December 3, 2010 at 10:00 am , by Lisa M. Gerry
What makes the perfect holiday album? I look for amazing vocals, songs you can sing along to, and enough beat to get you boogying while you’re decorating the tree. Lending her powerful pipes to classic carols, American Idol alum Katharine McPhee delivers that and more on her album, “Christmas Is The Time (To Say I Love You).” To get in the spirit, we asked McPhee to share some of her Christmas memories and must-haves.
Best Present Ever…
One Christmas, my parents surprised my sister and me with a trip to Hawaii. As we were looking at the gifts Santa brought us, they opened the front door and there was a stretch limo waiting to take us to the airport. We freaked out!
One of my favorite holiday traditions is the day after Thanksgiving, we blast Christmas music and decorate the house from head to toe. I think it’s a girl thing because I have to beg my husband to do it each year. Conveniently, football always seems to be on at the same time [laughs].
I like to eat everything at Christmas. But, my dad makes the best Christmas-colored green beans. He uses sour cream, fried onions and tomatoes. They’re so good.
Favorite Song on the Album…
“It’s Not Christmas Without You“. I wrote it, and I think it’s a great holiday love song. It reminds me of one of my favorite songs, “Miss You Most (At Christmas Time),” from Mariah Carey’s Christmas record.
October 19, 2010 at 9:34 am , by Lisa M. Gerry
Diem Brown captured America’s attention when she competed on MTV’s Real World, Road Rules Challenge soon after undergoing treatment for Stage II ovarian cancer. But while her bravery and bright personality made her beloved on MTV, she wasn’t always treated so kindly. It was while she was working as a broadcast journalist that she began to see the side effects of her chemotherapy, including hair loss and extreme weight loss. “I didn’t have any money, so I was wearing a $10 wig that I bought on Hollywood Boulevard,” Brown says, “And someone working on a red carpet told me that I was ‘physically offensive.’” It was then that Brown realized how a devastating illness can be made even worse without money. “I wanted a wig that looked real,” she said. “I didn’t want people looking at me and seeing a sick person. I didn’t want to look at me and see a sick person.”
When Brown’s friends began getting married and having children, she became familiar with gift registries—a way for a person to let their loved ones know exactly what they need or want. “My friends and family would say, ‘I feel so helpless—what can I do?’ I didn’t want to say, ‘Oh, give me money.’ But anytime you go to the hospital, it’s expensive. I got turned down twice for my chemo because I didn’t have the money.”
This became the impetus for Brown’s medical gift registry and social network, MedGift.com. Once patients register on the site, friends and family can donate directly to the hospital for medical procedures. They can post requests ranging from wigs or grocery gift cards to pet sitting or a ride to the hospital.
Brown says, “I felt like this was the reason I got sick—to come up with this idea. Creating a medical gift registry was my silver lining.” Visit MedGift.com for more information.
August 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm , by Lisa M. Gerry
In Sally Koslow’s third novel, With Friends Like These, four women—Quincy, Talia, Chloe, and Jules—struggle to maintain their ten-year friendship. Some have babies, some don’t. Some have money, some don’t. Some have happy marriages, some…not so much. But those differences haven’t seemed to matter until now—when what the women thought were lifelong loyalties are betrayed.
What do you consider to be the central message of With Friends Like These?
It’s that friendship is fragile. And it gets increasingly complex as our lives become more complicated. It’s somewhat more straightforward when we’re in our twenties, but as our lives progress we have partners, children, financial constraints, ambition and professional rivalry. We would like to be able to do the right thing by our friends, but sometimes our more immediate goal is pleasing our families.
Was there one character you most related to?
I put parts of myself, people in my imagination, as well as little tiny molecules of people I’ve known in my real life into all four women. I tried to draw on my better and worse parts to create four characters that were realistically flawed. I don’t think there are any villainesses here. While a reader might relate to one more than others, I tried very hard to come up with situations that reflect real dilemmas people face.
Because two of the characters ultimately betray their best friends, some critics may say these women reinforce some of the negative stereotypes about women—the back stabbing and cattiness. How would you respond to that?
Well, I think that stereotypes come out of truth, and I think that life is not all Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Women are no worse than the other gender when it comes to looking out for themselves. I feel this book is a pretty accurate portrayal, but I would urge readers to read to the very end because it’s about forgiveness and regrets. We do often live with a lot of regret, and I think that when we’re 25 years old or even 35 years old we might think that if we lose a friend, there’s somebody else to replace that person. And that’s simply not the case. Sometimes you have a whole phantom limb where that friend used to be—and you feel that for the rest of your life. To a certain extent the book’s a cautionary tale.
July 20, 2010 at 7:00 am , by Lisa M. Gerry
We’re so excited to be premiering your video on LHJ.com. How did you choose “Better Than a Hallelujah” as your first single?
The first time I heard “Better Than A Hallelujah” I was completely blown away by it. A lot of hard things were going on in my life at the time, and I found so much comfort in this song. It’s all about honesty, vulnerability and not being afraid to come as you are—it’s okay to be broken.
What do you enjoy most about the process of making a video?
When it’s over. (Laughing) I’m being silly. I love making music. I love providing songs to be a part of people’s lives.
Can you share a funny behind-the-scenes story from filming the video?
The studio where we filmed had this unbelievable wig collection. I’ve always wanted to have long, blond hair. So, after we were done shooting, our guitar player Gene Miller and I enjoyed trying on the wigs. (laughing)
Your 17-year-old-daughter Sarah sings on one of the tracks of this album, which is very cool.
Yes! I’m excited.
Do you think you two will sing again together?
I hope so. I just saw the movie The Karate Kid, and I just kept thinking about Jaden Smith and what an amazing opportunity he has because of his mom and dad. And I thought, Isn’t that what we all do? When we have children, we try to give them opportunities to do the things that have mattered to us. Even if it’s a hobby, like when my Dad took me fishing as a kid.
But how would you feel if she wanted to get into the music industry? Obviously it can be a tough business.
Yeah, I know. She has been exposed to really talented people that still couldn’t pay the rent with their skill. I feel like she’s kind of seen it all and there’s no mystique there.
Do you and your husband Vince Gill sing together around the house?
Sometimes. It just depends if one of us is working on a song. He came home the other day, and I was working on a song and he said, This is what the house should sound like. Sometimes I’ll be putting my youngest daughter, Corrina, to bed, and Vince will be downstairs playing. And she’ll say, Momma, leave the door open so I can listen to Dad. And that’s when I think, Okay, this is the greatest thing in the world.
July 9, 2010 at 1:43 pm , by Lisa M. Gerry
American Idol alum, Katharine McPhee, has teamed up ConAgra Foods Foundation and Feeding America for an amazing project called, Hunger-Free Summer. 19.5 million American children are on free or reduced meals during the school year, and when school lets out, only 2.2 million of them are getting that free food over the summer. That leaves 17 million kids who go hungry during the summer because they’re no longer getting government-funded meals. “We’re working with 23 food banks and trying to bridge that gap,” says McPhee. “Our goal is to feed 25 percent more kids this summer than last.”
I spoke with Katharine about what drew her to this cause, how she’s helping, what we can do to eradicate hunger in America—and I couldn’t let her go without finding out what other projects she has up her sleeve.
Were you surprised by the hunger crisis in America?
When I heard that 1 in 4 kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from, I was shocked. A friend of mine is a schoolteacher in Minnesota and she said she had a student who was sneaking sandwiches because they were starving. And when kids are hungry, they can’t focus in school and they sometimes cause problems in the classroom. I just didn’t think about hunger existing in this country—especially not in LA where I grew up.
You’ll be visiting food banks in at least six cities. What will you being doing there?
My main duty is to talk to food bank representatives and see how we can make the program better every summer. Many of the kids’ parents will be working, so they’ll be dropped off at supervised areas close to the food bank. And they spend their days there because they get lunch and dinner. So I’m there just to remind them that they’re kids, play with them and maybe sing a couple songs with them.
What can our readers do to help?
You can go to my website, katharinemcphee.com, and there are links to the programs that I’m working on. There are so many ways you can make a difference. In these economic times, it’s really hard to ask people for money. I get that, but this issue is not just about money. It’s about giving time.
Find out what Katharine is up to next…
July 1, 2010 at 11:54 am , by Lisa M. Gerry
Sheryl Crow’s new album, 100 Miles From Memphis, is an ode to her childhood in Missouri spent listening to Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Al Green. “Whenever I hear that music, it immediately takes me back to the summers of driving around in Kennett, circling the strip,” says Crow. Check out my interview with her below, and for more from Sheryl, pick up the August issue of Ladies Home Journal.
I am so excited about this album. Can you describe its sound?
It’s a little bit of a departure for me. I grew up about an hour and a half from Memphis, so we listened to a lot of sax music and R&B. This album has a lot of old soul. There’s a sensuality to that old R&B and soul music that I love.
Has being a mother influenced your music?
Being a mom has influenced everything in my life. And your life informs your art. This record is much more about enjoying life and the kind of vulnerability that goes along with intimacy. Intimacy not in the sexual sense, but in the revealing of yourself to another person. When you have a child, you certainly meet yourself at every level. [My 3-year-old son, Wyatt] has demanded that I be present in my life.
What is your song-writing process like?
I used to write in the morning. But my mornings now are reserved specifically for my kids [Crow adopted Wyatt in 2007, and she recently adopted Levi James, who was born April 30]. Now I write when I have an opportunity to actually close the door, be quiet, turn the phone off and have a few hours to myself—which is kind of a luxury right now.
You collaborate with Keith Richards and Justin Timberlake on this album. Who would you like to work with next?
Lady Gaga. I love that she plays piano—that’s my first instrument—so it would be fun to do something with her on piano.
And you’re participating in Lilith Fair this year. What does being a part of that festival mean to you?
When Sarah [McClachlan] put this together ten years ago, promoters were really reticent about putting more than one female artist on a bill. They would argue that it wasn’t a viable ticket. Now, of course, some of the biggest selling artists in the world are female. Lilith is a real celebration of how far we’ve come.
Check out Sheryl’s video for her new single, “Summer Day.”
June 28, 2010 at 5:28 pm , by Lisa M. Gerry
Audrey Hepburn has always epitomized glamour and sophistication, but in her role as Holly Golightly she was more than that—she was a symbol of social change. In his fascinating new book, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman, Sammy Wasson explores Hepburn’s role in the impending sexual revolution, and offers delicious behind-the-scenes tidbits from the making of the 1961 classic.
When did you first see Breakfast at Tiffany’s?
Oh my God. I must have been no more than ten or eleven years old. But, it only really became significant to me in when I was in high school…when I started falling in love, getting depressed and then ecstatic—at that point, it really made a mark.
The film has a tremendous fashion legacy.
I think it grows more and more as the movie ages. At the time, it was surprising. Now we’ve come to see the little black dress as a grown up style for women, but it wasn’t so clear at the time.
I was amazed to find out that they had originally wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly Golightly, but they couldn’t get her.
I would bet if Marilyn Monroe had that part, we would not love the movie the way we do now. Marilyn Monroe was the old kind of sexual power, while Audrey was the new. She was a woman that wasn’t trading on her overt sexual appeal.