BY NELSON A GARCIA
Leeza Gibbons is a well-loved talk show celebrity who has been involved, not only in hosting her own talk show but in other ventures as well. Leeza has her own makeup and jewelry line and has authored many books on supporting caregivers and coping with life’s issues. It is our pleasure to share with our readers all of the interesting things about this wonderful lady!
55+ What inspired you to pursue journalism in college?
LG When I was in grade school, there was a talent show and I was distraught because I had no talent! All of my classmates seemed to have gifts of all kinds and I couldn’t even whistle! I was pouting for days but my mother told me that I did have a talent, “you’re a stor yteller and you’re gonna go in front of that class and tell the best stor y they’ve ever heard!” Well that was it. That was the moment I became a journalist. I became a professional storyteller and when Mom got Alzheimer’s, she told me, “Now this is your story; go tell it and make it count.”
55+ ‘Entertainment Tonight’ put you in the national spotlight where we all came to love and admire you. How did this come about?
LG I had the time of my life while working on Entertainment Tonight. It allowed me to travel the world, interviewing famous and fascinating people. It was a door that opened because another one slammed shut. I was working at KCBS in NY, hosting a show that had just been cancelled. Then I heard about this brand new show called ‘ET.’ I thought to myself, “I can do that.” And so I went for it. It started out with a 13 week contract that turned into 16 years.
55+ You went on to host your own show, ‘Leeza’ for about 6 years and you were nominated for 27 Daytime Emmys and brought home 3. You also earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame during this period. How did all of this make you feel?
LG Being the host and executive producer of a show that bears your name is a huge responsibility, not to mention that I had young children (daughter Lexi was 5, Troy was 2 and Nathan was born during the run of the show.) I also had my radio business and production company, so I was BUSY! I was in constant search of the elusive balance. I booked taping schedules around breastfeeding schedules, got my nails done while being briefed and had fittings while meeting with producers……all the usual multi-tasking insanity that I rarely tolerate anymore. I wrote in my new book, ‘Take 2; Your Guide to Creating Happy Endings and New Beginnings’ that I think Balance is Bogus and looking for it just sets us up for feelings of failure. Now I don’t try to balance my time; I think about investing it instead, knowing that some days the scales will be tilted in favor of business and some will be rich in personal life. When I got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was surreal! It’s enough to make anyone a believer in dreams coming true. I’m so proud of the work that we did on the LEEZA show…winning Emmys and awards is wonderful, but more than that, I’m honored that I was allowed into the lives and homes of so many people.
55+ Your experience with your Mom having Alzheimer’s must have been a terrible time in your life. How did you cope?
LG When the people we love get sick, we often feel powerless to change it. Sometimes we can’t change the outcome of a disease; but we can choose how we react or respond. My mom and Granny were the two most important women in my life. Seeing them go through death in slow motion because of Alzheimer’s disease is a cruel reality that millions of families face every day. I wanted to pull the covers over my head and pretend it would be better tomorrow. But denial is not a strategy and ultimately naming and claiming your new normal is the most powerful first step anyone can take. It was for me. I tried to match my mother’s courage and I always gained my strength from her.
55+ You wrote ‘Take Your Oxygen First: Protecting Your Health and Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss,’ after your experience with your Mom’s illness. Was this a type of release for you?
LG I think it is always helpful to share your knowledge. I found it ver y cathartic writing about our family’s experience. I wanted to honor my mother’s desire to use our family’s journey to empower others.
55+ Tell us about the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and Leeza’s Place?
LG We created Leeza’s Place as a safe, supportive oasis for family caregivers. A place where family and friends could go to summon their strength for the long journey ahead. A place we wished we had when our family was facing our battles. At first, our focus was on caregivers for those with neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and the dementias. A few years ago we included any chronic or terminal disease with Leeza’s Care Connection. There is strength in connecting people to resources , to each other and to their inner reserves which will help them not only survive but thrive in their caregiving adventure. I have learned so much from our courageous caregivers and advocates who have taught me how much grace and goodness can come from what appears to be life’s ultimate bad hand.
55+ You are now a best-selling author with your latest book ‘Take 2: Your Guide to Creating Happy Endings and New Beginnings.’ Tell us a little about this book?
LG When my mother got sick, I got divorced, my oldest child left home for college, and I left my job. All of the ways I used to define myself had changed. I knew I had to show up for my life in a new way. I’ve done it and have never looked back. I think life is a series of holding on and letting go. The trick is to know when to do which. Sometimes we need to let go of who we were so we can make room for who we are becoming. It’s easy to fall in love with a former version of ourselves; when we were younger, or thinner, or marr ied, or had a different job. We get stuck there. Maybe it’s time to break up with yourself! That’s what I write about in the book…… How you can create that new version of yourself. Look, you can always hit the reset button and be stronger than ever.
55+ We understand that you believe in ‘The Three S’s………Sleep, Share and Speak Out.’ Could you expand on this for us?
LG I have looked at stress management and tried to fi nd simple approaches that work. This is one of them…. The Three S’s. SLEEP…. If you don’t sleep, you deplete. It’s as simple as that. We can’t cope if we are chronically r unning on empt y. It ages your body and your brain and can put you at risk for a multitude of conditions and diseases. SHARE….. Now this one is simple enough. It’s not usually the load that kills us, it’s how we carry it….and many of us (women especially) insist on tr ying to do it all alone! Asking for help is a survival tactic of successful people I have studied over time. SPEAK OUT…. Few things are more dangerous than a belief or passion that goes unspoken. If you care about something and suppress it, that festers and manifests in ways that are not so pretty. Silencing your voice makes you angr y and bitter. If there are people in your life who cause you to feel meek or small and don’t allow you to speak out, this is a red flag. Those people are toxic to your emotional, physical and spiritual health. Loyalty is a lovely thing, but not when it’s killing you. So edit these people out of your life. If you start treating yourself better in these three areas, I promise you’ll begin to see results in your life.
55+ What kind of issues are you dealing with in your current projects, ‘America Now’ and ‘My Generation?’ Where do you see them going in the future?
LG This is the perfect show for me because it’s all about empowering people; making them smarter, stronger, safer and more resourceful in their own lives. Bill Rancic, (from E!’s “Giuliana & Bill”) and I co-host this nightly syndicated show that delivers “news you can really use.” Whether it’s brat-proofing your kid or housetraining your dog; tips on identity theft or how to save at the thrift store, we’ve got you covered. Our show is produced by Raycom Media and is already in about 90% of the country. I also have a new scrapbook line with Prima, Inc. called “Wishes & Dreams” with Leeza Gibbons. It’s designed to help beginners or expert crafters honor the stor y of their lives and preser ve moments and memories that matter most.
55+ You just enjoyed your 56th birthday this year and you look fantastic! What does this number mean to you?
LG I am never again going to be younger than I am at this very moment. That feels great. Every day I celebrate all the things I know, all the things my body can do, all the pain I’ve lived through and all the stories I can tell about it. My husband is 13 years younger than I am. He doesn’t ever see the years between us. We don’t live our lives according to a chronological scale. We have all adjusted and adapted to what it looks and feels like now to age well……feeling fit and being fearless and fabulous. Having said that, I think there are few things more pitiful than someone desperately tr ying to physically hang on to a time that has passed them by with their looks. BUT, it is a crying shame when a young person of 50, 60 or 70 has decided that it’s “too late” or they are “too old” to try something new, to fall in love, to hit the re-set button and make a change. My motto is: Know Where You’re Going and Look Good When You Get There, Baby!