What is currently on your mind?
I just got off the phone with a colleague and we were discussing how real change with major institutions can be implemented and we both agree that they have to be attacked with a sledge hammer. That’s the only way to have systemic change. We have to dismantle. It is quite radical, but we have to arm ourselves in that way. We've done this in America before, from the Boston tea party, Civil Rights, Feminism and we can do it again. It may seem scary, but we have to be radical. We can't simply appoint someone as an inclusion officer, hire a diversity coach, etc, we have to grab these issues by the guts, rewire the wrongs. We were chatting about how midtown Manhattan is a ghost town, the Time and Life building that once held 8000 employees per day now has 500 and I'm not interested in going back to the old model. We have to figure out how to live, to reinvent the way we want to exist. People are fleeing, to the mountains, to the suburbs, rethinking their whole lives. My husband Raul and I have recently started this new tradition of looking at farms on Zillow over morning coffee. I'm not opposed to changing it up, maybe we move to New Zealand, own an avocado farm, why not shake it up? This is a time for some huge change. It's seismic change. We have to be fearless and bold and believe that we're going to come out better on the other side.
What has been your greatest influence in life?
My mother has been my greatest influence. I recently named my production company after her, Edith Productions. My mother was someone who always said yes— said yes more than she said no. She was always open to possibility. She would make away out of no way. She didn’t have much but she’d figure out how to get there. I know that generosity works as a practice because of her. I know that kindness works, looking out for others before yourself actually works. These are all tools I learned from my mother. She was fun, inquisitive, silly, she talked to everyone, a total people person. I used to be annoyed when I was a kid, she would talk to everyone we passed on the street, and now I realize I’m just like her. She loved to throw parties and make people feel at home. If I can have 1/8 of that talent, I’ll service justice in my life.
If you wouldn’t be where you are now, what would you be doing?
I would be a chef. I love being in kitchens and I love cooking, its where I‘m most peaceful. It’s a mediation. I’ve been obsessed with cookbooks. Whereas I’m usually traveling 50% of my year, I’m now traveling with my cooking: Japanese food,Northern Italian, all over. I’m bringing the world into my kitchen.
What is the childhood memory you think back on often?
Summer time in Philadelphia: humidity, playing in the streets, riding bikes, urbanAmerica, putting on the fire hydrant, water rushing out, ice cream, the community.Summertime was the great equalizer — no one had AC, except maybe one unit in the parent’s bedroom. Everyone was out on their porches or in the streets, it was too hot to be inside. It was a different time, there was more trust and faith.
If you could trade lives with someone for one day, who would it be?
A newborn baby, but I want to know everything that I currently know. I want to see how the world is looking at me, how I’m looking back at it: totally fresh and new. I want to see how people are passing me around and holding me.
What song is on repeat in your playlist?
“Reaching for the Sky” by Peabo Bryson
What are you most proud of in your life?
My marriage. It has nurtured me, I’ve nurtured it, and it’s strong.
In your industry, who have you always admired?
Harry Belafonte Jr.
The current state of the world How do you feel about 2020 so far?
It has been a major shit show but yet I’m hopeful that something good will come out of it. Like you have to sprinkle animal manure on plants for them to grow, I’m hopeful that we are sowing seeds that will sprout to become strong trees.
What are the good things that have come out of 2020?
That racism is no longer subtle. That people realize they have to be active politically active in having uncomfortable conversations, that people realize that lives depend on it and that we’re more focused on taking care of each other. And those who are not interested in that are exposed.
In the future, how would you look back on 2020 and describe it?
The most challenging moments of my adult life, but also a moment where I’ve learned to slow down.
What would you say to the graduating generation this year?
Keep your eyes on the prize.
What do we need to do for a better world?
More compassion. Children need to be taught compassion at an early age, taught service, and ethics— early on. Taught that looking out for others is way more important than looking out for yourself, because we all win when we’re thinking about each other.