Winning is easy. Learning to lose with grace is the true measure of a winner.
As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing celebrated author, Julia Fowler.
South Carolina native, Julia Fowler, is an actor, author, screenwriter and the creator of Southern Women Channel — a YouTube channel with over 25 million views. Her books, Talk Southern to Me and Embrace Your Southern, Sugar, both released by Gibbs Smith Publishing, are collections of comedic essays and southernisms that have been endorsed by prolific southerners including Dolly Parton, Delta Burke, and Andie MacDowell. As an actress, Julia has worked on Broadway as well as in film and television and currently she’s writing on the new Netflix comedy, Country Comfort.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?
My Mama, Claudia Fowler, grew up clogging. For those that don’t know, clogging is an America’s percussive folk dance. So, the moment I flew out of my Mama’s womb she taught me to clog. In addition, Mama charmingly convinced the local dance school to let me begin dance classes at two years old, even though the school required students be at least three years old. I’m forever grateful to my Mama for exposing me to dance at such an early age because I took to it right away. I spent my youth in both the competitive clogging and the traditional, competitive dance world. My parents even helped me open my own dance studio when I was a sophomore in college, and I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in Theater and Dance.
So, dance was my first love and that’s how I literally “kicked” in the show business door. After working as a dancer on a cruise ship, I moved to New York City with big Broadway musical theater dreams. Ultimately, my clogging skills came in pretty darn handy as I was cast in the original Tony Award winning, Broadway revival of “Annie Get Your Gun” and I helped incorporate clogging into the choreography of the show. When I was working in musical theater, I was in hog heaven. I was so busy doing eight shows a week I never even thought about writing. It wasn’t until my thirties, after I got engaged and moved to Los Angeles, that I finally tried my hand at writing.
Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I won’t beat around the bush. Show business is mean as a snake and filled with rejection and disappointment. I’ve been eating “no” for breakfast, lunch and dinner since I graduated college. For every success on my resume, I’ve got a hundred buckets of gator tears cried over jobs I didn’t get, agents who didn’t believe in me, or projects I’ve written or pitched that didn’t sell. Then of course, there’s my southern heritage. Many highfalutin’ showbiz folks told me that my Southerness would be an obstacle to my success. Bless their hearts. I’ve found the opposite to be true.
It took a particularly devastating career set-back for me to realize that my Southern grit was my greatest asset. Years ago, I wrote and developed a film project with a major studio and was even attached to star in the movie. I honestly thought that movie was my big break. But then at the last minute, they decided not to greenlight the film citing concerns from the marketing department that the film was “too Southern.” I called home in tears and without missing a beat my Mama told me to “put my big girl panties on” and figure out my next move.
Adhering to Mama’s advice, I stopped crying and started plotting. And that’s when I was inspired to create my YouTube Southern Women Channel. My first video went viral, which led to more videos, then a book deal, then another book deal, then doors slowly started to crack open again for me in Hollywood and now I’m writing on a Southern TV show — which is a dream come true. We Southern women are taught that when life gives you lemons, you gotta put ’em in your sweet tea and thank God you’re Southern.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Southern women are known for their grit and grace and they carefully instill that grit and grace in their daughters. Our grit can be summed up with our philosophy, “Why do when you can overdo?” For some reason we have this primal need not to just do things, but to do them better than anyone else. Southern women are some of the most determined creatures on earth. If you tell a Southern woman they can’t do something, that only sends her determination into NASCAR force overdrive. So, I think my drive — my grit — is written in my southern DNA. My parents and my grandparents all had incredible work ethic. My family didn’t have the luxury of being lazy, so laziness was never tolerated. We Southerners may be slow paced, but we are not lazy folks. I was raised with the knowledge that luck favors the backbone, not the wishbone.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
In the South, grits are not only a beloved food, GRITS is also an acronym for Girls Raised In The South. And I attribute any strength and resolve I have to being raised in the South. The truth is, I never even realized how Southern I was until I left the South. When I was younger, I worked hard to disguise my Southern accent and eccentric Southern ways and tried to blend in with the NY and LA crowd as I was repeatedly told that was necessary for success. But I was miserable. I felt like a fraud. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin because I wasn’t embracing my authenticity. Once I unapologetically embraced my Southern roots, leaned into my uniqueness, and began creating in the Southern lane, success began to slowly unfold for me. And more importantly, embracing my true nature led to self-acceptance which is way more validating and rewarding than any career success.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit?
- Stop whining and start working.
- Turn your attitude into gratitude.
- Live in faith rather than fear.
- Remember that being strong does not require being rude.
- Winning is easy. Learning to lose with grace is the true measure of a winner.
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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
I’m incredibly blessed to have a very supportive family and network of close friends. However, my husband, Sam Sokolow, is my biggest cheerleader and I cannot imagine life without him. He’s a television producer, which is why we moved to Los Angeles in the first place, so he totally understands the difficult challenges of being an actor and writer. We’ve been together for twenty-two years, so he’s wiped away twenty-two million of my tears. He’s also quite brilliant, so there’s this constant exchange of creative ideas being thrown around our home which creates a very intellectually stimulating environment. Of course, the pandemic lockdown has been incredibly tough — especially in Los Angeles. It’s possibly the toughest thing I’ve ever had to endure but my husband’s steady love, and incredible sense of humor has kept me from drowning in despair. Plus, the pandemic revealed that he has a tremendous talent for doing laundry and mopping floors. Who knew!? I now consider him to be an “essential worker.”
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I can only hope that by the mere fact I’m in the business of humor, I am bringing some goodness to the world. Over the years, I’ve received a lot of correspondence from fans saying that my videos helped them get through their chemo sessions or helped them pass the time while sitting next to a loved one’s hospital bed or brought a smile to their face in moments of such despair they thought they’d never smile again. The greatest currency I could ever receive for my work is laughter. To know I’ve made someone laugh and brought a bit of joy, a bit of goodness into their life makes all the hard work worth it.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m chomping at the bit for the world to see the Netflix show I’ve been working on, Country Comfort. It’s a Southern family sit-com set in Nashville, TN with a fun country music element tucked into the storyline The show is created by Caryn Lucas and stars Katharine McPhee and Eddie Cibrian along with a terrific cast of talented kids. This show is southern fried humor with plenty of heart and I think that’s exactly what the world needs right now. Positive, uplifting, family entertainment.
I also recently adapted the novel, Whistling Past the Graveyard, into a screenplay and my producing partners and I are gearing up to take that project out to market. It takes place in 1963 Mississippi and follows a mixed-race trio, as they embark on a treacherous road trip through the segregated South that drastically changes their lives forever and teaches them family is forged by heart and sacrifice rather than blood. The heartwarming message of this movie is precisely what our country needs right now. Fingers crossed we can sell it.
And of course, I’m toying with some new video concepts for my YouTube channel. Hopefully Americans will be released from Covid jail soon and it will be safe for me to gather my gaggle of Southern actresses and shoot.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
You are a person of great 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. 🙂
My movement would be simple. Choose kindness over hate. Simply be kind. The smallest effort of kindness on your part can have a huge impact on another person’s life. The truth is, we’re all struggling in some way on some level every day and a simple act of kindness is certain to make someone’s struggle a bit more bearable.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Earlier, I shared some of my favorite life lesson quotes which were:
-Luck favors the backbone, not the wishbone.
-When life gives you lemons put ’em in your sweet tea and thank God you’re Southern.
-Put your big girl panties on!
In my first book, Talk Southern to Me, I dedicate a chapter to Southern wisdom. A few favorite
philosophies I was raised on and are my personal guideposts are:
-Sometimes you gotta hang in there like hair in a biscuit. (Don’t give up)
-Sweep your own back porch before sweeping somebody else’s. (Tend to your own business)
– The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s tail all the time. (Be patient. Your time is coming)
How can our readers follow you on social media?
YouTube: Southern Women Channel
Facebook: Southern Women Channel
Contact: [email protected]