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We live in a diet-obsessed society and despite the vast selection of diet products in stores we are a country with an obesity problem. It’s no wonder that The Biggest Loser is such a hit or that trainer Dolvett Quince has struck a chord with people watching from home.

The Biggest Loser - Season 15

I had the pleasure of speaking with Dolvett and listening to him talk about developing an emotional attachment to his team. He is invested in their success. He feels their pain. Winning isn’t just about losing the weight but learning to shed the past, the things that have brought them to this point. It starts with standing on national television in a sports bra and shorts letting it all hang out. It is about being in a vulnerable state. “They can strip off everything and say this is who I am.”

Dolvett did more than listen as they told their stories. He shared his own stories. He recognizes the emotional aspect, “Health isn’t just about a pushup. There’s an emotional component.” He looks at the entire picture presented and, “listened to the source of the pain to try to problem solve it together.” He will tell you that it is his job. “I’m required to listen and to sort through. Working through the emotional component, that’s a jumping jack.”

This season’s winner Rachel Frederickson has been criticized for her results and some of the criticism seems to be less about health concerns than just the opportunity to make fun of a young girl who turned her life around.

Dolvett spoke about Rachel and the fact that she was once a competitive athlete playing a part in her journey. “She’s young. She’s 24 years old so her body responded to what she was doing.” According to him it is about finding a balance and helping her find that. “She is a competitor. You gave her a platform to compete and she had a goal and she won. Now in life she has to find a balance.”

I asked Dolvett about the naysayers who say that losing weight is easy with access to round the clock training and cooking while on the show. He points to the people who get sent home early on as proof that it can be done. “That first contestant has to go home the first week of the show. They are left on their own and come back losing 100 pounds, 115 pounds. So it is attainable.”

Finding balance to having a healthy lifestyle, “that’s the key. Anyone can do a quick fix.” Dolvett has always addressed health and balance as a trainer. In his book The 3-1-2-1 Diet, he makes losing weight and maintaining weight loss something that people can fit into their busy lifestyles. He recognizes that people are stressed. Life is stressful and that for many, time is a factor.

“No one has the time. You have to make the time. We make time for the things we care about.” He talks about finding ways to incorporate activity into your lifestyle whether it is grocery shopping as a family or cooking together. Make it a family thing. Always find ways to incorporate movement. “Make it an agenda to put movement in your life.”

In the diet and training world it isn’t often that you see a trainer willing to share knowledge or even share credit. Dolvett started out training in Atlanta and had enough success that he expanded. He believed in sharing the wealth whether it was his knowledge or even his clients. He didn’t subscribe to the, “I am an island,” mentality common in the world of training. “Trainers are very possessive. I was the complete opposite. It’s gonna be about the consumer. It’s not gonna be about anything other than that.”

Dolvett has built his success from that philosophy and he has an incredible resume of results whether looking at his celebrity client list, seeing his success as a trainer on The Biggest Loser or following his plan in The 3-1-2-1- Diet. He wants people to know that it’s possible, “it’s about having a goal. It is about saying, ‘I’m fed up. I’m going to get healthy.”

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at the CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

When it comes to women there are some misconceptions. For instance, there are those who think that women do not support one another. We are all competing with one another over a job, a friend, or a romantic interest. Women are all catty. Right? Wrong.

I had the privilege of attending the 2013 Women’s Leadership Conference hosted at Hunter College. Female students from all of the CUNY schools were invited to participate in a day that was all about girl power. Talk about your rah rah women or your girls rule and boys drool. Ok, well, maybe not the boys drool part but women certainly ruled at the WLC.

Marissa Job and Kelsey Richardson, representing CUNY School of Professional Studies, greeted me when I arrived to let me know what the day’s agenda would be. It was a nice way to begin the day. CUNY’s support system is amazing.

One thing that I couldn’t help but notice when I walked in was the diversity. I come from Long Island and Long Island is not known for diversity so it was wonderful to see African American, Muslim, Asian, and white women all there. And I will own up to one of those woman stereotypes. Those girls all knew how to dress. I resisted the urge to tell one woman to forget school and get on a runway.

There were so many remarkable speakers but let me give a glimpse of some of the highlights. Rosanna Rosado, publisher and CEO of El Diario/La Prensa brought tears to my eyes. Through her story of a five year old dancing on a table she made me go back to my five year old self on a table dancing for a room full of grown-ups who made me feel like a star. I was a star. So where did I lose that star power? What made me move from center stage to mixing in with the scenery?

We spend so much time trying not to appear vain or full of ourselves that we forget to acknowledge all that we are. What’s wrong with knowing we are strong, beautiful, smart, capable human beings who also love shoes? What’s wrong with putting on a tiara, even if it’s imaginary and knowing that we have a star power, that we are worth the glitter in our crowns? Listen to Rosanna and straighten your tiara and dance on a table, maybe not literally, but why not?

Joanna Barsh, Director of McKinsey & Company and creator of the “The McKinsey Centered Leadership Project,” gave the first presentation. She had our full-attention. She used exercises that enabled us to get to know the people sitting around us in a way that didn’t feel forced. By the end of the presentation I had learned some interesting things about the woman sitting next to me. I also felt invested in her and wanted to see her succeed.

More important was Joanna’s message to us about all of the self-talk that we do and the way that some of our negative thinking becomes obstacles, obstacles of our own making. No. She didn’t give some power of positive thinking talk that inspired us only to be forgotten later on. Through examples and demonstrations she showed us the small ways that we psyche ourselves out, small ways that can become paralyzing.

I especially loved her tip on thinking of a few good things that happened during the day and one bad thing. It was, according to Joanna, a way of retraining your brain to sort through the bad and recognize the good. It is a way of building confidence and through that building, you become your best self, a leader.

There were other inspiring women. Whether it was City Council Member Gale Brewer talking about the importance of community building and having a voice, or listening to Joyce Moy, Executive Director of the Asian/American Research Institute as she talked about overcoming shyness after witnessing her parents eviction being the catalyst that made her realize how important her voice was; there were women, strong women there throughout the day to provide guidance and support.

It was a day about women. It didn’t matter what ethnicity, religion, or age. We were all women there with one common goal–supporting one another and forming an unbreakable bond. We were colleagues, peers, mentors, and sisters.

I’ve never been a fan of the stereotype that women cannot be friends. My closest friends and supports are women. It is something my own daughter has grown up knowing. Women rock!

The 2013 Women’s Leadership Conference was a day that was all about us. I looked around the room and thought about the United States being so far behind other countries when it coms to women as CEOs, holding political office, being President. I looked around that room and felt such a sense of hope. Maybe somewhere sitting in that room was the future first female President. I just hope at her inauguration she will dance on a table or two and be sure to wear the most blinged out tiara.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

Once again we are a country divided by race. Without any witnesses to the altercation between George Zimmerman and Treyvon Martin, sides have been drawn, and not much has to do with the evidence presented.

Zimmerman has injuries consistent with his story but Martin is dead with no way to tell us his version.

Instead the different versions have played out in the news and on social media. There is the George Zimmerman we hear described often as a white man, even if he is Hispanic, who was a racist wannabe cop.

We hear alternate versions of Treyvon Martin. He is either a church going honor roll student or a pot smoking truant graffiti artist.

If you notice, neither generalization depicts either as human like the rest of us.

Did you ever wonder what would be written about you if you were to make the news as your final act? Did you wonder what skeletons would come crashing out of your closet and be given to an eager news source waiting to put a spin on their sensational story?

Did you ever smoke pot? Drink too much? Make any mistake? Did you ever think afterwards, “God, I would hate for anyone to think that’s who I am?”

I do have sympathy for George Zimmerman. He’s a civilian who is now expected to know how to behave for a hungry media. His every word and action is dissected and it highlights why many in the news will only speak through a publicist. Its what we’ve become.

Then there’s poor Treyvon Martin. Walking home one night. Unarmed. With a bag of Skittles. Maybe if he took a little more time with his candy selection his path would have never crossed George Zimmerman’s. But it did and he’s dead and we don’t know if he attacked, if he was attacked. We just get to see his life play out in the news and on social media.

He smoked pot. He cut out of school. He gave someone the finger and it was captured on camera.

Imagine that! A teenager who smoked pot. He cut school too! Wow! The evidence is piling up. But wait, the clincher…there is a picture floating around on social media of him giving the middle finger to a camera.

Convict him! Oh wait! He’s dead.

But really, that’s the all the proof that people need to believe that a shooting resulting in his death was justified.

Lock up your kids if that’s the case. I don’t know who has those perfect kids but I sure don’t. I will even revisit my own teenage years back in the Dark Ages and say that I smoked pot. I cut classes. I also may have given the finger more than once. Thankfully it was before this great technological age where every stupid thing I did as a teen wasn’t recorded to be later used against me.

I also know that living in a predominately white neighborhood and raising my three white kids I don’t share the same fears that a mom of an African American teen has. My kids are never stopped because of the color of their skin, not even my son who favors hoodies and low riding pants.

Watching the reaction to the verdict made me think about that. I don’t carry with me a history of being discriminated against because of my color. My parents don’t have stories of times they were called racial slurs or not allowed to participate in things because of their color.

My children have no obstacles in their way because of their color. And if you think that color is not an obstacle I would ask you to really think about that. If it weren’t still an issue then why are we still so divided along lines of color with this verdict?

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

19 years ago a mother was butchered to death in her walkway as her children slept upstairs. Not far from where she laid dying was her friend, also butchered, after attempting to do a good deed.

Small personal touches like a bath that had been run or a cup of ice cream melting on a bannister went from little personal pleasures to evidence attempting to place a time of death.

The man accused of their murder was called an American hero over 4 million times in the news in the days following his arrest. That man had pleaded no contest to spousal abuse a few years before. Still, he was called a hero.

Much has changed when it comes to the perception of domestic violence in this country. Unfortunately it was while America was glued to a trial often billed as The Trial of the Century.

We all saw the pictures of a battered face. We listened to 911 calls and heard the rage of a man who thought it was ok to break down a door as his ex-wife cowered behind it. We listened as she told the operator exactly what he was going to do to her when he broke that door down if help didn’t get there quickly.

We know that eventually she ended up dead.

So what is it about domestic violence that still is so puzzling? Nicole Brown Simpson changed perceptions in that we saw that it was not a problem exclusive to any race, ethnicity or even financial status.

She had our sympathy. But he was still called a hero. For running a ball? For parlaying a charming personality into a broadcasting and acting career? For those rental car commercials?

For pleading no contest to spousal abuse?

It is a sad reality that despite a raised awareness about domestic violence, we still have a long way to go. The signs are often missed and the dynamics of a relationship get lost in trying to assign blame.

It is often hard to understand why a victim goes back or even stays. It’s even harder when the abuse is hidden which is often the case.

The fear that Nicole Brown Simpson often voiced was that he was going to kill her and get away with it. She knew enough about a public image that was very different than the he that appeared in private.

It is that fear that many victims have. It doesn’t matter if he’s a football player, a doctor, a lawyer, or a police officer. No abuser is going to work speaking about that great beating they gave the wife last night or how much she deserved it.

Nicole Brown Simpson was a beautiful woman and it seemed that she had the perfect life. Until she was found in a pool of blood nearly decapitated.

19 years later there are still too many victims. They don’t all look like Nicole but they all have something in common. They are being abused and they worry that nobody will believe them or that their abuser is too charming, popular or charismatic for people to believe he is an abuser.

Abusers come in all shapes and sizes. There are even some who believe them to be heroes. Nicole’s ex-husband spent a lot of time searching golf courses for her real killer, that is until he ended up in prison for different crimes.

19 years ago a woman never got to take her warm bath or finish her ice cream. She was butchered in the walkway of her home as her children slept upstairs. Her ex, the same ex who had given a plea of no contest for spousal abuse was still called a hero. Over 4 million times.

Perceptions have changed since that day. But we still have a way to go.

If you or someone you know needs help The Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence will be merging with the Coalition Against Child Abuse & Neglect forming The Safe Center LI. Please call for help or visit the web sites.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

Paula Deen's Pound of Flesh

Paula Deen is in the news again and, no, it’s not because people discovered that frying food in massive amounts of butter is not healthy. This time she was fired her contract was not renewed by Food Network because she did not perjure herself.

Ok, so it wasn’t exactly for not perjuring herself but that may as well be the reason. She admitted under oath in a deposition that she has used the N word in her lifetime. The tabloids picked it up, which of course was inevitable, which then leads to the forced public apology.

In the worst PR move ever, her handlers or her attorneys or I can’t really figure out who, put out her apology which was heavily edited and bizarre. It was so strange that it was then taken down and replaced with another apology video, which many thought was not sincere or heartfelt or maybe they just couldn’t get past the first strange one. Anyway, that was that. Buh bye Paula Deen.

I don’t watch her show and I’ve never bought her products but in my limited knowledge I remember her getting slammed for not going public with her Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis until an endorsement deal was in place. It damaged her brand and was really the beginning of the end for her.

Still, I think she got the rawest of deals. Accepting her explanation that it was acceptable for a woman growing up in the South in the 60’s to use that word is not the same as condoning it or even liking it. It is understanding a larger history in our country and the small part that Paula Deen plays in it.

She was not the cause of segregation nor was she the beginning or end of racism. She was a by-product of her culture and upbringing. She admitted using the ugly word, offered an explanation, apologized, even if it was strange. Why can’t we just move on? Why can’t we accept that people can evolve?

The N word is a word I heard growing up and I didn’t grow up in the South in the 60’s but it is still something that seemed to be acceptable to say. I always hated the word and I remember my mother hating the word and cringing when it was said in what should have been polite company.

Recently someone I went to high school with posted a status on social media using the N word in the most vile way possible.  I guess he still thinks it’s acceptable.

I have seen an evolution though and while I do hear it on occasion, it is very rare. I suppose the fact that I have seen an evolution in the frequency and usage of the word makes me understand Paula Deen’s position a little more. And again, understanding or accepting her explanation is not the same as condoning her use of the word. It is looking at the larger picture and acknowledging that race has been an issue in our country for a long time and that it’s not always as black and white as we’d like to make it.

Sometimes as much as we don’t like it, we have to accept that there are generational and cultural beliefs that are harder to purge.

I don’t know that Paula Deen is not a racist but in this tabloid society that we live in I lean towards believing the word would have seeped out long before her deposition went public. Celebrities can’t go food shopping on a bad hair day without a picture popping up somewhere. I have trouble believing that Deen was making her African American employees use separate entrances and that nobody ever called a lawyer and then TMZ.

When do we move past the sensationalism and look at the reality? Paula Deen wasn’t trying to be our moral compass. She wasn’t telling us how to raise our kids or even making important decisions involving anyone’s future. She had a cooking show.

But I do wonder why we take such pleasure when people fall in this country. When do we remember that despite their fame they are still humans just like the rest of us?  No angry mob needed. We have social media for that now. Kill a career. No proof needed. Move on to the next scandal.

You don’t have to feel sorry for Paula Deen. She’s made millions showing us how to cook. Ask yourself a question though. Was she fired because she’s a racist or was she fired because her apology was a public relations disaster? And then ask yourself if it was really fair.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

In a world driven by celebrity gossip it’s easy to forget that behind those beautiful faces, long legs and perfect hair are real people with real stories. We see the finished product on a magazine cover or after hair and make-up on a television show but what is real?

Having met Claudia Jordan I can tell you that she is drop dead gorgeous and very real. She exudes a strength that let’s you know that she’s more than a just a pretty face.

Claudia Jordan

Claudia was kind enough to call me after we met and there was no subject that was off limits. I knew Claudia had been Miss Rhode Island Teen USA and Miss Rhode Island USA. I knew she had been one of Barker’s Beauties, that she was on Deal or No Deal and then battled it out on Celebrity Apprentice and again on All-Star Celebrity Apprentice. I wanted to know the other stuff, the stuff that made her who she is, the fierce strength behind the exotic beauty.

Claudia spoke about what it was like growing up biracial. “My mother’s from Italy, an immigrant. My father, black. I had members of my family that were kind of negative, you know prejudiced.” An aunt taunted her while she admired a model on Ebony telling her that, “maybe you’ll be cute some day when you get color.” It is something that stuck with her.

Growing up in Rhode Island she heard her mother called names for having children with a black man, slurs too ugly to repeat here or really anywhere. Claudia spoke of this country as being a true melting pot yet, “we have the worse attitudes towards race.” It is something that made her more open minded towards people.

The day after Claudia graduated high school she was sexually attacked by an acquaintance. A planned beach day was rained out and instead someone had keys to a club. Thinking she was drinking Portuguese wine, Claudia later discovered it was really Cisco, something the US Surgeon General calls “wine fooler” because at 40 proof it is more like a drug than a wine cooler.

Claudia was lured up into the DJ booth and with the music too loud for any of her friends to hear anything, attacked. She described it as being horrific but told nobody and buried it deep inside. She didn’t get help and acknowledges the effect it had on future relationships.

She arrived in Los Angeles broke but determined not to become one of the Hollywood horror stories. In a place filled with beautiful faces, Claudia’s stood out and her career took off only to cool off again. She began to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.

She spoke about being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and feeling overwhelmed. There were times that she couldn’t breathe due to anxiety. “It was from all those years of being ‘I’m fine. I’m fine.’”

It was later in New York while talking with friends that she shared what happened to her. She was told that the same man had attacked her friend too. It made Claudia wonder how many other girls he did that too.

We spoke of the misplaced shame that victims of sexual attacks often feel. Many victims, like Claudia, don’t tell anyone and never seek help. My heart broke hearing her talk about it especially when she spoke of a fear of it being used against her. Claudia did nothing wrong. She did not deserve to be attacked yet she still carried some of that weight years later.

Claudia’s independence is obvious and I asked what it is that kept her going. There are so many parts of her story that would make it understandable for her to give up and that is something that she almost did.

Claudia Jordan

There was a point when her career cooled down that she doubted if she was even pretty. Imagine a woman as stunning as Claudia Jordan doubting her looks. But she spoke about being on shoots and having to keep it all together and look good for the camera while inside she was falling apart.

She had overcome so many obstacles but the depression that creeped up made her think about suicide. Broke with no job prospects in a land where youth and beauty are everything can be the most overwhelming obstacle.

There were times she felt like she wanted to stop fighting and just give up. She had been through the worst and knew what rock bottom was.

There was hope though because Claudia received an email from “good ole Chuck LaBella” inviting her to be a part of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice and then other calls started coming. It helped her see that there is always hope and that her strength would get her through this latest difficult time.

With all the women who go to Hollywood and don’t make it Claudia heard of stories and what some “women are willing to do to have those red bottomed shoes or that car.” She laughed saying, “I could stand to get a new car but that’s not my priority.” There’s also a price and not one she was willing to pay.

Instead she pulled herself out of her depression and got back to work knowing that she had “walked through fire” and felt like there was “water on the other side of that fire.”

Claudia’s story is one of strength and inspiration. She spoke of the many women with low self-esteem that they have from many issues and according to Claudia “make them feel like damaged goods.” She hopes that by sharing her story it will reach some of those women who have been through their own struggles.

“Whatever it is that made them feel like damaged goods. No matter what you’ve been through and if you’re still breathing and have some will, you can get out of it and start fresh.” It is something she says even she struggled with a year ago but knows that, “There is a rainbow after the rain and you can get through it.”

Claudia has a few projects in the works; she’s working on a movie, a talk show on VH1 and will be on a new travel show coming out this summer on AT&T. She laughed as she spoke about being dropped into water with sharks and being asked to bungee jump from the Stratosphere in Las Vegas.

With all she has survived while balancing on killer heels, I think it’s safe to say she will survive the sharks. Whether she jumps off the Stratosphere remains to be seen but she’s been through scarier things and come out on top.

Author’s Note-Claudia Jordan’s story is one of courage and strength. I applaud her for being brave and speaking out against racism and opening up about sexual assault. There is help out there for survivors. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault please get help.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization

Long Island Crisis Center, 24-7 hotlines

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

The live Finale of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice brings such mixed emotion. I hate for the season to ever end but then I love it because it means an amazing after party.

By now you all know that Trace Adkins won, at least you do unless you live under a rock, so let’s just say, “Yay Trace,” and get right to the fabulous party. And trust me, it was fabulous. As the confetti flew it was time to head over to Cipriani. Following a week of waxing, tweezing, spray tanning, mani/pedi-ing and trying to find shape wear that would remove what wasn’t lost on a treadmill, it was time to party with the stars.

I walked in having shed my heels for Dr. Scholl’s Fast Flats and didn’t get far before coming across an ice cream station serving both Trace’s Maple Macadamia Mash Up and Penn Jillette’s Vanilla & Chocolate Magic Swirtle. Shape wear crushing my internal organs was not keeping me from that ice cream station. It really was Good & Delish!

No sooner had I licked my bowls clean than I turned around and bumped into a waiter standing there ready with the Cipriani signature drink, a peach Bellini. It was amazing how quickly I learned magic and made that drink disappear.

So there I was guzzling my peach Bellini thinking life doesn’t get any better when I spotted The Donald walking across the crowded floor surrounded by a throng of admirers. I had to pinch myself because I know I’ve had a very similar recurring dream.

The Donald has helped raise over $13 million for charity over the past several seasons. Just in the finale, approximately $2 million was raised for American Red Cross, Opportunity Village, and American Diabetes Association. Just amazing!

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But now the dish…..

Dee Snider was there with his wife, Suzette, who is beyond beautiful. I’ve met Dee a few times and to call him a nice guy is an understatement. He has the rock star hair and clothing but to the core is just a genuinely nice person.

If I told you how thin Marilu Henner is and thin as in not even a size zero thin. I started to hate that ice cream station. Marilu rocked a red dress and I just stared at her with my jaw hanging open wondering how she looked so perfect at 61. She grabbed my hand and then someone grabbed her before I could really talk to her or get more than a very blurry picture of her being dragged away.

Lil Jon walked past me and I remembered meeting him two years ago and loving him so I grabbed him like the stalker that I am. He asked if he minded if he came right back and for a second I was sure I was being blown off but then he came back and found me. There were so many people there trying to get his attention and he could have easily forgotten, but he didn’t. There were so many things I wanted to say to him like, “why did you give it up to John Rich that other season?” Instead I may have let it slip that I loved him. He smiled and gave me a hug.

Next up was LaToya Jackson. What struck me was that her manager and friend Jeffré Phillips actually thanked me for the blog I wrote about LaToya and then went and brought LaToya over to meet me since we had only spoken by phone. Even more striking was that she thanked me as well. It was surreal to think that LaToya Jackson was thanking me. She’s been written about by so many people but took the time to acknowledge what I wrote and thank me for it. It was an amazingly thoughtful thing for them both to do. LaToya and Jeffré were the epitome of class.

Omarosa was there. Gary Busey was there. I ran into Dennis Rodman. I don’t understand the controversy over his hair or his outfit. The man can pull off a feather boa like nobody I’ve ever seen. A Mohawk is that far off? I had expected Dennis to be one of the most approachable celebrities there but, well, I liked his hair.

Penn Jillette was there but I only was able to see him in passing as well as the very beautiful Lisa Rinna along with her gorgeous husband, Harry Hamlin.

As I was making my way around I saw Claudia Jordan who is just exquisite. I had my second camera malfunction of the night but Claudia was kind enough to send me a few of her pictures from the party. She has an amazing story, one I hope to share with you all soon.

Finally I ran into the All-Star Celebrity Apprentice in the flesh, Trace Adkins. He had already won me over in our phone conversation a few months back. In person he is even better. When he took my hand and called me, “darling” with that voice, well I melted a bit. Ok, a lot. He then thanked me for what I wrote about him and, believe me, it wasn’t lost on me that the All-Star Celebrity Apprentice was thanking me. He told me how nice it was to finally meet me and for all of two seconds I forgot he was Trace Adkins and it felt like a perfectly normal moment except that he’s a major country artist.

He got dragged off before I could tell him I think I went bankrupt downloading every song he’s ever sung on iTunes and that I would gladly do it again just to hear him sing. But I saw him again later on and he was just as charming. He smiled at me in such an “aw shucks” kind of way and I think I just may have fallen in love with him a little. I met his wife Rhonda who had sent me one of the kindest emails I have ever received and I think I fell in love with her too. Forget gold records or number one songs. They were just two of the most down to earth people hanging at a party.

Even with my flats, my feet heart, I had one too many peach Bellini’s, The Donald broke my heart by leaving with his beautiful wife, Melania and there’s only so much my kidneys and liver could take being crushed together with shape wear. The party was over and what a party it was.

My favorite part of the night was seeing my friend Chuck LaBella who left Massapequa many years ago and and went on to become an Emmy nominated producer as well as VP of Talent Relations for NBC. I am a huge fan of Chuck’s in both the things he produces and the person that he is. Every single celebrity I spoke with described Chuck as a man with tremendous integrity and a big heart. Of course I already knew that and hearing it from Marilu Henner, LaToya Jackson or Trace Adkins didn’t make it better or truer, but it was nice that on a night that was about glamour and celebrity to know that it was also about celebrating a friend for his success and for the person he is.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

Basketball is a sport I’ve only paid modest attention to. My knowledge of the sport is very limited. I know Spike Lee sits courtside at the Knicks games and Jack Nicholson is usually seen courtside at Lakers games. I know that Lamar Odom was a Laker and then went somewhere in Texas and then back to California again but that was only because the Kardashian headlines are inescapable at the supermarket and well, Lamar is married to Khloe.

But back to basketball, and really all professional sports. Jason Collins recently announced that he is gay in an essay for Sports Illustrated. I wish that I could say who cares or that it doesn’t matter, but it does matter, and I do care. You should too. Here’s why.

You know someone who is gay. You love someone who is gay. You may not know it, but you do. I promise you that you do.

When I was a kid back in what my kids describe as the Stone Ages, gay was thrown around a lot as an insult. I remember knowing a few girls who were athletic and my fear was that people would think that I was a lesbian like them. I know. Terrible. My fear didn’t come from not liking people who were gay. My fear came from the perceptions that others had. I suppose I had my own perceptions as well including the perception that girls who played sports were lesbians. Actually I knew that wasn’t true and I was secretly a little envious of their athletic ability but not so envious that many labeled them lesbians and some of the names I heard them called privately.

Things have changed somewhat but has it really gotten better? Is Jason Collins the only gay NBA player? NFL? NHL? MLB? I doubt it. So why is nobody coming out? Not that they owe it to the public to disclose. But are they telling the members of their team? I doubt that too.

Jason CollinsSo why is Jason Collins so important? Why do I love that our President called him to support him in coming out as a gay man and a gay athlete? I love it because I love people who are gay. I love it because I see their struggle and in 2013 still hear gay slurs being whispered privately. I love it because too many kids still think that gay is a funny thing to call someone and that it implies weakness. Too many kids think that it’s ok to call someone a faggot.

A kid that I love was recently taunted with gay slurs. He was repeatedly called “faggot” by some other kids. It wasn’t done in a joking fun kind of way, not that there’s anything funny about that word. The word is ugly and it was used to belittle and diminish. It was a word used to hurt and it did hurt. It didn’t just hurt the kid they called that ugly name though. Those kids hurt his family and his friends. They hurt all of the people who love him.

It hurt because we don’t look at him and see a kid who is gay. We see a kid who is creative and smart and has a beautiful heart. We look at him and see a person that we love, a person who would never hurt anyone with his words or his actions. He happens to be gay. Who is that hurting?

Jason Collins matters because in his eloquent essay he shares his fear of coming out and his worry that his world will fall apart. He talks about dating women and even getting engaged because it was what he considered a “normal” life. In his essay Jason Collins gives us a small glimpse of what it must feel like to hide who you are from so many people and how emotionally exhausting that can be. He matters because in coming out he is paving the way for other athletes and even some young kid who wonders if he will be accepted.

Jason Collins talks about Matthew Shepard and it is a poignant reminder of how much hate there is in the world and how far we’ve come and still have to go. It is a reminder of why it is so important that when we talk about the LGBT community we also remember that they are not just a community but people that we know and love. They are our brothers and sisters, our cousins, our friends, our loved ones. For every Jason Collins there is a kid somewhere who knows that there is hope and that they are not alone.

Programs like The Trevor Project, or on a more local level, Pride For Youth offer support for teens and young adults. Teens and young adults have more options for support, understanding and advocacy than when I was a teenager. We still have a way to go but we’re getting there. We all knew there were gay players in professional sports. Now we have an athlete brave enough to put his name on it. With Jason Collins will come more and hopefully we will look back and wonder what the big deal ever was.

That is why Jason Collins matters.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

What can I say about La Toya Jackson? She is a world famous icon, pop star, author, television personality, businesswoman and so much more. She has made us sing, laugh, cry, and even wear leather headbands. She posed for Playboy twice and had one of the top selling issues.

La Toya Jackson on All-Star Celebrity ApprenticeI see her often, when I’m checking out at the supermarket. Ok, so I’m actually the one in the supermarket and she’s on the cover of a magazine but yesterday our worlds collided when she called me up for a chat. Yes. You read that correctly. La Toya Jackson called me yesterday to talk about life, or more specifically, Life With La Toya.

La Toya was a contestant on this season’s All-Star Celebrity Apprentice following her appearance on a previous season in which she was fired and then convinced The Donald that she deserved another chance. He gave it and she was back on battling it out and showing us that she is more than beautiful clothes and accessories.

La Toya has always been a smart business woman and philanthropist so it was more than just battling it out in the boardroom The opportunity to raise money for charity was a factor and she explained, “I didn’t win the first time and I said, you know what? I’m going to battle this one out and see what I do.”

Despite it not ending well for her she had positive things to say about the show as well as producer, Chuck LaBella. “I think it’s a great show,” and, “I really enjoy the show,” although she laughed and said it is “like torture.” Watching at home we don’t get to see how involved the tasks can be or how much time is put into it. We see the condensed version of the task and then the boardroom brawling. La Toya certainly handled herself well no matter what the outcome and she did raise, first time around, $65,000 for her charity, Aids Project, LA.

Next for La Toya is her new reality show Life With La Toya. Every face of her life has been lived under a microscope so it was surprising that she would want them following her around for a television show. La Toya acknowledged that the gossip and false stories will never stop but felt that, “the public thinks they know you. They think they know who you are but its perceptions or stories that are put out there that are not true.” Her new show gives people the opportunity to, “see who I am and what I do and what I’m like.”

She also considers it an extension of her memoir, Starting Over. La Toya escaped an abusive marriage describing it as, “when you were beaten, if you didn’t say or do the things he wanted you to do or you were locked in the house…” but also wants to provide hope. “I want women to know that you can always get away no matter what. You can always, I mean always start anew.” She spoke of the importance of living your life, your own life. “You must tell yourself I’m doing things my way and I’m going to do it in a positive manner, in a positive way.”

La Toya Jackson has had much of her life played out in the press. She has survived tragedy and also had some moments that could only be described as magical. Now she is letting us all have a glimpse of her world in her new show Life With La Toya. Saturdays at 10:30 pm on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.

Ever have one of those days? You know the kind. Roll out of bed after hitting the snooze 11 times. Run out of coffee. Run out and buy coffee. Make coffee and think ah that was the worst of it only to realize no cream! And then something incredible happens and no not the kind of incredible where you can zip those jeans that have been giving you a hard time and oh look, there’s a twenty in the pocket. No. Way better than that!

Trace Adkins, All-Star Celebrity Apprentice contestant and country music celebrityThe incredible came as I was trying to fit 5 hours of errands into 45 minutes. My phone started buzzing and I picked it up intending to throw it into a wall but the name caught my eye. I stopped mid-hurl to see if my eyes were playing tricks but nope. It was real. Rhonda Adkins, wife of Trace Adkins, country music superstar, Celebrity Apprentice phenomenon was letting me know that Trace was calling me. In 30 minutes. As in Trace freakin Adkins!

My phone rang and the most incredible voice in country music asked to speak with Kristen Ferrari. I was so lost in that voice that for a minute I forgot I was Kristen Ferrari. I dumped an entire box of dog treats on the floor to distract the dog from barking at every squirrel in the neighborhood and had a seemingly normal conversation with the man who brought us You’re Gonna Miss This and my personal favorite, Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.

I say seemingly normal because he was so normal, down to earth and nice and if it weren’t for that voice I would have sworn it wasn’t a country music sensation on the other end. I resisted the urge to ask him to sing his side of the conversation. Maybe next time.

Anyway, why did Trace Adkins agree to another season? Wasn’t one enough? He laughed saying he had actually turned it down both times. But then Massapequa production and NBC VP, Chuck LaBella went over his head to his wife, Rhonda, and next thing you know, he was competing on Celebrity Apprentice and then Celebrity Apprentice All-Stars.

He laughed about it but also was clear that he loved the idea of raising money for the American Red Cross. After a devastating house fire in 2011, the Adkins family saw first-hand the need for people to have help in a crisis. Nobody plans for their house to burn down and having trained responders show up on the heels of the fire department eased the overwhelming process of how to move forward. Little things like knowing where important documents are can be overlooked without people who are trained to deal with crisis.

Trace talked about being in Alaska when the fire happened and the gratitude he felt for the Red Cross for being there when he couldn’t be. He considers himself a person who always tried to pay people back and hopes to do that with his latest stint on Celebrity Apprentice All-Stars.

I asked Trace about his fellow contestants. He spoke highly of Penn Jillette saying, “I picked Penn first. He was the man to beat and I wanted him on my team.”

Omarosa? And yes. I tried desperately to goad Trace into telling me how mean she was but he was a perfect gentlemen. He even surprised me when he said that he had planned on picking her second because he had played with her before and could have used her against the other team. “I’ve never had any problems with Omarosa. I’ve always been decent to her and she’s always been decent to me.”

Stephen Baldwin? Stephen didn’t bring in one penny. Wasn’t that sabotage? Wasn’t that sleazy? Trace didn’t bite simply saying, “I accept Stephen for who he is. I knew when I picked him that he wasn’t a fundraiser.”

Stephen was picked because he was from New York. Massapequa, actually, I told Trace, though after watching Stephen do nothing to help his team I wasn’t feeling the hometown pride. Trace felt that since they were playing in New York, it would help to have New Yorkers on the team.

What stood out to me was the generosity of the country music community. Combined with T Boone Pickens’ donation of $100K, Trace raised over $400K. I would have thought Bret Michaels would have been the big money drawer but the country music community pulled together giving Trace a big win.

Trace spoke again about the outpouring of support from the country music community and how appreciative he was especially considering that many donors couldn’t be shown because it would ruin the suspense of knowing which team raised the most money for the viewers. The amazing part is that nobody complained about not being shown making their donation. It was a true coming together for charity.

I asked him for a final thought about doing the show. He laughed heartily comparing it to AA saying you just try to get through, hour by hour without killing someone.

Trace called it a redeemable reality show. After all, behind all of the backstabbing and manipulation millions of dollars have been raised for charity.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.