Actress and Model, Kathy Ireland
Interview by Randy Hill and John Peyton
Kathy Ireland is truly a woman of accomplishment. She is a wife and mother, fashion and lifestyle designer, humanitarian, and health and wellness advocate. She balances these responsibilities, while leading the business that Women's Wear Daily named America's 7th most popular women's apparel brand in its category. In 1999, Kathy Ireland was honored by The National Association of Women Business Owners and received The Entertainment Businesswoman of the Year Award. The demands on Kathy's busy schedule are many. On any given week, you might find her at some exotic locale shooting her designs, featuring her swimwear collection, rehearsing countless hours for her next project, or teaching Sunday school to four and five year olds. But when the work is done, she can be found at her home in Southern California, where she resides with her husband Greg, an emergency room physician, and their two children, Erik and Lily.
Tell us a little about your background, where you were raised and how you got started in your career as a lifestyle designer?
My parents raised my two sisters and I in Santa Barbara, California.
The genesis of my lifestyle design career started while I was modeling. My design education and philosophy comes from this "hands-on" experience working with some of the world's top designers. Modeling exposed me to images and prices that were unrealistic and unattainable for most. I realized that I wanted to create products that were accessible for families, especially busy moms.
We read somewhere that your occupation is listed as "lifestyle designer, actress and Sunday school teacher." What a great combination that is!
God has blessed me with me so many career choices and journeys, but my faith and family are my highest priorities. If it was not for their support, I don't believe that I would have the success I enjoy. My family is the center of my life, and with that I know I've found the greatest success.
I enjoy teaching Sunday school because I believe that our children are our future and it is our responsibility to introduce them to God.
Tell us about your parents.
My parents have always been a great inspiration to me. My father always told me to do more than what was expected of me. When I had my first paper route at eleven years of age, he said, "If people expect the newspaper on the driveway, put it on the front porch." He gave me an important lesson in life that day, and it's one that I live by.
Both of my parents instilled a strong work ethic. Through my mother's nursing background and father's work in labor relations, I have experienced first hand how people need to be treated with the utmost dignity and basic human rights.
You have been quoted as saying, "When I became a Christian, I made spending time with God a priority." When did you become a Christian and how did that come about? Did your family influence you at all? How do you spend your time with God on a given day?
There was never a time in my life when I didn't believe in God. I didn't come to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior until I was 18 years old. While on a trip to Paris, traveling on my own, I discovered that my mom had packed a Bible in my suitcase. Out of loneliness and boredom, I picked up the Bible and began to read it. I started by reading the Gospels. When I read about Jesus, I knew that I was reading the truth and my heart was convicted. I realized that I didn't know much about Him. What I came to understand was that He was a very cool guy. He not only became my Savior, but my best friend.
My goal is to always put God first. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. However, I do try to schedule time with Him because life gets busy. I spend time with God mostly by praying in odd places and times. However, I also make sure that He gets quality time. Twice a week, my husband and I spend 15 minutes reading the Bible together. I also try to attend Bible study because it helps me to grow and have a stronger, closer relationship with God. Like any relationship, it takes time, effort and commitment. When the relationship is close, it's much easier to understand what His will is in my life.
What challenges do you face as a Christian in modeling, acting and business? Do you still act?
My faith in God keeps me grounded. When I make God the priority in my life, everything else seems to fall into place. When you realize that you can't control everything in your life, and you turn everything over to the Lord, the everyday challenges don't seem important.
Many people face challenges for being misunderstood and ridiculed for being different. It's important to be strong in your faith and never to compromise your values. Be true to yourself. When I became a Christian, Jesus gave me such strength. With Him as my best friend, it really didn't matter what anyone else thought of me. And, He still gives me that strength today.
When there are schedule breaks in my design career, yes, I do enjoy acting. It's a cherished interest. On November 23rd, I co-starred with John Dye ("Touched By An Angel") and Mary Donnelly Haskell ("Sisters") in the holiday film Twice Upon A Christmas, a sequel to Once Upon A Christmas. This was my second opportunity to work with His Royal Highness Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, who served as an Executive Producer on the project.
You are an active businesswoman, mother and wife. How do you balance everything?
While balancing my career and family is a challenge, my family always comes first. They are the higher priority in my life. The career should serve the family; the family should not serve the career. When I have forgotten, my husband and children are constant reminders of the commitment I have made to them. Making sure that I am spending enough time with God also helps keep me focused. When I have time to myself, I try to reserve those precious moments with my husband and kids. They give me strength.
I feel very fortunate to have aligned myself with great business partners who understand that my family comes first. They understand that commitment. Being self-employed provides me with the tremendous luxury of working my schedule around my family's needs. It's not always easy. It's definitely a balancing act, but with the support of my team, who shares my philosophy, I am able to accomplish so much.
You have many business ventures. Tell us a little about each of them. To what do you attribute your success?
Like most wonderful things that I have been given, I thank God for the success I enjoy with my family. I believe God blesses people in different ways. While it's wonderful to have goals, it's also important to be content at every stage of your life. None of us can be sure of what tomorrow will bring.
The genesis of my lifestyle business began with a pair of socks. I thought if women embraced the style and quality of my product, then I might have something to offer. In creating my first clothing line, I found that those trends, design philosophies and styles could also be incorporated and translated in the home. I began building my brand, introducing new products and partnering with some of the world's most successful business leaders. My collection now includes furniture, home sewing patterns and lamps with my partners at Vanguard, Butterick/Vogue and As You Like It. In working with world flooring leader Shaw Industries, I have enjoyed tremendous success with my rug and carpet collection, which earned the Good Housekeeping seal for consumer quality.
It was humbling to be called by the Associated Press as "a best friend to working mothers" because that's the mission of my company to provide solutions for families, especially busy moms. This is who I am and what I know.
We know you're interested in marine biology and scuba diving?how did this interest come about?
I believe nature is a gift from God. I enjoy being in the outdoors and exploring God's creation. I have always had a love of the sea, and I look forward to surfing with my family.
Scuba diving is something I've done for many years. It's wonderful to witness God's creation under the sea. Although I have not taken formal studies in marine biology, it's another interest of mine. My travels have given me many opportunities to observe underwater life and learning on my own.
Tell us about your most recent golf tournament in Austin, Texas.
It's especially rewarding to be able to give back to my community. I thank the people of Austin for their wonderful hospitality and for being gracious hosts for the Kathy Ireland Championship Honoring Harvey Penick. Mr. Penick was a great man of wonderful commitment. He helped many athletes, both men and women, achieve success. I was so pleased that our tournament honored his legacy.
Every girl and boy deserves an equal opportunity to realize their dreams. When my daughter was born, the importance of her achieving her dreams as she got older became even more critical to me. The LPGA has a long history of making dreams become reality for women. I am happy to support their vision.
The Neighborhood Longhorns Program, which benefited from the tournament, shares the vision of the LPGA and Mr. Penick, in helping youth achieve their dreams. They provide assistance and educational resources designed to improve their reading and math skills to achieve academic success.
Of all your humanitarian efforts, what are you working on now? What efforts would you consider being involved with in the future?
My faith and family have inspired my humanitarian efforts. When my husband and I were expecting our daughter, she tested positive for Down's Syndrome. When she arrived, the test proved to be a false positive, but during our pregnancy we wondered how to reach out to other families and share our belief that every child is a miracle, a gift from God no matter what challenges they may face. God doesn't make mistakes.
I have particularly been inspired by the work of Eunice Shriver and her crusade efforts for children through the Special Olympics. Through my philanthropic efforts, I hope I will be able to lead by her example. It's my desire to help the most vulnerable ? our children.
It's been very rewarding working as an Ambassador for Women's Health for the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) and for The Dream Foundation. I'm also the Chairperson for Family Services and Parenting for Athletes and Entertainers for Kids, where I host an annual Mother-Daughter Tea to give single teen moms educational tools to raise their babies in a loving and supportive environment. It's important not to judge, but to use our gifts to help others get back on their feet. It's a responsibility we have to each other and our children. For more information on these wonderful organizations and others such as the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission and Santa Barbara Riding Academy, I welcome you to visit www.KathyIreland.org from my website.
Have you written any books?
Yes, I am happy to share that next year Doubleday will publish my first book, Powerful Inspirations: Eight Lessons that Changed My Life, which I co-authored with Laura Morton, a wonderful best-selling writer. It's my personal story of how I overcame challenges in my life by putting my faith and family first. I certainly don't know all of the answers, but I realized that there is a common thread that weaves through my actions when faced with life choices, and those are the eight principles that I hope will offer insight. The simplicity of these powerful inspirations have served me well throughout my life.
I have also been asked by the Publishing Company Hanley-Wood to contribute editorial content on an on-going basis to Good Housekeeping Do It Yourself, House Beautiful Kitchens & Baths, House Beautiful Home Building and House Beautiful Home Remodeling & Decorating. These magazines are invaluable resources for families looking for solutions for the home. The first articles I have written appear in this winter's editions.
Copyright 2001 PeytonHill Communications, Inc. and True Believer Magazine (www.truebeliever.com) all rights reserved. Used with permission. Randy Hill and John Peyton are the publishers of True Believer Magazine. truebeliever.com