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Photograph by Bruce Mars 

"Everything was go big or go home; houses, cars, lifestyle, wardrobe, all of it luxury. This is the life I wanted. It’s all I ever wanted. No one to answer to, no one to take care of, and no one to take care of me. I wanted to do it all on my own. My way. It was like consuming a supersized ego drink every morning. I was charged from the minute I woke up."

I was on top of the world. My world. The one I created for myself. I was living the American dream. Fame, stardom, opportunity, spotlight consumed my life. Everything was go big or go home, houses, cars, lifestyle, wardrobe, all of it luxury. This is the life I wanted. It’s all I ever wanted. No one to answer to, no one to take care of, and no one to take care of me. I wanted to do it all on my own. My way. It was like consuming a supersized ego drink every morning. I was charged from the minute I woke up.


Life was about working toward one moment. The moment I would be recognized beyond any other. Traveling country to country - well appointed to perform my concerts, and on track to becoming a notable in entertainment. I was charismatic and well dressed, at times self-absorbed, yes. I could be described by most as intelligent, popular, and mostly exceedingly persistent and stubborn. Success was my objective no matter the cost. Wake early, meditate in prayer, and work till after midnight. I would eat very little (it took time to eat), then sleep. If I read at all it was about work, and how to achieve. I read every empowerment book I could. I was drinking the power juice. Even when I socialized it was about work. No one could get close enough to know me, only my parents, and my mentor. Even my assistants got fed up with wanting to get closer to me and would eventually leave. I wasn’t going to let it happen. This was business. My past was my past, and that’s where I left it. That was my routine, interrupted by one day a week of yoga. Eating, and exercise were interruptions so I did both as little as possible. When I did it was restaurant food. No time to cook, let someone else do it so I can work I thought. My diet was a double cappuccino and a pastry for breakfast followed by a cigarette, a muffin or egg sandwich for lunch with a cappuccino at lunch and a dinner at the sushi or Thai restaurant. My frequent dining room of choice was a quaint  Italian restaurant owned by a friend of mine that always ended with a glass of wine after dinner followed by half a pack of cigarettes. On more challenging days it was a whiskey and a chat with my equally thriving friends pursuing the brisk landscape of Hollywood’s elite and competing in the high stakes game of “who can take off their clothes quicker to get the job”. Nights were filled with work conversation. Things like how your audition went, what filming in Africa was like, and discussing my next piece of work.


We were showered with gifts, newly released beds by yoga gurus, CD’s from Hollywood producers, and expensive wines and cigars. I was called on from Hollywood producers, NYC’s production teams for ideas, and speaking to London, NY, and LA about the next show we could create. I was always invited as a VIP to any event. Film events, private parties, wherever there were lights I was there. Driving up in limousines, making our way through the back entrance to our club of choice where the owners new us personally, back stage passes to rub shoulders with entertainment, the hottest DJ’s, old and new performers, stars, and wannabes. It didn’t matter, I was there and they all wanted to know me.


Eventually I would find myself in the next distortion of tears or laughter over where our life was headed on the bathroom floor with the girlfriend of the night. Dancers from the club, Hollywood actors, or rappers, they were all the same to me. I was always driven to win. My family and boyfriends always forewarned me that I would never settle down because I was too headstrong. But when I met my mentor and life became bigger than I could imagine, it took some getting used to. I couldn’t handle it at first. It was too big and I had too many expectations being placed at my feet. My acceptance speech for initiation was followed by a quick visit to the emergency room after swallowing a handful of pills. Too much for my small town brain to handle when approached by the bigwigs of entertainment.


After this happened I was determined to enter into a camouflaged existence. I had to be perfection for everyone. Not one mistake or one flaw or I would be thrown into the deep end and risk it all. So I worked really hard at this. No one ever knew how I was feeling or any emotions at all for that matter.


Occasionally we would frequent nights with musicians where everyone would feel the free spirit of playing and singing. It was the only night where I could let go and be free of this controlled nature. A wailing exotic Indian singer drenched in tattoos with an obsession to be center stage often upstaged me, but it was nevertheless entertaining. I wanted her confidence. That was life day after day. It was one party and one job after the next.


But soon I could feel my energy start to decrease. Some days it was worse than others. Most days I could push through it. The more I wanted the less I could achieve. So I kept pushing. I took more antibiotics to get passed the colds that I didn’t want to rest for, I took more topical medications to get passed the nervous rashes and breakouts, and more birth control pills than I should. I would change doctors to get passed the wall of approvals needed to keep prescribing me. I kept going. I was the life of the party and the one in charge. Without me my team would be let down. I wasn’t addicted to pills or alcohol, so I relied 100 percent on my internal energy to push me through.   


I needed a break. I thought it was burnout, or maybe a midlife crisis. It was the first time I couldn't manage someone else’s expectation. I was informed at 2 am reviewing a script that I was needed at the next morning’s meeting to present for Al Pacino. We were trying to land him my mentor said. We had been granted a thumbs-up from other great actors but that wasn’t good enough. I had served muffins to Paul Sorvino upon command and reduced myself to nothing more than a temp to serve him all day just to garner his attention. But that wasn’t enough. We needed Mr. Pacino. At the same time I was producing 2 magazine editorials, an ad campaign, and preparing for a reality TV show. Keep working.


It was a time in my life when all I could wish for is that time could stand still. Relentlessly it pounded forward. I need a pause so I could find out what was happening inside me. When I woke I had scarred tissue in my throat it felt, when I ate I felt weak, my head pounded, and my stomach became viciously nauseous. I drank so much water but I was still thirsty. My head ached. It was a tumor everyone said. Or it was burnout like I suspected. The doctors said nothing was wrong with me. It was psychosomatic and I needed therapy, they explained. I was representing a brand, I was a brand, and brands don’t rest, they don’t take a break. But my stomach hurt. That’s okay it will pass, they said. It's probably just indigestion take a Tums, they explained. So I kept going for years like this.


The puffy white cloud that hung over every step I took was starting to fade, and the time when the world seemed like it could fit in the palm of my hand was quickly becoming a memory. I was out of energy.


There were several steps in between that lead me here but one day I woke up in a different state in recovery. I was suffering from Stage 3 Advanced Gastrointestinal Systemic Candidiasis caused by a parasitic infection. The illness had made its way through my intestines and it was so severe it nearly took my life by way of my liver.


After a short stint in California I made my way to Hawaii where the healing would begin and where I would soon find out what the American dream WAS actually all about, and it had nothing to do with success.


I spent the next 3 years in complete and utter silence. I had forgotten what silence sounded like. Funny, but the ocean and the breeze felt different from the noise I had grown accustomed to. I didn’t even want to hear music. I couldn’t handle the sound of the television and it was watched very seldom. I was detoxing human existence and I was staring at myself exposed. I spent days just staring into the ocean without a thought. All I could feel was pain in my body.


I was no longer yearning for spotlight. I had traded in my obsession for fame for survival. I wanted to wake up and not be in pain. I was no longer figurative I could feel my body as if I was alive for the first time. Everything I was putting into my body had a devastating consequence. Every inch of my body was in pain and discomfort. Everything I ate caused excruciating stomach pain and severe nausea that lead to intense vomiting, so I ate very little. I had reached a dangerous weight and lost most of my ability to move as I once did. This excruciating illness was here to remind me of all I had done to myself. Even breathing was laborious some days.


But every day I was sequestered in a place where I could see the rainbows, and touch the ocean. I could hear the birds, listen to laughter, and walk amongst the gentle sand against my skin. I could watch the surfers glide amongst the ocean as if they were dancers on ice. I could hear the sounds of island singers using their hands to communicate and loving life through their eyes. I was ill, and I was dying. The parasite had reached my brain and I was going to die. I knew it the night I sat on my knees in my bedroom wailing over my bible asking God to forgive me for all I had done to my body.


I was thrust into the darkness of the deepest ocean without a life jacket. My life was turned inside out. I was alone and needy, two things that never defined me. But I had one thing with me that I didn’t realize would turn my life around for good. Him. He was from a small town in the Midwest. He would teach me to be free on the inside so I could breathe again. He would show me that I was more than my dreams. I was human. He never let me give up and we fought for my wellness even when I was ready to give up. He loved me more than I even knew I was capable of being loved. He learned to cook for me and did so avidly with great precision of what I could and could not eat every day. He held me up when I had no strength to stand, and he danced with me when the depression overcame my mind and my will to overcome my loss of self. He loved all of me for what I was despite my withering frame.


It was a long journey to find myself again. Eventually after years of treatments and organic foods, 12 doctors, and countless herbs, I was able to stand again on my own. I would never return to the health I took for granted but I would live within the important boundaries of this new life. My immune system never recovered so the rest of my life I would suffer from its hindrances as a constant reminder of my journey.


I would from this moment, realize this was the new moment I had worked for. The moment when I realized that life was more than success and work achievements, it was about living. I would eat a strawberry and really taste it knowing it was not only delicious but it was nourishing me with vitamin C. I would take a walk with my family and relish every moment knowing that time is fleeting.  I would feel the sun against my skin and enjoy every moment as its warmth cradled my skin and gave new life to body with vitamin D that I needed to be healthy.


You see, I didn’t give up on my American dream, I just realized in this moment when time finally did stand still long enough for me to realize I now had the American dream. Somehow I was lost in the shadows of my own limelight and stopped caring about my body. I stopped caring about me.


We soon had a healthy daughter and bought a beautiful home in the peaceful landscape of the tropics, and I took all I had learned about myself in Hawaii. I said goodbye to the life I had created for myself, and I let someone finally know me. All of the actual me, and it felt good to finally be free. 



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