Sonia Harmon

5 Minutes with Octavia Spencer

October 9, 2013 at 11:54 am , by

The Academy Award-winning actress has clearly got the acting thing down (see: The Help, Fruitvale Station, and the upcoming Diablo Cody film Paradise) so we chatted with her about an entirely new venture—publishing her first novel.

You’re publishing your first novel, Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit, as part of a young adults book series. What inspired you to come up with the character?

The characters in my book are doing everything I ever dreamed of doing, from martial arts to actually solving a mystery. I grew up reading a lot of mystery books—everything from Nancy Drew to The Hardy Boys series—so I just decided to put pen to paper and the book and Randi’s character began to take shape.

How did you start writing the series?

It’s what I do in my downtime. I’ve had some acting roles that were recurring—we call it “day playing” because you work a day here, a day there. And between those days, I had to do something to keep myself from going crazy.

Is becoming an author something you always wanted to do?

I knew I wanted to write for kids because growing up reading shaped who I am as a person. It also took a lot longer for me to finish a book because I have dyslexia. It definitely was a challenge, but you cope and figure out ways to get through it. Once I jumped that hurdle, I actually began to enjoy reading.

Do you feel like having dyslexia has affected your work as an actress?

Absolutely. I have severe stage fright. The biggest thing for me was reading aloud. I wasn’t confident that what I was saying was actually on the page, quite honestly. To this day, I hate table reads and it definitely has affected how I approach my work. I start memorizing as soon as I get a script because I know it’s going to take me longer to feel confident. Even though it’s a challenge, I don’t feel encumbered by it.

So far there are two books planned for the Randi Rhodes series. Do you already know where you want to take the character?

There are so many adventures to be had. I’m excited for everyone to read the books but I’m also a little nervous—you feel vulnerable when people read your work because it’s a part of you. But this really is a dream come true.


5 Minutes with Taye Diggs

September 5, 2013 at 8:54 am , by

We love Taye Diggs for his acting whether it’s on TV (Private Practice), the big screen (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) or the Broadway stage (Rent, anyone?), but we especially love him for his commitment to children’s education. The issue especially resonates with Diggs since he’s the proud dad of his four-year-old son, Walker, with wife and actress Idina Menzel. We chatted with the actor (and children’s book author!) about being a parent, his new movies and the hilarious six-second Vine videos he posts on Twitter.

Why is education important to you?

Once I found out that around two-thirds of kids in poverty didn’t have books at home, I partnered with Kellogg’s and Scholastic to help change that. I was a very avid reader and I have no idea where I’d be today were it not for books. And now I’m a children’s author; in 2011 I wrote a children’s book called Chocolate Me. So this is something that’s close to my heart. (Click here to learn more about how you can help give hundreds of thousands of books to kids.)

Where did you get the inspiration to write Chocolate Me?

I wrote it to help kids who are dealing with the same situation that I dealt with as a child. My mother did an amazing job, but it would’ve been even easier for her if she could’ve just whipped out a book about that specific moment when kids were making fun of me because of my skin color and how I should love myself and find my self-esteem from within. I’m working on a second book called Mixed Up Mike that will address my son’s point of view, being the product of an interracial marriage.

What’s been the most challenging part of parenthood?

Realizing how much more vulnerable I am. I have no control over how much love I feel or how much fear I have when he leaves the house everyday. But I relish the moments when he hugs us and tells us how much he loves us. The other day he even said he wished he could go back in time so that we could be friends in school.

That’s so adorable. And you’re a working dad—you’ve got a couple of films coming up.

Yes, I worked with Paula Patton on a movie called Baggage Claim and the role was a bit of a departure for me. My character is this overly ambitious, self-involved politician who’s obsessed with his little dog. So that left room for lots of comedy and improvising. I’m also starring in Best Man Holiday, which is a sequel to The Best Man. It’s the same character, but he’s older and has more experience under his belt and you get to see how the relationships have changed.

You also recently posted a Vine video on Twitter (@TayeDiggs) of you and Idina singing together while out in New York for a date night. It looked like you both were having a blast.

We hadn’t had a night like that in Manhattan in a while so we just took advantage. It was so much fun. I love those Vine videos. I could do eight a day.


Win Alison Sweeney’s New Book!

May 3, 2013 at 8:00 am , by

Alison Sweeney is one hardworking woman. Not only does she star on Days of Our Lives and host The Biggest Loser, she’s also mom to son Ben, age 8, and daughter Megan, age 4. In our July/August issue she answers your questions about how she lost weight and gained self-esteem, but even with everything else she has going on this busy mom still found the time to fulfill another dream: becoming a novelist. This month she releases her new book, The Star Attraction, which is about a Hollywood publicist who scores a dreamy big-name client, but she lets her love life become intertwined with her work. Sounds juicy, right? We agree—that’s why we’re giving five away copies signed by Alison herself! Just leave a comment on this blog post and you’re automatically entered to win.

Only one entry per person, per email address. Official Rules


Win A Signed Copy of Lauren Graham’s New Book!

March 29, 2013 at 8:00 am , by

Parenthood star Lauren Graham has come a long way since she began pursuing acting—she once played a dog mascot at the World Cup!—but she never gave up on her dreams. (Read our full interview with her in the May 2013 issue.) In fact, she turned those difficult moments into inspiration for her first novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe, about a struggling young actress in New York City. The book hits shelves on April 30th, but three lucky winners will get a free copy of the book signed by Lauren herself! All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post and you’re entered to win. Good luck!

Only one entry per person, per email address. Official Rules


Win Joyful Heart’s ‘No More’ Necklace by Me&Ro!

February 1, 2013 at 8:00 am , by

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit star Mariska Hargitay totally inspired us in our March 2013 cover story with her words of wisdom on everything from loving her curves to gaining self-confidence. Another reason she inspires us? In 2004 she started the Joyful Heart Foundation to raise awareness and empower survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. It’s a cause very close to her heart, and she’s teamed up with jewelry design company Me&Ro to offer this necklace to support Joyful Heart and the “NO MORE” movement to end domestic violence and sexual assault. You can purchase the necklace here, or you can enter to win one of five necklaces we’re giving away by leaving a comment on this blog post! Only one entry per person, per email address.

Official Rules


Win a Signed Copy of Hoda Kotb’s New Book!

January 15, 2013 at 8:00 am , by

Hoda Kotb is mostly known for her Today show antics with co-host Kathie Lee Gifford (check out their February cover story here!), her award-winning broadcast journalism, and her battle with breast cancer, all of which she wrote about in her memoir Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee. Today she’s releasing her next book, Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives, and this time she gets back to her news journalism roots by telling the amazing and inspiring stories of six others. Interested yet? Because we’re giving away three copies signed by Hoda and all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post to enter. Good luck! Only one entry per person, per email address.

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The Reader Interview: Taylor Swift

November 19, 2012 at 9:00 am , by

Every month an LHJ reader will get the chance to interview one of their favorite celebrities. This month, Gigi Kidary of Winter Park, Florida quizzes the singer-songwriter about her new CD, the most influential person in her life, and more.

Why is your new album called Red?
Most of the songs on this album are about fast-paced, out-of-control love. And the title track, “Red” is about a love that’s so intense, you can’t forget it. To me, intense emotion is red. This album documents my experiences with those types of relationships, from beginning to end.

Do you write better songs when you’re happy or sad?
I write songs about both the good and bad parts of love, so it’s hard to say which is the better inspiration. Sometimes sadness can be so overwhelming, it stifles you. I’d much rather be happy, so I choose that as my preferred inspiration.

You’ve collaborated with a lot of great artists. Is there someone you haven’t worked with yet that you would like to?
All of the artists I wanted to work with more than anything are on this album. ;)

How long does it usually take you to write a song?
It varies. I could get a lightning bolt of inspiration and write a song in 20 minutes, or I could labor over one for four months and put it down, then go back to it. That’s what I love about songwriting. You never know how or when it’s going to happen.

When you find time to read, what kind of books do you read?
I love The Hunger Games series and I was so honored to get to write music for the movie. Those books suck you in and keep you engaged like nothing I’ve read before.

Who is the most influential person in your life?
My mom. I’ve never gone a day without talking to her, and she gives me the wisest advice. But most of all, she’s put her kids first since we were born. Growing up, she was always there for me when I needed a friend. That’s why she’s still one of my closest friends now.