The Power of Positive Aging: Overcoming Ageism

The Power of Positive Aging: Overcoming Ageism

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Mr. Biz Radio: Living Life Off the Rails

Unedited transcription of the show is included below:


Welcome to Mr. Biz radio, Biz. Talk for Biz owners. If you're ready to stop faking the funk and take your business onward and upward, this show is for you. And now here's Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth.


All right. Welcome to another episode of Mr. Biz Radio with me, Mr. Biz Ken Wentworth. And we have a, as we always do, but today we have especially special guest. I don't even know if that makes sense, but it's going to make sense now. I just made it up. We have someone who has had a storied career in several different facets of the Hollywood world. I guess you could say she was on a couple of sitcoms. You guys will know this. Depending on your age, you'll know her.


And one of the things we're going to talk about, actually, is now that she's doing a bunch of different things, she's always got projects going on. But one of the things she is really active in now is fighting ageism. And this is one of those things that I wanted to have her on because not only I know she's going to be a great guest, but in addition to that, this ageism thing, as baby boomers continue to age, as a business owner, you're going to have people, and I'm sure you do that, are in that age group, and you got to be careful about the things you're doing, saying and not fouling up, not treating people the way you shouldn't and all that kind of stuff. So our guest this week is none other than Mariann Aalda. She was one of the first african american daytime soap opera heroines, starring as criminal attorney Dee Dee Bannister on ABC's Edge of night.


Today she's prosecuting ageism with her TEDx talk. Ageism is a bully. Stand up to it. She's got a solo show. Getting old is a bitch, but I'm going to wrestle that bitch to the ground. It's going to be entertaining, right, guys? You know that. And as an AARP age disruptor, thanks to syndicated reruns, she's still often recognized as Alita Ford, Anthony's yuppie from hell girlfriend on CBS's designing women.


Mariann, welcome to Mr. Biz radio.


Well, thank you, Ken. And I was listening to your opening, and I never faked the funk ever.


That's super important. That's actually the title. I don't even have it. I got one over here in the studio. But of my most recent book, because I've been saying that since little while ago with gray hair but I love it. I say it all the time. I say it to my kids. So I'm like, the last book, I'm like, it's got to be called that because it really fits. So, Mariann, tons of questions. I literally have notes, pages and pages. But before we dive into all that, tell us about your journey.


My journey as an actress. As an actress? Well, I think as an actor, you are always an entrepreneur. I'm an actorpreneur, as my friend Tonya Pinkens would say. I majored in both concentrations in both theater and journalism at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. And I think it's really know, there's no difference between being a creative. It's called show business after it is, and yes, and show biz, not show art.


And in order for me to maintain my career, to have the career longevity that I've been able to have, I've had to be a business person, and I treat myself as a product. In order for me to be able to do the thing that I love to do creatively, I have to see where the market is going, who my audience is. As I changed, as I've gotten older, my audience has changed. My audience has gotten older. But yet, and still, how can I appeal to different audiences, not just the people my age, but what do I have to offer younger people? What do I have to offer people who are older than me?


What are the trends as a comedian, as a dramatic person? What's selling right now, and what can I bring to the market? How can I give value to the people who are buying what I have to sell? It's really important. And so I think everything that I learned in college, in public relations, also helped me to sell myself as an actor. And in fact, one of my first jobs out of college, I started out, I was a unit publicist at ABC tv in was married.


I married my college sweetheart. And when we got married, I mean, he married a working woman. And when I went out on maternity leave, my very first acting audition, my son was three months old. I auditioned for a little theater company called Off Center Theater company, and they had a contract with the parks department for the city of New York to do street theater during lunchtime that summer for $75 a week. And all you could beg in the street. And I got the job.


And I thought, okay, this is a sign I'm not going back to ABC. And I thought, I'm going to be a working actress, because the contract that I made with my husband was that I was a working woman. So I was never going to be a starving artist. I was going to be a working actor, which meant I was going to make money. And I think that is very important, the mindset of who you are and what it is that you want to do.


You can do the thing that you love and still make money. It doesn't have to be either or. It can be. Yes. And seven years later, I was back at ABC starring in a soap opera in edge of night. And I went back to ABC, to that department, and a lot of the publicists were still there. And the woman who now had my job remembered me. She said, do you want to write your bio? Because you're really good at this. And I said, no, audrey, but I know what questions you should ask me, so I'll answer those questions.


When she finished writing my bio, she said, wow, you've really done something with your life. And she said it with a poignancy. And my heart broke a little bit for her because it said to me that she felt that she hadn't done anything with her life. And to any one of your listeners out there right now, who's taken this safe route, and I'm putting that in air quotes, there is no safe route. There is no safety net.


Anything can happen. So go for the thing that you love to do and figure out how to make it work.


I love it. We don't have much time left, but this is an Odd question, so I want to get into the next segment. I want to talk to you about how you broke in and all that kind of stuff. So a lot of questions, a little behind the scenes. I'm curious on that. But this is a quick answer, one, we only got about a minute left.




I noticed you called yourself an actor.




Now, maybe I'm way behind the times on this. What happened to actress? No one use that term anymore. Or is that like an old term? I'm always curious because I would always think of a woman as an actress and a man as an actor. But I hear a lot of women refer to themselves as actors.


I'm an actor. I'm an actor. I think sometimes when we feminize it, sometimes it get diminishes in people's minds. So I just say, I'm an actor. Being an actor knows no gender. You're an actor. That's my occupation.


Gotcha. All right, well, thanks for clearing that up. I was always curious about that. Guys, we're going to hit a break here again. We're talking with Mariann Aalda. You can follow her on Facebook. Instagram and Twitter. We're going to come back after the break of the Mr. Biz tip of the week and continue talking about some behind the scenes with Mariann.


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All right.


Welcome back.




It's time for the Mr. Biz tip of the week. And this tip is actually now, I was thinking about during the break, I think Mariann even kind of maybe somewhat alluded to this, and I promise we didn't practice beforehand, but the tip, this week especially, we're at the beginning of the year now, and this is an important thing to keep in mind as you're going through the year, no matter what you're trying to accomplish, what you're trying to achieve. And the tip is, start with yes.


So often when someone presents an idea to, maybe it's someone who works for you and they come to you with an idea, I think the natural tendency for most people is to think of reasons immediately why that won't work. Well, we tried that, but, or, gosh, we'd have to buy this piece of equipment or, oh, my gosh, I don't know if I, you think of all the reasons why it won't work. I want to challenge you to flip the script in your mind.


And when someone brings you an idea, the first thing you think of is, how can we make it work? How do we start with yes? Maybe you decide, holy crap, we can't do that, right. We'd have to invest a million dollars, and we don't have a million dollars. Maybe we can work to get to a million dollars and then we look at it. But I think if you challenge yourself to do that, you're going to open up so many doors that would have never opened otherwise.


And this goes for people who work for you. This goes with relationships, your kids coming to you, hey, dad, can we do this? Hey, mom, can we do that? Your spouse, relationships, you have business, work, everything. When someone comes to you with an idea, don't just think about why it won't work. Think about the first thing. How can we make this work? I'm telling you, it's a game changer because so many people are wired the other way.


So that is the Mr. Biz Tip of the week this week, and something I challenge you for in 2024, to really sort of reprogram your brain a little bit to think that way, because I'm telling you, it just makes a huge difference. All right, Mariann, I'm sure you've skipped forward. You mentioned seven years, right? You're doing sort of some street theater stuff, and then you get on a soap opera. What was your big break? I mean, did you go straight from the street to soap opera?


No. Did I go straight from the street? Okay.


I could have worried that a little better. I could have worried that a little better.


That's perfectly fine. No, I did a lot of commercials. Remember, I said I had to make money. I was determined to make money. And commercials, especially back in that day, were a great way to make money. And I did a lot of tv commercials. As a matter of fact, for a while there, my agent, one of my agents, J. Michael Bloom, called me Miss feminine hygiene because I was doing, like, a douche commercial. I just did a lot of feminine hygiene commercials.


I don't know why, but I did. And my parents weren't too excited about me being an actor. They were concerned about my ability to make a living, and they thought it was kind of a pie in the sky thing. But one of my first big commercials was total cereal, and they did a print campaign, a commercial. And they put me on the back of the cereal box. Can I tell you how many boxes of that cereal my mother would go through the checkout line? This is my daughter just so happy that I was on that cereal box.


And I must have made on a couple of those. And this is back in the late 70s, early 80s, those commercials, national commercials, I would make 40, $50,000 a commercial. I mean, I made some really good money back then, and it allowed me to take acting classes and do theater, which didn't pay and really hone my craft and get good at my work. And it was a wonderful time being in New York back in the gritty early seventy s and the whole period, decade of the 70s. It was great. So I honed my craft.


What do they talk about the 10,000 hours? I got my 10,000 hours in to be good at what I do.


Interesting. You started with yes. I mean, again, it goes back to the theme. You started with yes. So you didn't go from, hey, you decide you want to be an actor to I'm in a soap opera or I'm in a sitcom. There are steps along the way. But you started with yes and you kept grinding away. Consistent perseverance, as I like to call it. I'm really curious. Give us a little bit of a glimpse, like behind the scenes. What's it look like?


Actually, I guess it's different. Right. So soap opera is a daily thing, obviously a sitcom, something more on a weekly basis. But what's the schedule for? I guess soap opera. Tell me what it's like day to day because with the shows five days a week, I'm sure that's a pretty challenging schedule.


Okay, well, it's actually different now than it was when I started 30, 40 years ago because I also was on Sunset Beach. I was recurring on that show for a while. Actually. Right now I'm on the NBC Peacock show, the bay. I'm recurring on that show on edge of night. We would do it top to bottom. We would shoot the show in sequence in order. And so we come in at 7:30 in the morning. We'd have table read.


Then the cameras would come in and the cameras would swing around and we'd go shoot the show from scene to scene to scene to scene, all in order. Now, for the most part, you only probably see the actors that you're in scenes with because they will shoot all the scenes on one set in a clip. And you're called in at different times of the day. So you may not see the other actors that you work with other than the actors that you're working with.


But we would be called in and we would do shoot the show top to bottom. So when we weren't shooting a scene, we would go to the sets and watch the other actors shoot their scenes. And it was like we were all very supportive of one another. We would applaud at the end of each other's scenes. And here's a funny little story I must have had about five auditions and then a screen test. There were four of us who screen tested, and it was the end of a regular shooting day, and I was the fourth person.


It was 09:00 at night. Everybody was, the crew was tired. They wanted to go, thought. And the other three ladies had a dress rehearsal, and then they shot it. When I came in, John Sedwick was the director. He said, why don't we just shoot your rehearsal and if you screw up, you'll get a second chance. I knew I was not going to get a second chance.


Not at 09:00 at night.


Not at 09:00 at night. There are eleven pages of dialogue.


Oh, jeez.


Right. Okay. So the opening scene, I walk through the door and there is Calvin Stoner, and there's a scene where I'm a lawyer and it's one of those feisty scenes. No one told me this is a really kind of cheap budget show, that they would insert the music during the scene, not in post, but while the scene was going on. So as I am having my scene, all of a sudden I hear this oboe music. There's a part of me that's going, what the hell?


But then it relaxed me and it was very sexy. And I'm very musical. So I kind of leaned into the music and all of a sudden I got very, and I think that's what got me the job, because the assistant director, when I first day on the set, she said, I watched your audition. It was so like magic. So that's kind of a funny story. What man means for your ill, God means for your good.


I love it. I love it. Very interesting. That's an awesome story, too, by the way, guys, we're going to end on the break here. We're going to come back. We're going to lean into Mariann doing some of her speaking now. She continues to do acting as well, and we're going to talk with some tips on her. How to be a pro age activist.


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Something worth checking out again, All right, Marianne, so I know you now have done a TEDx. Like, how many people have done that? That's amazing. So congratulations on that. Among all the other things you've accomplished as well. But I know with you being, I love the term, let me make sure I get it right, an AARP age disruptor. I freaking love that. Especially as my gray hair continues to come in a little fuller.


What are some tips that we can have that we can use to become more of a pro age activist, as you call it?


Okay, first of all, activism begins at home because we tend to internalize ageism and we don't even realize it when we use self deprecating jokes or when we say, like, oh, I'm having a senior moment. And we don't help ourselves when we're doing this, when we make fun of, oh, it's like, oh, I got an ache here or I got a pain here. The subconscious mind hears that and it doesn't get the joke. And by the way, when I hit my mid 50s, I'm 75 right now?


Well, yeah. Right now I'm 75. But when I hit my mid fifty s, the casting directors simply stopped calling. I had to continue to make a living. And I think actors have a natural curiosity about human behavior and motivation. I became a hypnotherapist, and I was working with women at midlife who were all suffering from depression. And working with them, I realized that we as a culture, have all been hypnotized into believing that women, especially, lose value and social and sexual currency as we get older.


So my job was not to hypnotize them so much as it was to dehypnotize them and snap them out of the trance that we're all under, that women lose value with age. As I gave them the positive suggestions, my own subconscious mind took in those suggestions, and I had to walk my talk. And that's when I reclaimed my acting career and my very first solo show I did at the hypnosis motivation Institute auditorium.


And it was, snap out of it. You've only been hypnotized into believing you're over the hill. And that's when I became very aware of the power of the subconscious mind. And, you know, starting with, yes, I had been under the influence of Hollywood's influence of ageism, and I stopped buying into it. And I thought, I have more power. I have power. I don't have to buy into it. I can write my own shows. I started doing stand up comedy.


I really took my career into my own hands. And so for the last 20 years, I've been hiring myself. Well, guess what? Now I am prepared. Because Hollywood now recognizes the value of the pocketbook of the older women, because we have a large. According to a 27, as I say in my TEDx talk, according to a 2017 federal Reserve survey on consumer finances, women over the age of 70, over the age of 50, own 70% of the wealth in this country.


That's a lot of money.




And in fact, during the pandemic, there was an audio app called Clubhouse. I was on there all the time, and they had a lot of young actor, writer producer types. I would go into the rooms, and I would give them my spiel, and I would tell them when they didn't write strong older female characters in their scripts, they were leaving money on the table. Guess what? They heard me. I was hired by. I got three jobs out of there, including a movie that's coming out this spring, where I play the matriarch of a wealthy black media family, and Eric Roberts tries to take my company away from me. I have a lead in a film and.


Oh, my goodness, what's happening here? What just happened?


We can still see you.


Oh, you can still see me. Okay, well, something happened on my end. Okay. I'm going to ignore it. As long as you can see me. I can't see.


Yeah, we can see and hear. Great.


Okay, that's great. Okay, again, so your audience will understand, even if it doesn't seem like it's happening for you, start with yes and act as if it will happen and be ready for it when it does. So don't buy into the age thing. Start with changing your own mindset and believe and act as if. Forget about the age. Don't let your age be an impediment. And if you don't like the commercials that you see, for example, that seem to be ageist, send an email, write your congresspeople.


Get with other join AARP, join Google, other organizations that are pro age. Get involved, become active and take care of your own personal health. Prepare for getting older. When you imagine what it's like when you're going to be, if you're, say, 50 right now, imagine what you want to be like when you're 70 and get ready for it. If you need to drop 30 pounds, drop that 30 pounds. If you want to be active and vibrant and vital at 75, get ready right now.


Because if you're overweight and a couch potato at 50, guess what you're going to be like at 75, right?


Look, I got to tell you, you're preaching to the choir here, as they say. It kind of drives me a little bit crazy when people talk like you were talking at the beginning of, oh, I'm just getting old. This is what it's like to be old. No, it doesn't have to be that way. We're sort of programmed that that's how it works and it doesn't have to be that way, honestly. And I know that I've programmed myself that way or indoor way I was brought up or whatever, because oftentimes, I'm not going to lie to you. When you said your age, I had to think, I don't even think how old I am. So I'm 52, but I don't even think about it. It's like not a thing for me because I still think I'm like 35.


So when someone asks me, how old are you? I have to literally sit back and do the math real quick.




I was born in 71. It's 2023, so 52. And so again, I don't even think about my age that much. I love that you said that, that it starts at home. It starts with you thinking that way instead of crouched over walking. Like, you got to start thinking about that. And like you said, I love the other thing. In your 50s. Start thinking about what you want to be in your seventy? S and start preparing to get there. Guys, this week we've been talking with Mariann all day. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Mariann, it was an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. I really appreciate it.


Thank you for having me. I wish I could see you. I can't. I see something about ready for standout content. Meet Adobe Express. That's what I. On my screen, right?


It's, yeah, it's all good. I don't know what happened on your end, but it's all good. We can see you. You look great. Fabulous, guys. Thanks for watching. Thanks for listening. Have a great remainder of your week. And don't forget, as always, cash flow is king.


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