Emmy Award-winning talk show host and NAACP Image Award-winning actress Tamera Mowry-Housley joins Zibby to talk about her new memoir, You Should Sit Down For This. The two discuss why Tamera wanted the memoir to feel as inviting to readers as possible, how her parents raised her and her siblings to always be prepared for what life could throw at them—whether it was participating in a beauty pageant, hosting The Real, or knowing when it was time to make her next career change—and her surefire tips for making the best chocolate chip cookies. Tamera also shares what it was like to lose her niece to gun violence and the ways she honored Alaina’s memory with this book.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Tamera, for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss You Should Sit Down for This.

Tamera Mowry-Housley: Thank you for having me. I love the title of your podcast. I realized that with my first.

Zibby: I have four kids. I was like, the only way I’m going to be able to read is to make this my job, so there you go.

Tamera: Wow, four. Congratulations.

Zibby: Thank you. Thanks so much. Congratulations to you on your book. So exciting.

Tamera: I’m so excited. I’m nervous. It’s funny because once you finish and it’s printed and it’s going to be out there pretty soon, that’s when I’m like, oh, my gosh. That’s it. It’s out there. No turning back now, Tamera. I am very proud of it.

Zibby: You should be. It’s really wonderful. It’s probably the most inviting memoir I’ve ever read because you’re literally welcoming us in, giving us our tea. I feel like you made me cookies, even though you didn’t. You say you’re a hugger. I just felt so welcome. I felt like you totally laid out the welcome mat for me. I am ready to settle in and go on the ride with you.

Tamera: Oh, my gosh, that makes me feel so good because that was my goal from the beginning. I never wanted to feel like I’m preaching at somebody or talking at somebody. I always want it to be a collective thing. That was my number-one goal when writing the book. Thank you.

Zibby: There you go. A+. It was great. Everything you did, even with the structure of the book, furthered that message, how you have different courses. You’re like, now here we are, we’re going on to this course. Come along.

Tamera: Thank you. Thank you very, very, very much. When I was writing the book, I wanted to make sure — I always talked with my husband as well. He’s like my life coach. I really wanted to figure out what the chapters were going to be. When you write a book, it’s kind of just writing things. Then it naturally finds that organic-like structure of it all. What I found was the Tamera-isms. I noticed that I always would spit out these words of wisdom, my advice. I’m a sharer, I like to say. Whenever I experience something and I’ve learned something, I always want to share it. I don’t want to keep it inside. Thank you because that was another thing. I wanted to make sure that the structure of it, it naturally just happened. I didn’t want to force it. I was going to start the book with me ending The Real. It didn’t feel right. The moment we just got all those words out, I was like, ooh, no, let’s start from here. Then it naturally found its way. I couldn’t be happier.

Zibby: That’s the best feeling, when you figure out how to get into the book and how you’re welcoming everybody else. I also share your obsession with chocolate chip cookies. I have tried every cookie bakery under the sun. I’m a soft —

Tamera: — You have to have it soft. That’s me. You know the trick, right? Do you know the trick in making it soft? I’ve made it all different types of ways.

Zibby: What is your trick? Taking it out early?

Tamera: No, actually.

Zibby: That’s what I do.

Tamera: It is making sure that you melt your butter correctly, make sure you do not overbeat your eggs with your wet ingredients, and making sure you do not overbake it or have too much flour. You want to spoon in your flour.

Zibby: I’m going to spoon in my flour. I will make sure. I still think you should take it out a little early because then it’s almost cookie doughy. That’s my secret, and extra chips. Back to your book. Why did you decide to write a book? All the words were coming out, as you said. How did you decide what you wanted to share with the world? What was it about this experience that you wanted to make sure people knew?

Tamera: I was actually thinking about writing a book when I was on The Real. I, for the first time, realized — it had been, I would have to say, maybe three, four years in. I realized that I had a voice and that people were interested in what I had to say. My career, I started as an actress. I always used other words, other people’s words, a script. In the beginning — I talk about this in the book. Being on The Real at first, it was very daunting. I wanted to throw up, I would say, every single time I heard our theme song, “This Is Our Time,” and I went out because I just wasn’t used to speaking from my heart on all issues, every possible issue that you can think of. I didn’t think that people really wanted to hear it. Once I recognized that, I was like, wow, wait a minute. I do have something to say. There is an audience for it. I learned by being on The Real how being vulnerable is actually very powerful. It’s one of the most scariest things to do, kind of like letting go. The moment you let go of something, it actually becomes easier.

That’s when I also realized what I wanted to talk about. I had lived my life for over forty years. I wanted to talk about something. I didn’t want to be the entertainer who wrote a book to just check it off their list. I wanted to make sure that I had something, truly, to say. In my nature, if you know me, I always love to inspire. I always love to encourage. I never like something to just be about myself. Although this is a memoir, I thought of you guys in doing it and what I can share in my life that I have learned that is going to help inspire and encourage others to either do the same or know that they aren’t alone. There’s always a purpose in something that I do. It’s never back to self. It’s back to you. I wanted to make sure that I actually had something to say and that I had been through some things to share.

Zibby: Starting with when you were younger, the scene — it was your life. When you were in the pageant and you were trying to compete with all these beauty — you called them number thirteen. We can all imagine what we think of as a perfect pageant girl. You felt you didn’t look like that. You couldn’t compete on those same metrics. Instead, you went out there and crushed it when you were doing the singing. You were like, you know what? This is my skill. I’m going to own this. You say how you let go after a minute or so, similar to what you were talking about with The Real, and how then you let your true voice out. That’s when you got your first super positive reinforcement as a result.

Tamera: It was very therapeutic writing the book as well. Our memories are in there, but sometimes we subconsciously repress them, or we think that we have handled that situation. We moved on. We’ve learned. It isn’t until you revisit it where you’re like, oh, my gosh, I maybe still have a little bit of this that I need to work on, like some of the insecurities. I’ve always known myself to be a strong person. Then when you really look back, I was like, dang Tamera, you went through a lot. Here you are. You are still smiling. Also, that little girl inspired me once again where I am today. I left The Real to pursue my acting again. It isn’t as easy as people think it is. I hadn’t acted in a very long time. You get stereotyped. You’re just a talk show host. I’m like, no, I was an actress before. It’s still in there. I was going through some things going on auditions. Just revisiting that little girl who did not take no for an answer, who did not let those insecurities override who she is, she spoke to me once again. It was kind of surreal. Then also, I realized, dang, I’m getting older. That was a long time ago. I’m still here. Thank god.

Zibby: You have a new show starting imminently. Tomorrow? Very soon.

Tamera: I know. I have Girlfriends. It’s a show on Hallmark Channel. Then I just finished doing another Hallmark film. It’s just been wonderful. Hallmark has been so kind and so wonderful to me. I’m very grateful.

Zibby: I feel like one thing that really sets you apart is how prepared you are for things.

Tamera: You notice everything, huh? Yes. I have to be prepared. It’s in my DNA. I’m an ex-army brat. My father was a first sergeant. My mother was a drill sergeant. We’ve been disciplined, my sister and I, our family, since birth. Thank you.

Zibby: I loved when you had to teach yourself double Dutch with your sister right at the last minute. You could’ve just gone in and been like, I don’t know how to do that. I’m going to pretend. Then it’s not easy. You’re like, I just picked up double Dutch. I’m like, are you kidding? It took me so long to even do a double loop in jump rope.

Tamera: That’s how determined we were. We still are. You can still see those attributes in every Mowry, I would say. We have to give props to our parents for that. I remember. I remember walking up to that school, looking through the gate, being like, “Hey, can you teach me how to do that?” My sister and I, we learned so fast. I’ll never forget auditioning for that, the Chrysler commercial, just walking in fully prepared. We learned rather quick. I still know how to do it. I don’t know how to do all the tricks. I can’t do a backflip. Some of those girls, they’re just amazing. They have competitions now, double Dutch competitions. What I loved about it, it’s this rhythm. My sister and I were dancers. Once you got the rhythm — boom, boom, boom. You’ll see them do this before they go in. Then also, it’s kind of like in life too, you have to see, get the rhythm of it, and then you just have to take it. You just have to go in. Otherwise, you’re going to miss your chance. Then that’s when you’ll get hit by the rope. You’ve just got to go for it. As long as I picked up my feet and kept that rhythm, I got it.

Zibby: For people listening — I can post the video of this too. For people listening, you should see as Tamera is literally dancing and swaying and moving her arms. It’s awesome. More rhythm in the Zoom square than I’m used to, so that’s good. Despite your instinct to always be prepared, which, by the way, I have too — I think that’s probably why I saw it so much in you. I’m like, that’s what I would do. I would’ve done that. Maybe not quite as determined. I like that. I think it’s also a way to manage any anxiety around a situation, is just to counteract it by knowing that at least I’m as prepared as possible. Then life throws these things in your path that nobody can prepare for. The loss of your niece — I am so, so sorry — was just this tragic, horrific interruption and devastation for your family and your loved ones. Can you talk about that? You don’t have to.

Tamera: We’re all at the place right now where we can talk about it. For one, we realized what an amazing presence that Alaina had when she was here that we still see the aftermath of that. She may not be here with us on earth, but she’s definitely here. I can talk to you for hours about the little signs that she has given me. I was never a believer of that, to be honest. I never was. She loved music. We found that out later in her life. She kind of hid that talent. She taught herself how to play the ukulele, to sing. She started singing in high school. She was in her high school play, Les Misérables. Her favorite Broadway play was Hamilton. That’s how she speaks to me. She speaks to me through music. We had these special songs that we loved. When I was flying back and forth, which I talk about in my book, how I would just have so much anxiety, we would listen to this song. It was “Oceans” by Hillsong. I say we because I would talk to her. I’d be like, hey girl. Hey, girl, hey. I know you’re with me on this flight. Let’s go. Let’s fly. I remember when I did my Hallmark film. I was feeling a little nervous. My assistant was playing her playlist. You’ll never believe what song came on. That song wasn’t even in her playlist. It’s just things like that where I’m like, wait a minute. She was a huge Hallmark fan. It’s those type of things. It was my letter to her because I never got to say goodbye. Oh, god. Sorry.

Zibby: No, it’s okay.

Tamera: It taught me — I talk about this. My therapist was like, “What did she teach you?” I’m like, “ of her death. I don’t feel good right now. What do you mean?” She taught me the importance of living life no matter what. Always tell your loved ones you love them. There may be times where your dad or your mom will call you at a time when you’re busy. No. Pick up the phone and say hello just for a moment. All you have to do is, “Hey, I’m really busy. Can I call you back? Can you call me back?” I was supposed to go and see her at school in my son’s birthday party. That was our last text. “I’ll see you soon.” I was busy. I wanted to go and visit her. We said, “I love you.” She said, “I love you.” I said, “I love you too.” It was my letter to her just to let her know how much I love her and how much she made an impact on my life. I’ve known her ever since she was five. She passed away at eighteen. We were close. She was my niece by marriage. We were girly girls together. We’d talk about boys. She was such a kind and loving person. I had to talk about her. I had to. Turquoise was her favorite color, which is why my book, turquoise is the color of the title. Pink and purple are my sister and I’s favorite colors together, and also my daughter. That’s a little insight of why I chose those colors for the cover of the book.

Zibby: I’m really sorry that you lost her. The pain of losing someone does not go away.

Tamera: Never. You don’t move on. You move forward. It was only three years ago.

Zibby: I know. I’m so sorry. It was in a shooting, for people listening, the Thousand Oaks bar.

Tamera: The Thousand Oaks bar.

Zibby: Not having that sense of closure and being able to say goodbye, I’m so sorry. Life is not fair. It makes no sense. I feel like part of the gift of your book is bringing her back to people who didn’t know her. I just had a memoir come out too. I’ve lost a couple of people really close to me. Not that this is, in any way, comparable. I feel like all I could do was introduce them to people who would never meet them because they didn’t get a chance to live. If I could write a few pages and talk about something funny they said or who they were, that’s all I can really give to them, aside from continuing to .

Tamera: That was my number-one thing with my children. She loved my children. I talk to her, still, like she’s here. I say, one thing I’m going to do, Alaina, I’m going to keep your memory alive in my children’s life. We have this thing where — I learned this in my grief counseling. Take something — she loved to do hair. She knew how to braid. She was just amazing. I learned how to French braid, do braids and do my daughter’s hair to keep that memory alive. I talk about that with my daughter. When I’m doing her hair, Ariah’s hair, Alaina’s right there with us.

Zibby: It’s amazing. Now she’s with me and the people listening. It’s amazing what you can do with books. I totally believe in signs. A hundred percent.

Tamera: I’m a believer now. Like I said, I could talk to you for hours. She has done it so many times where you’re just like, no way. My first Hallmark film, the colors of the Christmas trees was turquoise and silver. Christmas is red and green. I was like, okay, you’re here. Then a hair person, a woman’s name was Alaina. It’s those stories that I’m just like, hello. Hi, I love you too.

Zibby: I posted on 9/11 — my best friend died on 9/11. I posted this year. I said something like, okay, Stace, I’ll be on the lookout for your sign, which is ladybugs, for the rest of the day. I posted it. Then I put my phone down. My husband turned on the TV. He pressed the next channel. It was Ladybug Girl, the show. I was like, how else would she have gotten into this — we were in a hotel in Toronto. I was like, I can’t believe it.

Tamera: That’s why I was saying we can talk about it now, because all of us have experienced this. It gave us more peace about it.

Zibby: How do you feel about having to deal with grief and also being a public figure?

Tamera: Grief, breakups, it’s challenging. I will say what has helped me in a very odd way is that I know nothing different. I’ve been in the business for so long, so it’s kind of like my right arm now. I feel like I’ve been able to navigate Hollywood quite well with the balance, keeping this private. Although, I know things will get out. At the same time, if they do, use it for good. I talk about the importance of gun control. I talk about the importance of, people grieve differently. We don’t ever move on, but we move forward. I’ve learned to use my platform, no matter what comes my way, in a very positive way. I like to ricochet, turn my lemons into lemonade kind of a thing. I’ve learned to navigate and work with it.

Zibby: Good for you. You had a quote that you posted on Instagram that I loved. You said, “Grief never ends, but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, not lack of faith. It is the price of love.”

Tamera: It is. It’s a sign of love. How you grieve, it just shows you loved that person. We had lots of people grieve Alaina, the city of Napa. Like I said, she was such a beautiful, positive force in our community. There were some people, they were grieving, but you didn’t see tears. It’s not for me to judge that. Then there are people who — I was one of them. It took a very long time to stop crying. Every single time someone would mention her name — and in front of my children. They’re like, you need to be strong. You need to be strong. I’m like, I just lost someone I truly loved. Let’s talk about this. It’s so true, it isn’t a lack of faith. If anything, I was angry. I was upset. I would have those conversations with God. I am a woman of faith. I was able to be honest. If you want to scream at God, yell at God, yell. Scream in your pillow. Hit your pillow. Stomp your feet. Get it all out. That’s okay. It is okay. For me, it is one of the hardest human emotions, but it’s because you’ve loved. You loved so hard. That love never goes away. You see I just teared up. It never goes away.

Zibby: Thank you not only for sharing your story and your experiences, but this piece particularly, the grief and all the people, and especially this time in the world, who are going through it. This is, I know, only a small sliver of your inspiring, wonderful, charming story. I appreciate it. Congratulations. Enjoy the launch. All those words ended up in the right place. Enjoy it.

Tamera: You’re amazing. You made my day. Thank you so much.

Zibby: Thank you.

Tamera: Thank you.

Zibby: Buh-bye.

Tamera: Bye.

YOU SHOULD SIT DOWN FOR THIS by Tamera Mowry-Housley

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