The group was the audience in Santa Rosa for the California Young Woman of the Year competition. Goodman won and went on to the national event in Mobile, Ala. Part way through, she was said to be in seventh place. Goodman felt she was a “dark horse” candidate for the title. Still to come was the judge’s interview.
“I hadn’t done any prepping,” she was quoted afterwards. “I was speaking my own voice. I decided to show my true self. If they weren’t going to accept me for being my true self, then I knew it wasn’t for me.”
When the final results were revealed, Goodman was named America’s Young Woman of Year for 1991, winning on what a spokesman later called a “tremendous judge’s interview.”
* * *
Twenty years later, Goodman displays considerable poise and charm before television cameras and crowds, as attested by those who saw her last month at Copperfield’s Books in Santa Rosa.
Goodman, not to be confused with the Amy Goodman of the news program Democracy Now, today wears many hats: freelance writer/broadcaster; editor at large for Southern Living magazine; a frequent contributor for “Today” and “The Rachael Ray Show;” as well as “The View,” “Good Morning America” and “The Early Show.” She lives with her husband and two young children in Washington, D.C.
As if she isn’t been busy enough, she is the author of the new book “Wear This, Toss That.”
Here she talks a little about her journey and she provides some thoughtful advice for young people pursuing their dreams.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
No one piece of advice has served my entire career, but a blend of ideas certainly has:
Have courage in your convictions. Believing in yourself and finding a purpose on this planet that makes you passionate gives you the courage to have confidence during the job search.
Know the value of your worth. This is essential when it’s time to make career moves, initiate a pay raise and/or realize that it is time to move on.
Make yourself indispensible. Finally once you land a gig, make sure you are the best possible you can be at it, blowing your bosses out of the water with your willingness to go above and beyond with your professionalism: they’ll want to retain and mentor you!
What advice would you give to today’s young women (especially those in high school and college)?
Be open to the experiences around you, as I view education (particularly college) as your time to experiment. For example, I was an undeclared major entering UCLA though following a pre-med track, when one day my mother called the spring quarter of my freshman year and said she didn’t see me as a doctor. I took my mother’s words seriously and gave it thought. I switched gears towards communications and languages, which to this day, parallels my current profession.
When you can, branch off from your major to diversify your studies: I took everything from psycho-biology to women’s studies to film and economics. It was my honors coursework in micro-biology that led that professor to write me glowing recommendations for graduate work!
For collegiate women entering this extremely competitive job market, where the unemployment rate is currently at 9.2 percent, be prepared for your interviews. Do research on the company, understand the company’s culture, know what the position is for and the reasons why you are the best possible candidate for the job. Then convey this information in your cover letter and interview. When I was at In Style magazine, I hired and pre-screened interns and assistants for my department. I cannot tell you how ill-prepared some people were. They’d tell me they LOVED the magazine and LOVED fashion, but when pressed as to what recent article they liked or something the magazine did better than our competitors, they were at a loss for words. This doesn’t show me that you are the best candidate for the job at hand. In fact, it doesn’t even show me that you are familiar with our pages, so why should I hire you?
Also, learn the art of networking. I was relatively horrible at this when I first started out because my integral nature is rather shy: as a girl I wouldn’t even call Redwood Empire Ice Arena to find out the skating times … I was too nervous! So as you study and meet interesting people, introduce yourself, stay in contact, write thank you letters to inspirational teachers and leaders: you just never know who will be helping you along your career path.
For more advice on how to prepare for life and work, I edited and wrote an essay for a book geared toward young women called Full Bloom: Cultivating Success that is available on amazon.com.
Who inspired you when you were growing up?
I’m drawn to people with strong work ethics, compassionate hearts and visions. For this reason I admired Audrey Hepburn (when I met her, she was the ambassador for UNICEF), the Dali Lama and broadcasters Wendy Tokuda, who was a local anchor in San Francisco Bay Area (and continues to report) and Connie Chung. Even though I wasn’t journalistically minded in high school in terms of career, there were few Asians on the airwaves, and I watched the latter with awe. Both were and are outstanding representatives of the Asian-American community, of which I am a proud member.
Think back on your journey toward becoming an expert on fashion, beauty and entertaining. What steps made the biggest difference in advancing your career and in preparing you to write your book?
I spent eight years at In Style (which is like dog years in women’s magazines), where my tenure was marked by growth and change. I went from editorial assistant to assistant editor to associate editor to correspondent, and there I learned about fashion, beauty, lifestyle and entertaining. Then I was a senior editor at All You magazine, which is about family, practicality and affordability. I joined the magazine at the peak of the recession, so this taught me about the challenges facing Americans financially and how to always consider your budget when approaching your wardrobe. When opportunity came to write the Wear This, Toss That!, I could approach the topic of fashion and beauty using the culmination of my magazine experience to date–with a real perspective to fashion dilemmas that women face all over this country and the types of practical answers that they need. And I relished the idea of writing something that stayed on a bookshelf for all of time as opposed to a newsstand for only a month. Now I’m an editor at large for Southern Living, where the focus is entertaining, gardening, hearth and home, and I’ve come full circle editorially and in life.
You’ve described yourself as “super mom by day, media maven by night.” Would you share a little bit about what that looks like in real life?
On a recent Tuesday, I awoke at 5:45 a.m. to the cries of my one-year-old son and prepped breakfast and lunch and then drove my four-year-old daughter to camp. I’d just returned from shooting E! News in Los Angeles, so my son and I had plenty of laundry to wash, bags to unpack and piles of general mess to sort. After camp, I took the kids to the bank, the pharmacy and her ballet school to sign up for next year’s classes. We then spent two hours at the library being very loud in the children’s section! With the son to bed at 6:30 pm, I made my husband and daughter an artichoke chicken dish and a separate vegetarian dinner for myself, when I got a call from CBS News for a Saturday fashion show segment promoting my book. I put my daughter to bed, did the dishes and then started drafting the memo for the segment, asking babysitters about availability and sending a flurry of emails in search for 6 real-person models. I retired at 1:30 am, when the barking cough I’d had for a week-and-a-half would no longer allow me to stay up. I typically sleep 5-6 hours a night.
What’s your biggest challenge in finding balance in your life?
I fully embrace that “balance” is not a part of my personal dictionary: my dislike for the word is topped only by the overused verb “stressed.” I accept that my worldview comes from a sideways or upside-down perspective and is not level whatsoever. I’m not even sure what “balance” really means, because to achieve that, are we not always in a constant state of flux?
My brain, admittedly, is hard to turn off. I have a hard time going to sleep for all of the ideas that are buzzing around, and often toss and turn simply thinking. I’m known to sacrifice sleep in order to make sure that my household is in order and that my children, husband and my job (outside of motherhood and marriage) are taken care of.
What has been a personal highlight or a memory that really matters to you?
After over two months of interviewing, I received the call that I got my first big job in magazines while I was at the base of the Statue of Liberty, touring with a friend visiting from Japan. It was definitely an ah-ha moment, where I felt like I’d be okay—that I could make New York City work.
What’s next? What dreams have you yet to accomplish?
Are you kidding me? I’m living the dream. I chose wisely with writing and broadcast as I’m constantly learning, challenging and expanding what I know. I couldn’t have hoped for a more fulfilling life. I wish to raise responsible, multi-lingual and compassionate children, give back to my community in greater ways, host a show and travel the globe with my husband and family to further our world perspective. But if I can master keeping my herb garden alive this summer, I’m golden!
What lessons have you learned?
Carry people with you on your life’s journey. I’ve helped scores of women advance their careers, even those competitive with me, because I believe there is room for all of us on top: we simply need to build wider platforms.
Develop and hone your skills so they’re uniquely yours and no one can take them away from you. Did you know it takes Japanese chefs three years of training to perfect the art of sushi making? Pour dedication and hard work into your passions, just like a sushi chef bringing mastery to forming rice balls and slicing fish.
Live in this moment because this is all we know for sure. I’ve survived two massive earthquakes in California (’89 I was in Santa Rosa; ‘94 Northridge quake I was in Los Angeles), 9/11 in NYC, and recently the tsunami in Japan (I was in NYC at the time, but my husband’s family resides there). In these moments of great calamity and crisis you realize that life is short and precious.
And be exceptionally grateful for every experience and be gracious with those that you encounter. You simply never know what life has in store.