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Rising Star Kelley Watson: “Elevating women would be an economic boon; Elevate women, 51% of the U.S. population, and you elevate the sons and daughters”

I believe this country needs an Angry White Women (AWW) movement. AWW would be AWW-Inspiring for any woman who: Is disgusted by the cost of gun violence. Has been denied insurance coverage for pregnancy because it is a pre-existing condition. Is unemployable because she has: (a) Had children; (b) Is not bi-lingual (Spanish), and/or Turned 50. Is […]


I believe this country needs an Angry White Women (AWW) movement. AWW would be AWW-Inspiring for any woman who:

Is disgusted by the cost of gun violence.

Has been denied insurance coverage for pregnancy because it is a pre-existing condition.

Is unemployable because she has: (a) Had children; (b) Is not bi-lingual (Spanish), and/or Turned 50.

Is victimized by reproductive politics.

AWW goes way beyond the “Me Too” movement — AWW is an economic movement. Elevate women, (51% of the U.S. population, U.S. Census Bureau, 2017) and you elevate the sons and daughters.


As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelley Watson. Kelley is a Naples, FL based writer, actor, Pilates instructor and menopause model recently relocated from Chicago. Kelley grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration from Michigan State University (MSU) and the University of Colorado Denver (UCD), respectively. Out of college, she spent six months vagrant in the U.S. southwest, and more recently lived in Bermuda where she trained the Bermuda Police Service in Pilates. Kelley lives with her current husband Richard Heyboer and has two grown children; a son, a Seattle-based mechanical engineer, and a daughter at the University of California, Davis, studying veterinary medicine.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Necessity is the mother of invention: when the market crashed in 2009, and I lost my job and was diagnosed with breast cancer and my bond trader husband lost his job and became suicidal, and my kids were hungry, I had to take stock of my attributes and capitalize on them. I had always loved radio. Since I had some time on my hands, I took a voice-over class with the amazing Deb Doetzer of Acting Studio Chicago, and cut a VO demo.

Actually, I cut two demos: the first one was uniformly ignored/rejected; the second one earned soft rejections along the lines of: “We like your demo, but we currently have talent who sound like you. Re-submit in 3–6 months.” I took this as a positive sign.

Then one day I got a call from Susie DeSanti of DeSanti talents Management. Susie had just acquired an agency, was moving a file cabinet, a drawer opened in the process, and my demo flew out! Susie listened to my demo, and signed me. DeSanti representation put me on the casting sites. My first submission was to the reality show “Denmark Adventure”, a combination of “Who Do You think You Are” and “The Great Race” where persons of Danish descent live in Denmark for eight weeks, during which time they try to find their Danish relatives. O’Connor Casting was the casting agent in Chicago. I made it to the top 10% and was greatly encouraged to submit for subsequent projects. DeSanti Talents and “Denmark Adventure” launched my career. I had just turned 50.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I had always wanted to be on Fox Network’s hit show “Empire” (debut 2015). I didn’t think I had a chance because that show generally doesn’t cast skinny old white women. But I kept submitting for extra roles, and one day I was hired for a courtroom scene. The casting director hand-picked me for the role of prosecutor Roxanne Ford’s Harvard lawyer during the sentencing trial of the show’s lead character, Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard). I thought this would be my big break. It wasn’t. The scene filmed at the Chicago Criminal Courts until 3:00 AM. I didn’t have a car, and I almost spent the night in the Criminal Courts.

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?

One time I was cast as a “web pick-up mom” for Walgreens. When I arrived at the set, the front door was locked, so I went in the back entrance, instead. We were ready to shoot when I needed to retrieve additional wardrobe. The front door was still locked, so I left through the back door and when I did, an alarm sounded, not unlike an air raid siren. It reverberated all over the store. The crew was furious. After that episode, I always tiptoed around on set.

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

I am currently writing “DOMO (Downwardly Mobile) Drama”, a “Riches to Rags’ memoir chronicling my fall from the upper most to the lower most rungs of the socio-economic ladder. The 2009 market crash, two concurrent job losses, and two consecutive illnesses, left us in tatters, teetering on the brink of homelessness.

“DOMO Drama” is a timely, inspirational, roller-coaster ride of a story that will resonate with family experiencing job loss, stratospheric health care costs, and age discrimination in all matters of American life. Mothers are the hardest hit in their martyred effort to keep the faith and keep their families together. “DOMO Drama” is for the 99% of Americans who struggle to achieve the fast-fading American Dream of owning a home, putting their kids through college, and saving for retirement. Retirement? For many of us, the patina of that promise has long since faded.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Steve Harvey is hilarious. My daughter Cat and I were guests on his show his first year in Chicago (S1 ep 9). Our segment: “Fashionista Moms and their Tomboy Teens”. Cat was starting her freshman year in high school, and still an avid hockey player. She dressed like a boy. It’s who she is, and I love her for it, but I hated those ubiquitous basketball shorts. I submitted us for the role on one of the casting sites made accessible to me through DeSanti Talents, and after numerous interviews with Steve’s producers, we were booked. The show gave Cat a makeover; it was nice to see her in dress jeans. By way of appearing on the show, Cat learned big city business skills and the value of work. She greatly dislikes show biz, and prefers to look through a microscope instead of being under one.

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

  1. Be loyal to who you are.
  2. Be respectful and pleasant to everyone on set; you never know who they are or where they will end up.
  3. Be gracious: write a thank you notes and post on social media.
  4. Be on time.

You are a person of great 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. 🙂

I believe this country needs an Angry White Women (AWW) movement. AWW would be AWW-Inspiring for any woman who:

  1. Is disgusted by supporting a parasitic underbelly of society. For example, the cost of Chicago’s gun violence for the year 2019, figures current to June 1, is $52,537,000. (Source: heyjackass, http://heyjackass.com/)
  2. Has been denied insurance coverage for pregnancy because it is a pre-existing condition.
  3. Is unemployable because she has: (a) Had children; (b) Is not bi-lingual (Spanish), and/or © Turned 50.
  4. Is victimized by reproductive politics.

AWW goes way beyond the “Me Too” movement — AWW is an economic movement. Elevate women, (51% of the U.S. population, U.S. Census Bureau, 2017) and you elevate the sons and daughters.

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. You are “on call” almost 24/7. Sometimes life gets in the way. Once I declined a Saturday shoot for a Tesla commercial because it conflicted with my son’s high school graduation.
  2. The entertainment business can be brutal. A prospective Sacramento, CA, agency owner asked me to leave the building because she was appalled by my appearance. It was she who had called the meeting.
  3. Set is exciting when working, but boring when not. Bring a book or your biostatistics homework while you wait for your part.
  4. Check in periodically with your agent(s). Agents need to know you are still: (a) available; (b) interested; and © look like your comp card or headshot. Return phone calls promptly and be enthusiastic.
  5. Availability is important. If you go on vacation, tell your agent. One of my agents was angry with me for not telling her I was out of the state. She called me with audition details and heard calypso music in the background. I was on a sightseeing boat where I now live, in Naples, FL.

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

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

  • Wayne Gretsky, Canadian hockey player and Hall of Famer who played for the NHL from 1978–1999.

When my biopsy revealed pre-cancerous cells, when, in 2009, my bond trader husband was suicidal, and when we didn’t have the money to fix a hole in our ceiling under my daughter’s bedroom, I kept going. I kept auditioning, teaching, skating, and learning. I took risks and made my own opportunities. Me, my husband and children persevered and we are all doing beautifully.

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?

Mike Harrison, owner of WSPR Talk Radio and Talkers Magazine gave me my start in radio. Mike booked me as a regular guest on a weekly broadcast and our banter was very successful.

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. 🙂

Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen, made me and my daughter laugh when times were very bad. In Chicago, Ellen’s show aired between my day and evening clients. Ellen offered a respite from my worries of supporting my family. Ellen is kind and funny and genuine. I admire Ellen for coming out, and for branching out — into game shows and voice acting. I am in awe of those who master the microphone.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I can be found on

Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/kelleywatson708/

and on Stage 32: stage32.com/profile/375758.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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