This week I was lucky enough to chat with mini media mogul Amanda de Cadenet, star and host of her own television series on Lifetime, The Conversation, which just aired its first season. Landing her first role as a TV personality at the age of fourteen in the UK, and marrying Duran Duran bassist John Taylor at sixteen, de Cadenet is no stranger to the limelight. Her experiences grappling with fame as a young woman have motivated de Cadenet to open a channel for other women in which their stories and advice can be shared. On The Conversation, Amanda honestly engages leading women from a wide range of backgrounds and fields in an attempt to find the commonalities, and shared aspirations and struggles between all types of women. Despite guests with last names like Paltrow and Gaga, The Conversation is not interested in focusing on fame and beauty, but instead offer guidance and solace to all women through storytelling. Here, turning the conversation towards herself, de Cadenet shares her own journey that led her to this calling.
What has the process been like creating a whole new show with its own media platform?
It’s been a lot of work. I think it’s amazing that we have the ability to launch something on multiple platforms. The Conversation is now in eight different countries—it’s about to launch in the UK, it just launched in Australia, New Zealand, South America, and at the same time it’s online. So it’s amazing, collecting these international audiences both on TV and with my online series, theconversation.tv,
And it’s really smart that you pair it with your forum where your viewers have the opportunity of telling their own stories.
I love that I can have direct contact with my audience. To be able to have direct communication with people who watch the show and be able to hear what they’re responding to, its just invaluable. I read people’s responses and I’m really touched and blown away by how similar we all are.
And speaking to that, in the show you mention the “universal language of women.” Could you tell me more about what that is and why it’s significant in empowering women?
Well, first of all I think that women’s voices are very underrepresented still. If you look at how many women there are that actually create the stories that the mass media consumes, we’re very much in the minority. I wanted to hear about women’s truthful experiences, and I just couldn’t find it anywhere. I’m disheartened by that and I wanted to highlight alternative role models for myself and for other women. So for me the “universal language of women” comes from the hundreds—if not thousands—of conversations that I’ve had with women of all ages. I feel like if women can connect with one another and not view each other as competitors then there’s strength in numbers.
You interview a lot of successful women on your show, like Gwyneth Paltrow, Chelsea Handler and Arianna Huffington, but who are all in very different fields. Have you noticed a common theme between all these women?
I would say there is a common thread. Every woman has pretty much said their own versions of these things: listen to your instincts, learn how to pay attention to them, and connect with some spiritual practice. They kept saying go inside.
That enforces what I really admire about your show in juxtaposition with other media geared towards women. You create a space for women that is free of judgment. The basis of a lot of current media tells women how they should live, eat, dress, etc. to be happy, whereas you mean to unify and comfort women by promoting self-excavation.
Well, the interesting thing is you have to have a way to honestly look at who you are. Most of the time, what you’re talking about with magazines is if you get that haircut and those shoes, then you’re going to feel better about yourself. We all know that’s bullshit. I love shoes and a great outfit, and there are great benefits when you feel like crap by putting on your favorite dress, but it’s not where it stops. I know people who are amazing looking with the best wardrobes, but who are miserable. What I want to say is that’s only the beginning, that’s one layer. Jane Fonda and I talked about this in the first series about how it’s an inside job. You’ve got to be okay with you and your choices.
The fact that your show is not a live show with an audience, but rather an intimate gathering of friends, was that an important creative direction for you in fostering this sort of safe women’s space?
Yeah it was crucial. I really worked backwards in that first of all, when I started making this show I had limited resources, so I shot it in my living room. I did not have a budget for a big studio audience, I was on the fly, like “okay I can do this in my living room, I’ve got a photographer I know how to use my cameras, I’ve got some lights in the garage, I can make this look good.”
What has surprised you the most, whether a particular story or something overall you’ve noticed, about what you have learned from The Conversation?
I have to say, nothing really surprises me. I’m definitely the least judgmental person I know. I was more comforted because there is really so much common ground that connects women. After every round of interviews I’m always left with this feeling that these women have taught me so much. I had a situation today where someone was like “No you can’t ask for that” and I was like “Well I’m asking for it! Sorry!” But not even sorry. That’s how I roll and if the person doesn’t want to do it then I’ll just pass on the opportunity. I was remembering Chelsea Handler saying to me “If people think I’m a bitch that’s their problem”. I know what works for me and I’m perfectly fine to walk away from something if it doesn’t work for the other person.
You are an established photographer and you mostly shoot portraits of women. How do you seek to portray your subjects?
I think The Conversation is really an extension of my photography, in that I try to photograph the true beauty and essence of the person. When people have seen a photograph I’ve taken of them most of the time they’ll say “Wow, you really got me”, and I think it’s because I do get them and I’m not interested in changing them I’m interested in representing the most beautiful version of themselves. I think that’s what I do with The Conversation, as well. It’s our uniqueness and who we are as people that make us fascinating.
I want to end by asking you a few of your token questions that you always ask your guests on the show. What is your favorite sex position?
It is such a great question. Here’s the deal: my husband just had a motorcycle accident so he has a bunch of broken bones…
You have to get creative…
Yeah he has broken ribs and a broken hand and a broken collar bone so I am going to have to come up with a new position [laughs].
What would you tell your fourteen-year-old self?
Well at 14, I spent almost a year in a juvenile detention center, and I would tell myself that that experience and everything I was going through—I was a drug addict—that it would benefit me and enable me to be able to understand other people who are living through the same kind of challenges. It really taught me the importance of having a voice, because you don’t have one when you’re in the system. So it taught me no matter how many people are saying that your voice doesn’t count, it does count and that your experiences will benefit you later on in your life.
Visit theconversation.tv to catch all of Amanda’s interviews and advice from The Conversation.