You can’t not recognize Alison Sweeney. She’s just one of those women you’re sure you know from somewhere. You know the type: real, relatable, radiant. Someone who lights up the screen, not to mention every room she steps into, with her smile.
After spending two decades hooked on Sweeney’s antics as mean girl Sami Brady on Days of Our Lives and 13 seasons watching her kind blue eyes dole out compassion as The Biggest Loser host, I was tempted to just sling my arm around my pal and call her Ali. And yet, as warm and welcoming as she is, it was clear right away that there’s more to Alison Sweeney than beauty, poise and enviable teeth. Way more.
Brazen Woman was lucky enough to catch up with the actress/host/director/producer/author in NYC—and even to join her for a spin session where she beat the pants off the entire room—to chat about life, Ali-style. Come on, try to keep up, now.
THE BRAZEN INTERVIEW WITH ALISON SWEENEY
Randi Chapnik Myers: At Brazen Woman, we’re all about you the woman. Not you as Mom, but you as Alison. It’s almost a revolutionary concept these days, but it shouldn’t be, right?
Alison Sweeney: I love what you’re going for. It’s so easy to identify yourself as a parent. It becomes the first thing you think of when you start talking about yourself rather than how you feel as a woman.
RCM: So talking about Alison the woman, what has changed now that you’re nearing 40? Are you getting wiser about who you are and what you want?
AS: Oh yes. In my 20s, it was so easy to be judgmental. I was sure I would never do this or that. I find that in your 30s, there’s this shift. You develop an awareness of who you are and you’re able to decide what’s best for you. Sure, there are things that are unhealthy out there, but if there’s a way to make you feel good, then sometimes you go ahead and do it.
RCM: When you played Sami on Days of Our Lives, you were struggling with your weight, and then you were host of The Biggest Loser, a show about weight loss. What was that like, being in the spotlight in an industry where women are expected to be paper thin? How did you deal with it?
AS: Working on a show for so long about health and wellness, there was a lot to learn there. It was a big transition for me as I grew up mentally, wrapping my head around not caring what I weigh. Now, I care that I’m fit, active and capable of doing the activities I want to do. I went skiing recently and I was the fastest one down the hill. I sweat in my workouts. I strength train, and my trainer always applies the exercise to the real world: This is how to use the muscles and breaths when you’re rock climbing or riding a horse. My recovery period is great now. I know how to breathe.
RCM: What would you say to other women about trying to measure up to the skinny beauty ideal in the media?
AS: I’d say that you’re setting yourself up to fail if you just want to lose weight. That’s how I spent my 20s. It left me feeling depressed and hunting for a box of cookies. I started losing weight when I changed my approach. I stopped focusing on wanting to be a supermodel and I stopped getting mad at myself until I reached a number on the scale. The key is to take better care of yourself so you feel healthier, not to consider yourself a failure because you ate a few Girl Scout cookies.
RCM: What do you do to look and feel beautiful? Hit us with your beauty secrets, the ones that keep you feeling radiant.
AS: I’m not a girly girl out of the gate, so for me, routine is important when it comes to beauty. Feeling beautiful is starting the day off right with a confident, white, clean smile. I brush my teeth with Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant toothpaste because it really whitens. I also apply sunscreen every day. With makeup, less is definitely more, but mascara and lip gloss are my go-to’s. I wear what I feel confident in, which is often a funny Wildfox sweater with an expression, cute skinny jeans and flipflops. That’s me.
RCM: You are so relaxed onscreen but not everyone knows you’ve struggled to get there. What’s been your greatest struggle in life?
AS: I’m hard on myself—in every way. I am my own worst critic. That’s why I’m successful, too, I guess. It’s why I’m so good at what I do. But I’ve had to learn to give myself a break and realize that letting up doesn’t mean giving up.
RCM: What about your greatest accomplishment (Don’t say your kids!)?
AS: I ran the LA marathon and it was harder than labor. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’m so proud of myself for finishing. I wanted to die, I would’ve done anything to make it stop, and I kept going. I kept putting one foot in front of the other until I crossed the finish line.
RCM: What did The Biggest Loser teach you about yourself?
AS: It inspired me. I was watching the contestants accomplish so much. It wasn’t the time it took or even the weight they lost, though. It was setting your mind to something. It was having the determination to change your life. When you work hard, it’s not a miracle. No matter what your obstacle in life, you can always change it. You just have to find the path, but you do have to work, one step at a time.
RCM: How do you make sure you don’t get overwhelmed by success?
AS: When you have to get so much done, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by doubt and fear and anxiety, to ask yourself Did I make the right choice? Should I do this or that? Am I spending my time right? I try not to look back and regret things I’ve done. Instead, I check in with myself. I’m doing a lot of this this week, so next week maybe I’ll do less. It’s like I’m conducting my own job review in life. I’m not looking back, just staying present. This week, I need a manicure, more sleep, whatever it is. There’s always room for changing it up and doing what’s best for you in that moment. Rather than coming from a place of regret, you have to own the choices you make, and if you need to, make different ones next time.
RCM: In 2004, you wrote a memoir—All the Days of My Life (So Far). What prompted you to put your story out there?
AS: I love writing. I also wrote a book about weight loss. After that, I started writing novels, and that’s been really rewarding and fun. It started organically from my frustration with working on Days of Our Lives. I found I wanted to be in charge of the storylines. I’d think Hmmm, wouldn’t it be great if this happened? So I sat down at my computer and started writing.
RCM: In real life, you’re happily married to a policeman. How do you keep the relationship fresh?
AS: For starters, we don’t expect it to be a real life The Bachelor episode. We enjoy each other at home, not sitting around feeling annoyed that we’re not out at a fancy dinner. The little things matter. If I fall asleep and he charges my phone for me, it means something that he thought of me. We have date nights binge watching Netflix, and we have fun. We get really animated, pausing, getting mad at the TV, rewinding.
RCM: What’s on the horizon for you now? What are you looking forward to in your 40s?
AS: Right now, I’m executive producing movies for the Hallmark channel and I’m really excited for new opportunities coming my way. It took a huge leap of faith to leave Days of Our Lives and parting from The Biggest Loser. The door to the future is wide open. I just have to believe in myself.
THE BRAZEN FAST 5
RCM: I ask, you answer off the top of your head.
1. The woman who has inspired you most and why?
My mom. Why doesn’t she inspire me? She’s a violinist, a working woman. She has passion for what she does, and she made me believe I could do what I love. She’s a competitive person, too, so I was brought up believing if you’re going do something, do it the best you possibly can.
2. Your favourite book of all time?
Les Miserables. I love how real and beautiful and timeless the story is. Its about love of all kinds, and forgiveness.
3. Your dream role, a character you’d love to play?
Robin Wright’s role on House of Cards, working alongside Kevin Spacey.
4. Celeb boy crush?
Mike Rowe who used to host Dirty Jobs. He’s such a talented host and he’s funny and clever and oh that operatic voice.
5. Your favourite song, the one you’d have as your own personal anthem on repeat?
Fight Song! It’s empowering, girl power, don’t give up on yourself. That song is rooting me on. I love hearing my footsteps in the song’s quietest moment. It keeps me going strong.
Note: While some changes have been made for clarity, the essence of this interview remains intact.
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Approximate Value: $60