Leslie Bruce is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and an award-winning entertainment journalist. Her most recent collaboration, Celebrate with Lauren Conrad, was released earlier this year and became a New York Times bestseller. She launched her parenting platform Unpacified in July 2016. Unpacified is a platform for like-minded women to come together on relatable ground, no matter how shaky. It’s about appreciating that moms are people too, because being an amazing mama shouldn’t prohibit you from being anything else. Leslie lives in Beverly Hills with her husband, Yashaar, and their two-year-old daughter, Tallulah.
Q: We are in love with Unpacified and your infectious keep-it-real attitude towards parenting. What inspired you to start Unpacified and what have you found most rewarding about the journey?
A: For me, the transition into motherhood wasn’t what you would call smooth.
But I can’t imagine its easy for any woman. I spent the first 32 years of life being the only person I had to worry about. My husband was relatively self-sufficient, as were my family and friends.
When Tallulah was born, I went from being the most important person in my little world, to being the very least. That’s not to say I would have had it any other way, it was just a quick, rather merciless learning curve. And at the time I was convinced it was my issue. Scrolling through social media, I constantly saw these posts from other mamas, taking dreamy-filtered selfies with their cherubic little newborns and talking about how life had never been better.
In my head, I was like, “Ummm, this time last year I was on a beach in Costa Rica. I’m pretty sure that was more fun than trying to calm my screaming six-week-old and watching trash cans float down the street.” (At the time, LA was experiencing the worst winter storm in more than five years and my husband was in the Bahamas. Don’t ask.)
After I got through the first few months, I began opening up to some close mom friends about my struggles, and I started to realize that I wasn’t alone. The more women I opened up to, the more people shared their own experiences. One mama friend even told me that ten minutes after posting one her dreamy-eyed, “life is perfect” newborn photos, she spent an hour sobbing on an exercise ball trying to get her baby to go to sleep. We all felt pressured to say what we thought we needed to say, instead of how we truly felt.
I knew right away that I wanted to do something to connect with other mamas…none of us should ever feel alone while going on this journey.
“It takes a village” is an old cliché for a reason! We may not all need support in the same way, but we all need support.
So, Unpacified was born (pun intended) from the idea that we were women before becoming mothers, and we need to nurture both parts of our souls and our psyches. Unpacified is a judgment-free platform where women can connect with other like-minded mamas… and hopefully allows new mothers to appreciate that the hard days are just as normal as the amazing ones.
The biggest reward has been the unbelievable supporters who have stumbled across Unpacified and connected with it in some way. I’ve been truly touched by the women who have reached out to tell me that something about my journey has helped them; that something I may have said allowed them to have a better day (or night). It’s been incredibly humbling.
Q: What are some of the common misconceptions of parenting that bug you most?
A: “You can have it all!”
Like, can we please just stop? There’s this motherhood culture that exists that encourages women to place unrealistic expectations on themselves; it allows them to feel like they’ve done something wrong when things fall short.
Here’s some truth salad: as a mother, you’ll spend most days busting your ass just to keep your head above water. The concept of “having it all” is laughable and, I think, dangerous.
That being said, if you just so happen to be one of those magical mamas who believe they’ve figured out a way to have it all, I think that’s amazing. Seriously! All I ask is that you recognize your journey is the exception, not the rule.
Q: When did you discover your love of storytelling? How did you mold it into a career?
A: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love storytelling. Ever since I could start stringing words together, I was writing. I would use pieces of construction paper, fold them in half and create blank books to fill. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my mom assembling my Valentine’s Day book. We used a ruler and a pencil to make sure the title was straight, and a three-hole puncher for the binding that we tied together with light pink yarn.
My career could have been forever halted in the third grade if it wasn’t for my guardian angel, Mrs. Brown. During a parent-teacher conference, Mrs. Brown showed my parents some of my writing. My mom and dad were concerned about my spelling and grammar….
To which Mrs. Brown replied, “What do you think it would do to Leslie’s self-confidence if I put a big red circle around everything that was wrong? Do you think she would be inclined to keep writing if she knew it would come back all marked up? What’s more important for an 8-year-old, punctuation or imagination?”
Thank you, Mrs. Brown…and Microsoft Word Spellcheck. I’ve been writing ever since.
Q: What were you like as a kid?
What was Jennifer Lawrence like as a kid? Cuz…same.
Ok, so while I have NO problem being the center of attention, I have a lot of trouble speaking earnestly about myself, so I asked my mother to help.
“I’ve heard that personalities are formed by the time a child turns two, and at 2-years-old, Leslie was a very bright, very confident and very kind little girl. Those are the same qualities that she possesses today.”
By the way, this is probably the nicest thing my mother has ever said about me knowing that I would actually read it. She loves to sing my praises, as long as I’m not around to hear it. To my face, she has always appeared woefully unimpressed.
For the record, as a kid, I used to keep dinosaur books in a Strawberry Shortcake suitcase. I once tried to “runaway from home” after packing three pairs of Garfield underwear and a St. Patrick’s Day pin in my diaper pail. On Christmas Eve 1991, I performed a Hip & Hop cover of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” for my entire family. But brass tacks? I was super bossy and had a Dorothy Hamill haircut.
Q: Let’s talk about your beautiful daughter for a second. What have been the surprises—both terrific and trying—about raising a toddler?
A: Thank you! This gives me a chance to brag shamelessly about my daughter. I’m always afraid that when I speak about my experience that people might assume I was ungrateful for this unbelievable blessing.
As a mother, I’m capable of being both truly overjoyed and ridiculously overwhelmed.
I’m routinely surprised with how much I love her. My heart bursts for her. I don’t think I could love anything or anyone more…especially someone who likes to slap me in the face on occasion. She gives me so much happiness in a way that I never that possible.
I was also surprised at how strong her preferences are. As she began to develop her own identity, I wanted to allow her to be whomever she wanted. I gave her train sets and tea sets; dump trucks and dollhouses; fire engines and princess crowns. But part of me always sort of figured that since she spent 40 weeks living inside me, that we would have similar taste.
NOPE. Save for my close friendship with Barbie, I spent my childhood catching lighting bugs and scrapping my knee. My daughter’s spirit animal is a Disney Princess. Any of them. She hasn’t even seen a single movie…but she’s on a first name basis with every last ingénue. She also erupts into a full Days of Our Lives-inspired dramatic meltdown if she gets anything on her clothes: water, food, paint…you name it.
Q: What are your favorite Rose & Rex toys?
But…Mouse in a Matchbox is our favorite. When Tallulah started fighting her nap and bedtime routine, I knew it was because she was pushing back…wanting some control. So, before her naptime and bedtime, I asked Tallulah if she wanted to put Mouse to bed. She’d put her little pillow in the bed, give her Mouse a cuddle and then tuck her in with her blanket. After that, she was much more inclined to let Mama put Lulu to sleep!
Q: If you had an additional day between Saturday and Sunday, how would you spend it?
I’d take my daughter to Disneyland! Everyone knows there aren’t any lines on Sunterday.
Okay, lightening-speed round! Ready, set go:
It’s really cute that you think I can answer any question with just a one-word answer…but, ok. Let’s give it a go.
Chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Vanilla.
Early bird or night owl? Both. I’m a working mama! Usually, I sleep from 12:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Then once every two weeks, I crash out for a good 12 hours. It’s like my New York club days all over again. (Am I allowed to say that in a Q&A about being someone’s mother?).
Heels or sneakers? Sneakers! God bless you, Gigi Hadid. She not only made it socially acceptable to wear sneakers with my dress…she made it on trend as well.
Books or movies? I’d like to petition you to include a third option: TV. Since I write books for a living, I’m supposed to tell you how my favorite evenings are those spent at home reading Chaucer in Middle English. But honestly, my guiltiest pleasure is CNN. I’m in a committed relationship with Don Lemon. It’s all I want. Unless, its the NBA Playoff season, and I am hopelessly devoted to Inside the NBA, Sports Center and Stephen A. Smith. For the record, my husband loathes going to the movies, but I think that’s partially my own fault. I’m notorious for wanting to see the worst movie playing. The last movie we went to see was the Steve Jobs biopic. Not the one with Michael Fassbender…the one with Ashton Kutcher. Eek.
Favorite color? Kanye said it best, “All purple, errthing.” Lilac, lavender, violet…it knows no end.
Plate of French fries or slice of cake? I assume this is what it feels like to have to choose your favorite child. Pass.
The super power you would want to have is _________? The hangover tolerance of a 21-year-old.
You have an open plane ticket—where will you go? London. To see my best friend Cassandra, my sweet goddaughter Stella, and my beautiful nephew Billy. Now, if the question was where would I like to go, I’d say Bali. But where will I go? London. Because if I had a free flight and went anywhere else besides London, she’d never let me hear the end of it…
(We started off strong with the one-word answer thing, then it took a serious left turn…)
This article first appeared on Rose & Rex on Nov. 1, 2016.