Tag: Angela Ledgerwood

Episode 105: Samantha Irby on Intentional Dating, Sexual Mishaps and Redefining Family

Episode 105: Samantha Irby on Intentional Dating, Sexual Mishaps and Redefining Family

Listen to Samantha Irby HERE. Samantha Irby amassed a cult following with her Bitches Gotta Eat blog and then she wowed her fans with her hilarious and brutally honest memoir, Meaty, which is in TV development by Jessi Klein, head writer for Inside Amy Schumer, and Broad […]

Episode 103: Dani Shapiro on Memory, Time & Marriage

Episode 103: Dani Shapiro on Memory, Time & Marriage

Listen to Dani Shapiro HERE. This week writer Dani Shapiro joined me to talk about her recent memoir Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage, an exquisite and intimate interrogation of her 18-year marriage to “M.” The conversation ranges from the wonderful advice given by her aunt to […]

Samantha Bee and Masha Gessen Implore Us to Resist Trump’s “Word Salads”

Samantha Bee and Masha Gessen Implore Us to Resist Trump’s “Word Salads”

I wrote this for Elle!

The Full Frontal host discussed Trump’s damaging use of language with journalist Masha Gessen at the PEN World Voices Festival.

“Waking up every morning is like having a tennis ball machine and having the tennis balls shoot us in the face,” said Samantha Bee Sunday night in her candid conversation with Russian American journalist Masha Gessen at PEN America’s World Voices Festival. After Gessen delivered the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, the two unanimously agreed that one of the biggest assaults on American democracy is Trump’s ability to throw words into a pile that makes them mean nothing—that a world where “fake news” is a thing, where lies aren’t called out as lies, is a very dangerous place to be.

“I worry about the irreversible damage to the country. I worry about the reverberations throughout the world,” lamented Bee. Hours before the Full Frontal host uttered these words, Emmanuel Macron had become President of France, having beaten far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. It seemed like a moment of reprieve from hateful politics, a moment for hope, even—perhaps this signaled the end of the Trump and Brexit-inspired nationalist rhetoric sweeping the west?

But Bee and Gessen, who’ve made it their mission to speak truth to power, didn’t necessarily think so. Gessen, an expert on authoritarianism, urged everyone to be afraid of the way Trump continues to use language. And she should know—she was writing dire warnings about Vladimir Putin and his maniacal consolidation of power for 17 years before anyone took her seriously. In late 2013, Gessen was forced to leave Russia after working there for two decades as a journalist. She’d been spied on and smeared for speaking out against Putin, and when the government threatened to dismantle families with same-sex parents, Gessen and her partner knew it was time to come to New York with their three kids.

“Donald Trump has an instinct for doing the kinds of violence to language that are familiar to me from speaking and writing in Russian,” said Gessen. “He has a particular nose for taking words and phrases that deal with power relationships and turning them into their opposite.” She used the example of Mike Pence’s attendance of the Broadway musical, Hamilton, after which the future vice-president was booed and addressed by the show’s cast. “Trump was tweeting that [this]should not have happened, because, he said, theater should be a safe space. The thing about the phrase ‘safe space’ is that it was coined to describe a place where people who usually feel unsafe and powerless would feel exceptionally safe. Claiming that the second most powerful man in the world should be granted a safe space in public turns the concept precisely on its head.”

When lies are used to change language, Gessen said, words are robbed of their ability to mean something concrete. Frighteningly, the next step might be losing the meaning of words like law, freedom, truth, power, responsibility, life, death, lie, fact, war, peace, democracy, law, justice, and love.

Gessen compared Trump’s word piles to static in a public place, saying that it’s like having the air we breathe replaced with carbon monoxide: A deadly switch. Language is for communicating about our shared reality—to make sure that when a doctor asks for a scalpel on the operating table that’s what he is given, or that a mother can understand the story her daughter tells her when she comes home from school, or that a judge can evaluate a case. None of this is possible when words mean nothing.

“I WORRY ABOUT THE IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE TO THE COUNTRY. I WORRY ABOUT THE REVERBERATIONS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD”

For Bee, aside from Trump’s incomprehensible word salads, which she hopes are a function of his wandering mind and not Dr. Evil intent, her fear was that the president hasn’t yet reached full understanding of his station and his power: “I’m worried about what he’ll do when he understands what his capabilities are—when he learns how to use the toys he has at his disposal.”

Obviously, the conversation went to dark places, but Bee found solace in Gessen’s faith that Americans have something precious to protect. “You always scare the hell out of me,” Bee admitted to Gessen. “And yet I find you so reassuring somehow,” she joked, “in the same way that when I go home at night, I try to relax watching The Handmaid’s Tale.” That’s how we all felt after last night—engaged, enraged, freaked out, but comforted (slightly) by Gessen’s closing joke—”I’m willing to give up the word ‘tremendous,’ but little else.”

Episode 100: Kelly Oxford on #NotOkay, Activism & Her New Book of Essays

Episode 100: Kelly Oxford on #NotOkay, Activism & Her New Book of Essays

Listen to Kelly Oxford HERE. This weeks guest, Kelly Oxford, tells it like it is — and she inspires millions of other women to speak their minds and share their experiences too. Her first book of essays “Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar” was an […]

Episode 98: Julie Buntin on the Childhood Friends That Shape Us

Episode 98: Julie Buntin on the Childhood Friends That Shape Us

Listen to Julie Buntin HERE. My brilliant and dear friend Julie Buntin joins me to dive beyond the pages of her remarkable novel, Marlena. She tells the story of two girls, Cat & Marlena, and the wild year that will cost one her life, and […]

Episode 97: Alyssa Mastromonaco on her Heady Years as President Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff

Episode 97: Alyssa Mastromonaco on her Heady Years as President Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff

Listen to Alyssa Mastromonaco HERE. Subscribe on iTunes HERE.

How does a fastidious IGA check-out chick and public school kid from upstate New York, with no connections and no Ivy League education, end up a few feet from the Oval Office, working as the youngest-ever woman to be deputy chief of staff for the president of the United States? Mastromonaco shares the memories and mishaps that shaped her journey, from desperately trying (and failing) to get a job in politics after college to finding herself joking with Obama about his penchant for black mock turtlenecks in her memoir, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House. She reveals way more in this special and very funny episode. After listening to this show you’ll know why Obama wanted to keep her around for as long as he could!

xoxox Angie

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Buy Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House here.

Esquire’s 5 Best Books of March (written by moi)

Esquire’s 5 Best Books of March (written by moi)

Whether you prefer your reading sexy and satirical, political and polarizing, or simply amusing, the year’s best releases are guaranteed to hit the spot by providing some much-needed escapism, while challenging the status quo and sparking timely conversation. The best books of 2017 (so far, […]

Episode 95: Ariel Levy on Life Before and After “Thanksgiving in Mongolia”

Episode 95: Ariel Levy on Life Before and After “Thanksgiving in Mongolia”

Listen to Ariel Levy on the podcast HERE. This week’s guest is Ariel Levy, a self-described professional explorer. She’s crisscrossed the globe in search of these unique experiences as a staff writer for The New Yorker since 2008, and now turns her interrogative eye on […]

Padma Lakshmi on How Her Indian Heritage Influenced Her Career

Padma Lakshmi on How Her Indian Heritage Influenced Her Career

Here’s how she turned challenges–like moving to a new country, struggling to lose weight, and battling endometriosis–into opportunities.

How Padma Lakshmi’s Indian Heritage Has Influenced Her Career
PHOTO: FLICKR USER ELLEN WALLOP, ASIA SOCIETY

 

It’s easy to look at Padma Lakshmi and think, here is a person made for the spotlight. But for the executive producer and host of the Emmy-Award winning TV show Top Chef, now in its 14th year, success has been a much longer, more interesting road than one might think at first glance—a lifelong journey to embrace her Indian heritage and her unique, cross-cultural experience.

Lakshmi’s entrepreneurial successes stretch across a broad spectrum: modeling; cookbooks (The Encyclopedia of Spices & Herbs!, Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet, and the award-winning Easy Exotic); a rice and lentil line also called Easy Exotic; a pottery and glassware company called the Padma Collection; a jewelry line; acting; television hosting; and a best-selling memoir, Love, Loss, and What We Ate. When you read this book, you might be surprised to find out how long it has taken Lakshmi to feel comfortable in her own skin, and how her career began to succeed once she came to terms with, and became proud of, the twists and turns in her fascinating life.

The young vegetarian’s first culture clash with the U.S. was with food, naturally. “My grandfather (who incidentally loved America) warned me: ‘Be careful,’” Lakshmi says. “’It’ll be snowing outside and you will order something as innocent and pure as a vegetable soup, but in that broth is lurking the melted flesh of an animal!’” Throughout her childhood, Mexican, Japanese, and Chinese restaurants were family favorites because they served rice—the only item on the menu she would eat.

Decades later, Lakshmi launched Padma’s Easy Exotic, a line of six frozen rice and lentil dishes designed for working parents who want a quick, healthy weeknight meal on the family table. (Each rice variety is vegan and gluten-free, and three of the six flavors are 100% organic and non-GMO certified.) “I’m not inclined to reach for packaged foods when I’m cooking at home, so it was important for me to create something I was comfortable putting in my own daughter’s mouth,” says Lakshmi. Fittingly, the entrees are based on family recipes passed down through generations. The Madras lemon rice—a combination of rice, red jalapeño, black mustard seeds, lemon, and gram lentils—is what her grandmother made every weekend in Chennai.

Food, and the ritual of preparing it, has shaped Lakshmi’s life and career. She spent a decade modeling in Europe, working with the likes of Helmut Newton–the first photographer to book her because of an eye-catching scar on her arm (the result of a car accident). Lakshmi later embarked on a professional acting career. For her first TV role in the U.S., she gained 20 pounds, and though it was a cinch (and a pleasure) to gain the weight, it wasn’t so easy to lose it after filming.

Searching for a healthy way forward, she began to experiment with her favorite recipes, tweaking them for what would become the basis of her first cookbook, Easy Exotic: A Model’s Low Fat Recipes from Around the World.

When asked, “What does a model know about food?” her answer was: a lot. The book won the International Versailles Event for Best Cookbook by a First Time Author at the 1999 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Lakshmi identifies this as a professional turning point. “It opened my eyes to the possibility that I could actually have a career in food—that it wasn’t just a lark.”

After her first television cooking show was canceled, Lakshmi feared the worst–but then the Food Network asked her to draw upon her global travels and family Indian recipes for Padma’s Passport and Planet Food, which gave her a renewed sense of confidence. “Now I see that the exposure to both [Indian and American] cultures gives me a broader perspective—both in my tastes, and in my knowledge,” says Lakshmi, who says it’s her mission to make the world’s most exotic flavors more user-friendly and accessible to everyone.

True to that vision, Lakshmi is in the process of relaunching her line of spices, but she is taking her time to find the right distribution partner, careful to apply the lessons she learned the first time she introduced the seasoning line on the Home Shopping Network (HSN). “When we first launched, we were so excited to have HSN on board because they are such a great distributor, but we didn’t realize the HSN customer was not really our target market. It was like selling a baseball bat to a basketball player.”

This time, she’s recalling advice from her late partner and mentor Teddy Forstmann. “The reason he excelled at business was because he was good at people. He was good at sussing out what was really important to the person sitting across any table from him. If he could give that to them in exchange for whatever he needed from them, he did it. He taught me in real, concrete ways how not to be penny wise and pound foolish.”

Her basic rule in negotiating is built around the fact that a good deal happens when both parties are happy. “You will never get 100% of what you want, but you have to remember that the contract is only the first step of dealing with this other person or entity. You have to work with each other, and no one wants to work with someone being difficult from the get-go.”

Lakshmi finds herself constantly dealing with the challenges that come from being a business owner–and it certainly hasn’t all been smooth sailing. “One of the most difficult business decisions I’ve had to make was choosing to shut down my jewelry line,” she says. “I had orders for six new stores when we closed. But I became pregnant, and because of the legal issues that ensued, I felt it was too much to maintain a fine jewelry company at that time. I had to let go of four employees. It was very painful.”

Her road to good health has also been a bumpy road–but again, she found a way to overcome adversity. In 2009, Lakshmi cofounded the Endometriosis Foundation of America, an organization that advocates for early diagnosis, additional research, and awareness of the chronic disease that affects over 190 million women worldwide. Lakshmi is one of those women. “To me, success is when you’re at a point in your life when you can help other people. Not only monetarily, but when you can use your power and influence to really make a difference when and where people need it.”

For now, most of Lakshmi’s power and influence comes from the hit show Top Chef. “The pleasure one gets from watching Top Chef is largely voyeuristic, and has an element of fantasy to it,” Lakshmi says. “It’s wonderful to have these complicated dishes broken down for you by four knowledgeable palates, but I don’t think most people watch Top Chef thinking, ‘I’m going to make this at home!’”

The best part of the show for Lakshmi is launching the careers of so many talented chefs. “For so much of my life, until about a decade ago, I was so busy trying to make it, I couldn’t think past that. Now I feel that the most rewarding part of doing well is to be able to create opportunity for others.”

Ode to the Wing

Ode to the Wing

New York’s Chicest Women-Only Club In a matter of months, The Wing already has a 3000-strong waiting list. (lead image credit: Harper’s Bazaar) The pastel-hued Wing. Photo: Supplied Late last year, after a decade trying to make it in New York’s hectic media world, with a weekly […]

Episode 94: Jami Attenberg On Being your Own Kind of Grown Up

Episode 94: Jami Attenberg On Being your Own Kind of Grown Up

Listen to Jami Attenberg HERE. Jami Attenberg is the best! I’ve been waiting to have her back on the show ever since Emily and I interviewed her about her last book Saint Mazie. As you will hear, All Grown Up, knocked me about and triggered […]

Episode 93: On the Korean Immigrant Experience in Japan

Episode 93: On the Korean Immigrant Experience in Japan

Listen to Jin Min Lee HERE

I’m excited to celebrate International Women’s Day with my convo with writer Min Jin Lee, whose latest novel Pachinko is a stellar example of female resilience through the ages. Pachinko illuminates a period of history unknown to many of us – early 20th Century relations between Korea and Japan. If you’re looking for a sweeping and absorbing historical saga (you’ll become smarter reading this book) then this is the novel for you. Listen to Min Jin’s extraordinary story of how long it took her to write this book, her experience of living in Japan, and more.

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Buy Pachinko here.

Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (Feb 2017) is a national bestseller, a New York Times Editor’s Choice and an American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next Great Reads. It is a Top Ten Books of the month for Amazon. It has been listed as a top read or a most anticipated book for BBC.com, NBC’s Bill Goldstein’s Weekend Today, Newsweek.com, Stylist UK, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com, LitHub, The Millions, Chicago Review of Books, BuzzFeed, Book Riot, BookPage, Elle.com, Daily Mail UK, BookBub, Nylon, and it is a Book of the Month Club selection. Pachinko received a Starred Review from Kirkus, Library Journal and Booklist. It has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show, Publishers Weekly Radio, and NPR’s Book Reviews. Lee’s debut novel* Free Food for Millionaires (May 2007) was a No. 1 Book Sense Pick, a *New York Times Editor’s Choice, a Wall Street Journal Juggle Book Club selection, and a national bestseller; it was a Top 10 Novels of the Year for The Times of London, NPR’s Fresh Air and USA Today.

Min Jin went to Yale College where she was awarded both the Henry Wright Prize for Nonfiction and the James Ashmun Veech Prize for Fiction. She attended law school at Georgetown University and worked as a lawyer for several years in New York prior to writing full time. She has received the NYFA Fellowship for Fiction, the Peden Prize from The Missouri Review for Best Story, and the Narrative Prize for New and Emerging Writer. Her fiction has been featured on NPR’s Selected Shorts and has appeared most recently in One Story. Her writings about books, travel and food have appeared in The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, The Times of London, Vogue (US), Travel + Leisure (SEA), Wall Street Journal and Food & Wine. Her personal essays have been anthologized in To Be Real, Breeder, The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Works, One Big Happy Family, Sugar in My Bowl, and Global and the Intimate: Feminism in Our Time. She served three consecutive seasons as a Morning Forum columnist of the Chosun Ilbo of South Korea. Lee has lectured about writing, politics, film and literature at various institutions including Columbia University, French Institute Alliance Francaise, Tufts, Loyola Marymount University, Stanford, Johns Hopkins (SAIS), University of Connecticut, Boston College, Hamilton College, Hunter College of New York, Harvard Law School, Yale University, Ewha University, Waseda University, the American School in Japan, World Women’s Forum, Korean Community Center (NJ), the Tokyo American Center of the U.S. Embassy and the Asia Society in New York, San Francisco and Hong Kong. In 2017, she won the Literary Death Match (Brooklyn/Episode 8).

From 2007 to 2011, Min Jin lived in Tokyo, Japan where she wrote Pachinko (February 2017). She lives in New York City with her family.

photo copyright 2016 Elena Seibert