Totally by accident. I never intended to work on TV. I was too shy! I started my own “day spa” before the word was coined and my publicist booked me on a morning show in LA with Regis Philbin, who gave me such a hard time because I was color coordinating him and he, being Regis, was determined to give me humorous grief. And the rest was history. I went on to do other shows, became a regular on the AM Los Angeles Show and when Regis moved to New York I became bi-coastal and worked with him for over 25 years! It took me forever to get over being shy and shaking in my boots, or high heels. I credit Regis for teaching me to think on my feet and be able to handle all the obstacles of live television. He is the best and I was lucky enough to learn from the best.
What have been some of your toughest assignments?
Always make-overs. With make-overs for television the goal is to make the audience gasp when the split screen is revealed, and that means change. Even with an extensive phone interview, when a contestant winner is flown to New York, put in a nice hotel and chauffeured around the city it is overwhelming. Add to that a total change in hair, make-up and clothing and sometimes they love it and sometimes they can’t relate to the person looking back at them in the mirror. Example: I once had a woman who was going to a college reunion. She wanted to look sexy, which meant bare, cleavage, legs showing to her. But the caveat was that her figure needed covering. I feel sexy is not just about revealing, it’s an attitude. She didn’t agree and we butted heads from the get-go. I thought I was pretty good at convincing but she wasn’t buying any of it and yet I knew I couldn’t take her on morning TV with her boobs revealed like she wanted or her skirt slit up to her thighs. I dressed her in an outfit I felt was totally sexy and yet appropriate, the audience agreed, but she didn’t. We did get her to smile on camera (only because I tickled her back during the segment), but we decided we couldn’t let her talk, which is actually quite easy when you have two hosts and myself. It worked for TV. It didn’t work for her. I don’t think she’s a fan of mine but my job is based on what shows up on the television screen. And then there was the make over where we made over the husband, who then looked like a movie star and far younger than his wife. She fell in love with him all over again…I’m not sure he felt the same after all the attention he gathered from all the single ladies in the audience. It’s always a challenge.
What do you love most about your career?
I love working with “real” people. Helping them. Sharing my knowledge with them. Making them achieve their potential. And now I’m loving sharing my story of overcoming adversity and watching the impact it has on others who are dealing with adversity. I love giving hope, whether it be in the form of a new hairdo or pair of eye glasses, or an attitude about dealing with life or health. I have an etched rock on my desk that says “Believe” and I do, everything and anything is possible as long as you believe it is. The rock reminds me when I forget. I also love live television. I love the spontaneity, the pressure of the immediate. It moves along and you have to move with it. After working on live TV it’s hard to do tape. Take after take, your advice sounds so redundant. Live means you have to get it right the first time, energy is high, stakes are higher. I love that challenge.
I am not a stylist for celebrities. But I have worked with so many on all the many television shows I have appeared on. Oprah saved my career on a crazy day I write about in my book where I did Live with Regis in the morning and then flew to Chicago to do Oprah in the afternoon…and was late for the show. Regis taught me humor and quick responses. Kathie Lee Gifford taught me the importance of never getting caught up in your own press. Kelly Ripa taught me to be more playful on TV. Rachael Ray taught me to be able to eat and talk at the same time…on TV. Diane Sawyer teaches me that older can look better. And Diane Keaton taught me that having your own style is what makes you smile. Brian Gumble made me realize I could still get my message across even though I was looking into the eyes of a gorgeous man. And Sharon Osbourne teaches me that saying what’s on your mind can work on TV.
What are a few fashion tips that you always rely on?
Forget what is the “latest” and go with what works for you. Find your own style. Nobody loves fashion more than I do but I have learned that just because it has a designer tag or is the “must have” for the season, it might not work for me. It was a hard lesson. I look back at some of my outfits and ask myself. “what was I thinking” when I obviously wasn’t! I am now confident enough to create my own style and let fashion dictate to others who are still in the learning stages. Most fashion gurus won’t tell you the truth. In my second book, The Grown-up Girl’s Guide To Style, I told the truth. Some people loved it, others were angered by my strong opinions. But my opinions come from experience and years of working with real people with real issues. I always believe you “don’t show what you don’t want seen” no matter how in style it might be. Accent your positives and diminish your negatives. We are all unique.
I also love mixing the designer with the H&M. The inexpensive with the expensive. Outfits are over. Creativity is in. I mix gold bracelets with plastic. A Donna Karan skirt with a Forever 21 Tee, a Target shirt with jeans. I have diamond earrings and plastic earrings. One of my favorite pair cost $18. I love to buy something from the boys department, a vest, a shirt, a tank or Tee, more affordable and every bit as good. This year it was linen shirts from J.Crew for men in XS. Half the price of a women’s linen shirt. I use Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer and a lipstick from the drug store. Sometimes I carry a designer bag and other times I carry a straw tote from Marshalls.The best way to dress up anything is with a good belt. I will pay a fortune for a belt and then put it with very moderate priced pieces and the entire outfit looks expensive. It’s not how much it costs,it’s how much you love it. I am crazed about accessories. A white shirt, black pants can be the most wonderful outfit with accessories.
Your latest book, Take Me Home From the Oscars, is a memoir.You talk about your life as a fashion and beauty reporter living a glamorous life from LA to NY, but also your struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. Why did you want to share your story?
I didn’t want to share it for 20 years. I kept it a secret from everyone except my family because I was afraid I would lose my career and in reality I would have. Arthritis is associated with being old and crippled and yet 300,000 children suffer, many, many young women and men suffer. And today the medications and treatments for arthritis have changed for the positive, putting many people, like myself, in remission. But the perception has not changed. I went to the taping of “Stand Up For Cancer” and there were celebrities talking openly about cancer. I realized that celebrities don’t talk openly about arthritis and I understood why. My goal now is to get celebrities to talk, to open the dialogue, to make people aware that arthritis is not the same today as it was for our parents and grandparents and many more positive changes are in the research pipeline. I want to do a make-over on arthritis. Bring it out in the open so people, like myself don’t have to hide.
Can you explain a little about rheumatoid arthritis, and some of the struggles you have been through?
RA is a disease where your body attacks itself. Your body actually eats into your own joints, causing not only devastating pain, but damage. For seven years, at the peak of my career I suffered. I was on so many different medicines and combinations of medicines. Pain pills to get me thought a television segment or a Hollywood Black tie event, steroids pumped into my body so I could walk to the Emmys or the Academy Awards. I was good at hiding my weight gain, my stiffness, my pain. I found a doctor that believed in me, never gave up on me or hope and kept me going, knowing how important my work was to me. Because of a difficult childhood that I had struggled to overcome, my fear of losing my career was foremost on my mind. He got me through and eventually in a research program at UCLA that put me in remission. When my RA was active some of my struggles were the simplest of tasks. One morning I wasn’t able to blow my hair dry for a national TV show, so I had to wear a hat. Other days I couldn’t wear shoes so I made sneakers my trademark. I had to stop doing make-up demonstrations on air because I never knew when my hands would cramp and cause me to drop a brush. But my motto has always been, “what you can’t control, manage.” That doesn’t mean I didn’t have bad days, I did, but I always had my little pity party and then got back on track.
Celebrities are constantly under pressure to look their best, look young, and be skinny. How do you think this affects young people that grow up idolizing their favorite stars?
I see very young girls thinking they are fat when they’re not. I know of many young women who have plastic surgery when it’s not necessary. We always see our own flaws more than others see them, but today, with all the photoshopping of celebrities and the emphasis on being thin and young, the pressure is on. When you work in television and the media, the pressure is real and most succumb and most look really good as a result. And I’m all for doing what makes you feel and look good. I love cosmetic dermatology and plastic surgery, but in moderation. Not perfection. Not overdone. It’s a very fine line.What toll do you think this has on society today? Pressure, pressure and more pressure. So it comes down to three categories. The ones who give up and say I’ll just be myself, the ones who use the knowledge to look their appropriate best and the ones who overdo and people stare at not because they look good but because they look weird. The question is, how much is too much? My answer is, for me, I always want to look my best but I never want to look like I’m trying too hard. I want to look younger, but never foolish. I want to be stylish without being trendy. Moderation is the key.
What was the last thing you borrowed from someone?
Books. I am an avid reader and I adore a recommended book.
Are you a reality TV show fan?
Totally addicted to American Idol, what can I say. I get caught up in it. But because of that addiction I don’t watch any others. What do you have your Tivo set to record? Mad Men, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Masterpiece Theater, most of the HBO mini-series.
Where have been some of your favorite places to travel?
I love Italy and London. The George Bernard Theater Festival in Niagara-0n-the-Lake, Santa Barbara and of course my home away from home, New York.
What is your advice to aspiring writers?
Never give up. I am not a writer who can say I only need to write for myself, I wish I was, but I need to be published, to reach others through my books. My three publishing experiences have been totally different. My first was a breeze. My second one almost pushed me over the edge because my publisher was so high profile it was like dealing with a major movie star. This current book has been so heartfelt and emotional that I often feel drained. You have to love the process of writing and learn to deal with the world of publishing. It’s like one part creativity, one part business=success. Most often writers are not able to deal with the business and yet in today’s world they must. Publishing is changing daily and we have to change with it. Never, ever take no for an answer. Put on a new face and try again. The ones who want it the most are the ones who succeed, as with everything in life.
While I’m not one to take on memoirs a whole lot, I had to read Take Me Home From the Oscars by Christine Schwab. Her resume includes a massive list of beauty and fashion jobs, working with television shows such as Live with Regis & Kelly, Oprah!, and The Today Show. She has attended all the big name award shows: The Golden Globes, Oscars, Emmys, dined with celebrities, met Presidents- but for many years, Schwab kept a secret tightly under wraps. She was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. In a world where beauty is everything, she felt as though she couldn’t confess her disease to anyone, for fear of the backlash that would head her way.
Take Me Home From the Oscars kicks off with Christine having to do just that- be taken home from the Oscars. The effects from RA were too much to bear that night, and her ever faithful and supporting husband calmly led his wife away from the glamorous world of celebrities, back to their home where Christine could find a little comfort from her ever-aching body. The tale that Schwab tells, with strength and conviction that will leave you in tears, is one that enchanted me from the beginning. You travel with Christine through her highs and lows with the disease––to where she thought she could control it to the out of control moments, to the drug trials and countless pills and procedures that she endured, and finally, to the remission and her new work in being a spokesperson for the National Arthritis Foundation. And all of this while trying to hide her RA from her public persona, to fool everyone into thinking that sneakers were trendy and lace gloves were all the rage, only to have them hiding the effects of her disease. This book really was inspiring, and I suggest everyone pick up a copy for themselves- to learn, to be informed, and to read a great tale of triumph. And chick lit lovers- you will be a fan of all the behind the scene tidbits Schwab drops from being a veteran in the Hollywood scene!
In My Mailbox: Week of June 26, 2011
Title: Take Me Home From the Oscars
Received: From Jessica @ Sky Horse Pub
Synopsis: Christine Schwab has lived a life of Hollywood and New York glamour most people can only dream about. For 20 years she appeared as a fashion and beauty reporter on the nations leading television shows including, Live with Regis & Kelly, Oprah!, The Today Show, Entertainment Tonight and NBC Nightly News. She dined with celebrities, met US Presidents, attended numerous Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes, published two books and was featured in and wrote for many of the most popular magazines while living a thrilling personal and public life married to a powerful Hollywood executive. But for most of those years, she was hiding a devastating illness that threatened to take over her entire life.
In Take Me Home From the Oscars, Schwab tells for the first time her story of living an amazing life in television while suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Schwab recounts with incredible honesty how on the same day she produced and appeared in a major makeover segment for Live with Regis & Kelly in New York and then raced to Chicago to appear on Oprah!, all while balancing medications to ward off the relentless pain that plagued her on-camera and off. She shares an enchanted evening at the Oscars and the unpredictable arthritis pain that cut it heartbreakingly short. She re-lives being driven to deceive herself and others in a career that demands timeless beauty and youth.
Schwab kept her career alive through determination, deception and hope. In Take Me Home From The Oscars, she takes us behind the scenes in Hollywood and New York, and behind her public persona to the 19-year journey through drug trials and treatment at the UCLA Medical Center. Readers will root for her at every step, and cheer when she ultimately finds remission and her new life’s work as a spokesperson for the National Arthritis Foundation. This is a book of hope for anyone dealing with adversity in their life.
Author: Polly Courtney
Received: From Charlotte @ Avon Books
Synopsis: But it takes a woman to run it
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em…
Alexa Harris loves a challenge. So when she’s asked to head up Senate Media’s lads’ mag, Banter, she doesn’t need much persuasion.
But life on the all-male editorial team proves harder than Alexa had imagined – and not just because of her ambitious targets. As Alexa battles with a testosterone-fuelled office, she decides to play the boys at their own game.
As success hits, she’s forced to look at who she has become. Has she forfeited her principles in return for praise from the lads? And what price will there be to pay?
An addictive page turner with a hard-hitting meaning.
Author: Shobhan Bantwal
Received: From Kensington Press
Synopsis: What makes a marriage-love or compatibility? Passion or pragmatism? Shobhan Bantwal’s compelling new novel explores the fascinating subject of arranged marriage, as a young Indian-American woman navigates the gulf between desire and tradition…
To Soorya Giri, arranged marriages have always seemed absurd. But while her career as an environmental lawyer has flourished, Soorya is still a virgin, living with her parents in suburban New Jersey. She wants to be married. And she is finally ready to do the unthinkable…
Soorya’s first bridal viewings are as awkward as she anticipated. But then she’s introduced to Roger Vadepalli. Self-possessed, intelligent, and charming, Roger is clearly interested in marriage and seems eager to clinch the deal. Attracted to him in spite of her mistrust, Soorya is also drawn into a flirtation with Lou, a widowed colleague who is far from her family’s idea of an acceptable husband.
In choosing between two very different men, Soorya must reconcile her burgeoning independence and her conservative background. And she must decide what matters most to her-not just in a husband, but in a family, a culture, and a life…
Author: Nicolle Wallace
Received: From Kensington Press
Synopsis: Eighteen Acres, a description used by political insiders when referring to the White House complex, follows the first female President of the United States, Charlotte Kramer, and her staff as they take on dangerous threats from abroad and within her very own cabinet.
Charlotte Kramer, the 45th US President, Melanie Kingston, the White House chief of staff, and Dale Smith, a White House correspondent for one of the networks are all working tirelessly on Charlotte’s campaign for re-election. At the very moment when they should have been securing success, though, Kramer’s White House implodes under rumors of her husband’s infidelity and grave errors of judgment on the part of her closest national security advisor. In an upheaval that threatens not only the presidency, but the safety of the American people, Charlotte must fight to regain her footing and protect the the country she has given her life to serving.
Eighteen Acres combines political and family drama into one un-put-downable novel. It is a smart, juicy and fast-paced read that we’re sure fans of commercial women’s fiction will fall in total love with.