Entrepreneur Spotlight: Introducing Boston-Based Entrepreneur and Psychotherapist Angela Ficken

Angela Ficken, LICSW is a full-time psychotherapist in private practice. She specializes in OCD, eating disorders, and anxiety-related concerns. She started her career at McLean Hospital, which is one of the top-ranking psychiatric hospitals in the country and affiliated with Harvard University. She was the head social worker on an inpatient unit that focuses on anxiety and depression.

During her time at McLean, she trained in exposure therapy and became certified in CBT and DBT. Shortly thereafter, she worked at Harvard University as a primary therapist for undergraduate and graduate students. During her time there, she taught students CBT and DBT skills to help them manage a range of challenging emotions that young adults face daily.

Along with her work at McLean and Harvard, Angela had a small private practice for years before she decided to move full-time in 2013. From there, she focused her attention on working with young adults and entrepreneurs primarily after noticing that both groups struggled with anxiety disorders and stress-related issues due to life transitions and the uncertainty of what was coming next in their lives.

She spent years fine-tuning her practice and building her business into something more than a standard full-time private practice. She began writing for Huffington Post as an expert, which then catapulted her into writing for other major online sources which include Marriage.com where she is a verified expert, YourTango.com, ThriveGlobal.com, and has been quoted in Oprah Magazine, and Fastcompany.com, Inc.com, Forbes.com, MSN.com, Bustle.com, Popsugar.com, Buzzfeed.com, Nylon magazine, Allure.com, and Justluxe.com. She has also been a guest on Onward Nation with Stephen Woessner where she talked about OCD and intrusive thoughts, as well as on the radio in Chicago and Reno speaking about stress and anxiety.

 Global Elite Media Group recently caught up with Angela to discuss her journey in the industry and here’s what went down:

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

There are several things my team and I are working on right now. I have two brands ProgressWellness.com which is focused on my private practice, and then the WorriedtoWellBalanced.com brand, a wellness platform designed specifically for professional women with busy lives.

We focus heavily on marketing both brands through Pinterest, publicity, and organic search engine optimization.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

The best marketing strategy for my business has been Pinterest. My team has helped build ad campaigns for infographics that go directly to related articles I’ve written for the WorriedtoWellbalanced.com blog, and to Amazon where I have a CBT workbook and stress buster guide available for purchase. Pinterest has by far been the most cost-effective strategy we have used and will continue to use for the foreseeable future.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

While we’ve tested out Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, Pinterest has yielded the best results. The platform provides us with the biggest reach for sharing our message and letting people learn more about me and my brands.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

My team and I discussed goals for both Progress Wellness and Worried to Well Balanced, and the attention required for the business to grow financially. In order for each of the businesses to grow, I needed to be more present for it which meant I would need to spend fewer hours with clients.

Seeing less clients means I give up an immediate cash flow for the potential growth of both brands, and that was a tough and stressful decision, but one I needed to make.

How has your business been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Both of my businesses have seen an increase over the past two years. My private practice, which is Progress Wellness, has had more people interested in therapy because it’s much easier to show up in a virtual setting. Sessions are virtual so after we end, they are back at work without a commute. It makes it much easier than taking a ninety-minute break in your day to factor in a commute to therapy. 

Worried to Well Balanced has also done well. During the pandemic, I wrote the Covid Coping Kit which was available on Amazon. We are now working on an Everyday Coping Kit, and I am currently writing my first book which will be released late this year.

I have had more availability working from home to partake in more podcasts, be on live television and build the Worried to Well Balanced and Progress Wellness brands.

How have you adapted your business operations in response to COVID-19 and its associated impacts?

My private practice has been virtual since mid-March 2020 and will remain virtual most likely for the foreseeable future. I have also used this time to create more online stress and anxiety management products knowing that stress levels for many people were going up and would possibly have less access to support. I wanted to give people easy access to skills and strategies which is how Worried to Well Balanced came about.

What have been some of the most important lessons you have learned because of this pandemic?

The most important lesson I learned over the past two years is how precious time is. Time is our hottest commodity and being able to work from home has afforded me more time with my daughter and husband that I never would have had if it were not for this pandemic.

Before Covid, I did not have thoughts about how I wanted to spend my time, but now I do. How do I want to spend it and who gets my time? This has helped me think through my work schedule, time with loved ones, and quality solo time. It’s been the best lesson.

What do you hope to see happen in the near future for small businesses all over the world?

For the US, my hope is that small business owners, no matter where they are in the country, can get affordable health care, paid maternity and paternity leave, and other benefits bigger companies are able to give to their employees. For the world, I hope smaller businesses have more opportunities to increase their brand awareness giving people more choices.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up a new business in this pandemic?

As the world is starting to go back to “normal”, many people will want to continue online shopping as their main way of purchasing products. With that in mind, I would encourage you to have a website that is easy to use, on point with your message, and customers can easily find and purchase your products.

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Introducing Glen Bhimani, The CEO and Founder of BPS Security

Glen Bhimani is the CEO and founder of BPS Security, which is one of the fastest-growing security firms in the US. He has decades of experience in security and was discovered by Grow Disrupt as a phenomenal business powerhouse during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when he navigated the pandemic in such a way that created a 400% growth in his company. Glen’s company utilizes proprietary software and integrates technology in novel ways to protect clients and improve the security industry as a whole.

Global Elite Media group recently caught up with Glen to discuss hia journey in the industry and here’s what went down:

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

Currently, we are pursuing effective marketing strategies. We’ve got a solid sales system going and we’ve developed some of the leanest operations I’ve ever seen along with proprietary software that allows us to offer better services to our clients. In short, we’ve spent the last few years working on building our company into the best possible option for security and now we’re working on spreading the word through our marketing.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

Ironically, we didn’t have much marketing when we started. I knew nothing about marketing when we started and didn’t think it was important, so we didn’t have marketing for the first few years. Now we’ve discovered that having our website highly SEO’d have made a huge difference. We went from having maybe one call a week to sometimes five calls a day once we optimized the website, and we’ve begun to see a lot more traction in our credibility since starting our public relations campaign.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

We use a variety of platforms, but right now we primarily use LinkedIn, Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. Twitter is where we heavily interact with the public, and our other social media platforms are utilized as information, education, and entertainment disseminators where we can keep in contact with our clients and fans.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

The toughest decision has been turning away poor clients. We have had several potential clients approach us for security services in the last few months who would have been huge revenue generators for the company. But at the same time, they would have been a horrible fit for our company: the way that they run their businesses is completely contrary to the integrity we believe in and act out, and would have required us to compromise our standards. It was a painful decision to watch that potential revenue disappear, but I knew it was the best choice to make; because once you compromise once, it becomes easier and easier until you no longer have a standard you hold to.

How has your business been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Because we were extremely prepared for it, the pandemic has actually helped us grow. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was watching the way the virus affected the security industry in other countries and saw how it caused the demand for security to shoot through the roof as valuable buildings were left unattended. I knew it was more than likely that the virus would make its way to the United States, so I prepared us for it by interviewing massive quantities of guards and making huge bulk orders for equipment so that we would be prepared when it hit the United States. Because of that, we had a growth of over 400% in the second quarter of 2020 when we were the only security firm prepared for the massive spike in security demand.

Aside from that, we’ve had to institute some company policies surrounding the handling of the virus’s impact on the world, but otherwise, we haven’t seen any negative effects of the pandemic.

How have you adapted your business operations in response to COVID-19 and its associated impacts?

Our operations have changed very little. We have always worked very heavily via internet and phone communication, and security guards are regularly required to wear facial coverings so switching over completely was a non-issue.

We do believe very strongly in the rights of the individual, so our stance on COVID-19 policies has always been to let our clients govern what the guards have to do on-site. If a client doesn’t care, we leave it up to the guard’s discretion. If the client has rules, our guards are required to follow them. Additionally, we were never interested in forcing anyone’s hands so we never made the vaccines a mandatory requirement. However, we offered bonuses for fully vaccinated guards and have seen a lot of success with that method of risk management/mitigation for COVID-19.

What have been some of the most important lessons you have learned because of this pandemic?

The biggest one is that you can never just sit back and hope people don’t notice your policies. Eventually, you are going to have to make a decision about current events and where you stand, so it is best to immediately consult your core values and make a decision before you’re put in a high-stress situation. I had way too many friends who tried to just ride out the wave of chaos over COVID restrictions and they suffered a lot of backlash for it. Knowing what you stand for and making policies before you ever get into a situation is the best way to have a solid response to chaos.

This one is not so much one that I learned because of the pandemic, but one that was strongly reinforced to me because of it: prepare for the worst, expect the best. If you pay attention to the goings-on in the world and always prepare yourself in case it happens to you, you’ll rarely be taken by surprise and you’ll likely be able to discover opportunities for growth like I was.

What do you hope to see happen in the near future for small businesses all over the world?

I would love to see self-awareness rise in small businesses all over the world. Too many small businesses have an idea in their head of what their business should look like, but it doesn’t match reality and they make poor decisions based on it. Then they end up in a worse place than before. I think if small businesses were all to become far more self-aware, we would see greater growth in small business success. This would be my ideal for the world of small business owners: that all of us find the quickest and most sustainable path to growth through self-awareness.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up a new business in this pandemic?

Don’t let the pandemic intimidate you. There are so many opportunities for growth if you will just look for them. Your natural instinct is going to be to shy away from the tough decision that growing a business in a pandemic brings, which is normal: we tend to flee what we fear, and tough decisions are scary. But push through the fear and be courageous, you will find there are so many opportunities in places you never imagined if you just act in spite of your fear.

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Introducing Lindsey Carnett, The CEO & President of Marketing Maven

Lindsey Cartnett started Marketing Maven after working at a public relations firm in Los Angeles, being the Marketing Director for a Scandinavian publicly-listed biosciences company, and starting a PR division for a multi-million-dollar advertising agency in Los Angeles. After many hours on the road commuting, at 26 years old, she was fearless and started Marketing Maven at the beginning of the Recession. She wanted to bring accountability to the public relations industry the same way that direct response advertisers brought attribution to their media dollars spend. She announced that she was doing PR for DR, meaning Public Relations for Direct Response, and launched into the direct-to-consumer marketing world, which had been her work experience from the early part of her career.

Global Elite Media Group recently caught up with Lindsey to discuss her journey as an entrepreneur and here’s what went down:

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

Today, Marketing Maven looks very different than it did in 2009. When Marketing Maven was born, the service offerings included Public Relations only. We have since added social media marketing, digital advertising, influencer marketing, email marketing, event support, market research, and creative services including copywriting, graphic design, and website development. Marketing Maven is now bicoastal with its headquarters in the Greater Los Angeles area and offices in New York City.

Marketing Maven continues to grow because we practice what we preach. We contribute articles to noteworthy media outlets, we speak at conferences, we have award-winning campaigns, we announce significant agency news, and we establish strategic partnerships that allow us to advance.

We also put our money where our mouth is in terms of having the core value of a growth mindset. This means being lifelong learners- something of paramount importance in an industry that is constantly evolving. Marketing Maven allows for education time for each employee and even sponsors it, so we are investing in employee education to improve our skill sets, learn more about the industries our clients work in, and cross-train our fellow staff. Our emerging leaders are strategically placed in leadership development programs and acquire new skills that they bring back to Marketing Maven.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

Marketing Maven uses LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram to increase brand awareness. Each platform is important for current and prospective clients, new hire recruiting, and employee engagement.

What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?

Paid advertising only works if you have a solid strategy and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you’ve established to gauge success. It’s important to start with a competitive analysis, understand your target audience and know what’s going to drive them to convert into qualified prospects. It’s more than getting a lead to your website. You must have a plan to keep them, as a nurture campaign with a series of relevant emails that have a substance of value in order to ultimately have them convert into a valuable client.

What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?

Pre-pandemic, we’d walk tradeshows with clients and they would do all of the selling for us. The best advocates are your existing clients who can show others the great work you’ve done for them. Today, we are working with our clients on case studies that they are proud of that we can share with prospects to showcase the work we do. We are also submitting case studies for awards so we can highlight award-winning campaigns in our marketing efforts. It’s great for us and for our clients!

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

The best form of marketing that has worked well for Marketing Maven throughout the years is word of mouth. The majority of our business comes via referrals so LinkedIn connections, one-on-one consultations, and a very customized approach are something that has proven successful year after year. Many times, we’ll do unique direct mailers prior to trade shows to request appointments and express our interest in working with specific brands.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

The toughest decision I had to make in the last few months was about office space. It’s hard to predict the post-pandemic office environment but I think the hybrid office is here to stay, at least during the next 5 years.

What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?

When I started Marketing Maven at age 26, I thought it was bad to get a business loan, so I put all my expenses on my personal credit cards. It wasn’t until I got more education about business financing that I realized that was a big mistake. I received an excellent education about business finances through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program.

What new business would you love to start?

I have many ideas for new businesses in many industries. Some are service-based and others are product-focused.

If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

I would have invested more money in seasoned industry veterans with proven success in my industry who weren’t already from my existing network. I think that would have accelerated our growth in an even more meaningful way. The flip side is I have many great memories with people who I know, love, and trust. And to know I helped them get started and trained in their careers is very rewarding.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

The best advice I received was from my first PR boss. He told me that to be successful in this industry, I needed to have tough skin. I couldn’t let the little stuff get to me or it could eat me alive. I was to think of oil and water and just let anything negative roll off me. I still remember the pep talk to this day!

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

My biggest advice to a newbie entrepreneur setting up their first business is to ask for help. I didn’t realize the number of free resources for entrepreneurs until I was years into my business. There’s SCORE, SBDC, WEV and the list goes on! Many entrepreneurs are too proud to ask for help but I will assure you that there are many blind spots along the journey and being humble will get you a lot farther than being proud. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. And to sit with that thought and be okay with it is the first step to seeking help from someone more seasoned who has your best interest in mind.

Five Simple Steps Employees Can Take Now To Boost Their Savings

With the quieter summer holiday upon us now might be a good time to make some super simple changes that could make a lifetime of difference in retirement.

Many Australians are concerned that they won’t have enough money in their super accounts to fund their retirement.

But there are five easy steps workers can take now to boost their savings:

First, check with your fund to make sure you are getting paid all your legal super entitlements. Unpaid superannuation impacts 3 million workers a year – costing them a total of $5 billion and while most bosses do the right thing there are still some employers out there who deliberately rip workers off. And with the super guarantee rate rising to 12% it is more important to check that the full amount is being paid.

Second, consolidate your super funds into one account, finding lost or unpaid super is simple now using the Australian Tax Office tools.

Third, compare your existing super fund with others in the market to make sure it is meeting your needs. New government ‘stapling’ laws mean that workers are likely to stick with funds for longer. Alarmingly only 7% of people switched after they were told their fund failed a government performance test. Being stapled to one of those dud funds can cost a worker $230,000 at retirement.

Fourth, make sure the type of fund and level of insurance is right for you. Make sure the investment strategy matches your needs and appetite for risk – which your fund can help you with. Also be sure to check the insurance coverage is the right fit for you and your family.

Fifth, if you find some loose change or get some type of windfall consider putting it in your super fund. It is a tax-effective way to make savings and with the power of compounding interest a little invested in super now, makes a big difference in retirement. A 30-year-old on average wages that salary sacrifices $20 a week into super has $67,000 more at retirement and gets a tax saving now.

Further tips on boosting your retirement nest egg can be found on Industry Super Australia’s website

Comments attributable to Industry Super Australia chief executive Bernie Dean:

“There are five easy tips to getting your super right and most can be done from the comfort of your deck chair, beach towel or at home.”

“Check you are being properly paid super, consolidate accounts, compare funds, select the right investment mix and make small extra contributions if you can.”

“With the Super Guarantee set to rise to 12 percent it is even more important to make sure you are getting paid your full legal entitlement and that the fund is working for you.” 

This article was sourced from a media release sent by Medianet

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Find Out More About The CEO’s And Co-Founders Of Mad Rabbit

Oliver Zak and Selom Agbitor are two 23-year-old CEOs and co-founders of the brand, Mad Rabbit – they provide superior natural and unprocessed products to help improve the healing process for ultimate Tattoo aftercare.

Founding the company in 2019, the Columbus, Ohio natives, who were introduced in their college dorm, decided to put their business-savvy minds together to build a brand and dominate the tattoo aftercare market.

According to the duo, “we’re inspired by the tattoo artists that wake up every day to create beautiful art on their client’s bodies – the ones that create art to reflect personality and milestones. They put in the effort to create your art, so we are putting in the effort to make sure your tattoo maintains its natural vibrancy. Our mission is to provide the best performing line of tattoo aftercare products that meet all of your tattoo needs. We hope to deliver on our promise to you and keep you excited about all that our aftercare has to offer.”

Global Elite Media Group recently caught up with Oliver and Selom to discuss their journey as entrepreneurs and here’s what went down:

What were your top three motivations for starting your business?

– Identified an underserved market with misinformed consumers.
– Looking to grow our business acumen.
– Opportunity to innovate.

What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business?

– Willingness and drive to always be learning and out-innovating.
– Self-discipline.
– Ability to adapt to market trends and customer feedback.

When did your entrepreneurial flair first reveal itself?

Selom: Barely seeing my parents due to them always being busy with their nursing jobs. There would be nights where they’d be gone on the same night, and it would just be my brothers and me at home. Seeing that made me want to make sure I could create a life where my schedule was not dictated by someone else’s needs.

Oliver: I grew up watching my father transition himself from a surgeon to an entrepreneur after an unfortunate life-altering event. I was inspired early on by his drive to succeed no matter the odds and found myself pitching in entrepreneurship competitions in high school.

As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you?

– The ability to create and sell products that are truly revolutionizing the tattoo care industry and educating the market about how to best take care of their tattoos.

– Creating jobs and growing our Mad Rabbit family is one of the most exciting parts of our jobs as co-founders. The fact that we’ve been able to increase hires during the pandemic is a really exciting accomplishment for us.

– Facing new challenges – being an entrepreneur is not as easy and glamorous as it looks. A lot of things can cause disinterest. The new challenges bring the ability to learn and grow.

In one word, describe your life as an entrepreneur and explain why.

Evolving — Selom and I wear a lot of different hats throughout the week. Fundraisers, c-suite operators, ad copywriters, product line developers, etc. We are always adapting and evolving taking lessons learned forward with every misstep we take.

What are the three biggest challenges you have faced growing the business and how did you overcome them?

– Inventory: Being in stock at the beginning was very challenging. We now try to predict how much inventory we will need and order ahead of time.

– Keeping up with market trends: Conditions are always changing, and this can be good or bad for a business. For example, when COVID-19 hit, a lot of companies decided to stop or decrease spend, we decided to more than double our ad spend, which was a big risk, but ended up paying off because it catapulted us into being the top brand in the tattoo aftercare space.

– Time management: Time is money, and we have to be smart as to how much time we are dedicating towards certain things. To help overcome, we have begun to use a calendar more frequently, to help break down the tasks and goals we want to achieve.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?

– Using a range of influencers from micro to mega, on platforms like Instagram and Youtube.

– Social Media Marketing: Using Pinterest to drive traffic, and using Facebook and Instagram to drive sales.

– Word of Mouth: Our customers spreading the word of our product on their own accord.

– Email Marketing: Brings back past customers and engaging new customers.

As you grew the business, what have been some of the most important leadership lessons you have learned?

Not only is it important to hire quality employees, but it’s possibly more important to make sure those employees are in the right roles. With a startup.. roles are fluid, walls are non-existent, and cross-functionality is expected. The downside is that nobody is good at everything and it is our job to place our people in the best positions to succeed.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

The best advice we have ever given is to go out and start learning about e-commerce. We’ve noticed a huge drop-off in the excitement in our friends as they go from “I have an idea,” to understanding the learning curve ahead of them. You can expect over 100+ hours of e-commerce learning before you launch your first product — but it will be the best 100 hours you’ve ever spent.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

Don’t try to do it alone. Get yourself a partner(s) that has a different set of skills than you do. If you’re the marketing guy, find a finance guy who can help you understand your business and your budget. Starting a business solo drastically increases your chances of failure in the early days of startups.

Celebrity Spotlight: Find Out More About Singer-Songwriter Skip Marley

By Allison Kugel

Singer-songwriter Skip Marley, born to the late Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella Marley and David Minto, was thrown into the deep end of the Marley music legacy when, at thirteen, his Uncle Stephen Marley brought him on stage to sing his grandfather’s iconic hit, One Love in front of thousands of fans. From that moment on, music wasn’t an option, but a providential imperative for the now twenty-five-year-old singer-songwriter. The Marley family dynasty and its mission of spreading love and social change through meaningful lyrics and reggae-infused beats has crowned its new prince in Skip Marley.

By 2017 Skip was collaborating with multi-award-winning and multiplatinum-selling pop artist, Katy Perry, when she featured him on her hit single Chained to the Rhythm, bringing him mainstream attention. The year 2020 led to another high-profile collaboration when Marley featured Grammy-nominated R&B artist H.E.R. on the remix of his single, Slow Down.

In spring 2020, Slow Down, with over 185 million global streams, became the quickest and biggest-streaming song in Marley family history, and elevated Skip to over 417 million total global artist streams, also Making Marley the first Jamaican-born artist to reach the #1 spot on the Billboard Adult R&B chart. At the same time, Skip became the first Jamaican-born artist inside the Top 15 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart in a decade and a half.

Collaborations with family, including his Uncle Damian Marley, on the single That’s Not True deliver Bob Marley’s time-tested message, while Make Me Feel featuring rap icon Rick Ross and singer Ari Lennox introduce Skip to an audience that embraces a fusion of reggae, R&B and rap sounds.

Skip Marley is cultivating an eclectic catalog of music that speaks to a generation that refuses to be put in a box, but instead embraces the diversity of expression. The year 2022 shows no signs of slowing down, with Skip’s latest single Vibe featuring Jamaican deejay Popcaan, and Marley’s first U.S. headlining twenty city tour, Change.

Allison Kugel: You were born in Jamaica. When did you move to the states?

Skip Marley: I think officially when I was five years old, but we were always back and forth.

Allison Kugel: What three pivotal life events have made you the person you are today?

Skip Marley: I would say the first is when I was born (laughs). The second was in 2005, at my grandfather’s celebration concert in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. That was the first time I had seen a million or more people come out and celebrate my grandfather’s music and the message. It’s the reason we do what we do, so even at that young age it touched me, and I began to have more of an understanding…

Allison Kugel: Of who he was…

Skip Marley: Right, for the first time. And the third one was probably when my uncle Stephen [Marley] brought me on stage because that really gave me the push that I needed in music. That was my first shot, and I was about thirteen years old. He brought me up there to sing, and I sang One Love. That was the first time I really sang. They threw me in the water, so music chose me.

Allison Kugel: When you were growing up, was there ever a thought of maybe I’ll do something other than music? Or was it always a feeling that music was your destiny? 

Skip Marley: Although I was always involved in music from when I was very young – piano lessons, guitar lessons, and things of that nature – I was always more into sports. But it was really that moment when my Uncle Stephen brought me onto the stage that I thought, “Yeah, this music thing chose me. I think it’s for me.”

Allison Kugel: Wow. What does it feel like to carry the last name Marley? Does it feel like a tremendous responsibility?

Skip Marley: It’s an honor and it’s a responsibility because I have a duty. I feel like I have a duty as a next-generation Marley to keep on [going with] this legacy that we built; keep moving forward and taking it into the world. So, I do feel like I have a responsibility, but it’s not a dark pressure. People always ask me that, but what we do is like a light, the words of a speaker. It does a lot for people, and for me. If my song affects one person, it has done its job to me.

Allison Kugel: Yes, I know exactly what you mean. You’ve certainly reached a great number of people with your music. Your song Slow Down (featuring H.E.R.) has been streamed more than 185 million times, globally. I’m sure you know that.

Skip Marley: I don’t really check those things too much, but wow!

Allison Kugel: Well, I checked it and it was the biggest streaming song in Marley family history.

Skip Marley: I was aware of that part.

Allison Kugel: What did your uncles and your mom (Cedella Marley) say to you when they heard that?

Skip Marley: They were proud for me, but it’s not for me. It is always “we.” I’m representing all of them, so for me, it’s a family victory and it’s not just about me.

Allison Kugel: It’s interesting you say that. Obviously, I knew who your grandfather, Bob Marley, was. But it wasn’t until a friend of mine said to me, “You know, I really admire the Marleys, because they understand that the collective is more important than one person. They understand what it is to serve something greater than each individual.” 

Skip Marley: Right, right. We all strive together. We might not all sing, but we have our own lanes for us to go on, yeah mon. Music wasn’t forced on me. Music is something you have to choose. You have to pursue that for yourself. It wasn’t like I was told, “You’re going to make music.” My life was school, school, school growing up.

Allison Kugel: Were you an “A” student?

Skip Marley: No (laugh). I was in school and would always think about music. As I got to junior high and then high school, I was always just thinking about music, and even after school, I would have three or four hours of music. I had a drive to learn as much as I could.

Allison Kugel: I’ve heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master anything you want to do. 

Skip Marley: Yes. If you love something and have a passion for something, and if you are driven towards something, whatever it is, you are not going to give up when you love it. I have had countless hours where my mom would have to say, “Yo, that is enough [practice] for now.” I have such great examples of hard work, discipline, and dedication. From a very young age, it was instilled in me, that kind of work ethic. It’s taken me to where I am, and it is going to take me further and further.

Allison Kugel: You are very close with your mom Cedella, who is your grandparents, Bob and Rita Marley’s daughter, of course. What is the best advice she has ever given you?

Skip Marley: Work harder than everyone. Nothing is going to be given to you. Perfect practice makes perfect. You have to believe and get up and work for it. Nothing is given. She was a living example of that, and so every day was an example for me.

Allison Kugel: Is your Uncle Ziggy [Marley] the head of your grandfather’s estate?

Skip Marley: Yes. I think my grandmother, my mother, and my Uncle Ziggy all work together.

Allison Kugel: Do you guys have family meetings where you decide how you are going to license and distribute the Bob Marley brand, his music, and Bob Marley merchandise?

Skip Marley: Yes, for sure. Always family meetings. If it’s not in person, it’s Zoom [meetings].

Allison Kugel: Tell me how Covid, the whole pandemic, and everything that has gone on, how did it transform you as a person?

Skip Marley: I would say it made me focus more and made me more disciplined. You had more time to really think things out. It gave me time to work on myself and work on my music; to work on my mind and things like that. It was really a fitness thing. I worked out every day, six days a week, so that has been my thing from Covid.

Allison Kugel: One of my favorite songs of yours is That’s Not True, featuring your Uncle Damian Marley. How did that family musical collaboration come together?

Skip Marley: I had a couple of songs and brought them to my uncle, thinking I would love to have him on a song. He went through a couple of them and liked That’s Not True, so we took it from there and just built the song.

Allison Kugel: It’s very conscious and reminiscent of your grandfather, Bob Marley’s, social messaging in the lyrics. Who wrote it?

Skip Marley: Me, my Uncle D, and a guy called CyHi da Prynce.

Allison Kugel: Do you like putting social messages in your music?

Skip Marley: For sure, because the music is a message. Music is a vehicle and a tool. Music is used to unify people and spread messages of upliftment. For me, personally, I think we should use music as a benefit and try spreading messages of love, equality, and freedom. All of these things, for me, are important. I try to always make sure the music speaks.

Allison Kugel: Where do you place material things, objects, and material wealth in your hierarchy of priorities?

Skip Marley: That is not my priority. My family is my main priority, my first priority. For me, possessions are not. I can have nothing as long as my family has something. That is how I am, personally.

Allison Kugel: I feel the same way. Probably why that particular song, That’s Not True, really speaks to me.

Skip Marley: Wow! I love that.

Allison Kugel: I don’t understand people’s obsession with handbags, shoes, clothes, jewelry, and all of that stuff.

Skip Marley: Yes, those things are only for a while. It’s momentary. It doesn’t really have use.

But to each their own. I’m not going to tell people how to live, or whatever, but if you want more of that kind of living…

Allison Kugel: Your new song Vibe is definitely a vibe (laugh)!  I was listening to it on rotation over and over, and it is such a great chill, party, dance, feel-good song.

Skip Marley: That was the intention. I was doing that song during the whole Covid time and people just want to free up, feel good, be with each other, and dance. All of those things were missing. The human experience, the connection, and the good vibes. So, “(He begins to sing) She wanna catch a vibe, she wanna spend some time, into the light…”  It was just a light party kind of a song. Then Popcaan, who is featured on the song, was the perfect [collaborator].

Allison Kugel: My favorite line in the song is, “Face it, she don’t want notin’ basic.”  (Laugh) That really speaks to my soul!

Skip Marley: (Laughs) Well, that is reality. As time goes on, she realized she don’t want notin’ [basic]….  and finds something worth her time.

Allison Kugel: The first time I ever heard you on the radio was in the Katy Perry song Chained to the Rhythm in which you are featured.  How did that collaboration happen?

Skip Marley: It’s a funny story. At the time, around 2016 or 2017, that whole time I was actually working with the whole MXM camp, which was Max Martin and all those guys, top producers. He was playing my song, Lions in the studio when Katy [Perry] walked in and said, “Who is that?”  He said, “Oh, that’s Skip Marley.” She said, “I need him on my next single.” So he calls me and says, “Katy Perry needs you in her next single.” I said, “Katy Perry?!” He said, “Yeah, boom.”  I gave him a verse and she came in when I was finishing. I met her for the first time, and everything took off from there; Grammys, Brits, I Heart Radio. It was all a beautiful journey and I’m glad Katy reached out to me and I got to spread the message to such a big platform and audience.

Allison Kugel: When your grandfather, Bob Marley, was alive, he was so passionate about the island of Jamaica. But there came a point when it was dangerous for him to stay there, for political reasons. There were attempts on his life and he had to relocate to London, where he lived until the end of his life.  Are there still safety issues for your family in Jamaica, or is that something that is long in the past?

Skip Marley: That is in the past, but [we have] security for sure, always. That is our home and a place that we love, and we take care of. That is also part of my responsibility as the next generation.

Allison Kugel: And your grandfather’s home at 56 Hope Road is now a museum.

Skip Marley: Yes, that is a museum now.  It’s his home and a museum.  If you haven’t gone, I would suggest it heavily when you are in Jamaica, to visit Hope Road.

Allison Kugel: My son is half Jamaican, so I want to take him there.

Skip Marley: Really?

Allison Kugel:  Yes.

Skip Marley: Nice, well, it would be perfect for him then.

Allison Kugel: What do you want people to know about the island of Jamaica?

Skip Marley: It’s a very spiritual place with loving people. A very beautiful place. Nowhere else feels like Jamaica. The people speak for it and the music speaks for it. You can see how the world gravitates towards it because there is an energy there. It’s almost like a spirit that just moves you. That is what I would say about Jamaica when my grandma (Rita Marley) was there. It’s like a connection for me, personally.

Allison Kugel: Are you close with your grandmother?

Skip Marley: Yeah mon, very close with my grandmother. From her, I learned that when all odds are against you, don’t give up. When the whole world turns against you, my grandmother never gave up. My grandmother built Tuff Gong to where it is now, and my grandfather’s [legacy] to where it is now, and her humanitarian efforts as well. She’s also a doctor, Doctor Alpharita Marley, so I have a lot to aspire to and a lot to look up to. She took on the world. And my mother, they are both my examples in that sense, of the work ethic and discipline, and selflessness. It is rare nowadays, but selflessness is very important.

Allison Kugel: And how have they shaped how you view and relate to woman?

Skip Marley: Everything. And the way I carry myself.

Allison Kugel: This year you are embarking on your first solo headlining tour. Why 2022, and how do you feel about it?

Skip Marley: I feel great, and I feel excited. Why 2022? Why not (laugh)?  I was already supposed to tour two years ago, so now it has been a long time coming.  I’m looking forward to taking the message to the people and the music on the road.

Allison Kugel: Do you have anybody opening for you?

Skip Marley: I’m still figuring that out.

Allison Kugel: So, there is a job opening for somebody out there (laugh).

Skip Marley: Somebody, yes (laugh).

Allison Kugel: Your accent and your energy… I feel like my blood pressure is lowering as I sit with you and speak to you.

Skip Marley: That’s a good thing. Love is the key.

Allison Kugel: Yes, I can’t be a typical high-strung American around you. 

Skip Marley: You just have to be what you are.

Allison Kugel: The tour is called Change. Tell me about that.

Skip Marley: We have to make a change in this world so we can see it’s not impossible. You’re free to do whatever you want and free to be whoever you want to be. The whole concept of the album Change, and the name of the tour, is because people are always waiting on things to change, when people can be the change they want to see.

Allison Kugel: Are you a spiritual guy? 

Skip Marley: For sure, I think I’m spiritual, naturally. I feel like it has a lot to do with my family, even when I was growing up. I used to go study my grandfather a lot, so that opened up my mind from a young age and was so beneficial. You can’t have one without the other. You have mental good, spiritual good, physical good. and it goes hand in hand. You need balance. It’s like Yin and Yang.

Allison Kugel: Do you subscribe to any religion?

Skip Marley: No, it’s a way of life, of living. God is within and God is all around us. Where there is light, there is hope. Especially in these times, now, there is a lot of everybody against everybody and that’s not what we need or what we want. All it’s doing is causing more headache, suffering, and all of these things. How about we make a change as the people?  How about we decide, because the people change things. It is not some guy telling you he is going to do something for you. It’s really the people.

Allison Kugel: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Skip Marley: I see myself making more music, touring the world, keep doing what I’m doing.  Only God knows, so I don’t really think about that too much. I really focus on now.

Allison Kugel: When you are writing lyrics, do you ever feel like you have to hold back in terms of certain social or political messages? Or do you feel unrestrained, like you can just write whatever you feel that you want to write and sing about?

Skip Marley: Whatever inspiration comes to me; I always try to write about. Not saying there haven’t been times I’ve had to go back and adjust things, but I try to feel what the music is saying. I don’t really try to sit down and think too much.  I kind of feel it, because music talks to you if you listen. It can talk to you, so you can kind of hear what the music wants, in a sense.

Allison Kugel: What is your creative process?

Skip Marley: It depends. Since I play music too, I produce my own stuff as well as write, so for me, a lot of time it starts with me on guitar, piano, bass, or wherever. Or I am humming something, or I hear words in my head, or if I have an idea and start it from there and slowly build with a couple of chords and progressions. I slowly just build until I have a chorus, hook, or verse. Whatever it is first, and I just follow it. I just go with the feeling and follow the flow. I don’t really try to overthink it too much.

Allison Kugel: Where do you stand on substances?  Do you use marijuana as a creative conduit, or are you more of a sober person?

Skip Marley: Yes, herb opens up inspirations, opens up higher heights, for sure. Herb is beneficial.  I’m not saying you have to use it, but I don’t see why not. You don’t have to smoke it. You can eat it, drink it, boil it, apply it as lotion. So, it benefits. I don’t see why not and I’m glad to see America is slowly taking those steps forward in terms of the plant, and the plant can save the place, you know? The more the merrier (laugh).

Allison Kugel: (Laugh) Tell me about when you are on tour.  How is the show going to go?  Do you have a band you are going to work with?

Skip Marley: Yes, I will have a five or six-piece band. It’s like an hour to an hour and a half set.  My current songs and some new songs, some unheard songs; and my grandfather’s songs, of course. People will really enjoy themselves, have a good time, and catch a good vibe. That is what it’s all about. I want them moving, people feeling something. Music is food.  You have to be careful what you ingest nowadays.

Allison Kugel: You effortlessly drop gems. I can tell you’re a thinker and I love that.  

Skip Marley: Well, thank you.

Allison Kugel: It is so true.  You have to watch what you listen to.  What your eyes see, what your ears hear, and what you take in.  

Skip Marley: With everything. Subconsciously, you have to be aware of things you are doing. Trust me, it’s a temple, you know.

Allison Kugel: Since you brought up food, what kind of diet do you adhere to? 

Skip Marley: I’ll tell you what, I’ve been pescatarian for a while now. I just eat fruits, veggies, and fish. Sometimes I’ll eat a piece of chicken, but most times I eat fish, veggies, and fruit.  Clean eating, natural eating. I don’t really drink sugary drinks or anything like that. I make my own drinks, I make my own juices, and make my own food.

Allison Kugel: Any sweet tooth?

Skip Marley: Sometimes when I smoke, I get a little sweet tooth. Nothing really too much. I would eat something sweet, but I’m not a guy that craves something sweet.

Allison Kugel: Are you a guy who believes in monogamy and marriage? What is your take on that?

Skip Marley: Well, to tell you the truth I think marriage is still there if it’s really real.  It doesn’t have to be real nowadays, because everything is so wishy-washy, but if it’s really real then marriage is great and it’s a Godly thing. But as of right now, me personally, I don’t need to know about marriage right now (laugh). I mean, marriage is good. Marriage is a Godly thing.  It’s supposed to be a Godly connection, so it speaks for itself. What do you think?

Allison Kugel: Life is all about risks, right? You are never going to be 100% sure about anything you do in life. I think if I really felt that deep of a connection, now at this point in my life, I would do it. No risk, no reward. It’s like having kids. You are never ready to have kids. You’re never ready to go on tour, as you know. You’re never ready to move. You’re never ready to do anything, but that is the beauty of life. Sometimes you have to close your eyes and jump. 

Skip Marley: Sometimes you just have to stay ready (laugh).

Allison Kugel: I mean, I won’t be jumping out of an airplane anytime soon, but I would get married (laugh).

Skip Marley: That was a great explanation, one that lines up very much with what I’m saying. If it’s real, then why not? Me right now, I don’t know about marriage.

Allison Kugel: You’re still young and you’re doing awesome. All of you, the Marleys are such a talented family, and all of the music is incredible, but I feel like your music really feels… like a second coming of your grandfather. His spirit is in you.

Skip Marley: I understand that, and I appreciate that, thank you.

Allison Kugel: Your music is really beautiful, it’s diverse, and some of it makes you feel good. Some of it makes you think, and that is a beautiful thing.

Skip Marley: I’m glad that you appreciate it.

Allison Kugel: Yes, very much so, and that is why I wanted to talk to you. If you could have a conversation with your grandfather and ask him anything, what would you like to ask him?

Skip Marley: I would ask him which books to read.

Allison Kugel: Really? Okay.

Skip Marley: I have a lot of questions, but I would love to hear what kinds of books to read, too.

Allison Kugel: Do you know what some of his favorite books were when he was alive?

Skip Marley: I mean, The Bible. Some books about His Imperial Majesty (referring to Haile Selassie, the founder of Rastafarianism), The Wise Mind of Emperor Haile Selassie, and things like that. [He] definitely read a lot of African books. There are a lot of things I would love to ask him, but that is the first thing that came to my mind.

Allison Kugel: Do you believe in time travel?

Skip Marley: No, not right now. What do you think?  You think time travel is real? I’m not going to put you down. What do you think?

Allison Kugel: Well, thank you (laughs). I have this weird obsession with the concept of time travel.  I don’t know why, but I feel like sometimes time is kind of speeding up or slowing down. Sometimes things that happened twenty years ago feels like they happened yesterday, and something that happened last week feels like it was a year ago, and I think it’s strange.

Skip Marley: That is true. I can relate to that. Time is like a circle.

Allison Kugel: I don’t think time is what we think it is.

Skip Marley: I know what you mean. Hey listen, we only know what we know right now, so who knows?

Allison Kugel: I believe in things that we can’t perceive with our five senses.

Skip Marley: You believe in things we cannot see. You believe in things where people would call you crazy or label you for this and that. We should be free, and we should be what we want to be.

Allison Kugel: I feel like you can believe in your imagination more than you can believe in what you see with your eyes.  Does that make sense?  

Skip Marley: That is true, because it’s like the power of belief.

Allison Kugel: Yes, the power of belief. 

Skip Marley: Jump in the fire and never get burned. It’s like you walk by fate. You can only walk by what is inside.

Allison Kugel: Exactly. I ask this of everybody, and I know that you are young so I don’t know how you would contemplate this, but what do you think you came into this life as Skip Marley to learn, and what do you think you came here to teach?

Skip Marley: Well, what I came here to learn is purpose. Once you find your purpose, like for me, personally, it is to spread love. These messages are just within me, from the connection of my grandfather to my mother to me. I feel there is a responsibility, and these words and messages need to be spoken and things need to be said. I would say I’m God’s soldier, a music warrior. I’ve come to fight with music. I’ve come to take on the world with music and come shape the world with music. That is my thing, music, the consciousness, and the collective community of mankind; and restoring that kind of connection.

Skip Marley’s U.S. tour, Changes hits 23 cities from March 20th through May 27th. For information and tickets visit skipmarley.com/tour. Follow on Instagram @skipmarley and stream on Spotify and iTunes.

Watch and listen to the extended interview with Skip Marley on the Allison Interviews podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and on YouTube.

Celebrity Spotlight: Find Out More About Actor And Stand-Up Comedian, Scott “Carrot Top” Thompson

Scott “Carrot Top” Thompson has been making audiences around the world laugh for more than three decades. Since 2005, fans have flocked to his Las Vegas headlining residency at Luxor Hotel and Casino to catch comedy’s King of Props induce side-splitting laughter with his current take on pop culture, music, and headlines of the day in a continually evolving show.

In this insightful and funny sit-down interview with Carrot Top, the veteran comedian gets candid about his upbringing, the reasons he doesn’t ever want marriage or kids, his long time, mega-successful Las Vegas residency, his thoughts on Adele’s Las Vegas residency, his close friendship with the late Louie Anderson, the late Bob Saget, and his aversion to using alcohol or drugs as a conduit for creativity.

Allison Kugel: You were born Scott Thompson. How did you get the name “Carrot Top?” Who gave you the name?

Carrot Top: Unfortunately, I had something to do with that. It’s a blessing and a curse. Why I did it? I don’t know. I thought the name Scott Thompson was kind of boring. Well, not kind of, it is. Being a stage performer, I always thought I should have something fun. Queen Latifah was taken, and so I thought, “Gosh, I need something better.” I went up to the stage one night and said, “Bring me up as Carrot Top.” They said, “Carrot Top? Are you sure?” I said, “Yes, I’m pretty sure.” And that was it. I was “Carrot Top” forever.

Allison Kugel: What are the three pivotal events in your life that shaped the human being you are today?

Carrot Top: One, of course, is having become a comic, and there was a lot of luck in a sense. I was a kid when I wanted to do comedy and it was like, “How do you become a comedian?” There are no comedy schools. Clown school maybe, but there was no stand-up comedy school. I would really honestly stand in the mirror and just pretend and tell jokes, and then I had this idea because I kept listening to this comedy club that was down in West Palm Beach, Florida, every day, they had a radio thing where they announced that you could come to their open mic nights. I went down there one night and watched and got the urge the following week to get involved and do it. I put together what I thought was an act, and I showed up. The woman said, “You were so funny, but the stuff you’re doing is all about [your] college.” She said, “Everyone that comes to this club is not going to be in college. They are going to have jobs, and there might be 40-year-olds, there might be 60-year-olds. It’s going to be a collection of different age groups and occupations, so your stuff has to be a little bit more general.” I went back to the drawing board and that’s where all these props kind of came into play. I started thinking of generalized props that kind of got me into doing what I do. That’s a pivotal thing as far as trying to find that personality of who I was going to be on stage.

Allison Kugel: Interesting how that evolved.

Carrot Top: I came from an interesting life. My dad worked at the space center. It wasn’t a family of entertainment-driven people. I’m definitely the oddball, black sheep of the family. My brother went to the Air Force Academy and became an F16 fighter jet pilot. My dad worked at NASA and built spaceships and trained astronauts, and I’m gluing kickstands onto cowboy boots. It just didn’t make any sense.

Allison Kugel: What was that conversation like, when you told your dad, “Listen, I’m not following in your footsteps. I’m going to go into comedy.”

Carrot Top: It was a very awkward conversation. I’m sure everyone has had it once before with their parents. Because it was so different, I wasn’t like, “Hey I’m going to go into some part of engineering.” It was, “I’m going to be a stand-up comedian.” He had no idea what the heck that meant. I had gone off to college and I bought this little truck, and my dad says, “How did you pay for that truck?” I said, “Well I’m in school and have been doing these odd jobs.” He said, “Well, that’s good.” I had two jobs. I was delivering bread and I was a currier driving across the country dropping off credit reports to banks. That is when I listened to the radio every day. I listened to that comedy thing on the radio every day. They had these open mic nights that I would get involved in and you could win top prizes like twenty dollars… or a kazoo.

Allison Kugel: (Laugh)

Carrot Top: I must have won like 30 of those things. I would go places and say, “Can I sell this kazoo? I need gas money?” I went home one time and my dad said, “Hey, how are things going?” I said, “Good. I’m paying for my truck. I don’t have a lot of extra cash, but I have a little bit of extra cash. I’ve been doing stand-up comedy things and I get twenty dollars every time I win, so it’s like twenty dollars a week that I usually can count on because I usually win this [comedy] event.” He was like, “Wait, stop. Comedy? Stand-up comedy? What are you doing? Are you setting up a comedy show?” I said, “No, I’m in the show. I’m actually the comic.” He said, “But you’re not funny.” And I said, “I know. It’s the weirdest thing.” My dad eventually came and saw what I did, and he had no idea. He said, “What part of you did I miss?” I’m thinking, “A big chunk dad. A big chunk.”

Allison Kugel: (Laugh) Are you an introvert in real life, or is it what you see on stage is what you get?

Carrot Top: No, I’m very shy and inverted. Believe it or not, I’m very shy. People every day would say, “You’re so soft-spoken and shy. Then you go on stage and you’re kind of crazy.” I’m very private. I’m not that kind of a weird introvert sitting in a corner by himself, but I usually go out to lunch by myself.

Allison Kugel: I do that too.

Carrot Top: I converse with people there, and I’m like Norm from Cheers. I know everyone at the bar. As soon as I walk in, it’s not like I’m this lonely guy sitting there. Sometimes people join me. Sometimes they don’t. I’m definitely a loner. I come home after the show and I’m a loner. I just watch TV by myself, write jokes, think of jokes, come up with ideas, and then I go to the show, do the show, and come back home. It’s like Groundhogs Day.

Allison Kugel: You’ve been doing your residency at The Luxor for sixteen years now. What is it about Las Vegas that you love?

Carrot Top: It came around by accident, believe it or not. I used to do a couple of weeks at a time at the MGM Grand, seventeen years ago. It was like a mini residence. I would go there for two weeks, and then I would go on the road and do shows. Then I would come back and do two weeks and then go back out on the road again. They had brought to my attention that David Copperfield wanted to take over that showroom and make me disappear, and so I was thinking, Okay, I guess I’ll go back on the road.” Then my manager says, “There is a room open at the Luxor right across the street.” We walked over one night and looked at it. I was then told, “This will be full-time. You’ll be here every night.” I wasn’t ready to be a resident headliner. I was reluctant. I said, “Let’s do a year and see how it goes.” It was horrible for that first year. I was living in a hotel. It was just not a good time. Things weren’t working. Shows were tough and I was losing my mind, and thinking I have to get out of this gig. Then one day it was really weird, I just started having fun and it started to click. It was kind of cool because I wasn’t having to travel. I agreed to do another two years, making it a three-year deal, and at that point, we really got into a groove. It wouldn’t make any sense for me not to be in Vegas. Then I agreed to a five-year deal.” Then it became a ten-year deal, and now it’s been sixteen years and counting. You’re in one place and people come to you, as opposed to you going to them. I’ve gotten used to the room. We just did this brand-new bit about Adele. I could go on stage and knock it out and not have to be on the road traveling with it. Then I can come home and hang out with my dog, and I’m in bed by 11 pm watching TV.

Allison Kugel: What are your thoughts on the Adele residency debacle? Do you think it really had to do with COVID? Do you think it had to do with some of the technical things that she wanted for the show? What goes into putting together a Las Vegas residency of that magnitude, that maybe people don’t understand?

Carrot Top: I think all three of those things are relevant and valid points. Putting on a show, even my little show, it takes a lot, and also, I’ve been lucky because I’ve been doing mine for sixteen years, so we kind of got it down. We know what we are doing. We have production. We have lights, smoke, and fog, but it’s a lot of work to put on a production, especially one of that magnitude and with her name, the room. There’s a lot of pressure to put on a nice show. I really don’t know what happened because they haven’t given anybody any answers. They kind of said it’s something about COVID and she came out and said she wasn’t ready. That’s the joke of my show. I make fun of that. I re-show the clip when she says, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t ready.” And I said, “Ready? Who the hell is ready? I haven’t been ready in thirty-six years. We do this every night not ready. There is no such thing.”

Allison Kugel: (Laugh) Exactly. I wasn’t ready today to talk to you. Who’s ready?

Carrot Top: Right. That’s what life’s about. Don’t book a show bitch. That’s what I do in my show, you know, and then I do three Adele songs that aren’t Adele songs. They are Lionel Richie singing Hello, and it’s kind of funny. That’s my take on it. But if it was COVID-related, then you probably should stick to that, you know? Just say, “Half of our crew has COVID, and we couldn’t rehearse, so we weren’t ready in that regard.” That would have been better than saying, “I wasn’t ready.” I’m surprised her people didn’t say to her, “Don’t say we’re not ready.”

Allison Kugel: Seriously. And you make a good point. In life, you are never going to be 100% ready for anything.

Carrot Top: Like, look at my hair. My hair is not ready.

Allison Kugel: Yeah, I wasn’t going to say anything (laugh)…

Allison Kugel: Are you one of those people who is going to eventually retire and have a retirement, or are you going to die on stage?

Carrot Top: I might die during this interview.

Allison Kugel: Please don’t.

Carrot Top: It would be good for you. But seriously, I haven’t figured it out. I never think about that. The older I get, the better I feel and the more I feel like I know what I’m doing. I’ve never been in more of a comfort zone than I am now in my career. I used to get very nervous, just overly nervous about the whole show and worried about if one joke didn’t get a laugh or one thing didn’t go right, I would lose my mind. Now it’s loose, it’s free, and it’s taken years to get to that. That is where I’m at now, and I don’t ever foresee not doing this. I can’t imagine what I would do. So, I don’t understand. Retire from what? I think when most people do retire, they are over. I’ve never seen anyone that has retired who has gone on and done something amazing. They kind of just get old, retire and get boring. They just disappear.

Allison Kugel: The concept of retirement started with the Industrial Revolution where you put in your 40 years to get job security and a pension, benefits, and all that, and then you were able to go and actually live your life. But if you are doing your life’s work, then it’s fluid, right?

Carrot Top: True. I kind of felt that way during COVID when it first happened. Halfway through that year, I was starting to lose my mind. When I’m not in Vegas, I live in Florida in a lovely house on the lake, and it’s beautiful. But I’m on my boat and we are barbequing, and it’s fun, and then a month later I’d say, “What’s going on tomorrow?” Oh, more boating and more barbequing. No! I need to go be funny. I can crack up my friends on the boat, but it wasn’t the same. I was missing that element of being on stage and doing the show.

Allison Kugel: Yes, that sucks. I can see that. You strike me as a Peter Pan kind of a guy, kind of like you live life as if you are forever thirty years old. Do you feel like that?

Carrot Top: Yes. I very much need to grow up. My friends would tell me that, but I’m lucky in that regard because I am a child. I consider myself a young child. What I do for a living is one thing, but I like being youthful. I like hanging out with young people, but I have a lot of structure in my life. A lot of entertainers and comics are reckless, like rock stars. I’m very regimented. I never go out. I don’t think I’ve been to a club or a party in twenty years. After this, I will take my dog to lunch and I’ll go to the gym, and I’ll go to the show.

Allison Kugel: Do you ever want to get married or have kids?

Carrot Top: I don’t think so. It’s hard enough just taking care of me. I can’t imagine taking care of a wife and kids. I’m enough.

Allison Kugel: The late Bob Saget said such beautiful things about you and your career before his passing. Did you just know him in passing, or were you friends?

Carrot Top: I knew him in a very small capacity, which was wild that he was so friendly towards me. I knew he was a nice man. He knew a lot of my friends, more so than me. But every time my friends would bring my name up to him, they would always say, “Bob loves you, just so you know.” It’s kind of a thing with comics. You want a lot of comics to like you and sometimes they don’t like other comics. Whether it’s a jealous thing or they just don’t think you’re funny. Bob was always one of those guys that really loved and respected me, and I know this, again, through second and third parties. I think the one time we actually spoke at an event he said, “Oh man, you were funny! I said, “You’re funny.” And he said, “No really, you were great.” But we didn’t know each other that well. Then when he passed, and I got all these people sending me clips of him with his nice words about me it was very sweet. I loved that everything I read about Bob, even after his passing, was about what a good guy he was. I hope when I die that is what people say about me. “Scott, you know, God he was such a nice guy.” That’s the reason you get into this business. I think back about the very first time I wanted to be a comedian; it was because I wanted people to like me. I wanted people to laugh and say, “You’re fun to hang out with. You’re funny.” We’re all comics in the same group. We’re all trying to make people laugh and heal. All of us, as successful comics, should be overly happy and nice to people. They’ve been successful at a job that is so hard to get successful in.

Allison Kugel: You mentioned healing people with laughter. Do you think there is a spiritual aspect to what you do as a comedian?

Carrot Top: Absolutely. First of all, I’m very spiritual and I think that there is no way there can’t be a correlation between smiling, laughing, feeling good, and healing. That is why they send clowns into children’s hospitals, and even dogs. They bring in things to make the kids that are sick smile. These kids are laughing, and they are not thinking about their cancer. I have had thousands and thousands of encounters and letters in my career that would shock you. Handwritten letters from families, from people of all ages that have written me letters that say, “You have no idea how you have helped my father live through his last days. We watched your movie. He was so depressed. For his last trip he wanted to go see you in Las Vegas. He was sick, and they got him on a plane to come and see you.” It’s almost a weight on your back. You have this [responsibility] and you have to keep that in mind. Like every time you go on stage, you think to yourself that there is someone out there that needs you, literally.

Allison Kugel: Was there ever a time when people’s criticism of your comedy got to you? And are you a self-critical person, or do you let yourself off the hook pretty easily?

Carrot Top: Mostly, my whole career, it hurt my feelings until recently. It’s human nature that you want everyone to love you, and it’s kind of like a cliché, but you can’t please everybody, and not everybody is going to love you, dude. They’re just not. There are going to be some people out there that are going to say, “Carrot Top? Nope, not good. Not a fan.” The other day I saw the Rolling Stones show. It was unreal, and my friend said, “Oh really? You couldn’t pay me to go to that.” I’m thinking, “What?!” It is what it is. People have always, from day one since I got into this business, they always made fun of me, I think just the red hair, the freckles, the name, the props, just everything. It was a whole smorgasbord of just not liking me. A lot of it was comics that were just jealous because I had gotten some success. I was on The Tonight Show, I was on Live! With Regis & Kelly, I did a movie, so they were kind of like, “What the heck? I don’t get it.”

Allison Kugel: Because it wasn’t cerebral humor, like a Jerry Seinfeld where you’re telling stories and making observations…

Carrot Top: Right. It was kind of low-brow comedy, which is funny because when I make these props, they are kind of clever. I’ve had challenges with comics before, where I’ve said, “You get a week to come up with a clever prop.” It would hurt me, hurt me, and hurt me, and one day a bell just went off and I just thought, “consider the source.” When I would go to school and get picked on, I would come home all upset. My mom would ask, “What’s wrong?” I said, “They picked on me at school.” She would ask who it was and what the circumstances were and she would say, “Consider the source. He’s picking on you because he’s not happy with himself and because you’re skinny and he is not.” I now use that philosophy in my business world. I would go to the clubs and all the comics loved my act and respected it. George Carlin came over and said he liked my act. Chris Rock came over, Jay Leno, Bill Maher. All the comics that have made it and are successful are fans of mine. I would see Garry Shandling and he would say, “You have some funny stuff.” Then I would go to the club and there would be some guy from Oklahoma doing two minutes in a set that would sit there and talk behind my back.

Allison Kugel: Do you ever pray, and if so, who or what do you pray to?

Carrot Top: I am a big prayer. A lot of times I pray for general things like my family, my health, my career. In Florida I would go on this run and when I run there’s a big, huge church I run to. It’s the halfway point. It’s a beautiful big church and I always do a little prayer. I pray for my God-daughter, my family, my health, my mom’s health, my dog’s health. Pretty much just kind of like my friends and my family and sometimes even greater things like with COVID. I would say, “Can you make this all go back to normal life?” Then sometimes, more specifically, my friend Louie Anderson just passed away. Louie Anderson was like my brother. We had a very close relationship, and [his death] came very suddenly. I went to the hospital, and I was holding his hand the last day he was there, and it was rough.

Allison Kugel: Did you ever talk to him about his health, or taking better care of himself?

Carrot Top: Back in the day for him, it was always a joke. He would say, “Yeah, I’m heavy.” He would look at me and I weigh 140 pounds, and he would say, “I can’t be skinny like you.” He tried all the time to lose weight. I will say one thing, every time we went out, he always said, “I’ll have chicken.” And he would say he was going to go run or walk, and he had bad knees. He was always in bad health, but he was always aware of it and always trying to do better. I would see him, and he would say, “I lost 10 pounds!” He wanted people to know it… and then cancer. He couldn’t figure out a way to beat cancer.

Allison Kugel: What is the greatest advice you ever received?

Carrot Top: It might not be one thing that one person has told me. It’s kind of me being on this planet and giving me my own advice. I know to be a good soul. I know to be kind to people. I know to work hard. I know to not get into fights. I know to not start fights or gossip about people. I know to not steal jokes. I never do a New Year’s resolution because I don’t do anything that I would need to do differently. Although there was one piece of advice given to me by Buddy Hackett. I was in an airport, and I said, “Oh my God, it’s Buddy Hackett! Wow.” I walked over to him and said, “Buddy. Wow! I’m a comic and just wanted to say that you’re brilliant.” When I was a young comic, he was on The Tonight Show all the time. He said, “I’m going to give you some advice.” I said, “Okay what is the advice?” He wrote on a napkin, “The key to the treasure is the treasure.”

Allison Kugel: That’s a brain twister.

Carrot Top: So, I get on the plane and I’m staring at it for five or ten minutes, trying to break it down. Like, what the hell? Was he drunk? I think a friend of mine explained it to me. The key to life is life. Live for today. The key to happiness is happiness. Very simple and yet very true. The key to everything is for us living today and the key to success and the key to love, finding love is finding love.

Allison Kugel: It is being it, and embodying it, and being in the moment.

Carrot Top: Yes. I thought that was great. Pretty cool advice and made you kind of have to think a little bit.

Allison Kugel: Have you ever felt that you had to use substances, like weed or whatever, to come up with material?

Carrot Top: No, completely sober. I don’t smoke marijuana. I never have. I don’t think I have been drunk since high school, literally. I drink enough to get drunk. I have friends, like Gene Simmons per se, he’s never had a drop of booze, zero. I’m not that pure. I definitely have a little Crown on the rocks right before a show. We do a ceremonial shot of Crown, then I do the show. Then I’ll come home and watch TV with a glass of red wine. A couple lines of coke and…. Just kidding. I’m definitely not the drug guy. I’m actually more of a nerd than anything else.

Allison Kugel: Yes, I’m seeing that but in a good way. Have you ever had to confront a comic for either stealing a joke or stealing a part of your act?

Carrot Top: Other comics will get like that sometimes. There was one incident with Dennis Miller, where he had a thing against me. It was a story that was misconstrued, and he thought this happened and this happened, and he was always mad at me. When I talked to him in person, he realized he was wrong and now we are best friends. Gallagher had a little spat with me one time. He said, “Why did you steal my act?” I said, “Which act? What are you talking about?” We ended up talking it through and I didn’t steal his act. He just had this feeling that what I did was touching his type of thing. Was similar and I explained to him “We’re not even close.” He said, “Okay, well never mind.”

Allison Kugel: What do you think you came into this life as Scott Thompson aka “Carrot Top” to learn, and what do you think you came here to teach?

Carrot Top: Wow, good questions! How to get along with other humans and learn how to be a good guy. Literally, where you’re always about love and listening to other people, hearing their problems, and becoming a human being on this planet. It’s like if every day you go to this bar and you see the same people in that bar, and everyone gets along because they’re all in that bar and they are friends. Well, take that outside of the bar and do that everywhere you go. Everywhere you go, when you walk into a store or walk into a mall, be just as nice to everyone in that mall, same as you would be at the bar with those people that you know and see every day. That kind of thing. There is no reason why we can’t have that.

Allison Kugel: And what do you think you came here to teach?

Carrot top: I’m here to teach well probably the same. You want to learn how to become a good person and you want to teach people how to do that as well. Being a performer it’s kind of weird. I always feel like I wanted to be a teacher when I was in school. I had a chalkboard, I used to pretend I was writing things on the chalkboard, and I had my little bell. Then I got into comedy. In a sense, you are almost teaching every night. You have a new audience, a new classroom of people, and you’re teaching them. How lucky am I in my job? I go to work every night and tell jokes.

Tickets for Carrot Top’s Show at the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas are available at luxor.mgmresorts.com and at carrottop.com. Follow on Instagram @carrottoplive.

Watch and listen to the extended interview with Carrot Top on the Allison Interviews podcast at Apple Podcasts and on YouTube.


Celebrity Spotlight: Find Out More About Academy Award-Winning Actress Geena Davis

By Allison Kugel

Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis has spent decades breaking down barriers for women with powerfully resonating on-screen portrayals that have transcended entertainment and inspired seismic cultural shifts in how women are viewed in art and real life.

Davis made her feature film debut starring opposite Dustin Hoffman in the classic 1982 classic comedy, Tootsie, and she went on to star in such films including The Fly, Beetlejuice, The Accidental Tourist, Thelma & Louise, Hero, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Stuart Little, and A League of Their Own.

From the quirky and offbeat dog trainer, Muriel Pritchett in Lawrence Kasdan’s The Accidental Tourist, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, to her Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-nominated performance as Thelma in Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise alongside Susan Sarandon, to leading the cast of Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own opposite Tom Hanks; Geena Davis has portrayed characters who claim their own narrative and make us reimagine womanhood. Geena Davis’s roles have remained evergreen in their ability to reflect the human condition, brilliantly, long after their release.

In 2019 Davis was honored with a second Oscar trophy, this time the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, in recognition of her work over the decades to achieve gender parity onscreen in film and television.

Ahead of her time, Davis also earned the 2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Dramatic Series for her portrayal of the first female President of the United States in the ABC television series Commander in Chief.

Geena Davis is the archetype fearless female who gets it done. Yet, to speak with her is to witness a soft-spoken and centered human being who draws you into her space with carefully cultivated wisdom that doesn’t need to shout to be heard. A world-class athlete (at one time the nation’s 13th-ranked archer) and a member of Mensa, most recently, she is recognized for her tireless advocacy of women and girls nearly as much as for her acting accomplishments. Davis is the Founder and Chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which engages film and television creators to dramatically increase the percentage of female characters — and reduce gender stereotyping — in media made for children 11 and under.

Allison Kugel: What are the three major life events that shaped the human being you are today?

Geena Davis: The first one would be having the parents that I did. Both of them were great, but particularly, my dad was very encouraging in a subtle way. Whenever he was doing something, like working on the car, shingling the roof, or whatever, it was he who would have me come along with him just as a matter of course. I grew up feeling like there wasn’t anything I wasn’t supposed to do, and also feeling very capable, which I’ve taken into my life. Another one would be getting to work with Susan Sarandon. She had the most impact on any person in my life, because I’d never really spent time with a woman who moves through the world the way she does. It sounds crazy to be 33 years old at the time and first experiencing a woman like that, but I really had previously never met a woman who didn’t preface everything with, “Well, I don’t know what you will think, and this is probably a stupid idea, but…”

Allison Kugel: Really? Interesting…

Geena Davis: Yes. She just lived her life and said, “This is what I think.” To have three months of exposure to that was amazing. And obviously, the third biggest impact on my life was becoming a mother.

Allison Kugel: Same here! I want to ask you, regarding Susan Sarandon, when you watched her move with such confidence, and I’m assuming this was on the Thelma & Louise set, how was she received by male co-stars, producers, writers, the film’s director (Ridley Scott)?

Geena Davis: As completely normal, which was also stunning to me. The way I was raised was to be extremely polite, to a fault. I was sort of trained not to ask for things and not to be any trouble to anybody, but she obviously wasn’t (laughs), so she just said things the way she wanted to say them, like, “Let’s cut this line,” or “Let’s do it this way,” or “This is what I would like to do.”  There wasn’t any reaction whatsoever from anybody of, like, “Wow!,” partly because she didn’t present herself as combative. She was always just like, “This is what I want. This is what I like. This is what I think.”

Allison Kugel: I love it, and I love the fact that you said your dad didn’t place any limitations on you.  Do you have brothers?

Geena Davis: I do. I have an older brother and he, of course, did all of that stuff as well with my dad, but I did it too! My dad didn’t seem to have the impression that I should just be learning stuff that my mom would teach me. It was very natural for him to include me in everything.

Allison Kugel: That is pretty awesome. To unpack your third major life event, motherhood, did you feel instantly reborn when you had your first child, or was it more of a subtle shift for you?

Geena Davis: I don’t know that I would say I felt reborn, but it certainly changes your life dramatically. I had my daughter first and very clearly started seeing the world through her eyes, and it has just been magical.

Allison Kugel: I want to talk about the Oscars and your Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for The Accidental Tourist. I think so many actors, and especially actresses, see an Oscar win as their ticket to being treated as an equal in the film industry. Like, if you get that gold statue, you are now an equal and you are going to be treated with a certain level of reverence and respect, and you are going to get substantial roles and you can exhale and just relax. Was that your experience, where you felt like, “Okay, I’ve arrived.”? Or did you still feel like you had more to prove?

Geena Davis: Well, I didn’t ever think, “This is my magic ticket to…”

Allison Kugel: Equality (laugh)?

Geena Davis: Doing everything I want to do, or like now I was at the top of the A-list, or anything like that. I didn’t think of it that way, but I did unexpectedly feel a tremendous feeling of having accomplished something. I thought, “Well, I got that out of the way. I never have to wonder if I’m going to get one of these things.”

Allison Kugel: They didn’t have the term “bucket list” at the time, but I hear you.

Geena Davis: Absolutely. I thought, “Well, I got this out of the way early. That’s cool.”

Allison Kugel: Very cool! I know, philosophically and humanly speaking, we can all fall into this mindset of, “When I get this, I’ll be happy.” Whether it’s getting married, winning an award, making a certain amount of money, becoming a parent; whatever it is for people. Are you one of those people that sees life that way, or do you believe in the journey as opposed to the destination?

Geena Davis: I’m more of a journeyperson. I haven’t, in my life, been clamoring for the next thing that will make me fulfilled. I get a lot of fulfillment from what I do and just living my life.  Speaking of winning the Oscar, does it change how people see you and everything? I had two directors, after I won the Oscar, who I had a rocky start with, because they assumed that I was going to think I was all that, and they wanted to make sure that I didn’t feel like I was all that. Without having met me or having spent any time with me or anything, they just assumed I was going to be like, “Well, now no one is going to tell me what to do.”

Allison Kugel: You kind of had to go out of your way to let people know you were down to earth.

Geena Davis: I just am.

Allison Kugel: I don’t think a male actor would have had to prove he is still nice and cooperative, and down to earth.

Geena Davis: Yes, and I think maybe because I was a woman, that the directors felt that way. And maybe it was even unconscious bias that they would maybe do it to a woman and not a man. But they didn’t want a woman to potentially cause them any problems. They wanted to make sure I knew my place, and maybe you’re right, it probably wouldn’t happen to a man.

Allison Kugel: We already talked about working with Susan Sarandon, but generally speaking, what did doing the film Thelma & Louise, and its subsequent success, do for you, both as an actor and as a woman?

Geena Davis: I had read the script for Thelma & Louise after it had already been cast. I thought, “Oh my God! This is the best script I’ve ever read. I wish I could be in it.” I ended up having a year-long pursuit for the role, because Ridley Scott was only the producer at that time, and different directors and different pairings of ‘Thelmas’ and ‘Louises’ were coming together and falling apart, and so for a year my agent called at least once a week to say, “Just so you know, Geena is still available. She’s still interested.”  Then when [Ridley Scott] decided he was going to direct it, he immediately said, “Yes. Okay sure, I’ll meet with her,” and I convinced him somehow or another (laugh).

Allison Kugel: Way to play hard to get Geena (laugh).

Geena Davis: (Laughs)

Allison Kugel: Let’s talk about male and female pairings in film. Normally, it’s very common to have a 50-year-old or even a 60-year-old leading man opposite a 30-year-old leading lady. That’s just kind of been the norm, although there are a few exceptions, and that is what our eyes are used to seeing. I know that kind of sucks, but how do you feel when an older woman is cast opposite a younger man?  Do you see that as a win for more mature actresses? 

Geena Davis: Let’s see… in Thelma & Louise they cast Brad Pitt to be my sort of…. love interest, and it wasn’t actually because he was younger. They didn’t purposely try to cast someone younger than me. He just gave the best audition and he was the best choice. But I thought that was pretty cool.  He’s only, like, seven years younger than me, but I thought that was quite cool that they did that.

Allison Kugel: We are all a bit societally conditioned to look at it sideways if the man and woman on screen are exactly the same age. If you put a leading man who is 50 with a leading woman who is 50 or even 45,  I feel like that would almost look odd to us, the audience, because we are so brainwashed.

Geena Davis: It’s very strange and so prevalent. A certain male actor that was making a movie said that I was too old to be his romantic interest, and I was 20 years younger than him. You know what it is? Women peak in their 20s and 30s, and men peak in their 40s and 50s as far as actors go. So the male stars of the movies want to appear to be younger than they are, or they want to appeal to younger people, so they always want a co-star who is really young. I guess it’s to make them seem whatever, but that is why that happens and that is why women don’t get cast very much after 40 and 50. It is because they are felt to be too old to be a romantic interest.

Allison Kugel: Tell me what inspired you to create the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media. Was it one thing or many things?

Geena Davis: It was one very specific thing. I had my awareness raised about how women are represented in Hollywood in Thelma & Louise, and seeing the reaction. It was so extreme if people recognized us on the street, or wherever, and it made me realize that we really give woman so few opportunities to feel like this after watching a movie, to identify with the female character or characters and live vicariously through them. I decided I was going to pay attention to this and try to choose roles that make women feel good. So I had a very heightened awareness of all of this, and then when my daughter was two, I sat down and watched pre-school shows and G-rated videos with her, and from the first thing I watched I immediately noticed there were far more male characters than female characters in a pre-school show. I thought, “Wait a minute, this is the 21st Century. How could we be showing kids an imbalanced world?”  I saw it everywhere, in movies, on TV. I didn’t intend at that moment to launch an institute about it, but I found that no one else in Hollywood seemed to recognize what I saw. I talked to lots and lots of creators who said, “No, no, no. That’s not a problem anymore. It’s been fixed.” That’s when I decided I’m going to gather the data because I think I’m really right here. I’m going to get the data and I’m going to go directly to the creators of children’s content and share it with them privately because I know this is unconscious bias at this point. So that is what we did, and that is what we have continued to do.

Allison Kugel: Did you think back in 1991, after the success of Thelma & Louise and the overwhelmingly positive feedback you received, that the barn door was blown open and you would see many more female driven stories now?  I remember when the movie Bridesmaids came out several years ago, and it was that same feeling once again of “this is it!” Universal didn’t even want to make Bridesmaids at first. It wasn’t until the success of the movie that they thought, “okay, maybe we’ll make another one.” You know what I mean? 

Geena Davis: Oh gosh, yes. What happened was, when it really took off and struck a nerve, the press, as one united body said, “This will change everything.” That was all the headlines. “Now everything is going to change. So many more movies starring women and blah, blah, blah…”  I thought, “Hot dog! I’m going to sit here and wait for this to happen.” Then my very next movie was A League of Their Own, and a similar thing happened where all the press said, “This changes everything. Now we are going to see women in sports movies.”  It was a very big hit. I’m thinking “Okay. Here is me being able to change the world!” (Laugh) or being part of movies that will change everything, and it profoundly did not happen. Then I started to notice every four years or so a movie would come out where they would say, “This one is going to change everything.” Like First Wives Club was very big where they said, “This changes everything. Now we’re going to see movies starring 50-year-old women left and right.”

Allison Kugel: And then… it didn’t happen (laugh).

Geena Davis: It didn’t happen, but I remember reading about when Bridesmaids came out, and the thought before it ever came out was if this fails it will destroy movies for women (laugh).

Allison Kugel: Damn, no pressure.

Geena Davis: No pressure. And thankfully it was a giant hit, but that still didn’t fix anything at all. People in Hollywood are still resistant to the idea, even though they know my institute found in 2017 or 2018 that movies starring women made more money than movies starring men. It’s been blockbuster after blockbuster starring women, and it’s about time to get with the program.

Allison Kugel: Yes, seriously. Tell me how you are getting your organization’s data into the right hands?  You’re gathering what I would call evidence-based information, so it’s not just anecdotal evidence. You’re getting science backed, evidence-based information and data. How are you going about getting that into the right hands?

Geena Davis: My thoughts from the beginning was since I’m in the industry I can get meetings with all the people I want to share this with so that I didn’t have to try to influence the public to rise up and demand this.  I could go in a very friendly way privately with my colleagues and share information with them.  The universal reaction when people first hear it is, they are stunned. Their jaws are on the ground, and they cannot believe it, especially the people that make kids’ entertainment. They can’t believe they weren’t doing right by girls. The combination of seeing the data proved that there is a big problem, and then realizing they want to do right by kids has been the magic formula in creating change, which is very exciting.

Allison Kugel: When I was watching a lot of children’s programming with my son, who is now 12, I definitely saw an interesting progression in content. Everything from the way girls are presented to the way interracial families are presented, to LGBTQ+ characters on television.  There is so much stuff that is being worked into the content to make a new generation of kids really open to the concept of equality and inclusiveness.

Geena Davis: There definitely is. In fact, we have met one of our goals which was to get more female leads in entertainment made for children and families. We have achieved that. In fact, we have achieved one of our goals, which was to get more female lead characters in children’s and family television programming and movies. Just last year we did reach that milestone of being 50/50 in male female in both of those medias so yeah, we are very thrilled about that.  We have other goals but that is a big change because in the first study we did way back in the beginning female characters where…. Female leads were 11 percent at that time and now it is 50 percent.

Allison Kugel: You told me you were raised to be extremely polite, but yet there is an interesting dichotomy there. You were raised with what I call “the disease of politeness” that girls in my generation and your generation, we were kind of infused with it. But at the same time you were also raised by your father who was quite inclusive with a lot of things that were traditionally male. In what ways are you raising your daughter similarly to how you were raised, and in what ways you are raising her differently from how you were raised?

Geena Davis: Well, it’s all been quite different. She was just born the way she is, which is very self-confident and poised. I tell her, “I will never be as poised as you are.” I wanted to be her popular culture literacy educator. That is why I started the whole institute, was because I realized when I first saw that first television program I thought, “Oh no. Kids are being raised from minute one to accept that men and boys are more important than woman and girls.  I can’t prevent her from growing up knowing that woman are thought of as second class citizens, but I’ll do everything I can to change that for her.” With her and with my boys, I did the same thing. I always watched with them. whatever my boys were watching, like you did with your son, I could say, “Did you know that there is only one girl in that whole movie?  Did you notice that?” Or, “Do you think girls can do what those boys are doing?” Or, “Why do you think she is wearing that if she is going to go rescue somebody?  Don’t you think that’s strange?” They became very savvy. Then they started noticing things before I did. So that was great.

Allison Kugel: What is really cool is that they were actually interested in the questions you were asking and receptive to it. I would imagine that you raised your boys to be very conscious young men in terms of how to treat a woman and how to view women.  Can you tell me a little about that?

Geena Davis: It’s not just for women that we need to show more women on screen. My goal is to have fictitious worlds reflect reality, which is ½ female and incredibly diverse; which is 40 percent people of color, 20 percent with different abilities. Forty percent are heavy body types, and the representation of people with different gender identities and all of that, it barely registers.

Allison Kugel: What is so interesting is that society kind of goes in a loop, right?  You’ve got reality, then you have art, then you have people looking at art and then incorporating that into their reality. It’s like a circle. Think about how many people are influenced by television, film, music, and then that influences how they show up in our culture, which then shapes our “reality.”

Geena Davis: Oh, absolutely. You think these are just harmless pieces of entertainment, but they cause tremendous change that we have measured. FOX asked us to do a study on the Dana Scully character from X-Files to find out what impact she had on women going into STEM careers. We found that 58 percent of woman who are currently in STEM jobs named that character, specifically, as their inspiration to go into a STEM career. That’s just one character on one TV show. It’s really incredible.

Allison Kugel: Mind blowing.

Geena Davis: In 2012, girls’ participation in archery shot up 100 percent and it was because Brave and The Hunger Games both came out in the summer of 2012, and girls left the theater and bought a bow.

Allison Kugel: Let’s talk about the recent study, Women Over 50, The Right to Be Seen on Screen. Can you tell me a little bit about that study and how that is being presented to the entertainment industry, and what you hope to accomplish with it?.

Geena Davis: I hope to accomplish getting more jobs (laugh). You can tell that there are very few parts for women over 50, but we found that characters over 50 are 20 percent of characters on screen, so that is pretty low.  How many people are over 50? But women are only a quarter of those characters. Woman over 50 are five percent of characters on screen in film and television. And those commonly cast as supporting characters and minor roles are less likely to be developed with an interest in characteristics or certainly to be romantic interests. We are using our same philosophy of working directly with the film studios and television networks to get them this information share it with them, and encourage them to make some changes. So I think this will be very impactful.

Allison Kugel: What has been the feedback?

Geena Davis: Great feedback, and again, people were surprised. They did not know it was unconscious bias, so we are looking to see some important change happen.

Learn more about the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and get involved at seejane.org. Follow on Instagram @geenadavisorg.

Listen to the extended interview with Geena Davis on the Allison Interviews Podcast at Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Follow Allison Kugel on Instagram @theallisonkugel and at allisoninterviews.com.

Celebrity Spotlight: Find Out More About Damon Dash

By Allison Kugel

In this eclectic interview, Damon Dash and fiancée Raquel “Rocky” Horn, take me behind the scenes and into their day-to-day life as parents to their one year old son, Dusko, their plant-based lifestyle, and even their son’s guitar lessons (yes, he takes guitar lessons.).

They share candid and unfiltered information about their intimate life, their long term engagement, how they’re raising their son, and why Damon chose to participate in the newly released documentary film, They’re Trying to Kill Us, which examines chronic illness and early deaths among underserved communities of color.

In the second half of the interview, Dame gets real about living with PTSD, his love of weed, and his thoughts on the recent Astroworld Music Festival tragedy that claimed ten lives and injured hundreds of other concertgoers.

Allison Kugel: Your son, Dusko, is the cutest!

Dame Dash:  Thank you. I appreciate that. He has brought so much joy to us, and my whole family.

Allison Kugel: Both of you have been on a plant-based journey for a long time. Who led the way on that?   

Dame Dash: We do everything together. There is nothing we do not do together.

Allison Kugel:  But who was it that said, “Let’s eat plant based?”

Dame Dash: Rocky wanted to go plant based for a while, but I ate very simple things at the time; cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, not very healthy. I was always disgusted by myself for that, so there would be times when she first met me, that I was a vegetarian.

Raquel “Rocky” Horn: He never ate anything that looked like an animal, so there was never a meat on a bone situation. Never anything that looked or reminded him of an animal, so no seafood, ever.

Allison Kugel: It had to be in a nugget.  It couldn’t look like a chicken, right (laughs)?

Dame Dash: It was me not exactly addressing the truth, so after a while she was starting to transition off of meat and she was cooking a certain way to transition me. She was sneaking it in, because she is sneaky. We watched the documentary, What the Health, and that day, after I saw the puss and the doo doo, and the cancer, and the diabetes; logically, I could not ever go back to even taking a bite [of meat] once in a while. I remember a week or two, after I tried to take a bite at the farmer’s market…

Raquel “Rocky” Horn: No, we went to the Jamaican place and there was oxtail, and he just said, “I’m going to have to order a sample to see it.” He then went and threw up in the bathroom.

Dame Dash: I just couldn’t do it.

Raquel “Rocky” Horn: We started this network called the Dash Diabetes Network. Damon is a Type 1 diabetic, and in my research of learning about diabetes I just started seeing that it was all going back to dairy and meat products. The information was everywhere, and all of a sudden What the Health came out and just confirmed it.

Dame Dash: We had just gotten a bunch of bacon, and I used to love bacon.

Raquel “Rocky” Horn: We got rid of everything and changed our lives in 24 hours. From then on, we have had so many of our friends watch that film, and for us it was just logical.”

Dame Dash: A plate of food and a just a little bit of animal feces is on it, then I’m not going to touch that food. Or, like, if a rat runs over it, in the food industry there is a certain amount of tolerance for rat hair and tolerance for fecal matter in the food. I just can’t do i

Allison Kugel: Damon, you are a Type 1 diabetic as is my father, and that is genetic. But many people are living with Type 2 Diabetes or are what is called “pre-diabetic” due to poor lifestyle choices. What I found interesting in What the Health was when Doctor Neil Barnard said that Type 2 Diabetes is actually created when there is so much fat being stored in our cells that the sugar (glucose) which is our body’s primary source of fuel, can’t find its way into the cells, so the sugar builds up in the blood and that is Type 2 Diabetes.

Dame Dash: And what happens is your pancreas produces a certain amount of insulin to bring that sugar down, so if you have too much of it, then your pancreas is not producing enough insulin to cover all those simple carbs in your body and break that down. That is from eating meat and dairy.

Allison Kugel: When I spoke with you a few years back about your film, Honor Up, you spoke about losing your mother when you were fifteen.  Did she pass away due to chronic health issues?

Dame Dash: Yes, from asthma.

Allison Kugel: When you look back on that now, do you think diet or lifestyle and environment may have played a role in her condition?

Dame Dash: I don’t know, because she was actually pretty healthy. My mom went through different phases with her health, but she always had asthma and a lot of that is hereditary. That is why I have [Type 1] Diabetes. My mom was always conscience of our food, but I did eat some bullshit with her. I do think, along with the anxiety and stress of being a Black woman and alone may have added to it. But I remember her saying to me, “Don’t ever let yourself say you have it, or that it is yours (regarding inheriting his mother’s asthma). It’s not yours.” And I was too much of an athletic guy to be wheezing.

Allison Kugel: How did you get involved with this new film, They’re Trying to Kill Us (produced and directed by Keegan Kuhn, who also worked on What the Health)?

Raquel “Rocky” Horn: One of our friends is good friends with Bad Ass Vegan [John Lewis].

Dame Dash: A friend of a friend, John Salley, knew them.

Raquel “Rocky” Horn: We had a friend who is really good friends with Bad Ass Vegan, and made the interview happen with Damon. From there, we actually got to interview both of them for my show, Health Is Wealth. So we flipped the cameras on them.

Allison Kugel: Damon, what are your thoughts on some of the conclusions drawn in the film, They’re Trying to Kill Us, regarding slavery and how a lot of foods and lifestyle choices that Black Americans consider to be part of their culture, are actually detrimental to their health and throwbacks to slavery? What are your thoughts on that?

Dame Dash: I think it is strategic. It’s brilliant that the enemy used that as warfare, and how long it has affected us. Now that we are aware of it, we should just break the program. [Corporations and politicians] know how to keep us in a place of distress and keep us unhealthy and arguing with each other and struggling. Keep us hating each other. They know how to keep making us eat to escape the life we hate. Look at what many of us eat while we come out of church, while we are worshiping their God, in the name Jesus, which is a European interpretation of the name Joshua (or Yeshua). So they give us this food to eat after they have given us that religion, and that is the reason most people are depressed. Unless we are happy with being unhappy, why would we not change it? The only way to change something is to do it different, and you have to make a change to be a change. So, what is the change going to be? If you want your circumstances different, you have to do it different. Are you going to eat different?  Think different? Love different? Are you going to love yourself different? It has to be different to have a different outcome.

Allison Kugel: The film also talks about urban areas devoid of healthy grocery stores, called “food deserts.” Neighborhoods filled with bodegas, liquor stores, fast food, but no healthy options. Was that your experience growing up?

Dame Dash: There was always a grocery store. But that little quick fix was also always readily available.

Raquel “Rocky” Horn: You mainly ate at the bodegas.

Dame Dash: Yes, I ate at the bodegas. That is my point and what I’m saying. I would go to the bodegas instead of going to the grocery store, because instead of spending ten dollars, I would spend one dollar. I would end up buying fast food or potato chips and buying what I could get for that dollar.  It was those short fixes and it was unhealthy, but would get you through the day. That is still every day, all day, for a lot of people’s whole life.

Allison Kugel: Tell me if you guys agree with this, because I’ve been eating a lot more plant-based foods lately, and I find I am not as hungry, overall? You’re eating less calories, but you are eating more nutritionally dense food, and you’re not hungry as much. Is that true for you?

Dame Dash:  It depends. We are in the house a lot and we are next to a kitchen, so we snack a lot! But while I’m working, I also smoke weed all day, so I’m high.

Raquel “Rocky” Horn: I do believe that the good food you eat makes your body feel better, and it also makes you feel energized. You have proper energy rather than empty calories from bad food.

Dame Dash: Good food and sex is important.

Allison Kugel: I agree (laugh), but food and sex don’t go together. You have to be on an empty stomach.

Raquel “Rocky” Horn: Like, a full Thanksgiving belly is…

Allison Kugel: Right. Who wants to have sex on Thanksgiving? You can’t.

Dame Dash: But every other day, there has to be sex. We have sex in the morning now. It’s been a little challenging having a baby, only because he sleeps with us and he’s definitely monopolized the top part of her body, and he’s a hater.  He can sense me touching her. He doesn’t want another brother there. He says, “Mommy” all day. He’s the boss, so I do have a boss now. He’s my little CEO, and he’s better dressed than me. The whole house is him. I have to sing to him. We make songs together.  He plays the piano and the guitar.  He’s about to have a guitar lesson.  He’s stuck on The Beatles and he is very musical because I turned him into a rock star. And he’s pretty much been eating plant based too.

Raquel “Rocky” Horn: I wrote a book for him, that just came out, called, Dusko Goes to Space.

Allison Kugel:  Oh, that is so cute.

Raquel “Rocky” Horn:  Yeah, it’s about him and his best friend, Governor, traveling, and they are about two. His whole [nursery] is space themed, like his book, with all of the planets.

Allison Kugel: Do you want Dusko to go into the music industry?

Raquel “Rocky” Horn: I don’t mind it. Whatever he wants to do, I just want him to be creative.

Allison:  Are you and Dame going to get married?

Raquel “Rocky” Horn:  At some point, after Covid ends. I want to show you the engagement ring I gave Damon. I gave Damon an engagement ring. I had been wanting to give him that.  Damon’s birthstone is emerald, and I love emeralds.  I’ve always loved emeralds since I was a little kid, so it was a really special thing. I thought, “Why do girls always get the engagement ring?  So I got him one, too.

Allison Kugel: Dame, what did you think of Rocky giving you an engagement ring?

Dame Dash:  I loved it. It was beautiful.

Allison Kugel: That didn’t throw you off?

Dame Dash: We’re pretty strategic about what we do, so it was just the timing of it all. She had already accepted my engagement. We’ve asked each other to marry each other so many times and my tax problems were in the way, so we are almost there. We have a baby, and we are so in love that we don’t even know when or what, but it just goes without saying.  It just represents how fly our relationship is.

Allison Kugel:  Weird question: Do you consider weed part of a healthy lifestyle?

Dame Dash: I think it’s different strokes for different folks.  I’m a stoner. I really believe weed is healthy, cannabis. I’m part Anunnaki, and I know the Anunnaki’s brought weed to this planet.

Allison Kugel: Can you function and think clearly when you are not smoking?

Dame Dash: Yes, but I have more patience when I’m smoking. I’m easily triggered, because I think the rest of the world is dumb. They’re slow, and I just don’t have time for it. Not many people are cut from the same cloth as me. I can’t judge people, because they are not as evolved. I just have to stay away from them.

Allison Kugel: Would you say you are outside the “matrix?”

Dame Dash: I think I’m more aware.  I don’t know why, but I’ve had a heightened level of awareness of self-worth since the day I was born. I know I come from a royal lineage, and I just know I’m meant to be a king and treated like one, and a real king fights for his love. What comes with being a king is not just reaping the fruits, it’s fighting for it.

Allison Kugel: What are your thoughts on what happened with the Astroworld Music Festival tragedy? Do you think that would have happened in the music business of twenty years ago?

Dame Dash: It did happen twenty years ago. It happened with Puff at the CCNY Charity  basketball game put on by Puff and Heavy D in 1991, and I was there. Seven people died, they got smothered. I saw that happen. I actually lost friends in situations like that. I don’t know the homeboy (Travis Scott), and I can’t blame anybody because I don’t know enough about it, but those things have happened, yes, and I’ve been a part of those kinds of tragedies. I’ve seen what it looks like to see people get smothered in the confusion and the chaos that comes with it. I actually know what it feels like to be in that situation, but I was up in the stands, so I got in early, but they all got stuck in the staircase and shit. I lost my friend. Her name was Dawn and she died at that basketball game. Life is so unpredictable, how something that is supposed to be a dream turns into a nightmare. That is why you have to be conscience of things. I would not have had children there. I would not have brought my kids to that festival, that is one thing I would not have done. When I hear about children being there, I think, “Why was a nine-year-old there in the first place?”

Allison Kugel: I know, but I feel so terrible to put shame on a parent that is already grieving the loss of a child. You know what I mean?

Dame Dash: I’m not putting shame. No shame. Nothing but compassion, but at the end of the day, please don’t take your children, during Covid, to a concert where there are a bunch of adults you know who are going to be getting high. That doesn’t make logical sense. I feel sorry for every single person that had to experience that. What happened thirty years ago still sticks with me. Whether I got affected or not, I got affected. I lost people and I saw people lose their lives.

Allison Kugel: Would you say you had PTSD from your experience?

Dame Dash: I still have it. I have it from a lot of things. That is why I talk to a therapist and I have a show on my network called Healing is Gangsta. I have had a lot of trauma that I had to deal with. Being from this culture is traumatizing. Being a woman and in this culture must be doubly traumatizing.  People think it’s normal, and it’s not. You can’t let your normal be unhappy or being uncomfortable. For me, if I’m bothered, I want answers right now.  I’m not internalizing anything, because it causes cancer.  If we have stress that we are internalizing it is going to make us sick inside. I couldn’t imagine not having enough courage to speak exactly what I’m feeling honestly, every time I feel it. If I had to hold everything in that I’m feeling, I would be miserable. That is the reason I’m so happy, because there is nothing but honest words coming out of my mouth.

Listen to the extended interview with Damon Dash on the Allison Interviews Podcast at Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and watch on YouTube. Follow Allison Kugel on Instagram @theallisonkugel and at allisoninterviews.com.

Watch the groundbreaking documentary film, They’re Trying to Kill Us, featuring interview commentary by Damon Dash about communities of color and health. Tune in to Dame Dash Studios content streaming on Fox Soul every Saturday at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Follow on Instagram @duskopoppington and @raquelmhorn.

Celebrity Spotlight: Find Out More About The Stunning Jewel

By Allison Kugel

The first thing I noticed when I sat down with Jewel was her beautifully sculpted cheekbones and trademark smile, but I was instantly redirected toward her glow; a warm and welcoming glow emanating from that same place where, no doubt, her poetic music, and lyrics originate. I wanted to learn more. It hasn’t been easy for Jewel, the daughter of a single father who experienced post-Vietnam PTSD and self-medicated with alcohol. The impoverished father/daughter duo, knocked around bars in Jewel’s home state of Alaska, crooning to just barely pay the bills. On her own by age of fifteen, to escape an abusive home environment, the multiplatinum, multi-award-winning artist poured her pain, anxiety, depression, and confusion into some of the most lyrically potent and widely listened to music of the past two and a half decades. She became a music icon in the process.

Discovered in a Southern California coffee house with little more than her guitar, Jewel would go on to sell more than thirty million albums, and it all started with her breakout 1995 album, Pieces of You, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Hits like Standing Still, Hands, Who Will Save Your Soul, You Were Meant for Me, and Intuition, reflect Jewel’s evolutionary inward journey and continue to resonate, worldwide, throughout our human culture. It’s no wonder The Voice producer, Mark Burnett, calls Jewel “One of the greatest singer-songwriters in history.”

Now, the forty-seven-year-old mother of one has devoted much of her public platform to mental health advocacy and what she gleefully calls her ongoing practice of “being consciously present” with her experiences. Jewel’s Never Broken (an nod to her hit song, Hands and her New York Times bestselling memoir) movement offers free mindfulness and mental health resources and what she calls “actionable exercises,” while her second annual World Mental Health Day Summit and Concert, took place, virtually, on Sunday, October 10th at TheWellness-Experience.com.

Jewel’s anticipated upcoming album Freewheelin’ Woman, which reflects her personal and musical evolution of “being on this side of life,” as she lovingly calls her current chapter, will be released in Spring 2022.

Allison Kugel: Tell me about your name Jewel. Is there a story behind your first name?

Jewel: It’s a family name. My grandfather’s name was Jasper Jade Jewel Caroll, my mother’s name was Lenedra Jewel Caroll, and my other grandfather was Yule. The feminine pronunciation of that name was Jewel. It kind of came from both sides.

Allison Kugel: Interesting. Tell me about the three most significant events in your life that shaped who you are today.

Jewel. I don’t really think that way, but the interesting thing I find about healing is that our stories can’t change. We can’t go back and change our history, but we can change how we relate to the story. We can change which features we make salient and important to us, and we can change which memories we draw on. A good example would be, growing up as a child I didn’t think I was lovable because my parents didn’t seem to love me or care for me. So, if you had asked me that question many years ago, I would have said a big part of my story was that I felt unlovable. Through time, and through healing, you start to realize it’s not that I was unlovable and it’s not even that my parents didn’t love me. It’s that my parents didn’t know how to love.  Again, it’s not how your story changes, but how you relate to the story that changes. Realizing that my parents didn’t know how to love builds empathy. It builds a different sense of self-worth because it’s not suddenly about me, or from an ego perspective, about my lack of ability to be loved or lovable, and it allows room for a different narrative.

Allison Kugel: At what age did you come to that conclusion?

Jewel: I’ve been studying for the last couple of years, sort of a system of misunderstandings, and realizing that a lot of conclusions we draw about ourselves are based on a misunderstanding.   It’s about looking through it through fresh eyes and saying, “Is that true?” and challenging that truth. It’s kind of a process I’ve always been interested in but looking at it in terms of misunderstandings and updating misunderstandings has probably been more in the last couple of years.

Allison Kugel: For me, personally, I always say that my parents raised me the best way they knew how, and then when I became an adult, I re-raised myself. Does that resonate with you?

Jewel: Yes. I remember at some point thinking wouldn’t it be embarrassing if I spent my whole adulthood getting over my childhood (laugh). At some point, how do you start to transcend your story? You do have to heal and reclaim a lot of that narrative, and then you get to start saying, “Now, what do I want to do with it?” In my book (New York Times bestseller, Never Broken/Penguin Random House), I called it “an archeological dig back to my true self.” My life had a lot of drama and a lot of trauma. My mom left when I was eight. My dad was a Vietnam veteran who was trauma-triggered.  He was abusive and an alcoholic. I moved out at [the age of] 15 and was paying rent. I was homeless by 18, because I wouldn’t have sex with my boss. I was living in my car and then my car got stolen. So, I knew, statistically, kids like me ended up repeating the cycle, and I didn’t want to be a statistic. But if your nurture was really bad, how do you get to know your nature? That is what I’ve spent my life dedicated to, is figuring out what causes happiness? Happiness is a side effect of choices. Our choices are usually stimulated by misunderstandings. We have to examine those and rework them so we can go where we want in life.

Allison Kugel: Did you do that with the help of a therapist, or was it mainly self-work? 

Jewel: It was an internal process for me. [At the time] I didn’t have access to therapists. When I moved out at 15, I started having panic attacks and didn’t know what they were. I also started getting really sick and I thought it was stress related, so I started studying food as medicine.  I started having so many panic attacks, that I was able to experiment while I was having them to see what things worked. And then it was really when I was homeless that I hit a whole new level of being able to understand a lot of my behaviors. I was shop lifting a dress and I looked in the mirror and saw what I looked like, and I looked like a statistic. I hadn’t beat the odds. I turned into a homeless kid who was stealing and going to end up in jail or on drugs. I remembered this quote by Buddha that said, “Happiness doesn’t depend on who you are or what you have. It depends on what you think.” I wanted to see if I could change my life one thought at a time.  But I couldn’t perceive what I was thinking in real time, because I was so disassociated, and I couldn’t witness my thoughts happening. So, I decided to come up with this hack where I realized your hands are the servants of your thoughts. If you want to see what you’re thinking, just watch what you’re doing. It’s your thought cooled down, slowed down into action. My big life plan in that moment was to not steal the dress, and to write down everything my hands did for two weeks, I think. I didn’t know what I was looking for.

Allison Kugel: What your hands were doing… explain that.

Jewel: I opened a door, I shut a door. I washed my hands. I wouldn’t shake somebody’s hand. I stole vegetables. Whatever it was, I was looking for a pattern to clue me in about what I was thinking?  At the end of the two weeks, I sat down and looked at everything and the pattern definitely showed I quit believing in myself. The much more interesting thing was that my anxiety went away. I didn’t have a panic attack for the whole two weeks. What I had stumbled onto was mindfulness and being present. The word “mindfulness” wasn’t around at that time. It was just through my journaling and going inward that I realized fear is a thief and it robs us of any chance we have to change. My anxiety was me taking my past and projecting it onto my future that hadn’t happened yet.

Allison Kugel: Tell me how your music connects to all of this. Your lyrics can stand alone as poetry. When you were writing many of your songs that went on to become huge hits, did you first write them as poems?

Jewel: My songs came together with lyrics and melody, but writing poems had been my first skill, and my first love was writing.

Allison Kugel: I can tell.

Jewel: I think writing was me developing that relationship with my observer; with that quiet voice that is so easily drowned out, but that is so wise and sees so much. When you sit down to write, whether you’re going to be a writer or not, you’re giving a pen to your authenticity.   You’re giving your authenticity a way of communicating to you. It is your soul trying to communicate with you. Poetry, especially so, because it leaves enough room, and it is symbolic.

Allison Kugel: Let’s talk about your upcoming World Mental Health Day Summit and Concert.  This is the second annual event of its kind. How did it come together? And how can people get involved and attend?

Jewel: As I mentioned to you, moving out at 15 and having this daunting feeling of, “Oh my gosh! If happiness wasn’t taught in my home, is it a learnable skill? Is it a teachable skill?” Then realizing everything that I needed to learn to be a happy and whole human, and not a human full of holes (laughs).

Allison Kugel: (Laugh) I like that!

Jewel: It was an education that I originally lacked, and I wasn’t taught it in school. It had to be this 360-degree thing this very three-dimensional thing. I had to learn about food as medicine. I had to learn about my mind affecting my body. I had to learn that my thoughts can create a dilated or contracted state which then creates physiological reactions, biochemical reactions, vascular reactions, as well as learning things like relationship fitness. I wasn’t raised thinking relationships were great, and, growing up, relationships in my life were never nurturing. I needed to gain a whole new education in all kinds of things. When I became famous, the thing I used my name for was not getting a table at a restaurant, it was to find the best experts. It took a lot of time and a lot of digging to find those special people that looked at their craft from this very holistic standpoint, and to curate that information. This wellness festival is like a culmination of a lifetime of learning and gathering for myself and wanting to democratize that wellness. This will be our second time doing this event on World Mental Health Day.

Allison Kugel: Is there a website people can visit to find out about the event and attend. And can people attend virtually? 

Jewel: Yes, it is all virtual, actually and it’s free to attend at www.thewellness-experience.com. The event is eight hours with famous fitness trainers from yoga and other [modalities], there will be talks with musicians, clinics on anxiety, all kinds of stuff.

Allison Kugel: You and I have this in common because I had also struggled with anxiety and panic attacks from the time I was eight years old. My feeling is that you don’t get “cured,” but, rather, you heal from it. What do you think? 

Jewel: In my book (Never Broken/Penguin Random House) I write about a really difficult thing that happened with my mom in my thirties, and it really set me back. I was thinking about how to heal again while I was in my thirties, and I had this sort of flash or inspiration come to me, that we are not actually broken.   No matter what trauma we suffer, I always came at it like I had to fix myself as if I was broken.  That is a really daunting and really depressing way to go about it. I realized that a soul is not a teacup. It can’t be broken. It exists perfectly and whole. A lot of the exercises I developed during that time in my life, that are available on www.jewelneverbroken.com, are the little exercises I used to help distinguish the self and the other. And, yes, it is something you heal from. Anxiety does not have the grip it used to have over me. I hadn’t had an anxiety attack in probably twenty years. But interestingly, a couple of weeks ago I was totally triggered and had a panic attack. It was fascinating.

Allison Kugel: It is an empowering perspective to, instead of being scared by it, to become curious about it.

Jewel: I had the skills to care for myself, and in retrospect realize what triggered me.  It was really fascinating what triggered me and I learned a lot. I don’t live in fear that I’m going to keep having panic attacks. The money that we are going to try and raise from this wellness experience all goes to my foundation where we teach these skills to kids that don’t have access to therapy and traditional support groups. Resiliency is just a fancy word for having multiple tools to handle life as it happens.  If this tool doesn’t work, try this one. If that tool doesn’t work, try that one.

Allison Kugel: You and I both have sons. Your son is ten and mine is twelve. I feel like we are pioneers in that we are both raising young men who will eventually be grown men, and we want them to be more in touch with their emotions, and how they relate to their emotions, than previous generations of men. How do you speak to your son about his emotions and how he identifies with them? 

Jewel: My son is a very emotional child. He is very creative. Something I’ve really been working on with my son is differentiating between a genuine emotion and a reaction.

Allison Kugel: Good one.

Jewel: If you look at things generationally, if you have really strict parents that child will grow up and be really lenient. Uber religious parents sometimes will cause the opposite reaction and the child will become the exact opposite.

Allison Kugel: Over correction, yes.

Jewel: But it’s the same. It’s just a different side of the same coin. Looking at emotionality and how we raise boys, for me it has been going back and really studying masculinity among indigenous cultures; the rites of passage from a male perspective, and not putting my female perspective on it. But instead, learning about masculinity in an indigenous way as well as realizing I would have a tendency to want to over empower my child’s feelings. Learning that you can’t use your feelings as a tactic is really important for a child, especially for a child that has a mom that’s like, “I care about your feelings (laughs),” which I do. But right now, the world isn’t having a lot of authentic feelings, it’s having a lot of reactions. It’s using volatile and highly emotionally charged reactions to bully people into behavior. That’s the role type of being woke now. I find that really interesting, and something I’m thinking about right now with my son is, “How do I implement him learning to self-assess because we don’t want to have a reaction.   We want to have a thoughtful and centered response. That’s powerful. That where you’re in your body and in your heart, and you’re forming a response. That’s focused and intentional, versus just a reaction that is highly emotional. It’s a little nuance, but I think it really matters.

Allison Kugel: Can great art be born out of joy and contentment, or do you feel that art is always the byproduct of trauma, pain, and processing pain?

Jewel: Both things are true, and so what do you want your life to be? I know a lot of artists that are stuck on a treadmill of self-imposed hatred, self-hatred, self-flagellation, because they believe it’s the only way, they can make art.  Or I have friends that just stay high, and they only can write when they’re high. Whatever you believe is true. I personally believe art is much bigger than that. Art is just the mirror of life. A mirror doesn’t stop being a mirror because you’re happy (laugh). It’s a mirror all the time.  It’s there to capture the imprint of all life and there is great beauty. There are poems that celebrate sheer joy and ecstatic ecstasy. I definitely would recommend any artist to take themselves off the cross upon which they have nailed themselves, because your art can still be really potent and engaging and healing through beauty as well.

Allison Kugel: Good point. Do you pray, and if so, who or what do you pray to?

Jewel: I do pray. I think prayer is as real an element as fire, water or wind.  I don’t have a religious denomination, so I was raised with a lot of Native American culture and influence, and so my culture and my prayers tend to lean more toward that.

Allison Kugel: You grew up in the Alaskan wilderness with very little. As a teen you were homeless and had nothing, and then suddenly you had a lot. How did you acclimate and what is your relationship with material luxuries today?

Jewel: I was lucky to be raised in Alaska with a lot of nature; big, wild, raw country. That was my church. I’m a really experience-based person and I wasn’t raised that way, nor did my personality ever feel hungry for material things in that way. My mom, however, if you read my book (Never Broken), she was very motivated by those things, and those things were very important to her. Money helps. Anybody that says money doesn’t help is full of it. It definitely cannot make you happy, which is why there are so many suicidal rich people, just like there are suicidal poor people, but it can remove a lot of stress. Having money for medical care, for airplane tickets, for food; those things have been such a relief in my life. It has been beyond a blessing. But other than that, I’m just not too motivated that way.

Allison Kugel: What makes you perfectly imperfect?

Jewel: Life is about growth. When you enjoy growth, it means you really have to love your mistakes.  I pray every day for the eyes to see how I can grow. That means every day I’m going to see things that I’m not great at. Perfection is really an addiction that we cling to, and we usually get addicted to it quite young, and it’s a system of deserving. When you are in a system of deserving, you become obsessed with performance so that you can earn your way into love. A lot of us are stuck on this hamster wheel of, “If I perform better, if I’m more extraordinary, I will earn my own respect and I will earn the respect of those around me, and earn my way back into heaven, as it were.” Perfection doesn’t exist, and so we’re constantly setting ourselves up for failure and pain. And God forbid you make money doing it, you know (laugh)? God forbid you become a high performing person who has been motivated by perfection and then rewarded for it. Because it’s a reckoning we all have to come to terms with, the fact that nature isn’t perfect, it’s in harmony.

Allison Kugel: What remains on your bucket list?

Jewel: I was lucky to be a person that felt very engaged in my music that was a real passion and purpose.   I knew that I was here to help people and my music helped me do that.   I thought that if I served my purpose, I would just be fine and I would be taken care of, and it almost killed me.  I just wore myself out because I kept thinking well if I’m serving a good purpose, I’ll be healthy.  It isn’t actually how that works so I really exhausted myself and wore myself out and worked probably three hundred times harder than I needed to because I didn’t know how to do less at the time.

Allison Kugel:  Do you mean like recording, touring, appearances? 

Jewel:  Yes, I was doing 1,000 shows a year.  I was doing five and six shows a day.

Allison Kugel:  Were you ever at home? 

Jewel:  No not for decades (laugh).  It was in service of my purpose, and I was like that is noble so somehow, I don’t know I thought God owed me health.   I have no idea what I was thinking (laugh).  I didn’t even realize it was a thought and so for me as I re-engage and I have a new record and new book coming out, it has been a privilege to get to redo this in a whole new mindset.   Not because I have a chip on my shoulder, not because I have to be a slave to my purpose, but because I want to see what I’m capable of when I’m rested and engaging in something in a much healthier way.  My native uncles taught me a really beautiful definition of power and it is an act of power benefits both yourself and the community.

Allison Kugel: Tell me about the new music.

Jewel: I have a new album called Freewheeling Woman coming out. This was the first record I’ve written from scratch. Even with my first album I had 100’s of songs already written by the age of eighteen, so I would always just take songs out of my back catalogue, whether it was pop, country, or whatever. I didn’t want to do that for this one even though I have a lot of songs in my back catalog that I love. I wanted this new album to be written from the ground up and reflect who I am now. I think I was forty-five when I was writing it and it was hard! I see now why middle-aged artists do a lot of drugs (laugh).

Allison Kugel: Oh man (laughs).

Jewel: They do it to bypass the work that it takes to get past the domestic architecture that had gotten into me, and to find a new, honest, raw, but different new place creatively. I think I wrote two hundred songs for this album to get the 12 or 14 that I like.  It has a more soul feel.   Kind of like a Muscles Shoals soul feel.  I’m singing very differently than I’ve sung. Singing a lot better than I’ve ever sung and its sort of a celebration.   I’m 47 now but it feels fun to be just like on my side of life. I enjoy it (Laugh)

Allison Kugel: Did you ever at a time in your career feel that you ever needed to use substances to reach like that higher level of creativity?  

Jewel: I never felt that was something I needed to do. I was raised in bars watching people drink and do drugs until they died so I never drank or did drugs.

Allison Kugel: Last year was the 25th anniversary of “Pieces of You” that is a milestone.  How did you celebrate?

Jewel: I did a show here where I live in this little theatre.   It was during quarantine and I did it live.  Which was really fun for me to be home, be with my son.  I love doing visual art, so I did this huge 40-foot backdrop drew it, and painted it.   Sang the whole album top to bottom which was so fun.   I had never done that.

Allison Kugel: What do you think you came into this life as Jewel Kilcher to learn, and what do you think you came here to teach?

Jewel: I think that a lot of us feel this huge obligation to see why we’re here. Something I learned from my Native American uncles is that the purpose of your life is to be happy. It is your birthright to be happy, and if you are not happy, you need to do something about it. Nobody owes you happiness.  The obsession with meaning; meaning is a side effect of experience.  It’s like the teaching of Buddha, looking at the flower. Flowers don’t go around going, “What is my meaning?” They exist, and existing gives meaning. Ask yourself, “Am I happy? Am I doing things that make me happy?” I think one thing would be to start reframing it and coming back to meaning as a side effect of experience. What is your experience? Are you happy?  Great! If you’re not, what would you be willing to change? And are you willing to be accountable for that?

Allison Kugel: Would you ever do a Las Vegas residency? 

Jewel: I don’t know. If I thought of the right thing to do or the right show. I did a Cirque du Soleil show about my life, as a charity thing, which was really fun, and I thought about doing it as a regular thing, but it’s a lot of work!

Allison Kugel: If you could travel back in time and change or witness any famous historical event, where would go, and what would you attempt to change or bear witness to?

Jewel: When I was young, I was very obsessed with philosophy and the dialectic, and I was very influenced by Socrates. I realized I could think, and I didn’t know that before. I was a dyslexic, really poor kid and so the power of learning through questioning something, and the knowing that two people coming together can create something that could be known by a third person was powerful for me. When I realized I could do that to myself, where I realized I could ask myself a question and I would hear an answer that I didn’t even know I knew, that got really exciting to me. I became obsessed with that era, although it wouldn’t have been good to be a woman back than (laugh). Other than that, I’ve never really given much thought to what time period I would go back to in history, because what if, for me, that moment is now?

Allison Kugel: One day, when a movie is made about your life, what is something you hope and pray they get right? 

Jewel: Something I’ve been surprised about in my own life is that what I thought were my talents didn’t actually help me in my life. The talent that really helped me was my persistence. That’s not a real sexy word. It’s not a word most people aspire to, but when I look back, just not quitting ended up being my best talent. Whenever I was faced with a challenge, just being willing to stand up and be willing to do something different today than I did yesterday and standing up again and trying something different today than I did yesterday. Again, it’s not a very sexy thing, but it’s why I have the life that I have. It’s the quality and the trait that led me to where I am. Everything else was sort of a dressing around it.

Allison Kugel: I think that is a great answer. You want to be remembered for your persistence and your ability to constantly learn and try a new way of doing things until you reach that apex of where you want to be. 

Jewel: I think that whether it’s music or healing, people don’t get to see behind the curtain very much. It’s not pretty work. You don’t just arrive.  It’s kind of a gritty process to get great at writing, to get great at singing, to get healthier, and to get happier. I wish that people celebrated grit and not quitting. If you’re in it and you’re slogging it out, you’re doing it. That is the guarantee that you’ll get to the top, because the only guarantee of getting to the top of the mountain is one unbeautiful step at a time.

Shop the 25th anniversary deluxe edition of Jewel’s 1995 album, Pieces of You. Join Jewel’s mental health community at JewelNeverBroken.com. Follow Jewel on Instagram @Jewel.

Hear the extended interview with Jewel on the Allison Interviews Podcast. Allison Kugel is a syndicated entertainment journalist and host of the Allison Interviews podcast. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube. Follow on Instagram @theallisonkugel.