The Secret of My Success (in 100 words or less)
Monique Lhuillier, fashion designer
Keyshia Cole, platinum recording artist. Her newest album is A Different Me.
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the President
Born in Iran. At five, moved to Chicago. Hated winter. Iran was sunny and 80°! Attended Stanford; law school. Married boy next door. Had perfect daughter, perfect job, imperfect marriage. Divorced boy next door. Chucked job to work for mayor’s office. Recruited Michelle Robinson (now Obama) to work with us. Joined Barack’s first state senate race. Knew he’d go as far as he could dream. Watched election-night returns with the Obamas. Backstage at Grant Park. What to say in this moment? We’d waited so long. We locked eyes for 20 seconds, silent. I got teary. One look said 1,000 words.
Julie Powell, author of "Julie & Julia"
Came to New York from Texas after college. Married at 25. Nine years of obnoxiously bad dead-end temp jobs. Lived in dump in Queens. Never thought I’d publish anything. Turning 30 felt like end of world. Made random decision to teach self to cook by making all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook. Worked day job from 8:30 A.M. to 8:00 P.M., cooked and blogged at night. Got call in cubicle from The New York Times. Wanted to profile my project. Explosion. Book deal. Film starring Meryl Streep. Another book deal. Still in shock this is my life!
Nancy Lublin, CEO of Do Something
Was a wackadoodle from birth: Eight years old, told parents wanted to be CEO of Disney. Law school instead. Got $5,000 inheritance from great-grandfather. Started Dress for Success, organization that donates business suits to disadvantaged women. Learned two things: I have sharp business instincts, and don’t like navy. Organization grew and grew. Dropped out of law school. (Finished later.) Got married, left Dress for Success, then joined Do Something, not-for-profit that helps teens take action for causes. In 2008, over 300,000 participated. Project 2 million by 2011. Whole idea is to help kids do what I did—or better.
Jenny Lewis, recording artist. Her latest solo album is Acid Tongue.
Was born into show business, literally: Parents had Vegas lounge act; Mother went into labor onstage. Parents divorced. Mom struggled; broke. In preschool discovered by talent scout. Jell-O commercial! Busy working actress from age 3 to 18. Very successful, but I hadn’t chosen that career for myself. Started band in my living room instead. Made a record at home. Independent label put it out. Made another record. Toured our asses off in a little van and eventually a tour bus. Made solo records. No shortcuts. No awards yet. Nothing matters more than music—and sharing it with my friends.
Kara DioGuardi, songwriter
As a kid, heard melodies in my head. Parents said, “That’s nice—now do your homework.” Pre-law at Duke, but just wanted to sing. Waitressed. Garage band. Five years working at Billboard. Mom got ovarian cancer. Worked days, spent nights in studio and every spare moment with Mom. She passed away. Wrote my own songs. People kept asking to use them. Kylie Minogue released “Spinning Around.” Met Tommy Mottola. Wrote for Jessica Simpson, Marc Anthony, Celine Dion. Founded my company. Landed Idol gig. Always had more balls than brains. Especially after having lost Mom, nothing was getting in my way.
Jenny Lumet, screenwriter of Rachel Getting Married
Grew up in house full of artists; human weirdness was hip. Mom black, Dad white. Went to NYU for five minutes. Actress for a while—not a very good one. Got married. Wrote four or five terrible screenplays. Got divorced. Had weird psychic moment and called childhood friend. Hit him over the head and dragged him back to my cave. Married him. Created drama program for my son’s school. Taught kids three things: The audience won’t believe unless you believe; be honest with yourself; wave your geek flag high. Applied those rules to myself: Wrote Rachel Getting Married.
Dany Levy, founder of dailycandy.com, recently sold for a reported $125 million
Raised in NYC. Got a job in magazines. Was edited to high hell. Had crisis of confidence. Quit. Freelanced instead. Kept discovering the undiscovered in everything from food to fashion; wanted to share this stuff with my friends. Created DailyCandy in 2000, an e-mail featuring one timely thing, every weekday. Took off almost immediately. Didn’t know how to manage. Discovered the brilliance of delegating. Staff grew to 60-plus people. Sold to Comcast in 2008. Not entirely sure how I found the courage to do things I did. Follow your instincts, and the world will take care of you.
Candace Parker, forward for the Los Angeles Sparks basketball team
At birth, 24” long! Had basketball hoop in my crib. Parents instilled self-esteem, said, ‘Your height is a gift—shoulders back!’ Wanted to do everything brothers did: soccer, baseball, tennis. Was tomboy-slash-girly-girl: Played ball in dresses. Was recruited heavily. Announced my decision on national TV (first female player to do that). Chose Tennessee. Won two national championships. Was drafted number one by L.A. Sparks. Won gold medal in Beijing. MVP and Receiver of the Year. Want more golds. Want to grow the sport of women’s basketball. Someday, want our daughter to have the same opportunities as our son.