Meet Wendi Cooper
Interview with Wendi
1. What does Pro-Aging mean to you?
Pro-Aging is the ability to be proactive in all aspects of one’s life. Not only health, fitness and personal care but also in attitude and demeanor. If we allow age to define us, it lures us into reactive behavior and that is a slippery slope. The struggle is very real – yet as life spans increase – and more and more people join the pro age culture , a dynamic shift in attitude will take hold and a wave will be a continuous movement of positivity for all generations to come.
2. Firstly, what conflicting thoughts did you battle while approaching midlife and beyond?
I remember, when I was around 48 years old, I had become very self conscious. I look back at photos from that time, and I think how could I have been so insecure; but, now I realize that it was at that time in life when I was in “mid-life”. I was overly jealous of my husband and mutual friends we had. I remember being so insecure, for no reason, and not wanting to go out with him in “Hollywood”. I met my husband when I turned 40, coming off of a few really fun “single” years.
Around that same time my oldest son turned 21 and was living in Hollywood. When he told me one day, “Mom if you want me to get you on the list at the Sky Bar I can…”. I was like, okay that’s it!Now my son was getting me on a list that I had always been on. I started to get more and more insecure about my age – and let me mention that I probably looked better at that time in my life than ever before. So, I can only say that those insecurities were in my “mid life brain.”
I was very unhappy. I had separated from my husband for a few years when I realized he was my best bet, as I never really knew how to “date”, we got back together. That didn’t mean I was happy. I just took the road of least resistance and it was a way of not living a life of being alone. I really thought that’s what would happen and it scared me. Then, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and being BRCA1 positive in 2005 and my life shifted. I was 50 and for the next 4 years the least of my worries was how I looked. I had so many problems with my reconstruction from a prophylactic mastectomy that one could often find me walking around with only 1 boob and bald. My humility factor was very low. Besides losing all of the hair on my head and body, and gaining 30 pounds (160 lbs from 130) of chemo weight from steroids, at the time when most in their early 50’s are adjusting to “mid-life”. I was living the life of a person I had never been and in full menopause shock. I lost my mother during that time, and I developed chronic neuropathy in my feet to the point where I didn’t wear a pair of open toe shoes or high heels for 9 years. This certainly effected my self-esteem, femininity, and sensual senses. That was difficult.
By the time I was 56 I had my body back, thanks to spin classes, the only exercise I could due with the horrific nerve pain. I returned to my weight, my hair grew back, and by 2010 I was my old self, physically, although I still have the nerve problem in my feet. I did continue to work with my production company the entire time I was going through treatments. If Apple hadn’t destroyed 8 years of photos when I got my new phone this year, I could show you some crazy transformations from pre-cancer to post cancer and now.
3. What are the positives of midlife and beyond?
Since my mid-life story is unique, I would have to say that the positive for me was that my marriage could survive almost anything; the love that conquers, during life’s disruptions and tests of will at the deepest level, should be honored. I learned this about my husband and family; but, I also realized that in life, the right and only thing to do is to celebrate each day. I believe we all live in the moment, some of us just carry the past and project it onto the future. How can we not? This is a skill of a “ Master”; that is, to truly live in the moment. But, we can try. It was a tough time for me as my career as a producer and sought after consultant was at an all time high, thank God, because financially there was no issue. I can’t imagine, if I had not had a few great years, what going through that time in my life would have looked like. Of course, I’m stronger because of the challenges. As I entered the later years of my 50’s, I became more spiritual. I made sure to share the wisdom, that I acquired during those years, through live radio shows; and I never looked back, except of course when I look at myself naked in the mirror. You see, when one carries the physical, literally the physical scars, of ones “mid-life” every day it takes a super-human to move past them 100%. I never really thought of it that way until now. Besides, have you ever tried to buy a bra for boobs that have no nipples? It’s impossible. I only can wear Hanes found at Target. Now at 63, I’m seeing the age. I mean really seeing it. Dealing with it now is a new mindset; that is, now moving into the 2nd half of my life accepting my age, my physicality, and invisibility and moving on to leave this world a better place. That’s the main difference…when you ask “beyond”. Oh and I get regular botox and filler as needed. 🙂 But, that even begs the question of when do I stop using botox and fillers and start truly embracing “me”.
The other thing is that when gathering with friends my mind always wanders. I imagine us 20 years ago, how we’ve changed and how they have aged, some better than others, some expectedly poorly, and how our friendship and spirit are still as it was years ago…but to watch family and friends age is very interesting to me. I even go as far as thinking about life without each other, and the legacy we will leave as a community of incredibly artistic and creative people. I see their transitions to the 2nd half of life, all different, some surprising, and wonder…”would we have done anything different? How will we be remembered?”
4. What are the challenges?
There are so many challenges. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t. I find there are intimacy challenges that arose after my cancer ordeal, for sure. Put on top of that an aging body, neck, and face, and there is a heavy iron cloud weighing me down that is based purely on ego.
But besides the physical challenges of acceptance, the others are pretty simple. It’s more difficult to lose weight. Muscle mass doesn’t bounce back the way it used to. All the normal stuff we all complain about. But, I have to say that I have mixed feelings about the stress of FOMO, or not being in the right place doing the right thing. “Should I go gray?” I mean, everyone is doing it but does that mean I should? How do all of these people find the time to spend on social media? Is seeing all these beautiful women over 50 and 60 on Instagram inspiring me or are they depressing me? Am I like them? Am I good enough? How did they do it? How do they keep it up? Their life looks so much better than mine? I wonder what they really think of me? Do I care? Should I care? We are overly connected to people’s lives – it’s too intimate – and for me that is hard to deal with – to find the balance. So figuring out what it is I want to do and why – that’s my biggest challenge while not being influenced by others – to find my true self and be self aware of what I want and not to play a please and compare game.
Today, whatever I do must add value to the world around me, and I must enjoy doing it. As Wayne Dyer says..”don’t die with the music still in you”. My goal right now is to play my music. Like you said Meri, ” if not now, when?”
5. What strategies do you use to overcome the challenges?
I have tried to journal, but this is one of my downfalls. I am highly disciplined if what I am doing pleases me gives me joy. Typically, I am not good at regimen. I am actually really bad at it. I admit it. So I can try to break that pattern, with trying to “journal” and create a patten; but, as a Pisces I am not a journal person.
I don’t do life coaching or master classes as I feel I would just get 1/2 way through and get bored. I do try to meditate every day. I listen to a lot of calming music. Harry Winston type…reminds me of my youth when I worked in a super cool restaurant in L.A. and discovered new age music. It calms me. I also have serious tinnitus in my ears so night is when I mediate and play soothing affirmations before sleeping. I am going to record my own affirmation to play at night, and I really, really, try to thank God for his grace in giving me another day. Starting each day new…literally new and grateful. If I have a negative thought upon waking, I shake it off, and mediate for 10 minutes. I am super sensitive to energy around me…I like positivity in the face of adversity. Period.
6. What words of wisdom would you have for the younger generations or your younger self?
Well my younger self is different than younger generations. To my younger self I would say – “do exactly what your heart is telling you. Don’t do something because others want you to. Believe that anything is possible. Don’t give in and stand your ground. Listen to your heart. Listen to your heart and not your father or your mother – but your soul – God is speaking to you – make sure to listen.
Younger generation – I would tell them to get higher education in something they love. I never had a higher education. I don’t think it mattered while I was going through life as much as it does now. So get one, but in what you love, not what is cool, or what your parents want, but what YOU want. Make sure to understand the fundamentals of anything you choose. If you are an artist, be an artist. If you are a nerd, be a nerd. Be you. Do you. Save $10.00 from every pay check. Never touch it. Don’t be influenced by the social pressures. Tune it out. It will be there if you want to torture yourself later. Life is not easy. Life is meant to have challenges; embrace them, seize them, and you will grow to be a remarkable person. Don’t ever let ego guide you. If it doesn’t feel right or make you happy – then don’t do it. Don’t sell your soul to the devil for a paycheck. Remember that, “it is not the snake bite that kills you it is the venom that runs through your veins that destroys you”. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is the key to success. Fail, fail and fail again, then watch the greatness happen. And celebrate every day because we are what we think, and if we don’t celebrate our life, who will?
7. How important are your female friends and why?
My ladies are my rocks. I don’t have many close friends – only about 8, but I have tons of people that I know and love. I have friends that are 24 years younger than me that I would consider extremely dear and close besties…we often laugh about when I turn 80 and they are not even 60 yet “will you still be my friend?” What I hold dear are the friends that you don’t see for years and years and when you do nothing has changed except a few wrinkles…you know what I mean. Friendship in spirit is so sacred. I always try to do things for my friends, male and female. I find it is always reciprocated and that I find comfort in. I do like to mentor younger women, when I say younger I mean late 30’s and 40’s. I love finding a new friend my age and discovering our similarities, our challenges, and developing a kinship of support. New friends don’t know anything about your past…sometimes it’s refreshing to start anew.
8. What attributes would you want in a romantic partner?
My partner is my husband of 22 years. He could be more romantic for sure, but hey it’s 22 years. If I had my best world? I would love a man without facial hair. It’s very hard to find these days. Or if they have facial hair it needs to manicured and close to the face. I need someone who is funny, likes to explore new things, is non-judgmental, and is a democrat; although, I do know a very hot republican. Someone that is confident, but not overly, and enjoys nice dinners out with some friends at least once a month. I think a man in a suit by day and a man with a tool belt on the weekends is perfect. Actually, they don’t need to wear a suit, jeans a white collar shirt and blue sports jacket will do…but they still need to have the tool belt on the weekends. Also, one that sees the dust in the house. Nothing sexier then a man cleaning.
9. What do you find most fulfilling at this stage of life?
Creating. I am a creator. I love to create videos, audio shows, commercials. I love it. I have a knack for it and I am good at it. I also find seeing my granddaughter fulfilling…seeing my son with his daughter is the joy of my life. Enjoying my youngest son’s journey and commitment as an artist, attending his shows is such a complete joy. Knowing that I am given another day, each day to be fulfilled more and more. Fulfillment is subjective, and I seek nothing more than for those around me to be full of joy – almost to a fault. I do need to put myself first, but this is something very difficult for me – it’s not my nature. I love to share my podcast platform with others as I know sharing wisdom, is the key – sharing is the key.
10. What fears do you have and what do you do to move past them?
I have the fear of not having enough money for the rest of my life. I don’t fear failure. I fear ageism in our society and the effects it has on the aging population. I fear that we will not do enough to change the culture towards pro-aging, and be the change we need to see for our future generations who will live longer and longer. Societal norms are being challenged for the first time regarding aging and this is something that needs to start with us…in order to change it for the future. My podcast is a step toward trying to build a community to bring awareness to this problem and make that change. Other than that…like I said, I wake up every day knowing it’s a new day with great opportunities and that yesterday just doesn’t matter.
11. Style is a reflection of who you are. What style reflects you?
My style. Let’s see. I live by the beach in Los Angeles so my style is “beach”. We all know what that means here. It’s not bright yellow or pink, it’s beach chic; that is, lots of leggings with “tanks” and flip flops. Flips flops like old school, no Dona Karan fancy stuff for me. I like white cotton. I love my hair up in a messy bun. My mom called it, “bedroom hair” – there is nothing better than long hair that is up and in a messy bun. I am not a short hair gal. If my hair doesn’t touch my boobs I go nuts. In LA we call hair to the shoulder, “Santa Monica Housewife”. Although I have had very short cuts, as I got older I just couldn’t go there, especially after having to grow my hair out from being bald. Long hair is my youth life line.
I don’t wear much jewelry – necklaces bug me. I never wear a turtle neck – stopped that in my 50’s. I’m not super into “day” time chic-ness as being by the beach no one really cares. That’s not a good thing but when we see the “ dressed up person” in Manhattan Beach, well we know they are either trying too hard, or not from the area. It’s just not our beach culture.
DTLA or a Hollywood night out – this is when I would probably go for black leggings or jeans (rarely slacks) and an off the shoulder top with a boat neck or deep V. I do love my hot pink and apple green pashmina’s – love love love. Black around my face – just makes me feel old. I need white or coral.
I can’t stand anything close to my neck, and I like my shoulders out. I think they are my best attribute, so I have no problem showing my arms. I rarely wear skirts, but I do own some that are very lonely in my closet. A leather jacket and a scarf and of course ankle boots, always. I knew Phyllis Diller. Once, I was in her closet telling her the story of how I loved her ankle boots as a little girl, and how I have been an ankle boot lover even when it wasn’t cool…She laughed that laugh and handed me a pair of hers. They were a size 7, I’m a 9 so I didn’t take them. I really should have accepted because wouldn’t that be cool to have a pair of Phyllis’ ankle boots. Oh, my Johnny Was smoker’s jacket is a go-to for Santa Monica nights and Art District LA. I do like bohemian style.
I guess here in LA it’s depends on where one is going. Working in entertainment most of my career, it’s very casual. Even if you go to Disney’s corp office, everyone is casual. It’s just the thing we do. It’s certainly not the east coast. Only in downtown LA, in the financial district, is where you’ll find “standard corporate attire”. But it’s hard to find elsewhere.
I do the occasional beautiful tailored suit – I own a black timeless Escada and a grey Max Mara “couture”, but rarely get a chance to wear them…when I do, I feel special. 🙂 If I have to wear a dress, it more than likely would be a pencil skirt and blouse – I don’t own many dresses except a few little black ones that I really don’t dig at my age as I’m over that “look”. If I wear hose they are opaque or no hose at all. I can’t tell you the last time I put on a pair of hose. This comes from my years in Paris where women do not wear HOSE, even in the 80’s when I lived there..and they never wore makeup during the day or set their hair in curlers. Red lipstick and mascara at night and an updo…that’s the Parisian way. I love chic simplicity. (They never painted their nails either – totally an American thing, but I think they have started). I still don’t paint my nails only on special occasions.
I’m pretty basic. Dark lightly smokey eyes, light lips, and pink cheeks. I do love Bridget Bardo’s style.
12. What place does nutrition, fitness and wellness have in your life? What do these look like for you?
I attended the American Academy of Nutrition and Environmental Illness/Allergies and launched 2 very successful juice fasting diets in the USA and Brazil in the 90’s, and have always been into fitness due to my gymnastic’s background. But my first love is beach frisbee (I mean kick ass frisbee). Most people don’t expect me to toss the way I do. But there is nothing better than going to the beach as the sun is setting and the tide is moving out leaving the sand wet and flat – for tossing the frisbee and splashing in the tide..being one with the ocean, the sun, and the wind. I love it. My kids will tell you that it was mandatory that by the time they were 5 years old they had to know how to toss the frisbee…and they both do like a pro…I would have it no other way. The sun damage on my face will attest to that. I had a dream that came true. I always dreamt as a young girl living in Santa Barbara (in my 20’s) that one day I would play frisbee on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower. In 2002, my son Chance and I did so. I will never forget how joyful that was.
I also love spinning and yoga, these are my two favorite combinations. I think diet and fitness are important; but, I don’t “kill myself” over it. My husband is from Italy so he enjoys eating. I enjoy cooking. I understand food/nutrition from my background so I know how to balance and make the right choices. I do think weight gain and ill health comes from not understanding food but also from the psychological affects of deprivation. Example: I have a colonoscopy on Friday and I am already freaking out about clear fluids on Thursday, no seeds starting tomorrow, and then the “PREP”. Deprivation is what drives failure as opposed to the thinking that depriving your body of the right nutrition is what makes your body fail.
I don’t live to eat I eat to live. Of course we are what we eat, but I am not a fanatic about it. Perhaps I should be…nay…I can say this, I don’t eat breakfast, never have, and never will. I just don’t like to eat first thing in the morning. I eat around 2-4 in the afternoon – my favorite meal is lunch – more than likely what ever I want – and what I usually want is protein and a salad and yes, some fries or sweet potato fries. I am not complete if I don’t have a sin. Then I will cook for my husband around 7:30 – 8:00 and eat a dinner “ snack”. I never eat a big dinner unless I am out…even then I eat 1/2 my plate. I like to save the rest for the angels. In gymnastics growing up, we had a pact to not eat after 6 pm. It kind of stuck with me through life although I have been known to eat the drunk breakfast at 2AM. Just to add, I do believe in CBD oil for anxiety. It’s not part of a diet, but it is a great secret (legal here). It’s calming and it also gives your body the cannabinoid benefits to stop rapid cell division/ cancer.