We love a woman who is a quote unquote triple threat (or shall we say quadruple threat)? You may know our latest mom crush Tammin Sursok as an actress on such popular shows as Pretty Little Liars, but she’s also a singer-songwriter, creator of the site, Bottles and Heels and children’s clothing designer. Oh, and she’s impossibly in love with her husband of six years, Sean McEwen and has an adorable three year old daughter named Phoenix. You’d think that she’d be untouchable but that’s further from the truth. This honest, real and self-assured mama can join our mama tribe any time. Read on…
This past holiday, you shared photos of yourself as a little girl weighing almost 200lbs on Instagram. We were so moved by this post, as it was not only raw and real, it was inspiring for others who perhaps are struggling with their own self image. We commend you for sharing your story and are curious what the response was like and why it was important for you to share.
I vividly remember sitting in my car, it was around Christmas time, and I had been reading a multitude of comments and responses from young girls saying that they were really struggling, especially around the Holidays. I just thought it was my duty to say something so that they would feel less alone. I never did it for any type of attention seeking. It was a pure “in solidarity” post. I wanted them to know that everyone has something that they deal with and weight and bullying was my cross to bear. Being in the public eye, you are either helping or hurting and if I can help or save one life, then I think being in this crazy business is worth it.
You also wrote a beautiful and heartfelt post on News.com, titled, “A Letter to My Overweight 13-Year-Old Self ” in which you reference getting teased by the boys at school. Do you have any advice for parents who fear their kids might be being bullied?
I think the most important thing is to explain why people bully. The one sentence in the letter that I wrote for news.com that was the most imperative was, “Unhappiness is the fastest pipeline to hate”. I think when your children understand and realize that bullying is not about them, it’s someone else not being happy with who they are, then words will start to slide off them. We need to instill self love, self respect, and strength in our children.
I just thought it was my duty to say something so that they would feel less alone […]. I wanted them to know that everyone has something that they deal with and weight and bullying was my cross to bear. Being in the public eye, you are either helping or hurting and if I can help or save one life, then I think being in this crazy business is worth it.
How do you manage to stay so grounded while living in Hollywood? Are there things you do to protect your daughter from the pressures she will inevitably face as she ages?
Hollywood isn’t real, and the minute you buy into all the hype, then your life becomes some type of fantasy game. People get so caught up in the recognition and money and “things” and it ends up crushing your soul. I’ve always looked at Hollywood as a “business”. It’s a job. It’s somewhere I go to work. When I come home, I’m back to my real reality. Being an actor is the most rewarding, creative, blood pumping profession, but it’s not my whole life. In regards to our daughter Phoenix, we do affirmations every morning. She says, “I am strong, I am beautiful, I am unique, I am intelligent, I am me. I am Phoenix, the fire bird!” It is so important to me to talk about how smart and unique and funny and interesting she is. I don’t make much reference to her appearance. My husband and I want her to run around looking at dinosaurs rather than demanding to be a princess. I think if she grows up around that, she’ll have less issues with her self image as she gets older.
Gratitude plays an important theme in your social media. What do you do at home to practice gratitude and how are you teaching this to your daughter?
Meditation and mindfulness are two very powerful tools. They take minutes and aren’t hard to do. Every time a negative thought or negative sentence is said in our household, we try to counteract it with something positive. I’ve always been a very anxious person, and I’ve learned from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that you can absolutely rewire your brain. It starts with your thoughts, your thoughts become your actions, and your actions change your life.
You’ve been busy the past year or so! You launched both a website, Bottles and Heels, and a children’s clothing line, stella.phoenix. Can you tell us what inspired you to start them?
Bottles and Heels was started out of me feeling quite lost. After I had my daughter, I stopped working for a bit, and I sort of just lost my way. My identity changed, and I didn’t really have a community or a network of women to talk to about what I was feeling. So I thought, “how could I create a creative space where women and men, could be heard?”. It was a small spark of an idea, which has grown into something so much more. I think we are helping people and I couldn’t think of anything better than that.
As for Stella.Phoenix (www.stella-phoenix.com) it is a dream come true. I met Kellie, my business partner, two years ago and we decided to create a children’s line of beautiful clothes. Adults have such wonderful choices with great fabrics and innovative designs and I think children’s clothing lacks that. We aren’t Gucci and we’re not Target, we’re somewhere in the middle. We’ve almost sold out and I can’t believe that I can say that out loud!
Bottles & Heels covers fashion, beauty, travel and of course, motherhood and you are committed to having “real” conversations. What do you think is most important for mothers to talk about and why do you think these conversations aren’t happening as often as they should?
I think the most important things to talk about are what we struggle with. Many people are not doing this and I feel like there are a lot of moms walking around feeling alone and feeling alone is the scariest place to be when you are surrounded by so many people. I don’t think people speak up because they get stigmatized. They don’t ever want people to see them as a failure and I think mom guilt runs deep through all moms. I hope Bottle and Heels is a safe place for people to speak about what they are going through and to feel a sense of community and know that they are not alone.
If being a writer, actor, business owner and blogger aren’t keeping you busy enough, you also have another Instagram feed, @whatphoenixtoldgreyson. Tell us more about it and are Phoenix and Greyson really best friends?
Phoenix and Greyson have been best friends since they were one which is 2/3 of their life! I’ve been a photographer for over 10 years (I know, I know, I need to just pick something), so it was just a way that I could take pictures of these two kids that I love and put some joy on people’s faces.
How do you cultivate positive relationships with your girlfriends?
Just spending time with them. Today we actually put a post up called “I Became a Mom and a Sh*t Friend” because I think a lot of moms feel this way. It’s so hard now to have quality time with girl friends. It’s just making the effort, a ten minute conversation or a dinner out with wine, it’s just putting focus on them.
You’ve been with your husband for over ten years which is an eternity in Hollywood years. What are three things you do to maintain that connection with your husband?
- Keep dating each other. Every Friday night, we go on a romantic date, it may be a $7 movie or a three course dinner – it’s just something that we do that says to the other person “you’re worth it”.
- Have sex. It’s so funny because sex seems like such a taboo subject to talk about and yet, we see violent images thrown at our faces on a daily basis which is socially acceptable but showing a boob of a breast-feeding woman in public is an atrocity. Without sex, you are just friends. The amount of conversations I’ve had with women who say that after they’ve had their children they go three weeks to months without having sex is shocking. Sex connects you in a different way than anything else can. It’s a chemical connection that makes you keep falling in love.
- Communication is key. Trying to listen to your partner and understand what they are going through is helpful in arguments.
We also love your style! What are your go-to mama looks?
I used to be obsessed with fashion and now I just think I’m too tired, haha. I love a great pair of jeans, a wonderfully made cotton t-shirt, and some stylish runners. That’s my go-to outfit right now and I think most moms can relate.
What’s in store for you and your businesses in 2017?
My husband and my production company have three things in production in the first quarter of this year, so that will be a huge focus for us. Also, growing the blog Bottles & Heels, @bottleandheels, and stella.phoenix @officialstellaphoenix (www.stella-phoenix) is a top priority.
What is your spirit animal and why?
A lion for all the obvious reasons.
3 pearls of wisdom
Give yourself a break
Be led by your children
The most important thing is love