Nov 28, 2012

Meeting Oprah + OWN + O Magazine + IKEA Life Improvement Project + Behind Scenes + IKEA Commercial + An Aha! Moment

What a title to this post, right?  Enough to make one’s head spin with excitement. That’s what last month was like for me and I’m here to tell you all about it. I recently signed on to a program with IKEA, OWN and O Magazine called The Life Improvement Project. The Life Improvement Project is a site designed for people to be inspired about ways to live in their home. It’s a place to share ideas about living and learn from others. IKEA designed the site to look like a house so people can easily write their ideas and upload pictures of projects in areas of the house they want to improve. Pretty cool, right? The site encourages people to share ideas not just for improving the interior of your home, but also how to entertain in your home (which is my role in the project), how to be more green in your home, and how to live well in your home. There are some other great ladies who are involved in this project, including Lisa Ling. You’ll get to meet all of them below.

Scroll down to read on about my experiences speaking at O You, meeting Oprah, making a commercial with Ikea and OWN, my shoots with O Magazine, and my aha! moment while at O You (scroll down towards the end for that).

O Magazine November Issue

As part of the project, I worked with the Oprah, OWN, O Magazine and IKEA teams on some wonderful projects. Above you can see IKEA ads that are in the November and December issues of O Magazine. Remember this post of the behind-the-scenes?  It was for these ads. They came out pretty cool, right?  They sure know how to make a lady feel glam! I loved working with the IKEA and O Magazine teams on this shoot.  But there’s a lot more…..

Last month, I packed my bags and headed to LA for the week for another part of the program.  The week included speaking at the big O You event, shooting a commercial, and speaking on a panel moderated by Lisa Ling.  Want to see some snapshots and get the deets? Scroll down..

After settling into my LA digs, I then had a TV shoot with the OWN and Ikea teams.  It was a surreal experience.  I’ve done national TV and even live TV like here, but this was a huge production. Think trailers, massive production crew, people there to punch holes in your soda bottle tops for straws so you don’t ruin your lipstick kind of production. There was an awesome director, who guided me through everything.  The OWN, Harpo and IKEA teams were incredible to work with. If you watch OWN, Discovery, or TLC starting today, you may be able to get a glimpse of this commercial. You can also find it here.

Here’s a screenshot…ps – I want this kitchen!

After the commercial, it was time to prep for a panel with the Life Improvement Squad, spearheaded by journalist Lisa Ling.  I was there to talk about entertaining in the home, while Interior Designer Erin Gates (seriously rad and talented designer/lady), Life Coach Susan Hyatt (bubbly, wise and insightful!) and Green Expert Cathy Hobbs (Emmy winner and go-to green gal) were there to talk about design, living well in your home, and being green in the home, respectively.  The panel was in an IKEA in California. Scroll down for some pics and O You/Meeting Oprah….PS – Lisa Ling is as wicked smart and lovely as she appears on camera.

After the IKEA panel and some drinks with the rest of the Life Improvement Squad, we all got ready for the big O YOU event.  Have you all heard of Oprah’s O YOU event?  Oprah speaks there, along with many of her experts. We were there to speak about improving life in the home. 5,000 people were there.  No biggie.

I love the sign above. If you could use six words to define your own story, what would it be?  For me, it would be my mantra…no matter what, never give up. 

We spent time at IKEA’s Life Improvement booth during the event. It was a bit intimidating to walk in and find a double life sized poster of myself. Thank goodness for amazing photographers. No, we did not schlep those back on the plane! Each member of the Life Improvement Squad had a designated area and we all spoke with attendees about how to improve life within the home. I spoke about entertaining at home for the holidays.

I also had a book signing at the O You Barnes & Noble booth. My book signing time slot was with Life Coach Martha Beck. People had traveled from all over the country to see her. She was really inspiring and charming. Valerie Bertinelli was there (read photo caption on right below – loved her!). O You 2012 Oprah Ikea

Next up was a panel before the many attendees. Did I say thousands earlier?  Butterflies, anyone?  Penny Wrenn moderated the panel and I had a chance to talk about my tips for entertaining, while Cathy spoke about green tips. One of my tips was this…when deciding what tabletop items to use when you are entertaining, look at items not just for what they are, but also what they can be. For example, the chevron pattern has been very popular this year. I’ve taken V shaped dishes and arranged them so they zig and zag to mimic the chevron pattern. Once you start looking at the shapes of items in a different way, it will open your eyes to endless design ideas. The same goes for when you are planning your menu. For a party with a chevron design, I have cut sponge cake into petits fours rectangles and then have arranged them to zig and zag. The cumulative effect of piling on the pattern will give you a big visual punch, even if it is in the small details like the desserts….

O YOU 2012 Oprah IkeaSpeaking of desserts, I had to take a break in our green room for some “research.” Here’s a candid shot of me eating carrot cake and pistachio brownies. Yum.  I’m glad there was a makeup person for touchups after that. Pictures with Oprah were happening soon (sorry…I can’t share, but it is framed and hanging in my home). BUT, look at the pretty ladies from the Life Improvement Squad below. Yep, the touchups were indeed worth it after the cake.

It was around this time that I had my first encounter with Ms. Winfrey herself. Lisa and I ran to our green room when we met her in the hallway.  Her positive energy was infectious. Lisa and I were both wearing orange dresses (no, there was no memo!). With Oprah’s big signature voice she said….”LOOOVE the orange ladies!”  It was definitely a moment!  I had another moment below….

O YOU 2012 Ikea Oprah

And that moment really took me by surprise. It was when Oprah took the stage to speak. Truthfully, I was laser focused the whole week in LA and I hadn’t taken a moment to take it all in. There were people from all over the country who had come to get inspired at this conference. Yet, I was already mentally packing my bags to get home to my kids, husband, and work in NYC. Of course, I was really excited to hear Oprah speak (who wouldn’t be?), but I wasn’t prepared for what was coming.  And then she did it.  I know it is so cliche, but she totally wrapped me in.  It was as if she was talking directly to me (of course she wasn’t – – there were thousands of people there), but you know…she just has a way of doing that. Here is what she said that really hit me….

She spoke about how at one point early in her career, she was obsessed about wanting to be like Diana Ross. She obsessed and obsessed until one day she realized she was never going to be Diana Ross. Then she quoted her mentor, the late Joseph Campbell, who once said “the privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are.” She talked about how people waste time wanting to have a life that doesn’t necessarily belong to them instead of claiming the privilege and responsibility of being who they are. It seems so obvious, yet it felt so profound to me. I’ve been guilty of that. I’ve studied Martha’s, Tory’s and Ina’s success paths the same way she studied Diana. It’s human nature. However, when Oprah said that, I realized…I’m never going to be those people and that is okay. I instantly felt relief.  How many times have I beaten myself up that I wasn’t who or where I wanted to be in my life? Don’t make me count…I am hard on myself (it comes with the OCD). Seriously though…I realized if I tried to be like them, I will fail. As Oprah said, my privilege of my lifetime is to be good at being me. And so is yours. Oprah said that her greatest gift was that she had this aha! moment at an early age, which then freed her up to realize her own potential. Sounds liberating, right? Truthfully, I’ve never considered myself a spiritual person, but I HAVE always felt (and hoped) I was put here to make a change and inspire people (beyond desserts and entertaining).  Not to worry…I’ll always be making parties and baking and crafting. I just think I was meant to do something more as well. It will be my journey to figure out exactly what that is and how to do it my way. A huge thank you to Ms. Winfrey for reminding me to stay true to myself, even when I least expected the message. I hope you all benefited from this and felt like you were sitting right before her, too.

Below is a glimpse of me (and Lisa, Martha Beck, and Laura Berman) listening to her. We were all captivated.

One other note about the day…after Oprah’s speech, we took photos with Oprah {again, Oprah charismatically complimented the orange dress – loved that!} and then she graciously and casually mingled with the crowd while wearing flats and nibbling on nachos and guacamole. Seriously, it’s hard to beat that moment. Hey, it’s hard to beat the whole week. What an honor.

PS – Did you catch the quote above in the polaroid from O’s Creative Director Adam Glassman? Confidence IS your best accessory. Kinda loving that. Wise man, he is.

Disclosure: While I have received compensation to be a part of the Life Improvement Project, I have no obligation to write about the project and this experience. All opinions in this post are my own and I genuinely wanted to share this with you so you can see the behind the scenes.


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