Allison Holker Boss, KEEP DANCING THROUGH: A Boss Family Groove

Allison Holker Boss, KEEP DANCING THROUGH: A Boss Family Groove

Zibby is joined by celebrity dancer and TV personality Allison Holker Boss to discuss her and her late husband Stephen “tWitch” Boss’s first picture book, KEEP DANCING THROUGH, a heartfelt celebration of family and positive affirmation. Allison emphasizes the importance of affirmations in her family and then delves into her decision to release this book during an incredibly difficult time, pointing out how proud her husband would be. She and Zibby reflect on resilience and the challenge of going through trauma in real time on social media. Finally, they talk about their favorite books, parenting, and dance (including Allison’s role as a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance”!)


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Allison. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Keep Dancing Through: A Boss Family Groove.

Allison Holker Boss: Thank you. I am so excited to be here. You’re just so lovely. You have such a great energy about you. I just had to say that.

Zibby: Thank you. Look at that. It’s been two minutes, and already — . Thank you. You too. Tell everybody about your picture book, the fact that you wrote this with your late husband, who many people know. Then the book came out. I want to hear the whole thing and if this is a trigger for you, if this is a joy for you. I just want to hear the whole thing.

Allison: First, with writing the book, we wrote it back in 2021. I have the absolute best partners. I partnered up with Disney. The whole concept behind the book was really just following our family, a day in the life of the Boss family. It follows my kids through different obstacles that they’ve all actually undergone, and nothing crazy. This is a children’s book. It’s still supposed to be light and inspiring for kids, but nothing too dark. They each go through something. In our family, we’ve always really believed in affirmations. I’ve taught my kids since they were little, all three of them at categories of their life and different ages, how to use affirmations to really help them get through things or encourage them to move forward and all these different skills I try to instill in them to make them the strongest versions that they can. While you’re following our family through a day in the life, they go through different obstacles. They use affirmations to help each other get through it.

It’s interesting because you asked if it was a trigger for me having this book come out. When I decided to actually still release this book and still come forward with it, I kept reading it over and over again to myself, and if it was okay. How would I feel about it? How would my kids feel about it? Then I realized that God and the universe put this in front of me because this is my purpose. I am, for myself, going to make sure I stay strong and stay strong for my children. Quite literally, what I’m going to do is keep dancing through. If there was anything that I was going to do to give back to all those people that have followed me for years and supported me and supported my husband’s incredible journey and his incredible life and followed us individually and then seeing us come together and then having these beautiful children together, I was like, I want to give them the permission to also keep dancing through.

Zibby: I love that.

Allison: For me, it’s interesting when your purpose calls on you. You have to just allow God to kind of take the reins and pull you where he sees you best fit and suited. For me, this seems bigger than me at this point. I thought it was very important to have this come out. For my kids, it’s also a time capsule of our life for them to be able to look back and remember how beautiful. We lean on each other. We’re still going to do that. All the values that we believed in and I believed in and he believed in, that we still instill in our kids, we’re going to keep doing that.

Zibby: It would actually be kind of neat for other families to insert their own challenges, not just as they read, but almost like a little workbook or something. What do you have to keep dancing through today? Everybody goes through the big and the small. Having a guide like this where it’s like, “Here’s how we do it. What’s your mantra?” it’s so helpful.

Allison: I love that so much. I love that. That’s so inspiring to hear. For me and my kids, every morning, they say, I’m strong. I’m smart. I’m beautiful. I’m kind. Of course, for Maddox, it’s, I’m handsome. Then we also say things like, which is really sweet when I hear them say it — I say, “We do the…” Then they finish it by saying, “The hard things.” I love your of hearing what other people’s mantras or sayings would be. We swear by them. I have my kids lean on each other and say them to each other when they’re having a hard time. I love that.

Zibby: To your point about the universe, it’s like somebody wants you to keep remembering something. What better way than publishing your own children’s book and having to read it out loud over and over again? If you wrote a grown-up book, maybe you do a reading or two. You could talk about what happened. You wrote a children’s book with the words — you’re going to say them a million times. It’s really genius when you think about it.

Allison: It’s something special for my kids because they also really were part of the process. They were lighting up when they first got to physically touch it, which was really cool and special. Whenever you’re having hard times, you only are having a hard time because you’ve had so many good times. For me, with the kids, being able to see them light up and experiencing something of, almost, success in themselves because they were a part of it — now they get to physically see and experience the success of it and feel like they accomplished something so big even through something so hard.

Zibby: There are so many ways to help people through harder times. One is just addressing something hard head on. Here is how we cope. Let me explain it to you. This is the ultimate “show, don’t tell.” This is just our joy. This is how you capture your joy. Whether the person you love is still in your life or not, you remember them with such love and joy that it can infuse that positivity going forward.

Allison: Absolutely. I want to instill in them so much love and joy still. I don’t want them to be scared of that. I don’t want them to shy away from it even though it sometimes feels scary. Is it okay? Is this right? I want them to know that all of those feelings are completely valid and real and understood. They still can move through love and joy.

Zibby: By the way, my daughter was at a soccer game in the rain, just like in this book, but they did not cancel it. You are much better off. Whatever sadness at having it canceled, it’s far better than what we all had that day. Absolutely drenched.

Allison: You’re probably right.

Zibby: My older kids are away at boarding school. Just right before this, my husband and I were downstairs. On his iPad, he was watching one kid play hockey. I had my daughter’s swim meet on my phone. I was like, this is the greatest parenting moment ever. We just get to sit here at home and watch them both.

Allison: I love that.

Zibby: Mom life. Anyway, so when you were writing the book, tell me a little bit more about that and working with this illustrator, who’s so talented, Shellene Wright.

Allison: So great.

Zibby: What was all of that like? Tell us the day-to-day of what that looks like, writing a children’s book, for you?

Allison: Writing a children’s book — I know this is going to sound crazy. I hope it doesn’t sound wild, but it felt easy. It felt like we were supposed to do it. We would sit there, and we’d just really bring up — again, it was a day in our life, so we just started talking about, what does a day in our lives look like? What happens? There’s a moment when we run into a neighbor named Dale and Sue. That’s something that had happened that day while we were writing the book. We were so close with our neighbors. We were like, we have to put Dale and Sue in there. Really, I feel like the process was so easy for us because we just got to be honest. We got to be honest. We knew the messaging, what we wanted it to be. We knew why. For me, when I look back at the whole process, it was like the words just kind of fell out of us really easily. Actually putting the writing together, though — we had these affirmations that we constantly say. In the book, we wanted it to feel a little bit more rhymical than how we usually say it at home. The one thing that did take us a second to, oh, how do we give the pages a kind of feel like it’s almost like a song —

Zibby: — It does sound like a song.

Allison: Thank you. For us, music is just so important to our family. We always are playing music. Depending on what we’re doing, it kind of depends on the mood of the music as well. We almost pair it like you pair cheeses with wine, music with our mood. For us, that was something that we really wanted to make sure in this book that — I’m not a musician, but I am a dancer. Music just means so much to me. We wanted it to have this flow to it, so we added some rhythm where it feels like you almost nod while you’re reading it.

Zibby: Yes. I was like, did I miss an MP3 file of a song somewhere? Was that in one of the emails, that this is actually a song? I was like, no, I can’t find the song, so I guess it isn’t. Yes, it very much sounds like lyrics, which is great. Kids love reading that — not repetitive. That sounds negative, but the refrains like that.

Allison: It has a flow to it. It has a rhythm to it. You want the kids to feel that when they’re reading it.

Zibby: How did you get into dance originally?

Allison: I saw my sister dance, my older sister. I saw her performing. I remember watching her in this routine. The choreographer was Mia Michaels, who’s Emmy nominated all around, an incredible choreographer. I just saw my sister dancing, and I was so moved by it. She looked like a warrior. She was so powerful and strong. I, from that moment, just knew I wanted to dance. That was it. I started dance lessons literally the next day or the next week and never looked back. It kind of feels like dance found me, if that sounds right or crazy, but it did. It found me. It just moved the rest of my life.

Zibby: That’s amazing. You’ve chosen to be very open on social media, like many people. You’re very open about your life. Then to go through a trauma in real time on social, how did you figure out what to post, what to keep close to the vest? I was sort of analyzing, how did you do that? How did you get through? What are you showing the rest of us as you go through this personal journey, voyage, whatever? Did you just make it up as you went along? I’m sure you didn’t have a strategy. You were just living through it.

Allison: There was no strategy. I’ve shared so much of my life with the public. People have been really following my journey since I was eighteen years old. It’s kind of all I know. I don’t mean that in a positive way or a negative way or any of it. It’s just so engrained in me. When everything happened, I never really thought about what things would look like or how things needed to be. Every once in a while, I was like, you know, these individuals and these followers or whatever you want to call everyone, they’re an integral part of my life. I just found it in a well-balanced or trying to be balanced with myself way that I wanted to make sure that I let them be seen and heard through because I truly feel like I’ve been carried by everyone. I feel protected. I feel like I have this external barrier and wall that people have really helped created for me just to help me get through this. I just feel like I wanted to, in any way I could, give back to them for being that because everyone’s been so helpful and supportive. I just have so much gratitude for that.

Zibby: Had you gone through loss before?

Allison: This was my first trauma, for sure, in my life. It’s interesting because it’s all the things that people say it’s going to be. I didn’t know that. It’s mental. It’s spiritual. It’s also physical. I took on a lot of physical pain from it that I wasn’t expecting. It came with so many challenges that I would’ve never expected. Like I said, I’ve had so much support. I’ve had so many people just coming to my aid and coming to my family’s side and wanted to be there for us. I feel like I look at the end of 2022 and 2023 as being a chapter of my life that I really honestly can’t even fully put and express into words, the hardships that I had to overcome and get through but I really have used, starting in 2024, as a catapult to really allow myself to try to close that chapter. Not forget. With the book, you can always go back and open that and read it and see it and understand it and learn from it and grow from it and respect it and love it, but try to move into a new space for ourselves.

Zibby: It’s so important to feel like you have the permission, even, to move forward and try to go ahead and make new memories and all of that. It’s hard. It’s so hard. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for your loss. I should’ve started the conversation with that. It sounds like a platitude, but my heart goes out to you and your family for everything that happened. It’s just so beautiful that you could turn it into something so joyful. To give back to the rest of the world, it’s really wonderful.

Allison: I appreciate that so much. Thank you.

Zibby: Do you find books to be a space of solace for you? Is reading a big thing for you, your kids, reading to your kids, all of that? Are there go-to books that you all love? How have they played a role in your life?

Allison: Absolutely, I love reading. My favorite book is Big Magic. I’m, right now, reading Women Who Run with Wolves. I find reading to be a place for me to find inspiration and to help me find myself. I read a lot of self-help books, motivational books. That’s the space I find myself in. I find it to be so helpful. I often say your words are powerful. “Your words become your reality” is another affirmation me and my kids say. Even when I choose music or the books I read, I try to make sure it’s something that’s going to lift my spirits. I find that to be so important. Words are powerful. They have so much meaning behind them. I love to read.

Zibby: For people who are listening and not watching this, I have to point out that you have the most amazing hair I’ve ever seen. I know this is not the point of this podcast, but I have major hair envy, with super long, beautifully colored and sculpted locks. What is the secret of having such amazing hair?

Allison: Oh, my gosh, you’re so funny. I have a great hair stylist. Shout-out to Vanessa. Honestly, listen, I’ll just give you the tea. Do I expose myself right now? They’re extensions.

Zibby: Really? Oh, my gosh. Actually, I feel so much better now because I’m like, how can hair even do that? It looks so natural. I never would’ve known. It looks amazing. Now I’m like, maybe I’ll try extensions.

Allison: my girl.

Zibby: All right, I’m going to look up Vanessa. I’ll just search the web.

Allison: Just search Vanessa. No one else will pop up.

Zibby: Are you going to be writing more books like this? Do you have more coming in the series? What’s next?

Allison: Absolutely, we’ll be writing more. I love writing. I love journaling. This just felt such a path for me and a place that — I love it. The partners I have with Disney is also so fantastic and wonderful. We definitely want to keep going down this route, for sure.

Zibby: Amazing. What about the rest of your life and your dancing and TV and just all the stuff? What else is coming up for you or that you’re excited about?

Allison: I am so excited that I’m a judge on So You Think You Can Dance this season. That’s just a place that’s like my home. To be back on that stage and sitting at that table means so much to me. That is something that I, again, feel so called to do and a new space for myself. I’ve always been the dancer. I’ve always been the performer or choreographer of a project. Now to sit back and almost help someone else on their journey is just such a new step and a new place for me to be that I’m very, very excited about it.

Zibby: It’s so fun. What about the new dancer? I am not a particularly good dancer. I will only really dance with my kids, in which I have no shame. That’s true. Do you ever want to start from scratch, help somebody who’s really helpless in better dancing? Is the secret just not being too self-conscious? How much a part of it is the mental game of dancing?

Allison: I always tell everyone — people think I’m joking, but I’m dead serious when I say this. Dancing is really just walking with style. That’s it. The two-step, it’s just a walk. It’s just a cool walk. You add your own flair, your own spice to it. You just got to season it up a little bit however you find to be right. Really, it’s just walking and doing it real cool. If I’m teaching someone from the basics, I’m like, let me see your walk. Then if I add something to it, it’s really just a walk. Whenever I’m teaching someone new, I always start from that place. Then they always feel really comfortable because you’re like, you’re right. Just walking really cool.

Zibby: That’s amazing. What would your girlfriends say about you that would surprise other people? What do they know that we don’t know?

Allison: Oh, my goodness. People come to me a lot just to be heard. A lot of people come to me to be heard. I think my daughter gave me the best compliment I’ve ever received in my entire life. I had a birthday dinner. This was last year. Everyone was going around the table just to share either a memory or a moment that we shared or some gratitude towards me, which is interesting to say about yourself. When it got to my daughter — I could cry right now. She was like, “My mom makes people feel like they’re home.”

Zibby: That’s so nice.

Allison: That was the best compliment I’ve ever received in my life.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. What do you think your late husband would say about all of this if he could see what’s going on?

Allison: I think he’d be really proud. He’d be really proud. I think he’d be proud of me, but I think he’d be really proud of the kids. They’ve handled everything and themselves with such grace and kindness. They’ve never let this hold them back. I think that they are just the most wonderful humans in the entire world.

Zibby: That’s so amazing. Do you have any parenting tips? It sounds like you’re really good at staying close to kids. I just read somewhere that how to know if you’re a successful parent is if your kids actually want to hang out with you when they’re older. What do you think about that?

Allison: I love that. Me and my daughter are best friends. A mom first, always, but we’re best friends. I’ll take that. I’ll take that, for sure. I think the parenting advice I would give is just see them and hear them. You can learn a lot from your kids. I don’t always look at being a parent as a position to always know and have an answer all the time. There is so much power in saying, I don’t know. Let’s figure it out together.

Zibby: That’s amazing. Have you found supportive other widows? Widows sounds like such an outdated term, but anyone who’s gone through spouse loss. I know there’s a whole community. I’ve read a lot of books and have a lot of friends who have gone through similar. Have you found solace in that group in particular? I’m just wondering.

Allison: I haven’t really gone that route, per se, as far as a community of it. I’ve had a lot of people who have dealt with a lot of loss in different kind of forms come to me and reach out to me wanting to share their stories. I try to be a safe place for them as they’re trying to be a safe place for me. I have such a great group of community around me. I call it my chosen family out here in LA. I do, I have a really great chosen family.

Zibby: You know, I have a bookstore in LA. You have to go check it out.

Allison: I would love to. That’d be wonderful.

Zibby: In Santa Monica.

Allison: Please send that information my way.

Zibby: I will. Anytime you want to come do an event or whatever, we do lots of events all the time.

Allison: I love that. That’d be great.

Zibby: Last question. What advice would you give to aspiring authors, particularly of children’s books?

Allison: Best advice I would give to someone writing a children’s book is make it fun. Even if there’s a lesson in it, even if there’s something that needs to be said, something that needs to be direct, let kids have fun. Let kids have fun.

Zibby: That is excellent advice. Excellent advice about writing, excellent advice about parenting, hair. Oh, my gosh, I feel totally equipped to go through the rest of my day. Thank you very much for all of it.

Allison: Thank you so much. You’re so lovely.

Zibby: Thank you. Congratulations. Keep Dancing Through, such a great message and a fabulous book. Congratulations.

Allison: Thank you. I appreciate that. We’ll talk soon.

Zibby: Okay, buh-bye.

KEEP DANCING THROUGH: A Boss Family Groove by Allison Holker Boss

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