There's no business like shoe business. Since the demise of her soap Guiding Light, fan fave Tina Sloan (Lillian) has been playing to sell-out crowds with her inspiring one-woman stage show Changing Shoes. It's all about her struggle to stay vital and relevant in a world that prizes beauty and youth. The book version, Changing Shoes: Getting Older — Not Old — With Style, Humor, and Grace (Gotham Books), will hit stores September 16. (Go to ChangingShoes.com for her performance schedule and pre-order info on the book.) TV Guide Magazine spoke with the 67-year-old Sloan about her adventure into self-awareness, which took her from the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro to the depths of depression.
TV Guide Magazine: Congrats on getting a real publisher to put out Changing Shoes. None of this self-publishing stuff for Miss Tina Sloan!
Sloan: And Publishers Weekly just wrote the loveliest piece about the book! I'm so excited about that! The book deal happened just a few days after 60 Minutes aired its segment on the cancellation of GL [last fall]. In fact, I found out about it the night the play opened.
TV Guide Magazine: It's a super read. You deliver some great truths about aging. You make people want to grow up to be you!
Sloan: A lot of people say that to me now and I love it. All my life I've wanted to be a mentor. That's what I've dreamt of being my whole life because I didn't have anybody there to help me when I started out. It's why I wrote it all down for the next generation. I worked so hard on the book — morning, noon and night — and I think it paid off. The book is very different from the stage show, much more honest in many ways. Things got to the point at GL where I felt so diminished by all the attention on the younger women that I withdrew from life. I basically lost five years! I'd sit around the house in my bunny slippers gaining weight, reading murder mysteries and watching the Pride and Prejudice TV series with Colin Firth, like, 25 or 30 times. I became a recluse. And when I did leave the house, I'd go to theaters and watch the Bridget Jones movie time and time again, eating my popcorn and my M&Ms, and loving it because she was allowed to be fat — and she wasn't even that fat! But she got the nice, handsome guy in the end and I took a lot of solace in that.
TV Guide Magazine: You eventually pulled yourself out of that dark funk and, now, you want to help others in the same situation. But will they listen?
Sloan: I think I'm pretty normal and very relatable to all sorts of people, men included, and I know the secret to finding joy again! I share my struggles and my miseries and how I found my way out. These are tough times and a lot of people feel like giving up, but there's still so much joy and fun and light. So much is going right! It's all about staying in the game, staying frisky, keeping a twinkle in your life.
TV Guide Magazine: Still, there are those who'd consider a TV star to be someone of privilege and that your problems — being sidelined on a soap by increasingly younger, hotter beauties — isn't comparable to life's real problems.
Sloan: But it is! It happens everywhere. If you're working at an office or at bank, there could be a young, smart, peppier girl coming up and sort of pushing you out of the way. It could happen if you're working the counter at McDonald's. I'm relatable because I've had a long marriage and a lot of stars don't. I've had my son serving in Iraq. A lot of stars don't. I took care of my parents when they got old. A lot of celebrities sort of put their parents away. I don't mean that unkindly, but they do. I think I'm pretty normal, really. Even [in the book] where I'm climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and crying the whole way up because I'm a bit of a spoiled child in my pink boots, people will still want me to get to the top of that mountain. And, hey, like a lot of people in this country, I'm outta work, too! I don't feel removed from reality. I'm honest. I keep coming back to the truth.
TV Guide Magazine: We seem to be experiencing a pandemic of denial in our culture and that's a big thing to battle. We're all about the distractions — texting, tweeting, cell phones, dopey celeb gossip.
Sloan: It's so true. Women who change their faces with facelifts are trying to deny that they're aging. They deal with a child who is on drugs or a husband who is straying by living in a state of denial. Gaining weight, going through menopause, dealing with aging parents — which I go into a lot in the book — can also leave you in denial. I don't know why we're all hiding from the truth. We're all pretending things are perfect like we're living in some kind of 1950s TV show.
TV Guide Magazine: The upside of all this: One's troubles can lead to very good things!
Sloan: [Laughs] It got me my book and it got me my play! I allowed myself to feel diminished by the world and then I decided I wasn't going to let that happen anymore. I fought back. I lost a lot of years but now I realize that loss made me who I am right now. For a while there, I resigned from the world. At GL, I stopped going into the production office to talk to the people who make the show. I just stayed in my dressing room eating and eating. But when I started going back into that office, and chatting with the other actors in their dressing rooms, that's when I started to come alive again. That's how Crystal Chappell and I became great friends, and that's why I'm on [Chappell's web soap] Venice. When they called me to do [the web soap] Empire, I said yes! You have to keep yourself relevant. And as I started writing the book I started losing weight because I was happy again. It's so easy to slip into that place of nonexistence. It's like going into a coma. You're there but you're not there, like you're living in a wide-awake dream.
TV Guide Magazine: So what's the secret to life?
Sloan: I asked that question when I went to Kyoto to meet the marathon monks. They literally run a marathon every single day of their lives for seven years — 26 miles one way, 26 miles the other. At the midway point they have dinner and then run back. All I wanted to do was see them and find out what they were all about, so I was taken down to meet one of them in his hut. I said, "Tell me the secret to life." And, with the help of a translator, he said, "Just put one foot in front of the other." That's it. It's that easy. That's all you have to do — but do it in a great pair of shoes, of course!
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