“Hold on to your truth.” With Ming Zhao & Gina Neely

Creating an honest safe place for women. We have to do so much and be so much to many people that we often times we forget ourselves and to replenish our souls. A place where we can honestly “Break Bread!” (and don’t worry about the crumbs). I had the pleasure to interview Gina Neely. Mastering […]

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Creating an honest safe place for women. We have to do so much and be so much to many people that we often times we forget ourselves and to replenish our souls. A place where we can honestly “Break Bread!” (and don’t worry about the crumbs).

I had the pleasure to interview Gina Neely. Mastering the nuances of Reality Television is no easy feat and yet Gina has captured us with that warm Southern charm and witty disposition as the current star of the new Bravo Television Network show “To Rome for Love,” which documents her journey through divorce and finding love after 50. The adventure begins in a decadent villa in the heart of Rome where the women will reside as they explore who they are and what they want from love. Gina has always embraced what life has to offer and you will be inspired as you watch her during this new season of her life.

Living a public life can be difficult but with tenacity and style Gina displays what living an authentic life looks like. Gina Neely burst onto the scene in 2008 by starring in the hit show Down Home with the Neelys, which became the highest-rated series debut in the history of Food Network’s “In the Kitchen” block. The show immediately connected with viewers nation-wide by showcasing Gina’s love for family, food and the enjoyment of life. Following the tremendous success of her television show, Gina released her first cookbook, Down Home with the Neelys, which quickly earned a place on The New York Times bestseller list. A hit show and a bestseller soon lead to Gina’s prime time television debut as the host of Food Network’s Road Tasted. Enjoying continuing success in television, 2011 proved to be a tremendous success for Gina with the release of a second book, The Neely’s Celebration Cookbook. Gina is currently authoring a book, entitled “These Are My Rules, This Is My Life and I Want It Back” to help women maneuver through life and begin again.

As a top rated television personality and best-selling author, Gina has performed live for thousands of fans all over the country, not only showcasing her skills and fun loving approach to cooking, but also sharing her perspectives on life, love, and the issues facing women in their personal and professional lives. Gina is a powerful and inspiring speaker who strives to meet the needs of those she encounters, empowering them to persevere and navigate through life. Gina has appeared on and/or co-hosted international, national and local television and radio shows, including The Talk, The Steve Harvey Show, The Rachael Ray Show, The Wendy Williams Show, Anderson Cooper Live!, The Monique Show, Good Morning America, the TODAY show, The Real Daytime Show, The View, The Chew, The Queen Latifah Show, Bethenny, Home & Family, The Arsenio Hall Show, Katie and Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns. In print, Gina has been featured in People Magazine, O Magazine, Ebony, Essence, The Wall Street Journal, Black Enterprise, USA Today, Sam’s Club, Food Network Magazine and Dr. Oz. which makes her no stranger to Daytime Television but quite the novice as she engages and motivates audiences everywhere.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

First off, I am the baby of the family! My Mom was very instrumental to my exposure to the Arts. Even though I am the product of a single parent, I thank God for my awesome village that surrounded me. I spent a lot of time with my great great grandmother who was the Matriarch of our family. She had the ability to surround you with so much love that you never ever once felt left out or less than. My foundation was rich in love, which in turn became a huge asset for me.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

What brought me to the mainstream was the Food Network’s highest rated show in the Kitchen block called “Down Home with The Neely’s.” I also oversaw the Catering and Shipping Dept in the restaurant and Paula Deen’s sons Bobby and Jamie Deen were doing a show called, “Road Tasted” they chose us to shoot a segment. I wasn’t on camera but was setting everything up and running my mouth as usual. The show’s Producer, Mark Schneider, was watching my interaction with everyone and my ability to create a fun and entertaining environment. He asked if I ever thought about being on TV and I responded, “to do what” he said, “just be you!”

And the rest is history….

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The most interesting of course was all the travel because I consider that an education in itself. The absolute highlight was attending The White House Annual Egg Roll. Meeting President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama will always be my highlight. Actually, touring the kitchen and seeing “Movie Night” with them and the whole staff ….Family.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh my, I can remember doing our show, “Road Tasted with The Neely’s,” and how ironic the very show we were discovered on became ours. So, we would travel to different cities and I remember walking into this hotel with the whole crew and this girl just started running so I took off running too; unbeknownst to me. She was running to hug me. It scared me to the death. I think that was the first time I really realized my life had really changed.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m working on my LiveNow Collection, which is a line of candles. I have 4 scents that I created and I’m very proud of the outcome. I also created a line of dry rub seasonings for popcorn, nuts and meats for entertaining. Everything is handmade and I touch everything. Additionally, my Speaking Engagements allow me to share the gift of food from the mind, body and spirit and how it truly impacts us.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I think it is extremely important for us to be seen in all facets, whether it is in front or behind the camera. We are such innovators and have amazing stories that only we can tell and own. Our culture can easily become diluted and desensitized if we just allow the media to have a say. We would never know the impact that we have on a person’s life, choices and well-being. Let’s not negate the fact that our “magic” needs to be seen, written and heard.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. NEVER READ YOUR OWN PRESS -That was the worst thing I could have done was read blogs that talked about me, for every positive thing I read the negative just stuck.

2. HOLD ON TO YOUR TRUTH — You know who you are better than anyone else, to make sure that you hold on to parts that you are not willing to become.

3. WHAT’S YOUR PRICE- In this game, there is a price for everything, you just have to decide your amount and stick with it.

4. LISTEN TO YOUR GUT- Trust you will have that tug in your tummy for a reason. People will cater to you just to pimp you, BUT if it doesn’t feel right, more than likely it is not.

5. LET YOUR “NO” STAY “NO” — If you disagree with something that you know is not you, stand on it, even at the risk of losing it.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

This is a great question because in an industry where you have to be “on,” create or have a place for your “offs.” People really don’t see you as yourself anymore and they will think you have changed, when in fact, they have changed the way they see you. Time-outs and boundaries are essential in this game. Everyone thinks if they had the same opportunity as you, they would play it differently, but you really don’t know. That’s why your team has to be on one accord as well and discuss goals as well as deal breakers.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Creating an honest safe place for women. We have to do so much and be so much to many people that we often times we forget ourselves and to replenish our souls. A place where we can honestly “Break Bread!” (and don’t worry about the crumbs).

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I can’t think of one person because I had many “Because of Her or Them” that I was able to do what was before me. It was so hard in the beginning because I saw what this kind of exposure can do. For some, it is like a drug, but for others, its toxic. I was constantly in battle with me to stay me and not get caught up. I knew this was for a season. However, I wasn’t sure for how long and at the end of the day, I wanted to be able to come back home TO ME.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Stop expecting YOU from other People.” Man, this is a tough one because I stayed in a relationship that was not serving me well because I worried about what people would think, who would I let down or disappoint. The wishing, hoping, and woulda, couldas and shouldas never came. I thought if I loved them the way I wanted to be loved that it would come. To my dismay, it never did but, what did come was my courage to change my mind, life, and spirit. It’s so important that we choose ourselves. And, to thine own self BE TRUE, BE GENTLE, AND BE LOVING.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Honestly, I have set here for a while and I can’t think of one person, I really see people as just that. I believe we are all special and have our talents and gifts, so whomever it was they would be special. Oh, maybe, Ava Duvernay because I love her gift of storytelling and I’m sure she has some doosies!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

IG: Gina Neely

FB: Official Gina Neely

Tw: @realginaneely

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