Kathy Ireland began her career as a supermodel, well known for gracing the pages of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit editions. Now a mother of three – Erik, 15, Lily, 11, and Chloe, 6 – Kathy is an accomplished author and CEO of a $1.4 billion design company. Kathy sat down with Celebrity Baby Scoop for a candid look at her life and her faith, her new book, and how she promotes positive body image with all three of her kids.
CBS: Do you look back fondly at your Sports Illustrated swimsuit modeling days? Do you worry that these ‘perfect’ images of yourself will negatively affect/influence your daughter’s body image and self esteem? Or how your son views women? Do you talk to your girls about healthy body image?
KI: “Grateful is a wonderful word to use when remembering those modeling days from the last century. I never thought of those images as ‘perfect’ because they were so heavily retouched. Our daughters and young girls everywhere need to understand that fashion is fine as fantasy. It is as far from reality as you can possibly get. Whenever, the opportunity arises to speak to young women and young men about body image and self esteem, the message is clear…don’t even think about trying to find it in fashion. Our girls are focused on having healthy bodies and not so concerned about ‘image.’ Our son views and treats girls and women of every age with great respect.”
CBS: Is your 15-year-old son embarrassed that mom used to be a swimsuit model? What are some of the ways you teach him to respect women?
KI: “No. Our entire family grew up on the beach. Swimsuits are very normal to us. As a mom, there are pictures that were taken then, that would not happen today. Our family, our friends and co-workers are more pleased and proud of the old modeling days, than they are embarrassed. Our son is encouraged daily to respect all people, regardless of gender, color, background, faith or socio-economic situation. Our family is very grateful that our son is already such a leader. He just returned from a mission trip to England and leaves in a few weeks for another one in Israel. We teach him the importance of loving all fellow human beings… and paying special respect to women.”
CBS: You have worked with disadvantaged single teen mothers. When working with pregnant teens, do you encourage all options: adoption, abortion or keeping the baby? Do you believe teaching our teenagers to abstain from sex is reasonable? What are your best tips to parents of teenagers regarding this ‘tough topic.’ How can we best safeguard our youth against teenage pregnancy?
KI: “Abortion is not something I could ever encourage unless the health of the mother is in jeopardy. Abstinence is absolutely possible. It is also clearly not being practiced with the frequency or consistency that is possible. Contraception is a powerful alternative. We must accept the reality that contraception never has one hundred percent accuracy in preventing pregnancy, STDs and broken hearts.
Open conversations about sexuality and it’s consequences are some of the best advice for families. These talks are uncomfortable for most parents – please get your head out of the sand and have them anyway – again and again and again. People are talking with your kids about sex. Do you want to be included in the conversation? If our kids feel we are going to judge them, they’re not going to talk with us. We must make sure that our lines of communication are open and that we are not shocked by what we learn. Love and understanding are essential when our children are facing something as powerful as sexuality.”
CBS: You have a new book titled, Real Solutions for Busy Moms Devotional: 52 God Inspired Messages for your Heart. What is this book about? Is this a religious book, directed toward Christian moms?
KI: This book is very focused on Scripture. To me, faith is a great gift from God. Religion is man made and therefore, distinctly different from faith. The book makes Bible study very easy and personal. It is certainly inspired by God’s Word and intended to make mom’s relationships with her faith, family, loved ones, friends and strangers a wonderful journey.
CBS: This new book is a companion to your April release Real Solutions for Busy Moms: Your Guide to Success and Sanity. Please tell us all about this book as well? Did the success of this first book inspire the second?
KI: “Real Solutions for Busy Moms: Your Guide to Success and Sanity is an exciting book with a powerful message for families. This book deals with tough topics that moms face everyday. AEA (auto-erotic asphyxiation), drug prevention, financial crisis, health issues and so much more are in those pages. It was a shock when the book became a best selling guide… especially in Christian parenting. Many people who do not share Christian faith have said that the book is helping them to navigate raising their children during these turbulent times. That is a great honor and yes, the success of the first book inspired the second.”
CBS: You are the Chief Designer and CEO of a design company that is worth an estimated $1.4 billion! Wow! How and when did your design visions come about? What do you design? Tell us all about your gorgeous Thank You Baby line.
KI: “Our company, kathy ireland Worldwide® (kiWW), began at our kitchen table while we were expecting the birth of our son Erik in 1993. Our design philosophy is based upon a thematic vision of the global experience. Our Style Guides are: Aloha, Architectural, Ivory Coast, Americana, Far East Dreams, In Russian Style, La Vida Buena and European Country. These themes of design emerge and grow during our team’s travels around the globe. Modeling was a gift, because it brought so much about fashion, different cultures and most importantly, different people…their wants needs and dreams to our awareness. kiWW® designs over 15,000 products…including, but not limited to: flooring, furniture, lighting, ceiling fans, home accessories, top of bed, jewelry, socks, fashion accessories, skincare, fresh floral arrangements and so much more. Our beautiful collaboration with Tracy George and the gifted team at Thank You Baby is a special joy. Tracy is just amazing and together, we are bringing beautiful baby linen and bedding to market that families simply love.”
CBS: You appeared on Larry King Live and discussed your weight gain. In a way, was it heavenly not focusing on your weight after being a supermodel and having to be thin for all those years? Or was this a dark time in your life? How do you stay in shape these days? Any tips for our busy moms out there that can’t seem to find the time for working out?
KI: “It was essential to develop a business that did not depend in anyway on my appearance. That is an accomplishment that we are all very happy about. Earning a paycheck based on how someone else feels you look, is scary. Celebrity is something else we never depended upon. Fame – which is something I have had very little of – does not equal brand equity. It’s funny to hear people talk about those modeling days and thinness. I was frequently called too heavy for certain modeling jobs.
Beautiful people come in all shapes, sizes and colors. There is no shame in a weight gain. I gained about a pound a year over the last 25 years… it crept up and one day with a photograph taken by our son, there it was. It wasn’t the extra pounds that were shocking… it was the look in my eyes that revealed someone overweight, overwhelmed, overstressed and just over everything. I’d fallen off my own list of priorities. While taking care of our family, I had forgotten I was a member of our family too.
Portion control is essential. More vegetables…more salads…desserts are rewards rather than the norm today. After 40 and three kids, everything has shifted, including metabolism. The best advice for busy moms is put on your own oxygen mask first. If you don’t stay healthy to take care of your family, who else is going to do it?”
CBS: You are mom to Erik, 15, Lily, 11, and Chloe, 6. Your husband Greg Olsen is an ER physician and a commercial fisherman. How do you find the time for family with your busy designing career and writing your books? What kinds of things do you do together as a family?
KI: “My priorities are faith, family and being of service to others. The minute those priorities are out of line, life becomes an unmanageable mess. Making time for our family is critical. We have a technique called bubble time where we shut down all electronics and spend time with our children learning about their day. Bed times are priceless. Each of our kids is at a different age and so the process is very unique to their personality and where in life they are standing. Our lives are pretty normal… school events, sleepovers, homework, church, Bible study, sports, school plays, our kids jobs, family dinners, bike rides, hiking, fun with loved ones and the beach is a big part of our lives…from swimming to surfing!”
CBS: What are your best tips for disciplining multi-aged children – just like your family?
KI: “Discipline must be unique to each child; their age, their personality requires individual attention. When our kids were younger, time-outs of one minute for each year were pretty effective. Helping each child to understand the importance of age appropriate behavior with their siblings made a big difference with our kids. There are those moments where I lose it. Not long ago, we were having a melt down in the car. I warned our kids, if it didn’t stop we would pull over, and the drive would stop. They didn’t and I did. I found a safe space, pulled over, parked the car, got out and set on the curb, watching them until everyone calmed down. It’s important to be a parent to our children. Our home is not democracy. The best friend thing doesn’t work for us. We set boundaries and remind our kids that as parents we don’t have all the answers. Our faith is essential to raising our children. Some parents want to be their kids best friend. We want to be mom and dad.”
CBS: Do you ever have frazzled mom moments? What is your best advice for moms who suffer from ‘mommy guilt’?
KI: “I have frazzled mom moments all the time and feel guilty too often! The best way to deal with mommy guilt is to remember that you are best person in the world to raise your kids. No one loves them more, no one knows them better and you can do it…not perfectly, but beautifully.”
CBS: You have been named a health advocate and a youth ambassador. Please tell us more about the health and youth issues you are involved in.
KI: “The Special Olympics, Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding Foundation, The Alliance for Christian Education, Athletes and Entertainers for Kids, the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation, Friends of Sheba Medical Center and Feed The Children. We cannot have health when children are hungry.”
CBS: If you are working on any other projects or charities, please feel free to discuss.
KI: “There is always so much going on. Please visit kathyireland.com or walk with me on twitter to learn about our current projects. Thank you for this opportunity and Happy Holidays.”