(This article originally appeared on Huffington Post on 11/14/16.)
If the success of the TV show Scream Queens is any indication, Americans love the women of scary movies. In that exclusive sorority of trans-generational horror heroines, Dee Wallace is one of the most recognizable and enduring of them all. Wallace was in the original cult thriller The Hills Have Eyes in 1977. She went on to appear in such classic fright flicks as The Howling and Cujo, as well as Rob Zombie’s re-imagining of Halloween in 2007. Wallace’s movie and TV credits have gone far beyond the horror genre, however. She is perhaps best known as Eliott and Gertie’s mother in the ageless 1982 Spielberg film E.T. Now busier than ever, Wallace was nominated for the 2016 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Guest Performer in a Drama Series for her role on General Hospital.
On both the big and small screens, Wallace has reached millions of people with her honest and empathetic portrayals of her characters. However, the actress also seeks to reach out to the masses in a much more personal way— with an empowering message about healing and self-love. On her official website,the star reinforces the essence of that message: Loving oneself is the genesis of happiness, wellness, success, and loving others. Through the years, Wallace’s mission has included five books, a live Sunday morning call-in internet radio show, monthly webinars, and private sessions from her home both in person and via phone. Wallace is also a much sought-after motivational speaker. She speaks a lot about the importance of authenticity in both the arts and in our own personal lives:
There is nothing that we love more in this world than people to be authentic. We know it. We see it. You can look at one actor and go, “Yeah, it was a good movie…”, and then go to another movie that’s very similar, and the actor actually transcends something. There’s a different energy— a truthfulness that you’re pulled in by. The movie E.T. is a perfect example. I am so blessed to have been a part of that movie, because that’s an authentic movie. It tells the truth, and we are so hungry for the truth. The truth of that movie is very much like the “I Love Me” movement. It’s all about: “Open your heart, and you’ll always get back to the home of you.” The home is the truth of who we are, and the truth is that we’re just bloody magnificent! When I do a personal appearance, I’ll have a 4 year-old and a 90-year old at the table at the same time, because E.T. continued to touch people’s hearts. It reminds them of the truth of who they are.
Knowing that self-esteem starts in childhood, Dee Wallace’s newest endeavor comes in the form of a cuddly white bear named BuppaLaPaloo, or “Buppa” for short. Complete with a big smile and a bright red heart on his chest, Buppa is indeed cute— but he’s no ordinary teddy. Buppa interacts with children by (1) teaching them strong, powerful, and fun statements to help them claim how special they really are, and (2) teaching them to define themselves and their world in powerful ways. Press one paw, and the bear recites a series of 14 statements such as “I love me!”, “I love my body!”, “I love to laugh!” and “I am so loved!”. His other paw allows them to record and empower themselves with their own messages, or allows their parents to share strong, loving messages with their child. Wallace calls the response to BuppaLaPaloo “awesome”— and she is happy about the population that he has reached. Many have gotten the bear for their young teen daughters, a group where self-esteem is often a challenging issue. In addition, a lot of people realized that the bear was also empowering and useful for Alzheimer’s victims, which was a surprise for Wallace. As the bear’s creator, a challenge that she faced with BuppaLaPaloo was from the big toy companies, who deemed her bear “not hi-tech enough”. She tells me:
There are a lot of studies coming out proving that all of our devices are actually hurting our young children. They are losing their ability to read social cues and their ability to communicate. The parents of the world are being sold a bill of goods because it’s gonna sell and make more money for the manufacturers, which is unfortunate. But psychologists will tell you how important it is to have a soothing object— a bonding object. Buppa really is based on brain science. When you hear powerful statements connected to a loving, happy, joyous experience, and then the child repeats it in first statement back to the bear, that really builds strong brain synapses that are going to be in place for the rest of their lives. We know that when it’s not in place, then that’s the core of bullying, all eating disorders, poor grades, teen pregnancy, high dropout numbers, low college entry numbers— everything that we base our successes on later in life.
In addition to creating BuppaLaPaloo, Wallace has also written a new book with Keith Malinsky named On Dandelion Seed, which teaches children about the true meaning of happiness. But wait a minute! I ask Ms. Wallace, “Aren’t children always happy?” She responds:
Children are born happy. We take it away from them, and they believe us. We have all heard “Children should be seen and not heard” and about 10 other things from our childhood. At least I have, having been raised in the Midwest. I am proud of being a Midwesterner— but oh, some of the values that I was brought up with! I’m not putting my parents down, because that’s how they were taught. Their job was just to bring me in. At least when I was growing up, organized religion did not serve to teach the empowerment of children at all. I think that a lot of parents are still threatened by the idea of making their children very powerful, because the parent is supposed to be the “boss” or “owner” of the child. But our job is really to bring them in and then teach them how magnificent they are. The rest is pretty much up to them. We hear parents all the time saying “I did everything right… and still screwed up”! But children are on their own journey. We can certainly support that journey in a much more powerful way if we teach them to embrace their uniqueness and their “special-ness”. Our children are the teachers. They come in to teach us, to say, “Look, I’m happy. I know it’s all about me! I want to giggle all the time. I want to touch everything and learn everything!” And then, by around age two, we’re trying to teach them how to be socially acceptable— which usually comes with, “No! Don’t do that!” I want to be clear: I’m not saying that empowerment comes with a lack of discipline. Quite the opposite, actually. But again, the brain thinks in pictures. Do you want your child to be disciplined in a positive, powerful way? First love them until you can’t love them anymore, and then guide them in what you want them to do. If you tell a two year old “Don’t you touch that!”, he’ll look you right in the eyes and then go over and touch it. That’s how their brain works. If someone is bullying your kid, then you want to focus on the empowerment of your child, not on the bully and how to get back at him, or how to create behavior that’s going to ignore him or get away from him.
Dee Wallace took the time to speak with me about BuppaLaPaloo, the importance of loving yourself, and… being one of the world’s favorite “scream queens”!
JR: Greetings from New York City! Congratulations on BuppaLaPaloo and on your new book!
DW: Ah, you said his name correctly! Good for you! Adults will trip over the name, and kids will get it right away. They don’t have that, “Oh wait, this is a hard word” fear. If you say “BubbaLaPaloo” one time, the kids will get it. They love those nonsensical places, like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”!
JR: Yes! In the pictures he looks very cuddly. He reminds me of a bear I used to have… only my bear didn’t wear a heart on his chest, and sadly he didn’t talk!
DW: We went to a lot of different factories to find the right material and the right designs. BuppaLaPaloo has been redesigned two or three times in minor ways— a little bit different in the mouth and a little bit different in the eyes— but basically, the original design, which was a vision that I saw, is there. We started out with more statements than the fourteen, and then we narrowed them down to the basic issues. I do private sessions with people all over the world, and those statements are narrowed down from the subjects that I deal with when I work with adults: body issues, not feeling loved or feeling respected in the world, and not holding out hope that they actually are going to be great in this world— or that they are great in this world. So, that’s where the fourteen empowering statements come from. And, of course, “I am so loved!” is hands down the most important one. If a child knows that they are loved, and has that core within them, then everything that may challenge them in their life can then stem from that core, knowing that they are loved. It’s powerful. Very powerful. As a matter of fact, I have gotten quotes from a psychologist that if there’s nothing else that you do as a parent, teach your children to love themselves and to feel good about who they are.
JR: Yes! As you point out, I think it’s been pretty well-established that a lot of the issues that we face, both as individuals and then as a society at large, originate in our childhoods. The things we learn from our parents and our teachers really stick with us— the good, the bad, and the ugly!
DW: The mind thinks in pictures. What we tell our children, and what their brain accepts, is what they see for the rest of their life until they choose to re-program their brain and re-program their belief system, basically. So, why not give them the edge that we didn’t have at the very beginning? “You are great!” “You are magnificent!”. It’s OK to say that. I think that is our biggest challenge. Back then, we were taught, “It’s not OK!”. “You’re stuck up!” “God isn’t gonna love you if you know how magnificent you are!” You should never go out in the world and say, “Gosh, I’m awesome!” We were taught that was bad. How, then, do we put that together again in our belief systems? Our belief systems are our thoughts, which run our world: “So, I really want to feel great, and I really want to feel happy, and I really want to feel powerful, and I want to know that I’m awesome… but, oh, that’s bad. So, I can’t do that.” So, how does a child channel that power in a powerful and positive way as they get older? It’s challenging. And that’s why most of us have gone through some form of therapy trying to say, “Gosh, it’s OK to be who I am!”
DW: Yes. And everything you mentioned comes down to judgement. The basis for judgement is, “I don’t feel good enough about me, so I need to judge you.” When we are whole, complete, and happy within ourselves, we are not threatened by people who think differently than we do. We can sit down and have a conversation— for example, Democrats and Republicans together— because we’re not threatened by a different idea or a religion which thinks differently from us. We’re not in fear of the unknown, and therefore we’re not having to come forward as a bully in some way and go, “You don’t know! I know! Well, I do too know! Well, maybe we both know, and when we have that peace within ourselves, then it’s so much more possible to allow other people to have the peace that they found within themselves. So, it all comes back to— and I know this without any doubt in my mind, from my work— how much we love and care for who we are, and how much we accept our authenticity. I mean, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates would not have created everything that they did if they didn’t believe in who they were.
JR: That makes a lot of sense, especially if you watched the political debates or discussions, and so much of it is reminiscent of childlike behavior…
DW: …Yes! Totally!…
JR: It’s as if some of these participants have unresolved behavior dating back to their own childhood, judging others rather than digging into their own personal talent.
DW: Oh yes. If we— as a person, and then as a community, and then as a nation, and then as a world— could ever move out of judgement and into acceptance, without fearing or not allowing the other person being who they are, then we would have peace and love and joy in the world. So, if we are going to have that world, then we are going to have to start teaching our children those qualities and those attributes of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-celebration. I mean, when is the last time most of us celebrated who we are? Like, “Wow, that was a great job, Dee!” or “Wow, that was an awesome write-up, Jed!” We don’t do that. We’re not taught to do that. And yet, that’s where our power comes from!
JR: How true! So, let’s bring up an example: In big cities like New York or L.A., people can sometimes get bogged down by the environment. The road to self-discovery can be tough to initiate when you’re living in a noisy, crowded urban jungle! Where would you start?
DW: Start by knowing that you’re not bogged down by the environment! You create from within yourself. Nobody can give you a perception or a belief that you don’t want to think. I’m from Kansas, and when I first came to New York, I remember writing these words to my Mom: “It’s like every day is Christmas. You walk outside, and the excitement and the bustle just takes you on your way.” Now, you see: That’s a whole different perspective than the words you stated. So, we have to really get in touch with where we are limiting ourselves. As soon as you start pointing the finger to someone else or something else— like a city, or a government, or the bully on the playground, for example— then you’re going to the place where you lose your own power over what you want to do. So, start by saying, “Yes, I’m heard! Yes, I’m listened to. Yes, I’m honored! Yes, I’m seen in this world”. Then, say, “And now, I’m going to take action.” People don’t take action because they don’t love themselves enough to think that they can do it. By not taking action, they keep creating the voice that they can’t do it!
JR: Every once in a while you’ll hear about someone who supposedly “loves being miserable”. But more accurately, it’s not that they love being miserable; it’s more likely they are comfortable being miserable, or they are afraid of taking that first step to be happy.
DW: Yes. I think that “comfortable” is a really good word. You can be comfortable all your life and never create what you want to really want to create. The first time I wrote a book, I had no idea how to write a book! But I knew I wanted to write it. And so, I found an editor who told me, “Just write. Just sit down and write everything that you want in that book. That’s the first step. And that’s what I’m telling everybody: Sit down and write down everything that you want in your life. And then, ask yourself, “Great! How can I get this now?”… not, “Oh my God, I don’t know how to do this. This is going to be so hard!” and all those things that we stop ourselves with. If I need to find somebody to help me do this, I’ll find somebody to help me do this, because I want to write this book. I can tell you that I sure as heck did not how how to create a toy! (Both laugh) This has been such a learning curve. I am more of a “creative”— but to get a product out, you have to also deal with shipping, and numbers, and promotion, and all that stuff that I’m not so great at doing— but I sure have gotten a lot better, because I wanted to get BuppaLaPaloo out there. I knew, from doing thousands upon thousands of private sessions with people, that if we can get back to loving ourselves, then everything opens up: relationships, money, health, everything! Your body responds to joy and love. I’ll tell you: If you want to make more money, then think of money as the person who you love and who you want to have a relationship with. Honor it. Love it. Have sex with it! (Both laugh) All of creation stems from the same place.
JR: Wow! I never quite thought of it that way. (Laughs)
DW: Yes. You have to love yourself enough to go, “Look. I want this, so I’m going to do everything I can to create it. Some of your creations go out into the world more than others, but the important lesson is, “Look, I did it. I saw it through. I created it. Gosh, what do I want to do next?” Then you will be young for the rest of your life! You will be healthier. You will attract people who you want to be in relationships with. All kinds of people: bosses, significant others, even your kids. It’s the only way we are going to rise from the person we think we are to the person who we really are: amazingly powerful beings!
JR: Indeed! So, Halloween has just passed. That’s always the time of year when so many of your movies are shown on TV or at film festivals.
DW: Oh, yes! I’ll be getting a few residuals after Halloween. Why not, right? Forty years in the business… I deserve it!
JR: (Laughs) You sure do… especially because so many of those movies have become part of American pop culture, largely thanks to your being in them! How do you feel when so many people still call you a “scream queen”?
DW: “Scream queen”? I wear that banner proudly! I do! I love emotional work. As an actress, I love the screaming and the crying and the running and all of the nuances that lead up to those high moments. You know, for me, Cujo was not a horror film. It was about a mother who would give her life for her kids. That’s always what it was about. The Howling, for me, is about the battle between light and dark. I am extremely proud of being a part of all them: The Frighteners, and the original The Hills Have Eyes, and all those great films. I have a couple of awesome new horror films coming out: Red Christmas and Death House. And then I do everything in between. I did a beautiful, incredible short film called Charlie’s Gift, where they age me to 80 years old. I was so blessed to get this part. It’s just the most perfect little piece I’ve ever been given. It’s certainly not in the horror vein, but again, it was a great emotional ride. I like the emotional ride! So, for me, horror films just fit the bill!
JR: There is a whole subculture of fans devoted to horror movies and thrillers. They are really dedicated! What is your relationship like with your fans today?
DW: I still get so much fan mail. The horror fans are just the best fans in the world. They follow you, and they are loyal, and they’re kind! It’s kind of an oxymoron to me! But the horror fans I have are some of the kindest people. They contact me when they have horror-themed fundraising events for children’s hospitals and homeless children and things like that. I just love it. I love the mixture of all of it. I get excited about my life, because I get to do this emotional ride with all my acting work, and then I get to do all of this beautiful work to and for children. I get to create all these beautiful things for my clients and for my listeners of my radio show every Sunday morning. I wouldn’t be moving into all of this if I didn’t love myself to follow my excitement. When I’m creating, I happy.
JR: I can tell! So, that makes me want to ask: Where do you get all your energy from?
DW: (Laughs) Excitement about who you are and what you want to do is pretty much the cure for anything. They found notes on Albert Einstein’s desk and on his bed, and he was working up until a few hours before he passed away. That’s how excited he was about what he did. So many of us, especially in this country, were taught, “Oh my God. I’m 50. Now the end starts.” It’s crazy! I just spoke at my 50-year high school reunion, and I said, “Guys: I just want to encourage all of us to go back to commencement and listen to our own words: ‘Everything is before us!’” I believe that. Everything is before me until I decide I want to leave… and then, there’s other stuff before me that I can do, because I won’t have this flippin’ body to drag around! (Laughs) So, it’s just about continuing, and expansion, and exploration of who we are, and creation. The more excited you can stay, the more energy you’re gonna have, and the younger you’ll be. I wake up every morning and say, “I’m aging younger every day!” And people actually almost say those words to me. So… What do you want? Who are you, authentically? Focus on those things. Take some steps to create it, and get a BuppaLaPaloo for your kids, because that’s going to help them too! We have a whole series of Buppa books. I just think that they are gifts that keep on giving. And that’s another thing gives me energy and excitement for my life: because I’m giving back!
JR: And I thought it was just great vitamins! (Both laugh) Thank you again for speaking with me!
You can learn more about BuppaLaPaloo and everything else Dee Wallace at her official website, www.IAmDeeWallace.com.