As co-anchor and correspondent for Access Hollywood, Shaun Robinson has spoken with countless glamorous celebrities and has received hundreds of emails and letters from young girls asking how they can be more like their favorite stars. Shaun opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her new book Exactly As I Am which shatters Hollywood beauty myths – “everything is airbrushed” – and shares how some of the most famous women in the world have suffered from low self esteem. The inspiring book encourages girls to find their inner strength, grow confident, and believe in themselves.
CBS: Tell us about your new book, Exactly As I Am, about girls and self esteem.
SR: “This book was three years in the making. As a result of my work at Access Hollywood, many girls I would come in contact with would ask me if celebrities are as perfect as they seem on TV or in magazines. I realized that girls internalize many of the images that I report on. So I felt it was my duty to use my access, and talk to celebrities about what it takes to believe in yourself.
It doesn’t have anything to do with fame, beauty and money. Some of the most beautiful, richest, famous people are miserable. I wanted to find out if some of these celebrities had struggled with their own self-esteem and then use those experiences to help girls navigate the waters because it’s much tougher to be a girl now than it has ever been.”
CBS: How did you connect with the organization Girls Inc.?
SR: “I was looking for an organization to align myself with. I’ve been involved with mentoring programs and charities my entire life, but I was looking for something that touched me on an emotional level and something that would impact the lives of others. A friend of mine referred me to Girls Inc. I went to the website, and as soon as I saw the motto, “Inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold”, I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of.”
CBS: How does Girls Inc make a difference?
SR: “The roots of Girls Inc., date back to the 1800s. It’s a fantastic organization that provides many, many services, including providing college scholarships. Some of the recipients are the first in their family to attend, along with mentoring programs and self-esteem workshops. Recently, Girls Inc. aligned themselves with Dove because their message is also about believing in yourself and accepting who you are. It’s about helping girls realize that they can overcome the obstacles and challenges in their lives – economic hardship, broken home, lack of family support, etc. Girls Inc. is there to give them the tools they need to succeed.”
CBS: Did you have low self esteem when you where a young girl?
SR: “I talk about this a lot in the book. As a young girl, I used to take my mom’s scarves and tie pigtails in my hair, because I wanted to have longer hair because I thought that was prettier. My mom’s was straight and shoulder length at the time, but then she got her hair cut into a natural/afro style because she wanted to show me that there are different kinds of beauty. I love my mother for that valuable lesson. But then I grew up and got extensions! (She laughs)”
CBS: How can parents encourage young girls to develop healthy self esteem?
SR: “I don’t put myself in the position to give parents advice. I am not a parent, and I believe it is the hardest job in the world. My job is to find out what girls are feeling and to talk to women about their own challenges with self esteem and share those so today’s girls can learn from those experiences and be empowered to dream big and believe in themselves. The only advice I have for parents is to buy the book!”
CBS: Do you hope to have children one day?
SR: “Yes, and I would also consider adoption. There are people in my family who have adopted. I have lots of kids in my life right now. My sister Carla has three boys, my brother has one daughter and my other sister has daughter and son. I love being an aunt.”
CBS: Do you think being a parent is a hard job?
SR: “I have a friend from Detroit who has a daughter named Cerie and when she was 4-years-old, I watched her for a weekend. I never gave my friend advice on parenting because I realized then that even though she was the most wonderful, well behaved little girl, it was non-stop action. Parenting is the hardest job in the world!”
CBS: Do you think Hollywood places unrealistic beauty ideals on girls and women?
SR: “Most definitely and that is one of the main reasons I wrote the book. Everything is airbrushed, and I mean EVERYTHING! In Hollywood it is all about image, so I wanted to let girls know the truth. Look, if you had a makeup team 24/7, you would look great too. It’s just isn’t realistic.”
CBS: Name some celebs who you feel have healthy self esteem?
SR: “Oprah Winfrey who gave an incredible quote for the book, and Helen Mirren. Helen is so mature and fabulous I love her sassiness and confidence. India.Airie and Jennifer Hudson because they are just so secure in their bodies. These are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
“It is hard to let your personality flourish when you are pointlessly paralyzed by insecurities about your physique. Both boys and girls can be horribly cruel and childishly
thoughtless. Character and personality are much more important and ultimately win out. For time passes and youthful beauty with it.” Helen Mirren
“True self-esteem is realizing that you are valuable because you were born. No matter where you come from, what color your skin is, what people say about your family, or what mean things people may have done to you, because you were born, you are important and you matter.” Oprah Winfrey
“I’m not the popular look and I am constantly reminded of that. But rather than looking at that and saying I have no place, I make my own place. I hold a place.” India.Arie
CBS: Are you working on any other projects or with other charities?
SR: “I’ve been involved in the Los Angeles County Share Your Heart, Share Your Home program. I believe there is no greater gift than to give a child a home, and this program helps to do just that- it works to raise adoption awareness and to pair children in the foster care system with loving families.
CBS: It seems like you have a special connection with kids – why?
SR: “Because they are so innocent and there are so many things coming at them today. Yes, I do have a special place in my heart for children.”
Here are some of Shaun’s favorite excerpts from her book, Exactly As I Am:
Lisa Rinna on Looking Different:
Actor, dancer, singer, entrepreneur, and mother-of-two Lisa Rinna is so glamorous when you see her on the red carpet. But she can still remember the pain of being called ugly—all because she looked different from the rest of her peers.
“I know exactly what it feels like to have people dislike you and make fun of you because of the way you look. I was very dark-skinned as a child and very skinny. I was darker than the fair-haired, fair-skinned children in Medford, Oregon, in 1970. I didn’t look like anyone, and I wore really short Izod dresses and I was endlessly teased, called Black Cow. It was traumatic. Before, when we lived in Newport Beach, California, I had never thought twice about how I looked. Until age seven, I felt accepted and loved for who I was and how I looked.”
Janet Jackson on Looking in the Mirror:
It’s hard to believe that the indomitable Janet Jackson, whose physique is legendary, at one time felt desperately unhappy about how she looked. She shared with me this story:
“I had a very difficult time looking at myself in the mirror. So often I would cry because I didn’t find myself talented or attractive at all. I didn’t have Naomi Campbell’s legs. I didn’t think I was pretty. I didn’t like my body. My level of confidence was very low. I struggled for years—I mean years!”
Janet, like so many of the girls and women I spoke with, had a keen sense of where this self-doubt began.
“I think society plays a major part. The women we see in videos and all the stars in the magazines and models on the catwalk are portrayed as flawless. And if you don’t look like that, it could make anyone feel less than.”
Iman on Feeling Inadequate:
Iman is among the most glamorous models in the world. At almost five feet nine, with spectacular bone structure and grace, she’s simply stunning. Yet she, too, was painfully affected by the idea of “measuring up” as a young woman.
“I struggled with self-esteem. It was quite difficult as I became a teenager, not realizing that these feelings are a rite of passage. I was extremely tall for my age and extremely skinny. My neck was extraordinarily long, and I hated looking so different from everyone else. I used to wear collared shirts turned up to hide my neck!”
Sharon Stone on Self-doubt:
The charismatic Sharon Stone just oozes confidence when you see her on the red carpet, but she didn’t always feel so self-assured. Now she has a message for young women who are in their prime. Like so many girls, it took her a long time to see the beauty in herself.
“I didn’t think I was pretty until I was thirty-three years old.” Think of all the time I wasted!”
“As you can see, many of these fabulous ladies questioned their self-image just as you and I have,” Shaun says. “Even though they are now famous, they, too, felt less than perfect.”