Art Imitates Life
Entertainment Tonight co-host Nancy O’Dell may be a familiar face, but there’s definitely more to her than just an admirable career in the media industry. This former beauty queen and Access Hollywood co-anchor goes on the flipside of the TV cameras for BC
Bringing a fresh perspective to collecting heartfelt memories, Emmy Award-winning entertainment journalist Nancy O’Dell is an advocate for the hobby art. As a prominent TV personality (who is an often fixture in award ceremonies such as The Oscars and Golden Globe), author, and busy mother, Nancy knows how important it is to spend quality time with her children.
In her latest book, Full of Love, Nancy discusses her passion for scrapbooking, and draws importance to the ability of family albums to help nurture children who are happier, more confident, and secure. Nancy shares how she inherited the love for the craft from her mother and grandmother, who have passed on to her a special kind of heirloom—their very own family albums. Her admirable career has also provided her with a platform to spread the word on another cause close to her heart—the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Betty’s Battle, an organization she founded following her mom’s passing due to complications related to ALS—all while she cares for her loves—3-year old daughter, Ashby; two stepsons, Tyler and Carson; and husband, Keith Zubchevich.
BC: As the founder of Betty’s Battle (bettysbattle.org) and the Vice President and National ALS Ambassador to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, can you tell us more about the causes?
N: My mother, Betty, was literally one of the sweetest people who has ever walked this earth. I want to humanize ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), so people understand what it does both to those who have it, and to their families. It is a horrific disease and I want to do whatever I can to stop it from taking somebody else’s loved one. I founded Betty’s Battle with the Muscular Dystrophy Association in honor of my mom, who was always one to put others before herself. So it is not surprising that even in her passing, she is still helping people. MDA was there for me and my family every step of the way during Mom’s illness. They provided expert medical care, told us about the latest ALS research and clinical trials, and kept us informed about what might happen next. So I know I have a wonderful partner in this fight. My hope is that MDA’s Betty’s Battle will be able to fund the research necessary to find a cure, so other families don’t have to go through this like my family did.
BC: Who is your parenting model?
N: No question, my own parents. I couldn’t have asked for better parents. There was never a moment in my life I ever doubted how much they loved me. They were there for every event in my life. I grew up feeling like I was the most loved child in the world, and I know my sister would tell you the same thing. I have the best memories of my mom and dad telling me multiples times in the morning before I would go to school and before I would go to bed, “I love you.” They showed it with actions as well. When my mom passed, she left around 50 photo albums, and my dad handed them down to me. As I went through them, I felt that same love all over again. She had scrapbooked everything I had ever done, every poem I attempted to write, every piece of artwork, every A+ paper. That’s how they always were. If I can be a quarter of the mom my mom was to me, I’ll still be a great mom.
BC: What is your best memory as a mother yourself?
N: Everything! I say one of the best things about having children is you get to experience your own childhood again through their eyes. Disney World feels like you’re right back there as you get to see the same excitement in your children’s faces that you remember feeling as a kid. Some of my best memories are coming home after work. Seeing the big smile suddenly appear on your child’s face when she sees you and then having her run into your arms…there is nothing better than that! Just the other day, I had a full work day and then an event right after. By the time I got home, Ashby was already asleep. But she woke up in the middle of the night. She saw I was home and said to me, “Mama, I missed you so much today.” My heart completely melted!
BC: That is so sweet…As a host, journalist and author, you seem to be very busy woman.
N: It is tough to juggle it all, but you have to make time for the most important thing in your life, which is family. Jobs will come and go, but family will always be a part of you. And you have to make sure it is a lot of time, and quality time you spend with them. My husband, long ago, gave me the biggest and best piece of advice: Be in the moment. I had turned down a work assignment to be with my family and I was fretting over what my boss would think. My husband told me, “If you’re spending all the time worrying about a decision you’ve made, then you are not in the moment and you’re not making the most of the precious time you made the decision to spend.” So it is important to be present and really enjoy.
BC: You graduated Summa Cum Laude majoring in Marketing in Clemson University. Did you ever see yourself as an entertainment host/author/journalist?
N: I actually didn’t plan for this career. It’s ironic because I can’t see myself doing anything differently now, as I love being a journalist. Fortunately, I discovered that early on. I started out in TV sales at a small TV station, WPDE, in Florence/Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Because it was a small market, it didn’t require a lot of experience to be a reporter. I started doing some reporting on the weekends for them, and realized I really liked the fact that it was a different job every day, depending on the story you had. I loved the fact that it was so interesting, ever-changing, and that I learned something every assignment when reporting. I have always yearned to learn and have a curiosity about things…so a career in journalism works well for me, since I get to ask questions!
BC: You won Miss South Carolina in 1987, and you’ve been hosting some beauty pageants as well. Please tell us more about those experiences.
N: I know that beauty pageants can have a negative connotation to some, but I have to say there were so many things I learned during my year as Miss South Carolina that have helped me today. I spent that entire year traveling around the state and country, speaking at various events. The public speaking experience came in handy for what I do for a living now. It was also an event in my life that matured me, as you can wind up having a lot of responsibility. I even traveled to Japan on an international trade relations program. Also, that year taught me that you can take a platform and use it for doing good. I am grateful I learned that at an early age.
BC: What inspired you to write a book on chronicling a young child’s growth through scrapbooking and album making?
N: Honestly, I couldn’t wait to spread the word about something that is so valuable to families and children. So that’s the biggest reason I wrote Full of Love. When some people hear the word “scrapbooking,” they think it’s all glue and glitter and way too time-consuming. I wanted to let the world see that you can do it easily and quickly, because those albums are so vitally important in making children feel loved, valued and confident. In one chapter of the book, I interview renowned psychologist, Dr. Kenneth Condrell, who told me that there are few tools more powerful or effective than family albums or scrapbooks in helping to raise confident, happy, well-adjusted kids! So it was so easy for me to write about something about which I am so passionate.
BC: Congratulations on your new Hummingbird scrapbooking collection with Creative Memories.
N: I am so excited about my new line with Creative Memories. Obviously, I am a huge believer in album-making so I wanted to make it beyond simple for busy parents to do. And that is exactly what the Hummingbird line is all about. It is foolproof and is available as a traditional album-making kit as well as digitally.
BC: What are your other must-haves as a mom?
N: I’m not just saying this because it is a part of the new line, but my Hummingbird tote has totally become a mommy must-have for me. You spend so much time in the pediatrician’s and OBGYN’s offices and I, of course, was making baby albums galore during that waiting time. (I have actually even done albums in between interviews at the Oscars; kid you not!). Also, you have to get Celine Dion’s Miracle CD. It’s amazing and has the most beautiful songs about children—and, of course, Celine has one of the most beautiful voices in the world. A friendly warning though—you might want to have a box of tissues handy as you will get so sentimental about your children.