Cristina Ferrare began her professional career as a cover girl and model in the 1970s. But, soon after, she became a television personality and actress.
Over the years, Ferrare has written books, hosted television shows, married, divorced, become a mom, a stepmom, a jewelry designer and a furniture designer.
She learned a lot from all those life experiences and she recounts them in her new book, "Realistically Ever After: Finding Happiness When He's Not Prince Charming, You're Not Snow White, And Life's Not a Fairy Tale."
Ferrare visits The Early Show to discuss her new book.
Read an excerpt from "Realistically Ever After":
It was my dream home. But now, after eighteen years, which have been the happiest and most fulfilling years of my life, we are selling our house. And we must be out in thirty days!
This home, and the surrounding canyon, are the stuff that dreams are made of. The house sits deep in a canyon in one of the most beautiful spots in Los Angeles. It is a place full of a rich history of lush, flowering landscapes. About a mile down the hill is one of the world?s most prestigious hotels, Hotel Bel Air. It?s a tranquil sanctuary favored by royalty, heads of state, and movie stars, who revel in the hotel?s luxurious surroundings, great service, and?most important?privacy.
Our house had come with a bit of Hollywood history. Built in 1932, it was once the home of legendary movie stars Betty Grable and her bandleader husband, Harry James. At least that is what the real estate agent told us. But I didn?t believe it until I saw a photograph of them standing in front of the glass and brick greenhouse on the back patio. It seemed so strange to see them surrounded by deep fuchsia-colored bougainvillea, flowering gardenias, and ripe fruit trees, actually standing in what were now ?our? gardens.
The first time I drove through the large, wrought iron gates and up the well-traveled brick driveway, I was immediately struck by the grandeur of the huge old oaks with their gnarled branches reaching over the top of the ivy-covered brick Tudor. The ancient trees loom over the house as if they are protecting its occupants from intruders. They stand tall and sturdy, with a maturity about them that makes you feel safe. It looks like something out of a fairy tale.
The air is filled with the smell of orange blossoms and jasmine?the aroma so heady that it makes you stop, close your eyes, and inhale deeply. As you do, an overwhelming feeling of well-being rushes over you like a mini tranquilizer.
In this fairy-tale house, with my fairy-tale husband and our fairy-tale family, I planned to live out the rest of my life. I believed in fairy tales. They come true ... right? I had evidence of it, right in my own backyard.
Yet as much as I truly loved our home, it had started to overwhelm me. I had been thinking, and mentioning, for some time that I wanted to change the way we?d been living. I just couldn?t handle the upkeep any more. In my mind, everything in our home had to be picture perfect. When it wasn?t, I?d become frustrated and disappointed. I felt that I wasn?t able to maintain the kind of home I thought we should have?a home where the beds are always made, the dishes clean and stacked neatly in the cupboards, the bathrooms spotless, and the laundry clean and fresh-smelling. And that was only the inside of the house. On top of that, the gardens had to be constantly tended, weeded, reseeded, and planted.
Plus, there were the incessant demands of carpooling, grocery shopping, and cooking. And there were things that constantly went wrong with a house as old as ours. I wanted something smaller with less responsibility and lower maintenance. I wanted to make my life simpler.
My chance came on January 2, 2003. My daughters, Alexandra and Arianna, and I were heading home from the beach while my husband, Tony, ran some errands. We happened to drive by a newly built condominium complex. The building was so architecturally stunning that, on a whim, we decided to stop and take a look at some of the available units. We looked at several and thought they were nice, but nothing majestic, nothing magical. Sensing our lack of enthusiasm, the real estate agent suggested one more unit.
We rode the elevator up to the sky! When the doors opened and we stepped out, we were immediately struck by a panoramic view of the city I love. Up there, we could see Los Angeles, from the city to the mountains to the sea. My girls and I looked at each other.
"Wow, Mom, can we live here?" my younger daughter, Arianna, asked in awe.
"This is great!" added my older girl, Alex. "I feel like we?re on top of the world! Come on, Mom, I know you?ve been thinking about making a change for a long time now. This is what you?ve been waiting for! Let?s call Dad and see what he thinks!"
I was taken aback. It never occurred to me that the girls would consider moving out of the house they grew up in. Yet deep inside, I was secretly happy and relieved. I knew this was my chance to simplify my life, and I needed to take it.
But I had to be absolutely sure that my family would be all right with this big step. "Do you really want to do this?" I asked the girls sheepishly. "It would mean leaving the only home you have ever known. You need to think seriously about this."
I didn?t want the moment to pass, so I added, "I don?t know. What do you think? Should we call Dad to come up and see this?"
"Yes!" they both responded enthusiastically. "Let?s call Dad!"
"He?s going to love the doorman!" added Alexandra.
I called Tony.
"Meet us right away!" I said, giving him the address. "The girls and I have something very important we need to discuss with you."
Tony arrived twenty minutes later.
His first words were, "I love the doorman."
Then, rather suspiciously, he asked, "What are you girls scheming now?"
We all started to talk at once. Alex?s voice rose above all of us as she simply stated in a tone that made Tony realize we were serious, "We want a change, Dad. We want to sell the house and move to this apartment in the sky!"
"It?s time for a change!" added Arianna.
"You?re serious, aren?t you?" Tony asked. He looked out at the landscape sprawling in all directions below. "If this is what you guys really want, then I?m behind you 100 percent!"
He broke into a huge grin. "Let?s do it!" he said.
Just like that, just that fast. Decision made, now we?re moving. (Go figure.)
Our house sold the first week it was on the market (we were lucky), and the buyer wanted a thirty-day escrow. Moving eighteen years in thirty days? No problem. I can do it! I?m Super Mom-Woman!
For a month, I found myself stuck in a limbo of memories and moving vans. The dishes, furniture, and clothes were easy; pack ?em up and move ?em out. Every so often, though, amid the floor-to-ceiling moving boxes and utter chaos, with remnants of my life scattered about me with no semblance of anything that made sense, I?d stumble across family photographs.
The pictures, which had been shoved into shoe boxes, shopping bags, and oversized plastic bags, seemed to have a life of their own, multiplying by the minute. Every time I?d empty out another closet or open another drawer, I?d find more. I found them just as I?d left them, along with all of my promises to buy leather-bound albums so I could have a chronological keepsake of our life together as a growing family.
We took a lot of family photos over the years. Whenever I would pick them up at the One Hour Photo, I would be excited and couldn?t wait until we got home to look at them. I would find myself doing unsafe things like flipping through the pictures while driving or stealing a glance at a stop sign. When I got home, I would look at them once again to smile and reminisce. Then, inevitably, I would toss them on my desk.
When the desk got too messy, I would transfer the photos to a drawer.
Eventually, they would go into a box or plastic bag for safekeeping, along with my never-ending promises to someday put them into albums for the kids. But there was always so much to do. Slowing down long enough to lovingly place them in an album would never quite fit into my busy schedule.
So there I was, facing eighteen years of photos still waiting for their new home, with thirty days to move. I tried not to look through the photographs because I knew they would slow me down. But every time I?d come across a picture of the kids as babies, I?d pause and remember. I?d sit in awe and amazement at how little the girls were only yesterday.
One day, while I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, lost in another endless pile of photographs, Alex and Arianna came into the room. They began rummaging through the boxes and bags of photos, laughing and reminiscing about their life playing out before them.
Looking at a photo of herself at five with no teeth, Alex cringed. "Oh my gosh, look at how little I was!" she laughed. "I can?t believe it. What a dork!"
Ari started to laugh as well, as she held up a picture of her much younger-looking father. "Think you look like a dork? Take a look at Dad in this picture!"
They both were laughing as they settled into rummaging through our life in a box.
"Gosh Mommy, look at how pretty you were," Alex said in wonderment, looking at a photo from my modeling days. Ouch, that hurt.
As we sifted through the photographs, I noticed something interesting. The pictures didn?t tell the full story. The movers, I decided, would have to wait. I picked up the stacks of photographs and started telling my daughters my story?our stories?the fractured fairy tales that I had always painted with glitter, but that were, in reality, very different from what they seemed.
What I told my daughters that day became the basis for this book. I decided that as girls who would soon enough be young women, they needed to know that life is not always a fairy tale, the man you love may not always turn out to be Prince Charming, and being an adult can sometimes be downright disappointing or even scary. I knew that if only I had had a more realistic view of life as a young woman and mom, I might have saved myself a lot of heartache. Instead of expecting perfection (in myself and others), I could have reached for what is real and, ultimately, much more satisfying. And I knew that millions of other women needed to hear this message as well.
Still, let me make it clear that this book is not about the harsh realities in life. It?s not about the threat of war, terrorism, racism, hunger, homelessness, gangs, rape, child abuse, sexual predators, illness, death, kidnappings, or school shootings. Trying to raise children safely in a global society faced with all this is real and frightening.
What we faced as a nation and a world after the events of September 11, 2001, forever changed the way we think and the way we now live our lives. We need to think twice about traveling (never mind how inconvenient it has become), and we are automatically suspicious of anyone who dresses or speaks differently than we do.
I don?t forget for a second that life and the things that happen to us are real. After all, we are reminded of this by the news that plays in perpetuity. Headlines from all over the world are constantly bombarding us with images that have the power to be either disturbing or titillating.
I could go on and on about these harsh realities, but I won?t. Instead, I would like to put them aside and present to you a simple and hopeful journey into what happens to you when you?re out there simply living your life.
We all experience some pretty wonderful things. There are first kisses, proms, graduations, friends, engagements, weddings, anniversaries, babies, picnics, bike rides, art galleries, shopping, books, parties, museums, music, amusement parks, vacations, beaches, sports, movies, birthdays, family dinners, Thanksgiving, Christmas, television, presents, food, great restaurants, and infinite other wonderful things that make up one?s journey through life. But despite all of these amazing things, life is far from a fairy tale.
From the moment that I could breathe, I believed in fairy tales. I wanted to live "happily ever after," and I sure went after it. From the career, to the man, to the house, to the kids?I was determined to have a storybook life. Yet, as you?ve already seen with my "dream house" that turned out not to be such a dream, I learned that life isn?t always as it appears. Further, the events I depict are not exclusive to me. I?m sure you?ll recognize yourself in a lot of the scenarios.
One of the dreams we all share is to marry Prince Charming, and to have our marriage last forever. Well, after three marriages, I can tell you what really happens after you repeat those immortal words, "For better or for worse." I experienced better, and it was nice. But the "worse" was really awful! When Prince Charming falls off his horse, it?s not pretty. Imagine what it?s like to have your husband arrested for allegedly selling coke (and I don?t mean the soft drink). That?s what happened while I was married to my second husband, John DeLorean. I?ll tell you candidly what it?s like to stand by your man. For now, let?s just say that it wasn?t as easy as I thought it would be.
I?ll also give you an honest, behind-the-scenes look into having children. I?ll discuss carrying them in your body for almost a year?and watching in amazement as you realize that your skin can actually stretch that much without tearing?giving birth to them, and then actually having to raise them.
Having kids might have been great if they didn?t have to turn into teenagers! I thought having teenagers around the house would be a blast. The fact that I?m still alive after getting my first set of kids through their teens is a testament to the human survival instinct. And I still have two more to go! Who are these people, and why are they always so mad at you?
I?ll also delve into the fine art of ?blending families.? Why does it look so simple on TV? Trying to be a stepparent and bring two families together as effortlessly as Carol Brady did on The Brady Bunch was something I thought I could pull off without a hitch, only to discover that I?m not that sweet, patient, or perky.
In fairy tales, there is nothing but sunshine and success. But in real life, there is a wicked witch called Failure.
I don?t like to fail. It makes me feel awful, and then I eat a lot. Well, at least it did until I came to terms with it after a lot of soul-searching and one colossal disappointment. Does the search for Regis Philbin?s new co-host ring a bell? I lost out on a job I had wanted with all my heart, and it took me a while to start moving again.
Yet that wasn?t my first disappointment. Living in today?s world meant I had to come to terms not with moving on, but with moving over. In the 1970s, I was considered a "supermodel." I was fortunate to be on the covers of all the major fashion magazines. But we all know that youth is what sells those magazines, and after a certain birthday, the calls don?t come as frequently as they once did. In this book, I?ll give you an insider?s look into the so-called world of glamour and show you why I think it is a world built on potentially dangerous illusions.
It?s my hope that these stories?which I refer to as fairy tales interrupted?will make you laugh and recall similar incidents in your own life. But most of all, I hope you will be able to put aside your own fairy-tale expectations and reach for something even better: your true self. You may not ride off into the sunset on a white horse, but you will discover how to live your life realistically ever after.
Reprinted from: "Realistically Ever After: Finding Happiness When He's Not Prince Charming, You're Not Snow White and Life's Not a Fairy Tale," by Cristina Ferrare ? 2004 Crisitina Ferrare. Permission granted by Rodale Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at www.rodalestore.com.