From her stints on everything from "Entertainment Tonight" to "America Now," Leeza Gibbons, 55, is a familiar face across America. Behind the scenes, Gibbons also is an activist. After her family's experience with her mother's and grandmother's Alzheimer's disease, the South Carolina native created the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and its signature programs, Leeza's Place and Leeza's Care Connection, which offer free services for family caregivers.
If that weren't enough, the industrious Gibbons also is an author -- her latest book, "Take 2: Your Guide to Creating Happy Endings and New Beginnings,"
is out in bookstores today. As she explains it, the book helps people take creative control over their own lives. Many stars have raved about the book, including Gibbons' friend Olivia Newton-John, who said "I know Leeza is a master of starting over because I've seen her do it! In this book, she takes her real life experiences in career, life and love and shares her wisdom as a girlfriend who really cares."
The book includes chapters with titles such as "Face Down Fear" and "Take Ownership of Your Life." One chapter outlines her top 20 tips for success that include "be on time," "accept praise" and "never look back."
Huff/Post50 recently had the pleasure of chatting with Gibbons, who has three children aged 23, 21 and 15 and who married her fourth husband, Steven Fenton, a man 13 years her junior, in 2011.
Your new book is about reinvention. Why are you the right person to write this book?
I've gone through a series of life experiences that made me think I have something to offer. It started for me when my mother got Alzheimer's. That was the beginning of a shift in my identity as I was no longer a daughter in the same way I had been. Then, my marriage wasn't strong enough to survive the searching I was doing in my life. Finally, I put my TV career on hold to start a nonprofit. Those were the three things that pushed me onto a new stage in life.
How does one take the first step towards getting what they really want out of life?
You begin by making a promise to yourself. I call mine a "transformation proclamation." I'm from South Carolina and was raised to be a good girl and not to rock the boat. That's not always a bad thing. But, sometimes, when you say yes to other people, you often are saying no to yourself. And if you do that, you start to lose respect for yourself. You need to make sure you are proud of who you are. Do things that will grow your courage. Get a mammogram, face bad news from a doctor, cut someone out of your life who's negative. This is the place to start. Courage is just fear that said its prayers.
How were you able to cope with the changes in your life? For example, how were you able to move away from having such a big role on TV?
I think we identify ourselves by what we do and who we know and how much money we make. I've worked from the time I was 15 and being productive is really an important part of my identity. It wasn't that leaving TV was hard but it was challenging. It was challenging to close the door for awhile and say that I was going to be productive in another way. I knew how to be on TV and to produce and be a reporter. I stepped into a place where there was so much I didn't know. When you walk through the door called change you grow a little taller and when you do the things you think you cannot do, then you are really showing up for your life. I had planned to take a few years off and that turned into five. But we only regret the things we don't do.
After all these years of self-discovery, what would you tell your 21-year-old self today?
I lived my life in a state of reaching. I'm always reaching for what's next and discovering what's new and that's great. But I'd tell my younger self to breathe, believe and receive. This is a mantra for me. We get in such a hurry we don't take time to just slow down. We don't allow our minds to open up and receive what's in front of us. Believe is important too. I make a choice every day to be an optimist and it is -- indeed -- a choice. The frame you put on your life situation will either give you an advantage or a disadvantage. Receive is a hard one. I'm often telling younger friends to stop achieving and start receiving. It's not until we open up and admit our limits and honor our vulnerabilities that we get to grow.
Your children are older ... how does it feel to nearly have an empty nest?
When I dropped my first one off at college, it was exciting and melancholy. But I also felt something more. I felt emotional in a different way. I always thought I'd have more time across the kitchen table from my kids, or driving with them in the car, imparting wisdom. I thought I'd have more time to give them what I call life support. But things happen. I realize that our relationships with our children are dynamic though and we redefine them along the way.
So what else are you working on? What's next for you?
I'm lucky that my TV work fits so well into my mission. People write mission statements at work and they need to write them for their own lives. My mission includes using my gifts and talents to empower and uplift people and that's what I'm hopefully doing. I do a newsmagazine show called "America Now" that's all about news you can use ... news that will help you in your daily life. I also have a new scrapbooking line coming out next month. I've become very passionate about people writing down their legacies and keeping a journal and celebrating the moments of their lives.
You are 55 and you look great. You're full of energy. How do you do it?
There are two "f" words I infuse into my daily routine -- forgiveness and flexibility. When it comes to the latter, I always bring resistance bands with me when I travel so that I can always exercise. I always take the steps instead of the elevator. I've also gotten a lot better about prioritizing sleep. It's still an ongoing challenge, but these days I do try to make it a priority.
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