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“We need to teach children they are beautiful and capable” With Ben Ari & Valerie Lynn Hanna

I have always believed education is the key to a better world. I have watched people struggle to feed and clothe themselves in my line of work as an attorney and I always wished someone could have bestowed upon them, a stronger sense of themselves in the formative years. I would like to start an […]

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I have always believed education is the key to a better world. I have watched people struggle to feed and clothe themselves in my line of work as an attorney and I always wished someone could have bestowed upon them, a stronger sense of themselves in the formative years. I would like to start an organization for high-risk children, or those who are struggling with traditional learning modalities, that would act as a support. Inspirational people, athletes, politicians, artists should donate time regularly not just once in a blue moon, to helping young children shape a vision of their future in a positive way. If people felt better about themselves they would not need to succumb to lower levels of behavior. We need to teach children they are beautiful and capable. Every person is a treasure trove of unique gifts and we need to help everyone in this journey to discover their gift, so they can give it to the world and find personal joy.


As a part of our interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Valerie Lynn Hanna.

Valerie is an award-winning actress, writer, and creative artist agent. Owner, President and CEO of Fruition Talent and Media, Inc. and Dogs Running Down Central, LLC in New Orleans, LA. Valerie is also an attorney advocate for economically, socially and medically disadvantaged clients. Valerie has reveled in championing unpopular causes, fostering raw artistic talent in the development of artistic careers and advocating zealously for all of her clients. If Valerie doesn’t do it with heart, she doesn’t do it!


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

Ican recall from an early age, I carried a strong sense of social justice, coupled with a love for television and animated storytelling. When I say animated here, I mean lively, not necessarily animation in the literal sense. I would enjoy a great debate, and would innately become the devil’s advocate in any type of discussion from the time I was old enough to utter a few intelligible words. Rest assured, as a child, I could turn a directive for bedtime into a hybrid between a half-hour comedy and a melancholy drama with a compelling closing argument. It’s no wonder the two themes continue to drive my life.

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

The most interesting story that has happened to me in my journey as an attorney and an artist, is the recognition, that the two diverging paths led to a heightened achievement of my potential in two disciplines. As an actor, the channeling of emotions, and practicing their range — like scales, has made me sensitively accessible as a human being. Consequently, I felt drawn to compassionate and meaningful causes as an attorney. I think that as a society we have moved away from the comprehensive trainings that the Greeks understood would result in a well rounded human being. Academia, reading, writing, literature, art, physical education and public oration are all part of a dynamic to improve who we are as a species. We have these gifts that set us apart as human beings and we need to cultivate them or we may lose them. For example, I can recall my own personal horror after I quite swimming laps. I lost my buoyancy, my once fully webbed feet devolved into something far less useful in the aquatic world. Ha! I just wanted to see if you were actually paying attention.

I also came to realize the need to recalibrate expectations once goals have been achieved. Flexibility brings a more fluid appreciation for unanticipated rewards in the “end game”. It’s important to have goals, but when you reach them you will most likely find that it’s not what you thought it was going to be. I watched a visual art installation which was called “Success”. It was brilliant in depicting the difficulties, the falls, the side — steps, the completely non — linear nature of the march towards one’s goals and the relentless attempts to stay at this imperceptible thing called the “top”. Personally, I believe adversity has been my friend. Certain levels of discomfort have been the mother of invention and re-invention of my career path.

I currently own an artists’ agency in New Orleans -, Fruition Talent and Media Inc. and to feed the artist within, I am working on the development of a female-driven, comedy pilot, touching on some sensitive issues. Let’s face it, real humor is a serious business and I save that for my company called “Dogs Running Down Central LLC”!

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?

The funniest mistake I made, when I was starting out, was to take a surfing lesson in La Jolla, California. I mean, I could just stop right there. Why am I talking about surfing when I’m not a surfer? Well, it’s the lesson and the lesson is what stuck. I proceeded to put on my wet suit inside out and continued to demonstrate why book learning is just that. When it’s time to get on the board, well, that kind of knowledge just isn’t in the book. We began our session with a simulation on land of what we would do in the water, the instructor told us to lie down on our boards. I proceeded to lie on my back, face up. Doh! I was completely serious, because, I was so literal and checking my common sense at the door when attempting something outside my wheelhouse of experience.

So the lesson is, knowledge and its practical application, are cumulative. Everything you have done, said, felt, lost, won has brought you to this moment in time. When you move onto the next challenge, don’t discount it. Don’t forget it. Draw on it. I don’t care if it was cutting perfect French fries, it has a relevant application to your life in the here and now.

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

I am extremely excited about the completion of a filmed proof of concept, a line item budget and shooting schedule for a half-hour comedy pilot I wrote called “Seamus of Fryman Canyon”. As a once upon a time veteran actress in Hollywood, I asked myself, what happens to all those fresh-faced Hollywood party girls when they are put out to pasture? I watched many of my talented contemporaries auditioning for “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” or “adult diaper” commercials and I thought, come on Hollywood, we can do better! “Seamus of Fryman Canyon” is a sardonic look at life as an aging actress in Hollywood. Fiona Sullivan is a long in the tooth actress who successfully bids on a Hollywood sitcom dog named Seamus to change the course of her destiny.

Fiona finds herself on the run from Russian mobsters who have other plans for this cognitive trailblazing dog. Seamus is a dog on the lamb, who would prefer to navigate the hills of Fryman Canyon and Fiona Sullivan’s mind, to make her a star, then return to a life of crime with Vlad. The comedy and tragedy of an aging actress in Hollywood is like the female version of Rocky in many respects as we root for an underdog with a dream. Navigating a world where age is like a disease will inspire some interesting sink or swim behaviors, not to mention the hysterical cast of characters who are raw, real and ridiculous.

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

I have interacted with people incarcerated and facing long term custodial sentences to legendary iconic comedians like Mel Brooks, who I happen to share a birthday with on June 28! I was in a Nationwide Insurance commercial with Peyton Manning when I was acting and I very much respected his quiet, focus and unassuming manner. Sometimes it’s easy to understand why people are successful and other times, not so much. I was able to quickly grasp and appreciate their winning qualities. I do, however, learn some of my greatest life lessons from people struggling quietly, without the flash or notoriety in their life. Some of the most heroic lessons have been learned from people facing dire health and financial forecasts in their lives. Their ability to rally or their quiet contemplation is inspirational to me. The quiet life in the corner, is sometimes the most poignant when dissected and examined closely, which I suppose, inspired me to write.

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

“I’m a believer, I’m a believer, I’m a believer”! Simply put, “Don’t stop believing”. Eliminate people from your life who plant seeds of doubt or try to erode your enthusiasm for anything in life. The intangible spark is a precious thing…it will make people agree to play ball only if they can use your mitt or wear your jersey. What I’m trying to say is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but you may find it draining. Entertaining a wicked stepsister trying to squeeze a foot into your shoe is draining, and as flattering as it may be, — run! You may have lonely patches, so get to like your own company. Take those quiet times and focus on your art, your dream and put in the labor of love. “Strive ever harder toward your dreams and they won’t be denied!” I took that quote from Bruce B. Wilmer.

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.

It may sound elementary, but everything profound really is. Connect with nature. Nature is perfection. Every plant, every tree, every insect, every beast has been brilliantly cast in the play of life. This symbiotic expression of perfection is there to facilitate your own personal growth and sense of well being. A calming sense of peace immediately comes over me, when I take my dogs hiking or for walks in wooded or lush areas inhabited by nature. So when someone says, you are a natural, it is the highest compliment. It means, it was your life’s destiny, it was the world’s perfect creation to make you that way. Be natural, whoever you are…never fake it.

I routinely remind myself to find a true expression of who I am even if it is not well received by everyone. We live in interesting times where I believe a lot of people are pandering or trying too hard to be liked. Don’t get me wrong, being liked is fabulous but arm yourself to walk through the fire in life, holding true to your own values. If you have cultivated a personal code of ethics, follow that, even if it will not hold you in good stead with others who are asking you to compromise yourself. I don’t think anyone escapes these trials and tribulations, however, at the end of the day, you will never regret making your own mistakes honestly. Making them as a result of pandering to others and being insincere to your inner voice will irreparably harm you if it continues as a pattern. This is even more important if you are trying to have a credible voice as an Artist.

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

Let’s see, the five things I wish someone would have told me when I first started would have to begin with, gratitude is an attitude that needs to be practiced regularly, like going to the gym. It’s important to appreciate that life and good health are the greatest gifts of all. Sure, it’s easy to forget that when you are stuck in traffic with a flat, or you just lost your job, or you are saying goodbye to a rocky relationship. It took a serious health issue to really wake me up to the fact, that life truly is the greatest gift of all. Try achieving anything without it. A renewed vision of life with this perspective will help one recognize, choppy waters are just that and will eventually pass.

The remaining four would have to be, “BELIEVE IN YOURSELF”. Even when the water is metaphorically filling the gallows of your ship, fix your mind to the fact, that you can do it! You can win, you can swim, you can succeed and always circle back to a place of love, starting most importantly with love for yourself.

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

I would have to say the final verse in a poem called “Thinking”, written by Walter D. Wintle pretty much sums up my favorite life lesson quote. “Life’s battles don’t always go to the strongest or the fastest, sooner or later those who win are those who think they can.” Isn’t that beautiful? Personally, I think it helped me take the pressure off of myself. I no longer needed to measure up to some unrealistic perfection. Instead, it caused me to focus on developing my heart.

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 would have to thank my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Holmes, who quite frankly at the time, I did not appreciate the impact she would have on my way of thinking as I developed into an adult. I recall she told the class to “gallop” around the room. I proceeded to take the instruction, but everyone else in the class ran. I galloped around the classroom a few times, but looked around and saw everyone else running. Feeling vulnerable, and wanting so much to fit in, I looked around at everyone and decided to change my gait, into a full blown run, like everyone else. Mrs. Holmes stopped the class and centered me out. She asked me, why did I stop galloping? She let me know I was the only one who was doing it right, and to never follow the crowd. I believe that had a huge impact on me as I would assess some of my more unconventional approaches to life.

I would stop and remember that moment and realize, you need to rely on yourself and trust your own judgment no matter what is going on around you.

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. 🙂

I have always believed education is the key to a better world. I have watched people struggle to feed and clothe themselves in my line of work as an attorney and I always wished someone could have bestowed upon them, a stronger sense of themselves in the formative years. I would like to start an organization for high-risk children, or those who are struggling with traditional learning modalities, that would act as a support. Inspirational people, athletes, politicians, artists should donate time regularly not just once in a blue moon, to helping young children shape a vision of their future in a positive way. If people felt better about themselves they would not need to succumb to lower levels of behavior. We need to teach children they are beautiful and capable. Every person is a treasure trove of unique gifts and we need to help everyone in this journey to discover their gift, so they can give it to the world and find personal joy.

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. 🙂

When I began my serious quest in writing, I took Aaron Sorkin’s online Master Screenwriting course. I wasn’t quite sure what I would discover, but I found him engaging, self-effacing and generally just a great teacher. I replayed a lot of the lessons and thought, this person is a blast, I would really love to meet him. I even wrote a small cameo role for him in my television pilot. How inspired was I? Ha!

How can our readers follow you online?

Anyone can follow me on Instagram and Facebook as Valerie Hanna! I love good company!

Also please check out Fruition Talent and Media, Inc and Dogs Running Down Central LLC on IMDB.

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

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