Interview with Kathalynn Turner Davis

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Hi Everyone!

Stopping by to share with you an interview post today.


An Interview with Kathalynn Turner Davis, 
author of KISS ME, SWAMI

1.     In the 1960’s and 1970’s, your beauty led you into the world of pageants and Hollywood.  Do you feel that beauty pageants are a positive force for women or do they serve a darker role in our society by objectifying women?
When most people think of Miss America, they usually only think of it as a beauty contest; and it is, however, that's not all it is.  There are many components that go into competing for Miss America, which is one distinguishing characteristic from other beauty pageants, as they are not all alike.  For example, young women were encouraged to work hard in school and think about their futures, because among the prizes was money toward education that many of them never would have had.  For me, personally, I feel that partaking in the Miss America pageant motivated me to refine my talent, which helped instill the focus and discipline to which I credit a lot of my future success.  It was a platform, via which many women, myself included, were able to elevate their circumstances.  
That being said, I will acknowledge that it instilled in me a belief that beauty is competitive.  I was trained to see another woman's beauty as a threat, which had a damaging effect on my self-esteem.  The implication that a woman's value is tied into how she scores alongside an arbitrary set of aesthetic standards is wrong.  For that reason, I cannot one-hundred percent support the practice of beauty pageantry and did not encourage my daughters to partake.
            To the great credit of the Miss America Association, I have noticed over the years that 
not only has the standard of beauty opened up to include a much broader range of size, type, and ethnicity, but also the emphasis on beauty as a whole is markedly diminished in favor of much less superficial qualities, emphasizing service and empowering young women to make a difference in society.  And that, I am very happy to see.  

2.     You left home as a teenage virgin and moved to Hollywood alone during the sexual revolution.  What did you discover when you got to Los Angeles?  How did the Hollywood establishment treat young women in those days?  Was there rampant sexual harassment?  Was the free love movement a good thing in your opinion?
Moving from Maryland to Los Angeles in the late sixties as a twenty-year-old with zero experience or even knowledge, really, of sex was a culture shock, to say the least.  My Disney concept of romance was dashed pretty quickly upon arrival.  I learned about one-night stands and casual relationships.  I also witnessed some nudism, and orgy-type situations, but I never felt especially pressured to partake in anything that would have made me uncomfortable.  Overall, my personal experience, when compared with other people's accounts of the time, was pretty tame.  
In my opinion, the free-love movement was not one-hundred percent a good thing.  I do not mean to romanticize the era beforehand, where people lived in fear of their sexuality and were completely suppressed; clearly evolution of our culture called for some liberation in that regard.  However, I think just as is the case with many social movements, the sexual revolution went too far.  Instead of liberating women to explore their own wants and desires, my opinion was that the pressure to keep our legs closed was simply repackaged as pressure to open them.  If a woman didn't feel sexually expressive, she was made to feel un-hip.  Words like 'loose' were exchanged for words like 'frigid,' which is equally suppressive and unfair.  
As far as objectification and sexual harassment within the industry goes... it was rampant, but everyone knows that.  The standard of beauty shifted from that of the golden age, but that didn't make it any easier.  All the women I knew, myself included, were convinced that gaining a pound would be the end of the world.  I saw women and girls put themselves through physical and mental torture over the pressure to maintain a size that was minimum ten pounds underweight, as the expression "The camera adds ten pounds" was repeatedly drilled in our ears.  
In addition, there were very few women in positions of power at the time.  We women had no choice but to rely on men to open doors and that kind of power often lends itself to corruption.  The difference between sexual harassment then vs. now is the naming of it and the acknowledgment that it is a bad thing, as opposed to accepting it as simply the way things are.  Thankfully, over time, and recently with the #MeToo movement, women have begun to reclaim their power and the days where predators can hold professional advancement over women's heads in exchange for sex are coming to an end.

3.     Your life reads like a fairy tale…a middle-class girl from Maryland wins the title of Miss Washington, DC, moves to Hollywood, loses her virginity to Troy Donahue, kisses Elvis Presley, dates Frank Sinatra and Don Ho, and then moves to The Dakota where your neighbors are John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Leonard Bernstein.  Does your life seem surreal to you at times?  How did you end up schmoozing in such rarefied circles?
No life is a fairy-tale, all stories have ups and downs, mine included.  Were there elements that looking back, I think 'wow, that seems surreal?'  Sometimes.

When I lived in Hollywood, it wasn't strange at all that I was dating and socializing with movie-stars.  Hollywood was much more of a small town back then; you'd see movie stars out and about.  It would have been weirder to show up at a party and not see celebrities.  If you were a young, attractive, and half-way talented girl, men took interest, and those were the men we knew!

As for the celebrities I met living in the Dakota, I was aware of who my neighbors were, but seeing people in the context of day-to-day living takes a huge chunk out of the mystique.  When I think of Paul Simon, for example, in the context of the world, it seems surreal that I knew him.  But at the time, he was just another guy walking his little boy, Harper, to school.  Lenny Bernstein was just the friendly quirky old man next door who adored my kids, and little Sean Lennon was just another child around the birthday party table.  

4.     You’ve had the privilege of leading a glamourous life, but you’ve also led an introspective life, seeking spiritual understanding through a variety of different programs like Science of Mind and the Sedona Method.  What have you learned from these spiritual methods?  Are you still a seeker?  
I have participated in tons of workshops, seminars and trainings. In addition, I was a major in World Religion and travel to many places to get a firsthand experience. However, what has stayed with me is The Science of Mind and The Sedona Method. 
Science of Mind is a beautiful and practical teaching that has shown me the power of my mind.  It has helped me direct my mind and understand that I can change many things in my life that I don’t like. It’s more than just positive thinking, it’s a way of looking at life and yourself. It starts with the premise that I am whole, and complete as I am. I am not, at my core, a flawed individual, never was and can never be. I have that divine right where I am. That is the Swami within me that I speak about in my book.  
The Sedona Method has been a gift that keeps giving. This profound, simple, powerful and unique tool in ‘Letting Go,” has freed or helped me in every area of my life. Letting go is something that every religion and teaching I have studied tells me to do. The Sedona Method tells me how to do it. It has given me the way to let go of painful or unwanted feelings at any moment in time. It’s all my choice and sometimes I decide to hold on, but when I decide to let go, miracles often happen.  I would be lost without it. It’s my go-to when things get tough, like a magic bullet. However, you have to use it, you have to do it and no one can do it for you.  I would highly recommend The Sedona Method because regardless of what religion you practice or if you believe in nothing, it’s valuable. 

5.     We all have dreams as a child of what our lives will be like as adults. What has your journey taught you about the possibilities and challenges of fulfilling those dreams? Are there moments in life when it’s best to do some course correction?
As a child I was a daydreamer. At night I wished upon stars for the life I imagined myself having. I believe that I focused and programmed my mind to achieve a lot of what I imagined myself to have and be. However, I was also programmed in negative ways. I never though deep down that I was good enough or had what it took to be the things I wanted to be and to have some of the things I wanted to have. I was limited in my mind and therefore I experienced limitation a lot of the time. My life may seem like a fairy tale; however, I had many deep-seated insecurities to overcome. Most of my journey has been doing what I could to overcome the negativity deep within myself. 
My journey has shown me that all of us can let go of these limiting beliefs.  It’s not easy, but it can be done. All of us have to make a strong decision to change. We have to make a strong commitment to that decision and make it more important than the resistance that will come up to defeat us. 
Sometimes we have goals that just are not realized. I have seen people that will not let them go even if the time in life where it was possible has passed. It’s a fine line between letting go and giving up; however, I believe we are all intelligent people and deep inside we know what to do.  Sometimes we need to change course in life.  It’s the intelligent and healthy thing to do.  I have changed course many times in my life.
6.     What advice do you have for young people trying to live as their authentic selves? How does one find their authentic self and how can one defy social pressure to conform?
I would recommend that they find their own spiritual practice and commit to it. Our authentic selves are always within us. It never goes away, but it sometimes does get buried or covered up with false beliefs and programming that blocks us from expressing ourselves. It’s work to chip away at these things.  As we do chip away at what is false, our true nature begins to emerge. 
I think as we become more of our true selves, we are able to discern as to what is right for us and take the pressure to conform off. Of course, having said that, there are so many rules in any society that we need to conform to. We do not live alone on this planet and we have to respect others people and have the appropriate boundaries. 
7.     What is an authentic person? How does authenticity impact one’s life journey? 
To be authentic I believe we have to be in touch with our feelings and values and not lie about how we feel or think to please others and get their approval.  This means not conforming to what other people think. We can think for ourselves and stand behind out own truth. It’s really coming from that place inside where you are not looking to control others or seek their approval.  We live by our own values and always express what we perceive as the truth. As the quote goes, “To thy own self be true.” 
Of course, this impacts our journey. When we are coming from a place that is authentic, we discern and make choices that add to our own happiness and inner peace. We are not people pleasers or go into a profession that someone else, usually our parents, wants us to go into. We are clear about or own wants and needs and are true to that.  How many people wish that they could do certain things over? How many people wish they had followed a different career path? So many!  It takes most of us a lifetime to get this.
8.     You took some life-changing trips to India and Israel in search of spiritual awakening.  After years of learning from some of the world’s leading spiritual gurus, you realized that you, in fact, are your very best guru, your own Swami.  Is that a more liberating way to view one’s spiritual path? 
Every great enlightened being tell us that God is within us. Jesus talked about the Father within. It all points to ourselves.   When we realize this, we no longer look to others or to things for our security and begin to see that the love we are seeking is the love we are. It is not about seeking… it’s about being.  

9.     You gave up your promising acting career to become a wife and mother.  Any regrets?  Do you think it’s easier to day for women to balance both a family and career?
I loved acting and still love it; however, it was not my destiny or my choice to have an acting career. At times, I see a play or a film and say to myself, “I wish I could sink my teeth into that role.” But I have no regrets. I am pretty much at peace with my life. 
I love being a mother and did from the very first moment I saw my first baby. 
The balance of motherhood and career depends on the individual woman. Some can do it and some cannot.  I think women are less judged today if they are mothers and have a successful career. However, it’s always been and still is a tightrope to balance them both at the same time.  After all, we are only one person and have so much time in one day. 

10.  You struggled with insecurities—whether you were pretty enough, talented enough, worthy of people’s love.  How did you finally decide that you were worthy of all your accomplishments, success, and the life you were leading?
I don’t know if there was a time when I just decided that I was worthy enough. I have worked on letting go of beliefs that held me back for 45 years.  I chipped away at the programs and beliefs that limited me and brought me down.  Over the years, I have become much freer and these old beliefs don’t have a grip on me or control me like they used to. If they do arise, which they still sometime do, I just let them go and know that they are only feelings that can be released. Also, I have to say that I do accept myself with all of my blemishes, insecurities and screw ups. I certainly am not totally free, but I realize that I have done the best I could and some things are not in my control… and that’s okay.    

11.  Living in The Dakota with John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Leonard Bernstein seems like a fantasy.  What was life really like in one of the most famous buildings of NYC?
It doesn’t seem like a fantasy. Celebrity is not strange to me. Remember, I was coming from Hollywood.  It was like any other nice building in the city, with the exception of the constant gathering of people standing outside of the gates to get a glimpse or autograph from John Lennon. 
Another unique aspect of living there was a sense of community. We had a pot luck dinner every fall in the courtyard where neighbors would sit together. The community was tight and the children in the building played together, trick or treated together and attended to each other’s birthday parties. People respected each other’s privacy, this was not a stage, it was home. 
After John was shot and killed the building lost sort of its innocence and openness.  For sure, with the exception of vigils held on the anniversary of John’s death, no one was allowed to stand around outside of the building .

12.  You describe Greenwich, CT as stifling, a place where there’s pressure to keep up with the Joneses.  Do you regret your time there?  What are some of the positives of this particular community?
Greenwich was such a different world from where I had lived before. In New York, I was in a theatre community and living among artists. Many of the artists I knew, especially in the Dakota, had money but didn’t flaunt it. Greenwich, a Wall Street Community for the most part, was very much about money. I could not keep up with the Jones’, but I did my best to have a good appearance. 
I chose to go to Greenwich and allowed myself to feel stifled in the beginning.  However, not always, I grew to appreciate what Greenwich had to offer me and my children. I learned to respect many people there and that not everyone has to be an actor or artist. It broadened me, and it taught me a lot. It was there I learned to give back through charity work, it was there I learned to entertain and to dress well. Most of all it was while living there I got my undergraduate and graduate education. I would never regret living there and I consider my time there a gift. 

13.  You’re now living your best life as a single woman.  What’s it like dating in your 60’s and 70’s?  Do you expect more from men today than you did decades ago?  How do you handle yourself differently?
Dating at this age is very different and more difficult than when I was young. When you are young, you have a lifetime ahead of you and when you are older, most is behind you. Your goals are very different. At this age, people come with lots of so-called baggage; some good, some not so good.  Most men have children and grandchildren that they are close with and so do I.  It’s sometimes hard to imagine yourself a part of their family. The men that have never been married are strange to me and the ones that do not have kids are sometimes a bit selfish and can’t understand their importance.  Dating at this age involves a lot of compromise from both parties. The expression “They are set in their ways,” has a lot of truth to it.  I think I handle myself much more confidently. I am clear on what I want in a man and am willing to have or not have a man in my life.  

14.  You had a lifelong friendship with Gary Marshall, one of America’s most beloved movie directors.  What was he like and how did he encourage you to cultivate your talent and find your authentic self?
Garry always supported whatever I happened to be doing.  He was a big family man and was very interested in my children. He became very close with my youngest daughter Genevieve and they worked together in his last movie (Mother’s Day) and also in a Neil Simon play (I Ought to Be in Pictures.)  The last time I saw Garry was in his office when my daughter Caitlin came to visit with two of her daughters, Aliana and Kaylie. He invited all of us to visit him. The following week he passed. 
He very often expresses how proud he was of me and encourage me to do some acting again. He was very pleased that I was acting in New York and urged me to keep writing my memoir. 

15.  You got to work with and became friends with Stella Adler, an acting coach legend.  What was she like and how did the two of you become friends?
Stella was the wisest and most brilliant person I have ever met. It was an honor to have her as a teacher and friend. She was always interested in what I was doing and after my divorce, the men in my life. I really don’t know why she took an interest me, but I was always grateful and valued the time I spent with her. 


More about the author:
KATHALYNN TURNER DAVIS has a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University. A life coach and spiritual counselor, she lives in Los Angeles. Like Forrest Gump, Kathalynn found herself in the midst of the zeitgeist, a protagonist swept into a series of cultural movements. But she’ll be the first to say that while she was there, she never felt truly part of any of it. Hence her unique take.  Combining her raw honesty, acute insight, and biting wit, Kathalynn Turner Davis’ KISS ME, SWAMI takes readers on an exhilarating ride that reveals how she learned to connect to the deepest spiritual forces and manifest her destiny.

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