Founder, Balance Public Relations
– as told to The Silver Women
Women who inspired you as a young girl?
My Grandmother, Tasha. I spent most weekends at my grandparents home from age 3-5. This was when I discovered what an extraordinary person my grandmother was. She taught me about kindness, generosity, and love. Beautiful, both inside and out, she had the gift of making everyone feel special and important.
Lucy Riccardo (Lucille Ball). LOVED HER! My favorite show growing up was ‘I Love Lucy.’ She was great. She was funny, beautiful and always had ambitions of her own. She was a loyal friend and wasn’t afraid of taking a risk. Scarlett O’Hara. I have always thought that Scarlett was misunderstood. Everything she did was motivated by her love of Tara, her home. Yes, some of the things she did were quite questionable, but who’s to say what someone would do facing the same circumstances? Her strength carried her, at a time when women were decoration.
Women who inspire you now?
Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day.(www.vday.org) I have known Eve for close to 20 years and she has always been someone I admire. She works tirelessly for the things she believes, and she has an infectious spirit that brings everyone along to fight the good fight. She has changed the world for the betterment of women and girls I am proud to call her my friend. I always say, “I defy you to say no to Eve,” because you can’t. Her passion is infectious. Mad love for her!
Michelle Kydd Lee. We first met 17 years ago through the CAA Foundation. I always refer to Michelle as my ‘charity angel,’ as she has guided my clients and myself in the world of philanthropy. She has taught me what to look for with non-profits: what makes a non-profit successful? How do they make a difference? How well do they run their business?
Because of Michelle, I have moved my personal life in the direction of non-profit work. She is inspiring, thoughtful, and strong.
My friends: Denise, Lisa O, Romy, Lisa P & Tracey. These women are my family. We all met over 40 years ago in school and formed an unbreakable bond. They are smart, strong, funny, joyful, but most of all loyal. I have never felt alone in the world because of them.
Have you made career changes over the years?
Not really. Growing up I always thought I would be a lawyer. When I was in college, my brother was in law school and he talked me out of it. He made law school sound terrible. Then I was faced with: Oh, no? Now, what?
Romy, my friend since 4th grade, said: ‘You should be a publicist.’
I had no idea what that meant, so when I asked she said “Cari, you would be perfect at that job because you love talking on the phone and telling people what to do.” 100% true story. It sounded good to me, so I did an internship at a PR firm, and my career was launched.
Right now besides my talent clients, I am looking to work more with non-profits. I want to feel all the hard work I do is making a difference in the world, and a difference for the issues I care about so deeply.
“I think the door that both Eve Ensler and Michelle Kydd Lee opened for me has made me realize helping others actually helps me more. It’s more satisfying. I feel like I’m doing something that will improve our world. That feels good!”
Through the Decades!
20s: I have very sad memories of my 20s. There is a lot of pressure on you to pick a career, get a job and be successful. If that wasn’t enough, it was a terrible time for my family. My parents split up, my father became a very heavy gambler and lost most of his money, and his health started to deteriorate very quickly. It was a very ugly time for my family, and when my father died I was just 29 years old. He was such a strong influence on me, I was truly devastated by losing him.
I think I still am. I want to believe there were some good times in my 20s, but I honestly don’t remember.
30s: After losing my dad, I wanted a fresh start. One of my closest friends, Lisa, was living in London at the time, so I decided to go there for my 30th birthday. I wanted to have a real adventure and do something memorable. My birthday is right after New Years, so I went to London for two weeks. I had so much fun! It was a wonderful way to leave my 20s and bring in a new decade. The 30s were very much about building my career. That was the focus. I also moved to New York, from California. This was probably the best decision I have ever made. I didn’t rely on anyone to tell me what to do, I didn’t need to get financial help from anyone, and it felt so good. I remember when I was on the flight from LA to NY, I started to cry. Not because I was sad, but because my Dad wouldn’t have been part of this major life change.
40s: Again, this was all about my career, however, I started questioning things. Why aren’t I in a healthy relationship or married? What is my future? Why am I working at a company that makes me feel so miserable?
In my 30s, I didn’t think of any of these things. Maybe I should open my own company and work for myself? Also, after 15 years of living in NY, I moved back to Los Angeles. It was a rash decision, and I didn’t think it through, the way I do other things. Normally, I think about something and strategize the outcome, but not here. It was very sudden, and this was very out of character for me. I called my business manager and said, “I am going to move back to LA and want to sell my apartment.”
Just like that! I started thinking about it the summer before when I spent a month in the Hamptons.My best girlfriends visited for a week, and when they left, I was so sad. They all lived in LA, and it started me thinking,’why don’t I go back?’
I have friends in NY but in LA I have life long sisters. Also, the winter started to bother me. When you have to walk your dog in a snow or rain storm, winter becomes increasingly annoying.
50s: I had a fun 50th birthday with all my best friends. They took me to Vegas for the Beatles Love Show.
It was amazing! I’m at a stage in life where I don’t know what the future holds. It can be scary, but I’m ok with it.
What have been your greatest challenges?
Losing my Dad. He was such a positive force. I just don’t know who I would be, where I would be if I hadn’t had him.
Thoughts on aging?
The upside: My wisdom. So far I have lived a very bold and varied life. Dealt with things most people haven’t dealt with. I am comfortable with my opinions and don’t care if someone disagrees with me. I’m calmer than I used to be.
“Being feared is not what you want. You want to be respected!”
The downside: I feel like I am running out of time to accomplish the things I haven’t done yet: a committed relationship, going back to school, traveling, and building a house.
Your advice to young women of today?
Don’t let your life get away from you because you are so busy with your career. Yes, work to achieve your goals, but maintain a balance so you can enjoy other parts of your life.
FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS
Book/Novel: Anna Karenina (1877) Leo Tolstoy, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984) Milan Kundera, East of Eden(1952) John Steinbeck. Also, anything written by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Film: Gone with the Wind
Scent: I love the smell of roses
Flower: white & pale pink Peonies
Artist: Reuven Rubin
Skincare product you can’t live without: Everything in the sensitive skin care line by Dr. Lancer
Lipstick: A great blue red. They just discontinued the color stain I had been using by Cover Girl. So annoying! Chanel has great reds.
Food/Meal/Cuisine: Japanese & Italian cuisine and I love bananas.
Song: Most songs by Bruce Springsteen, but my favorite is “If I Should Fall Behind.”
Also, “Imagine” by John Lennon.
Style Icon: Grace Kelly & Audrey Hepburn
Non-Profits close to my heart
The Brady Center: www.bradycampaign.org
Dress for Success: www.dressforsuccess.org
Equality Now: www.equalitynow.org
Planned Parenthood: www.plannedparenthood.org
The Feminist Majority: www.feminist.org
Anti-Defamation League: www.adl.org
Southern Poverty Law Center: www.splcenter.org