You must have something you love to do during your downtime.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Irene Keene. Born and raised in Queens, NY, Irene Keene is a published writer, freelance publicist, professional model and actor, and a licensed Realtor with Coldwell Banker Realty. Keene and her husband, the artist Don Keene, reside in Madison, CT.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Ha, ha; to which career are you referring, since I have several! After graduating from Syracuse University in 1981, my first job in what I will collectively call the entertainment industry was as a junior publicist at Mort Wax & Associates, located in Manhattan. From there I went on to work at another Manhattan firm, Gene Nichols & Associates. Gene handled press for the Proctor & Gamble daytime soaps based in New York: “Search for Tomorrow”, “Texas”, “Another World” and “The Edge of Night”. Next stop was working with the publicist Rita Salk — a real Auntie Mame if ever there was one — after which I transitioned to journalism. From the mid-‘80s-1999 I was an editor at several publications that covered daytime and primetime soaps, most notably Soap Opera Weekly. After the birth of my third child I focused on raising my family, although I continued to contribute to Soap Opera Weekly and other entertainment and lifestyle publications on a freelance basis. In the late ’90s I began modeling, primarily for art associations and stock photographers, and in 2012 I threw my hat into the acting arena. (In 2015 I proudly joined the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.) In 2016 I started helping out my husband and a few other folks with their media representation, by digging into my public relations toolbox. As for real estate, I obtained my license in 2002.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
One cool thing that happened when I was at Soap Opera Weekly was being tapped to edit a cookbook featuring recipes from daytime stars. “Love and Dishes: The Soap Opera Cookbook” was published by Hearst in 1996. (You can still find it on Amazon.)
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?
I don’t know if I would call it “funny”, but one thing I learned the hard way during the course of all my careers is to always get it in writing, and always respond in writing before confirming with a follow up phone call. And check with an attorney before signing anything major (in my case, a book contract).
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
As I write this the entertainment industry is still on lockdown due to COVID-19. But as things open up, I hope I will still get to participate in a new period drama created by Julian Fellowes of “Downton Abbey” fame. I’m also excited about my first principal role in the independent film “Glass House”, directed by Shannon Christie Keith. We hope to start filming on location in Pennsylvania in September. Meanwhile, I continue to seek media opportunities for my clients: writer/philosopher Benedict Beckeld, film and television producers Robyn Babina and Kylie Garcelon of Gladiolus Productions, artist and fashion designer Jane Elissa, actor/director/writer Matt Copko, and my husband, artist Don Keene.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Between being an entertainment publicist, journalist, and actor I have met many people in the public arena, including members of royalty. One memory that stands out is meeting the late Christopher Reeve. In the early ’90s, when I was still single and living in Manhattan, I belonged to the Creative Coalition, a non-partisan group. Mr. Reeve was one of the co-founders, and one time following a meeting I had an opportunity to chat with him about the soap opera genre (earlier in his career he was a stage actor, and also had a leading role on the soap “Love of Life”). Such a lovely man.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
You must have something you love to do during your downtime.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.
I’m a true cosmetic and skincare “junkie”, so I love to play around with the products in my arsenal. I love to read about health and wellness, and I enjoy watching YouTube videos that address these topics.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
For me it boils down to one thing: I wish someone had told me to sock away as much money as possible in an interest-bearing account. I lived at home with my parents for the first few years after college, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t save a dime. On the bright side I did a lot of traveling, and I’m grateful for the experiences I had.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This might not be verbatim, but it’s from the British novelist Marie Corelli: “For the past is past and will not return, the future we know not, and only today can be called our own”. I don’t know how relevant it is in my life, I just know that it stuck with me after I first read it over 40 years ago.
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?
There are too many to name! But in addition to my husband and family, I would like to give a shout out to Eric Bleimeister, Michael Sart, Charley Carroll, Travis Kinsey, Shannon Christie Keith, Robyn Babina, Kylie Garcelon, Jane Elissa, Joanne Douglas, Amy Kirst, Matt Copko, Benedict Beckeld, Mimi Torchin, Phyllis Williams, and Kate Walsh.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I am by no means a person of influence. I would say that education is key. Parents and caregivers, read to your children. Installing a love of books early on can trigger great things.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. 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 see this. 🙂
Tina Fey. I would love to pick her brain about the industry.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me in all the usual places: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as www.IreneKeene.cbintouch.com.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!