Cat Deeley, THE JOY IN YOU

Cat Deeley, THE JOY IN YOU

Cat Deeley: Yay! I did it. Hello.

Zibby Owens: Hi. How’s it going?

Cat: Really good. How are you doing?

Zibby: I’m good. Thank you. Thanks for doing this podcast with me.

Cat: Oh, my god, you’re more than welcome. Are those all your books?

Zibby: Yes. Well, these are part of my books. They go all the way up and over. I have more in the closet.

Cat: You’ve color coded them.

Zibby: Yes, I have.

Cat: That’s very, very, very organized. I’m slightly jealous of your organizational skills.

Zibby: I must say, I didn’t do it all myself. My husband and his business partner and his girlfriend, they were here for July 4th weekend. I was in the process of redoing the whole thing. They’re like, let’s all do it together. Everybody was here picking up books. It was a team effort.

Cat: I hope you served margaritas or something like that or did something to get it done faster.

Zibby: We did. We had a proper celebration, so not to worry.

Cat: Good. How are you doing?

Zibby: Good. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” Your children’s book is so precious. I love it. The Joy in You, it is so adorable and heartfelt, oh, my gosh. Congratulations on the children’s book.

Cat: It was always an ambition of mine to write a book. I loved English literature at school. I had the most amazing teacher. If I had gone to university and life hadn’t taken the turns that it did, I probably would’ve studied English literature at university. It was always something that was in the back of my mind. I’d love to write more, actually. I have two sons, Milo and James; Milo, who’s four; James, who is two. Like any other mom, by the time it reaches the end of the day, I am frazzled, worn out, tired, completely inarticulate. I can’t really string a sentence together. I know what I want to say, but I can’t actually get it out. The idea behind the book was if I could say everything that I wanted to say to them in the most eloquent way possible, so have all the thoughts and feelings and emotions and ideas and then top and tail it with love, that what was essentially what I was trying to create and have a book that you could talk about and you could discuss. It would open up conversations between you and your child too.

I think it’s so important to engage with them and any ideas that they have or thoughts that have, actually talk to them and be as honest as possible, obviously within what’s appropriate for their age and things like that. How I find my own boys anyway is that they are very resilient. They can cope with anything as long as you tell them the truth and you’re honest with them. The minute you aren’t or you hide things, it’s the unknown that scares them, children. That suddenly becomes the boogeyman under the bed. They get the vibe from you too when you’re doing that. The more we can be open and honest and engage in conversations about our kids, whether that’s about emotions or life or situations or whatever they are, I think the more it gives them their chance to be able to be empathetic when they get older and also reach their full potential as an adult too. That’s what you want. Essentially, it doesn’t matter where you come from or what your background is, you want your children to be happy and kind. We all want the same thing, happy and kind. That’s what we want. We want them to be able to empathize with other people because I think that will create a better world than what we’re living in right now. I think everybody wants the same. When I first started doing the book, it was actually just going to be about boys to begin with. Then I started playing with ideas and talking to Random House. They were like, “This is silly. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your gender is. These are big ideas that everybody should talk about.”

Zibby: I couldn’t agree more. I have four kids of my own. They’re a little older, five to thirteen. Yes, happy and kind.

Cat: Four?

Zibby: Yeah, four. So I’m well-versed in the children’s book world. I’m very reliant on them and grateful to great children’s books. Like you, at the end of the day I’m a mess. When I find a book that both I want to read and they say, “Read it again. Read it again,” and I don’t mind, then that’s amazing.

Cat: It’s so weird. As parents, we’ve all got those books that touch us as well. That was the other thing as well. I wanted to write something that I loved reading. The Giving Tree and The Wonderful Things You Will Be and all of those type of books, How Much Do I Love You? I’m a weepy mess by the end of them.

Zibby: Me too. I pull it out. They’re like, “Read this one.” I’m like, “Oh, no. This is the one that makes me cry.” They’re like, “Really? Let’s try.” I’m like, “No. Every time I read this book, I cry.” Then I cry. They can’t believe that a simple book can elicit the same huge reaction every time even though I know what’s coming.

Cat: I know. You know exactly what’s happening. Listen, I think that that is a really important thing for children to see too. I was not a big crier. I was not hugely emotional, actually, before I had my babies. It’s this weird thing where — you know how they say the day your baby’s born the mom is born too? There’s a definite almost palpable switch that happens to you, I think. It’s definitely changed me, but in ways that I actually really like. It’s definitely made me much more patient and actually much more loving towards other people as well. It’s interesting how much it changes you.

Zibby: Do you think it pervades your work life too, like every interaction, or mostly in the personal sphere?

Cat: No, I think every single interaction, actually. I always feel a bit like even when I’m just out and about, you just never know what’s happening in somebody else’s life at that specific moment or time when you interact with them. I think it’s very important that we approach people with just a little bit of kindness. By the way, I think ourselves too. So often as women, we’re the care-ers. We’re the sorters. We’re the people who organize. We make things happen. We get things done. We split up fights. We feed people. We cook for people. I think that we could do with being just a little bit kinder on ourselves too.

Zibby: That is definitely, definitely true.

Cat: Sometimes I juggle and I’m like, oh, my goodness, what have I done with my day today? You think about it and you’re like, we should be running this country.

Zibby: Sometimes, though, at the end of the day, I’m like, ugh, I didn’t spend enough time with this kid or that kid. What did I really get done on my list to do? I didn’t do enough of this. I feel like you can easily have those metrics not live up to your expectations. It’s a matter, I think, of picking the right ones.

Cat: Agreed. I think the kinder you are to yourself, actually, the more you get done. Whatever your moment is — for me, I love yoga. That’s my thing where I move my body. I would probably have the body of a seventy-six-year-old. I’m very stiff. I’m not flexible at all. I’ve been doing yoga for twenty-five years. Still, I’m just like a regular person. I’m not like Madonna or anything like that. It makes me feel good. It makes my body feel good. It reminds me to breathe. It just gives my head a bit of space. Whether yours is shopping, reading a book, watching a movie, praying, meditating, whatever you want to do, you find your thing. Even if you take twenty minutes when you need to, take twenty minutes.

Zibby: I think that’s exactly what your book is teaching kids. Find your thing, whether it’s dancing or wandering or anything they want. You can’t do it wrong, painting, dreaming. The line I loved the most in your book was right at the end when you said, “If you ever lose your way or you don’t believe you can, just look beside you. That’s where I’ll always be cheering you on and believing forever in the wonder that’s you.” That’s so sweet. I love that.

Cat: It’s even better when James sits on my lap. He calls himself Jamesy. I said, “Who’s this?” He’s like, “Jamesy.” He’s like, “Who’s that?” I’m like, “Mama.” I just dissolve into an emotional puddle of a mess. My thing, when I think about it, I think that small people, they’re like little seeds that just need feeding and watering and light on them. Then their brains kind of explode almost like trees and branches going off them. I feel like the more we can stimulate them and try all different things with them, the better they are. Either they’ll find something that they really do love or they won’t, but that’s a life skill that they’ll learn too, learning to cope with something, A, you’re not very good at, or B, you don’t really like. That’s perfectly okay as well. I just always think, what if Stevie Wonder had never played the piano? What if Tiger Woods had never picked up a set of golf clubs? What if Picasso had never picked up — there are millions of people out there that have not reached their full potential just because they haven’t tried what they want to do.

Zibby: That’s why sometimes I’m like, what if I was supposed to be the most amazing sculptor but I still have not tried to do — what if? How would I know?

Cat: Totally, or knitting or or whatever. There are plenty of things. What if you’d never tried it? I feel the more we can throw at them — I don’t mean exhausting them or anything like that, but try this, it’s something new. Let’s try this. They don’t have to be Stephen Hawking. I remember being a kid and a moment of joy that I remember was I was bodyboarding in the ocean, not surfing because I wasn’t big enough. I was probably about eight. I remember being in the ocean. The ocean’s a little bit scary when you’re eight because you can’t quite tell what’s coming where and how it’s going to — that almost adds to the excitement of it. That’s what made it so great. Either the wave that comes is going to tip you off and throw you down to the bottom and roll you around or it’s going to send you hurtling into shore. You’re going to squeal with delight, and I’m going to race my brother back and it’s going to be amazing. I remember staying in the ocean until my feet were blue. I loved it so much. Even simple things like that, I think that’s one thing that we’re all learning from being in the situation that we’re in right now with the global pandemic. It’s about finding the simple things that bring you so much joy. It doesn’t have to be — yeah, you can learn a new language. You can learn a musical instrument or whatever you want. It can be a simple as making the perfect cup of coffee or going to the ocean or making the perfect Victoria sponge cake, whatever it is. There are so many lovely things that you can do. It doesn’t have to be brain surgery. It can be small but really scrumptious at the same time.

Zibby: I totally agree with that. I think people who might not know you would argue that you did find your thing. You’ve been a host of a major TV show. You’ve gotten these all primetime Emmy nominations. By any objective standards, you’re a success at work. You have that. How did you find that? How did you figure out, oh, I would be such a good host for a reality TV dance competition show? I wonder if other people would be really good at that. How would they even know?

Cat: I do get what you mean. It was never that specific. You know you have those books when you’re little where you have to write what you want to be and how tall you are and then you do different pages? It said, what do you want to be when you grow up? I said I wanted to be Julie Andrews. That was what I wrote at eight. Unfortunately, Julie Andrews has Julie Andrews covered. That was kind of what I wanted to do. Then I was quite academic at school. I quite enjoyed school. I liked studying and stuff. I did have someone ask me a question, you’re so lucky, you do what you do. But I grew up in a very small town from working-class parents. Entertainment wasn’t the family business. There is no reason why I should be doing what I’m doing apart for the fact that I really like people. I don’t care whether you’re Beyoncé or Meryl Streep. I just like people. I love chatting with people. It’s my thing. I like working out how they tick. I like conversations. I like how it’s formed their life and where they’ve gone and how their journeys happen. That’s part of the reason why I love the dance show too. Some of the stories you hear, you would think, oh, my goodness, that would be enough to crush the human spirit. Yet somehow these kids not only survive and thrive and move on with their lives, but they also channel the negativity and spin it around and make it positive. They put it all into doing this thing that they love that they have this amazing talent for. Don’t get me wrong, they have to train. They work. They do all that. I think that you can find it. You don’t necessarily have to be born into it. It’s what I said. There is no reason why I should be doing what I’m doing, but I am. You know what? There will always be people who are doing better than me and driving Rolls-Royces. That’s fine too.

Zibby: Who wants a Rolls-Royce anyway?

Cat: Exactly, unless you’re going to drive it into a swimming pool.

Zibby: In a music video or something.

Cat: That would be fun.

Zibby: That’s amazing. Do you have any advice to aspiring authors, particularly people trying to write a children’s book?

Cat: Oh, my goodness, no. I don’t have any. This is my very first one. I would love to write more, actually, maybe a little bit older next time. I have an idea for another book that’s based on a little girl who’s a tomboy. Then I also have a very dark one which is to do with babies and baby monitors which is a bit Gone Girl. I’m not going there yet, but I have that idea too. My next book that I’ve got to read is Normal People. Have you read that?

Zibby: I’m embarrassed to say that I have not read it, but I have watched the show.

Cat: And?

Zibby: So good.

Cat: See, I don’t want to watch the show until I’ve read the book. I’m going to read the book first. The show is sitting there waiting to go for me. I want to read the book. I’m always like, book first, then show.

Zibby: I know. I usually am too, but my husband wanted to watch the show. I was like, I’d rather do something with him.

Cat: Let’s blame him. Blame him.

Zibby: I’m going to blame him, yes. I’ve had the book for a very long time. I’m embarrassed that I’m the only one in the world who hasn’t read it.

Cat: I haven’t either, though. What’s his name? What’s your husband’s name?

Zibby: My husband? His name’s Kyle.

Cat: Blame Kyle. Let’s namecheck him and blame him.

Zibby: Yes, I blame him for everything. Did it take a long time for you to write the children’s book? Did you just pound it out in one day? What was it like?

Cat: There was lots of backwards and forwards. There’s lots of backwards and forwards. Sometimes I also disappear down the hole a little bit where I’ve got an idea. For instance, there’s a line in the book which is, “Dream as big as the night full of stars.” I started to then research what the biggest thing in the universe is. It’s called the borealis blah, blah, blah. I disappeared down this hole. Random House said to me, “You do know you could just say a night full of stars and that would bring you back to where you started to begin with? But you disappeared into the abyss of the most enormous thing in the universe.” I was like, yeah, fine. You know what it is? There’s so much backwards and forwards because sometimes you need to be accountable to people. I think it always helps to get people’s opinions too. You think that writing a children’s book is so easy, but there’s so many layers to it on what you’re trying to say and how you want to say it and where we’re going next. It’s quite tricky. It was a lovely, lovely experience too, lovely experience.

Zibby: What’s coming next in terms of — then I’ll leave you alone. I know I’ve taken a lot of your time. What’s coming next in terms of your regular life versus your book life? Do you know with the whole pandemic what’s even on the ?

Cat: No, I don’t really. Essentially, what’s happened is Milo has been off school since March, so that’s six months of homeschooling. I’m lucky. Milo is four, so I don’t have to teach him algebra and Latin. I’ve taught him to read in the time that we’ve had at home, which is lovely. I would never get the chance to do that normally, ever. It’s really special. Then James is two. He’s got all these cute little — he’s gabbling. He’s got all these weird little picadilloes with his language where he’s like, “Mom, mom, mom, ,” which is the cutest thing too. Normally, I would never get the chance to hang out as much. They’re at that age where they want to hang out with me. It’s not like I’ve got two teenagers at home where I’m thinking, they’ve not seen their friends. I’ve actually been really lucky. Then Milo goes back to school in September. We do all the press for the book. We’re doing worldwide press as well. Then when the pandemic hit, I was shooting a new show for Disney. We shot about five of them. We’ve got to wait and see when we can go back into the studio and protocols and all that kind of stuff. Basically, it’s just a big wait and see, I think like everybody, right?

Zibby: Pretty much.

Cat: How have you been? Have you been okay?

Zibby: That’s a whole nother podcast. You don’t want to know my whole story.

Cat: How old are your children?

Zibby: Five, seven, and I have two thirteen-year-olds.

Cat: Twins?

Zibby: Twins, yes.

Cat: Wow, that’s a very full house with no school.

Zibby: It’s a very full house. They are going back to school. I know that’s happening for at least a month or two until they cancel it again. At least, I’ll take those mornings that they go back.

Cat: By the way, I think they’re going to do the same here too. My four-year-old doesn’t understand social distancing. They’re going to go back and it’s going to be flu season. They’re all going to get runny noses.

Zibby: We just got our flu shots today, actually, because our pediatrician was like, getting COVID and the flu, forget about it. Got our flu shots done. I am not overly optimistic about the schoolyear, but at least for a little bit. Like you, I love talking to people and finding out what makes people tick, and so I’m glad to have been able to do that with you and get to know you better and all the rest. Thank you so much for all of your time.

Cat: Lovely to talk to you too. Thank you so much. Lovely to chat to you. I’m so jealous of your books on your wall.

Zibby: Just —

Cat: — Invite some friends over and give them margaritas.

Zibby: Invite some friends, and you’ll get it done in no time.

Cat: Thank you.

Zibby: Thanks, Cat. I wish you all the best. Buh-bye.

Cat: Bye, darling. Stay safe.

Zibby: Thanks. You too. Bye-bye.

Cat: Bye.

Cat Deeley, THE JOY IN YOU