1. What are your three words to live by? Why do these words guide your life?
Truth. Kindness. Compassion. Humor. Okay, I added a fourth. Hope that’s ok!
Truth because it is always easier to tell the truth. There are ways to tell the truth that aren’t hurtful to others. It doesn’t require a harshness or cruelty. When you get down to the essence of the truth in a situation it usually means you are connecting with a part of yourself that makes you vulnerable. That’s the part you want to protect but it’s also the part people respond to most.
Kindness is easy, free, and makes life go more smoothly. When someone cuts me off while driving, or I encounter someone with a bad attitude, I try to think about what might be going on in their day that has caused that. Their anger is rarely about you.
Respect because my parents were immigrants and I saw how people can treat you differently if you are different than they are. My dad was a bartender who served people. He would tell us about all the people he would meet from different walks of life that became his friends. They respected his journey and what he had encountered in order to come to the United States. To this day if I see anyone treat someone in the service industry with a lack of respect it makes my blood boil. With respect you have an even playing field if two people come from the same understanding.
Humor. Had to add humor because it’s the best gift to be able to laugh at even the worst times.
2. What does being an “Architect of Change” mean to you?
Everyone has a purpose and a voice. Being an architect of change means that if I can keep creating, keep living a clean life, give of my time and talents to make a better life for someone, even just one person, I am content. I encounter people saying that things can’t be done all the time, particularly women, and if one person hears anything about anything I have done and is inspired by that, I’m happy.
I like what Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I have always loved that quote because it requires action. Do one thing to change your actions and it affects the world around you. Architects design and contractors build. Change happens with a plan first and action second, but they work together.
3. Who do you consider to be an Architect of Change in your life? Why?
This is easy! Maria!!! I have known Maria for many years now and have seen her design the most beautiful life. Even with the upheaval she has had recently, she has kept moving forward. What she has accomplished as a woman, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a First Lady, a volunteer, a friend, is inspiring.
I can’t believe how many times I find myself quoting something Maria has said. She makes me laugh. Most importantly, she is honest to the core, allowing her vulnerability to complement her strength, embracing that, not shying away from it. She has taken what life has thrown at her and has risen to the occasion with grace and love. If there were a Pritzker Prize for Architects of Change, Maria would get my vote!
4. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in life?
It has taken me awhile to trust my instincts and that little voice in my head. I believe in gathering as much information as possible when making decisions. All my life I have had strong instincts in my decision making process and about people. Every time I have not listened to my gut, I have had to suffer the consequences. As I learned from my mistakes, I am now confident in voicing those instincts. I say what it is, and I act on it.
I believe we all have this gift of intuition but it must be used and exercised in order for it to be strong. If you hear that little voice and you do nothing about it, it gets flabby and can’t work for you. If you start listening, and with the facts in front of you, use that muscle, it becomes easy to respond, the “muscle” gets stronger.
5. What is one thing you are working on right now that you feel especially passionate about?
I have an album coming out Tuesday, May 8 on Decca called AM/FM. I always wanted to make an album but was afraid of what people would say. “Wait, you’re making an album now? Aren’t you an actress or a producer?”
Singing has always been something important to me. I have loved music and feel that it is the one thing that can alter your mood for the better. Music allows you to connect to emotions and states of mind that can inspire you. I had to overcome the fear of putting myself out there, but what was more urgent was the desire to do it. The desire overcame the fear. I have always believed that we all have abilities to make things happen. There are always struggles. Nothing is ever easy. But once I connected to what it was I wanted to do, the making of the album fell into place in a way that made it impossible not to do.
If I hadn’t done it, I would have regretted it. I remember Oprah saying once that it isn’t hard making your dreams come true. What’s hard is figuring out what you want to do. Once you know what it is you want to do, you can take the steps to make it happen. I feel there are many beautiful dreams from beautiful souls out there waiting to be born. I hope that my story will inspire others.