Call Answered: Leeza Gibbons: A career retrospective: Entertainment Tonight, Extra, Celebrity Apprentice, Caregivers
I grew up watching Leeza Gibbons on Entertainment Tonight interview all my favorite celebrities. I loved her interview style: approachable, sensitive, and positive. Her syndicated talk show Leeza was also fun to watch, and I was excited when she started co-hosting Extra. As someone whose grandmother had dementia, I really cheered for her on Celebrity Apprentice, overjoyed she won $700,000 for Leeza's Gibbons Memory Foundation. Leeza has been a constant inspiration for me, so to have the opportunity to interview one of my idols is a real dream come true!
As much as I adore Leeza's celebrity grandness, I am most connected to her humanness. She does so much for families struggling with being a caregiver for loved ones suffering from Alzheimer's with her Leeza's Care Connection, offering free services for family caregivers encouraging them to call on their courage and summon their strength for the long journey ahead.
Additionally, Leeza, along with Betty White, are the spokespeople for Philips Lifeline, which helped Leeza during a very traumatic experience with her father. Earlier this year, her dad suffered a severe heart attack and fell to the ground. He survived with the help of his family and Philips, whose Framingham based Lifeline division is working to improve the quality of life for senior and their families. "Look, We're all aging," Leeza says "my Dad's recent heart attack was my wakeup call that no one is invincible to the march of time, but never had there been a better time to redefine what that means and see it through another lens." Leeza is teaming up with Philips to start an open and honest conversation about aging.
November is National Caregivers Month, so do yourself and your loved ones a favor and talk with your aging parent about Philips Lifeline and check out Leeza's Care Connection for those suffering from Alzheimer's and other memory issues.
1. Before we get to all the success, let's go back to you as a little girl in Hartsville, South Carolina. Growing up, who or what inspired you to want to work in the entertainment industry? Did you always want to be a reporter or did that career path develop out of another dream you were chasing? I had NO clue I would ever walk a red carpet or interview celebrities, but I always wanted to be a reporter. Even my Barbie dolls were broadcasters. They ruled the world. I've always liked to be in charge and I'm still a control enthusiast by nature! I'm blessed to make a living telling stories. It's the thing I love most.
2. When you look back over your career, what do you consider your proudest moment, your most challenging moment, and that moment when you said to yourself, "This didn't work out as I wanted, but I sure did learn a lot." I have proud moments of small victories every day. Whether it's keeping my boundaries, standing up for what I believe in, or making time to meditate, I think focusing on small successes gives us the endurance to tackle the big ones. Like most everyone, I've been kicked to the curb a time or two professionally and personally! Now though, I've learned to kick back. When we feel helpless like I did when my mom got Alzheimer's disease, we often respond by resisting. It's easy to get stressed and depressed and before too long you're living a life of quiet contempt. I remember my mother telling me, "Whenever you're feeling down, get yourself out of it by lifting another up." Doing that is how I created Leezas Care Connection. I created in the world what our family wish we'd had when mom was sick… A place to get educated, a place to feel less alone, where we could get connected to others who had walked the path.
3. You have interviewed almost everyone in the world of entertainment! Who is somebody that you wanted to interview but haven't had the chance to yet? What was one of your funniest moments either off-camera or on camera? Add my name to the list of those who would like to interview Michelle Obama! Not only is she whip smart, ravishingly beautiful, and wickedly funny, I also admire her meaningful contributions as a wife and mother.
As for funny moments, I didn't think it was so funny at the time but when I competed on Dancing with the Stars, it looked like a comedy! I totally failed at the Foxtrot and my Mambo was miserable. I also did a terrible Tango and my Paso Doble was pathetic! I can look back on it now and giggle at the poor girl. I was trying so hard not to look foolish. Remember, I'm in the recovery program for control freaks, so the lesson was to enjoy the process and let go. I'm still learning that lesson.
4. You are a New York Times best selling author with your first book Take 2, about how to start over and hit the reset button. From all the times you've had to start over, what is the biggest lesson you learned about yourself? I've learned that we have sole custody of our experience in life and that we pretty much get what we're willing to put up with. I've learned that when your work speaks for itself, you don't have to interrupt, you just have to be so good they can't ignore you. I've learned that whether you get fired or fat, depressed or divorced, you can always hit the reset button and rewrite the rest of your story.
5. Now, you have released your latest book, Fierce Optimism: Seven Secrets to Playing Nice and Winning Big. I love the premise of this book, that you use kindness and positivity as a winning strategy. I have been living by this outlook my whole life, and while it's challenged on a regular basis, I know in my heart, this is the way I should do things. When was there a time in your life when this method was really put to the test and you almost caved in and got nasty, but after a moment, you stuck to your gut and said, "No, this is how I do things and kindness and positivity will persevere"? I think we do best when we strengthen our own strengths and try to encourage others to do the same. Comparing yourself to others along the way will only make you bitter and boring. It's like my mom said, "Ignore the other horses on the track, put your blinders on, run your race, and stay in your own lane." I was brought up with positivity and kindness and so that's the lane I've always run in. For the most part it's served me well, but even when it doesn't I've always felt better relying on my authentic strengths and trying to pull something out of a hat that doesn't belong to me. Being kind doesn't mean you're not competitive and being nice doesn't mean you're a pushover. I think there is strength and nice and that most successful people truly are kind and optimistic. I don't think it's a case of seeing the glass as being half full, I feel like I OWN the glass! And when it is empty, it's my job to fill it up with positive things!
6. As a result of your mom's diagnosis with Alzheimer's, you created the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, Leeza's Care Connections, and Leeza's place. My grandmother had a form of dementia prior to her passing away and it was so difficult to watch her decline. There are so many things I miss about her. What is something you miss about your mother? How did creating all these great services help you through your mom's Alzheimer's and ultimately her passing? What has been the greatest gift you've seen in the people who have taken advantages of all your organizations? I miss my mothers soft southern accent, the smell of her Norrell perfume, and the way she would always make me a chocolate cake whenever I was upset about anything! When she got sick, she said to me "Honey, you're a reporter, now this is your story. Tell it and make it count!" I think my mother knew that would be my greatest protection against the pain of seeing her disappear.
Over the past 14 years, we've been blessed to serve so many courageous caregivers on their journeys. I've learned so much about the resilience of the human spirit.
7. You were the second woman to win Celebrity Apprentice in which you raised over $700,000 for Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation. What did you get out of your time on the show? What did it mean to you to win and then find out you were only the second woman to win the competition show? Most people counted me out of the competition early on. They felt that I was too nice to compete and would be easily pushed out-of-the-way. What they failed to take into account though, was my passion for making a difference. I kept my eye on the prize and got to the finish line by using my burning desire to tell a more positive, hopeful story of those who care for someone they love who is sick or dying. I knew if I could just focus on the work and not get off course because of all the distractions, that I would have a pretty good chance of being victorious. My strategy was simple: show my value to my teammates and make sure we won every task so NO one gets fired! You don't have to sabotage others to get to the front of the line.
8. What's next for Leeza Gibbons? What do you still hope to accomplish? The list is long and filled with lots of variety! From getting my contractors license and building homes to voicing an animated character in a movie! I've always felt, it's a big world - dream accordingly. I'm never short on new ideas and new dreams.
9. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I'd say forgiveness. Every day I hope to get better at forgiving myself for the things I feel I haven't done, and for the things which I did and wished I had not! I hope to become more forgiving of others who have disappointed me or somehow harmed me. Sometimes my process with this feels like one step forward and two steps back, but being the ultimate optimist, I know that's not a disaster, it's just a cha-cha! And so, I dance on!!
Emmy Award winner Leeza Gibbons is one of the most well‐known pop‐culture icons on the air. In addition to her impressive background in the field of entertainment and news media, Leeza is an instrumental advocate for healthcare, wellness, and caregiving. She is also a wife, mother, businesswoman, and a New York Times bestselling author.
The spectrum of Leeza’s career in entertainment and news media is diverse and impressive. Her on‐camera hosting dominance in the entertainment‐news and talk‐show arenas, ranges from the most popular entertainment news show in history, Entertainment Tonight, to her award‐winning daytime talk show, Leeza.
More recently, in 2013, Leeza published her first NY Times Bestseller, Take 2, a personal growth guide designed to help people recreate themselves and hit the reset button on their lives. Later that year, Leeza won the 2013 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host for the PBS show My Generation.
in 2015, Leeza was crowned the winner of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice. Having raised over $700,000 for her foundation, Leeza became the 2nd woman ever to win the long-standing competition show. That season also reignited the storied franchise for NBC as the show delivered their highest overall ratings in nearly 5 years.
Recognized as a social entrepreneur, Leeza has become one of the leading voices for issues facing family caregivers. When her mother and grandmother were struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, she created what she wished she and her family had and started the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation. Her training as a journalist united with her compassion and business savvy when she opened the foundation’s signature programs Leeza’s Place and Leeza’s Care Connection, offering free services for family caregivers encouraging them to call on their courage and summon their strength for the long journey ahead.
Over the years, Leeza has become known as a trusted girlfriend, valued confidante, and source of inspiration and information, empowering women to show up for their lives with confidence and pride. Whether it’s her scrapbook line honoring the value of memories, her jewelry collection to symbolize transformation, or her cosmetic products to reveal inner and outer beauty, Leeza develops programs and products to help women claim their strength and rewrite the story of their lives.
Recognizability, Relatability and Reputation...that and more is what you get with Leeza as she uplifts, empowers and motivates audiences and viewers to get more out of life and business. Leeza currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Steven Fenton. She has three children...daughter Leksi and sons Troy and Nate.