed at Vibe Magazine, just as hip-hop was scaling. “They didn’t have luxury advertising,” Smith says. “Systemic racism assumed that black and brown people would not be interested in fabulous clothes. And if they were interested, they couldn’t afford them.” Smith showed them otherwise, hobnobbing in Paris and Milan, breaking Gucci and Dior and Dolce & Gabbana. She left to do the same for Rolling Stone magazine until she left there to reinvent again, or as she told her boss—“to write, act, juggle, be a helicopter pilot.” Smith says: “When pivoting, be an explorer. We don’t know where the [next] gift is going to come from.”
#131: Laila Tarraf (Breaking down so you can break through)
“Life was good,” says Laila Tarraf. She was head of the internet division at Walmart, then Chief People Officer for Peet’s Coffee and Tea. “I had a good circle of friends, a daughter. I was strong and capable.” Then one day her husband passed away accidentally of a drug overdose--a mixture of alcohol, pain pills, and antidepressants. “He always drank a lot,” says the daughter of immigrants who moved to the US from Lebanon when she was seven. “I never really understood there was a problem.” Tarraf says she “was really numb. Nothing like that had happened to me. I tried to tuck it away but feelings kept coming back. And I had this little girl who was grieving...I didn’t know how to comfort her.” So began Tarraf’s journey into therapy, deep work and her examination of the stories she had always told herself about not needing anyone or anything: “My mother was more like a child...I jumped in to take care of her. But I didn’t want to do that with my daughter.” A short while later Tarraf’s father and then mother passed away. “In four to five years I’d suffered three big losses,” she says. Tarraf left her corporate job to get certified as a coach and write her first book, “Strong Like Water: How I found the Courage to Lead with Love in Business and in life” (https://amzn.to/2Qji649). “I grew up in a home where mom and dad fought a lot and I didn’t want to feel. It happens that qualities that saved you once, now hold you back...You have to go through the valley and break down to come out,” she says. “If you don’t there is no healing or transformation.”
#130: Linda Fears (When getting laid off is the biggest shock of your life)
Linda Fears had been the Editor-in-Chief of Family Circle magazine for 12 years when four years ago, she was suddenly laid off. “It was the biggest shock of my life,” she says. “Was I stupid? Naive?…I felt sorry for myself for a few months and was really depressed.” But Fears, who was only in her early 50s, wanted to keep working. “It was clear the magazine industry was on a deep downward slide,” she says. “Of all the magazines I worked at only one is still in existence.” Fears took her interest in health and food (she loved cooking since a child), grabbed a nutrition certification at her alma mater Cornell, and started coaching friends, then clients on how to eat better and lose weight. Later, she began the blog GoodFoodRx.net, a weekly themed newsletter that dissects a nutritional issue and offers a corresponding recipe. Covid forced her coaching online but Fears now has clients from different states. “The silver lining for me in the pandemic is that people are eating poorly and not moving or exercising,” she says. “I thought I’d really miss my old life. But I’m really happy to be in charge of my own hours and not clock in."
#129: Jennifer Degenhardt (If it’s a passion, then just do it)
So here’s the problem. You’re teaching Spanish in highschool for a total of 24 years, and early on you notice your students are bored out of their minds. “I was, too,” says Jennifer Degenhardt. “I said, they need a story.” So she gathered up the “themes” and the vocabulary demanded by the curriculum and made up more interesting stories that put characters who mirrored her students--Hispanic, from underserved communities, a boy in a wheelchair, LGBTQ, or from economic disparities--and put them at the center of the action. “After three to four years of teaching [my first] book, I published it and kept writing,” says the author of now 17 books in Spanish, 6 in English, one in German, and three translated into French. Encouraged by her students, she self-published her first book on Kindle Direct, a subsidiary of Amazon. “It’s made my life very easy,” says Degenhardt. It’s a “step by step process...and you’re in charge of your own products and you can fix your own mistakes.” Her favorite quote which she put on her refrigerator and looked at every day? “If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working toward it.” And that’s just what she did.
Always a Learning Experience
Leslie has a gift as an interviewer and knows how mine gold from her subjects. No matter the subject I always walk away with many takeaways.
Incredibly uplifting for anyone going through a major transition, or reinventing themselves.
I’ve loved each episode I’ve listened to so far! Great host, guests, and content!