Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Author Spotlight: Bestselling Author Stacey Covington-Lee

by Cyrus Webb

Bestselling author Stacey Covington-Lee is someone I am glad to not just call a repeat guest on Conversations LIVE but a friend as well. She has given the world some amazing books and characters that keep her readers coming back for more. 

In this profile for our anniversary issue we discuss her own journey and success. 

Stacey, it’s great to be able to have you as a part of Conversations Anniversary issue as we celebrate the past 16 years. You have had an amazing career of your own, garnering readers from around the world. What has it been like to look back at your own journey?
Cyrus, I’m honored to be a part of this Anniversary Issue. As I look back over my writing journey, I smile with a little bit of pride playing at the corners of my lips. I’m proud of the stories I’ve written and how they’ve touched people’s lives. However, I recognize that I still have a long way to go. I have more stories to tell, hopefully, more lives to touch, and a positive footprint to leave on the literary industry.

When did you realize that storytelling was something you were good at?
I thought that writing may have been an actual talent when I was about twelve years old. I penned my first short story and hoped someone would like it as much as I did. No such luck, no one else read it. Years later, my best friend, who knew of my love of writing, challenged me to write. On her dare I wrote my first novel, The Knife In My Back, and the response left me speechless. It was then that I knew I’d been blessed with a gift.

To realize your love for something is one thing. To pursue it is another. Was it an easy decision to go for it?
Not at all! When I started writing seriously, I had a full time job, a young son, and a husband. I was only able to write late night. It was exhausting. As the years rolled by, my son grew up, but I became the care taker for my mom, I’m still married, and still working part time. It’s a challenge to take on something as daunting as writing a book, especially with so little me time, but every accomplishment is worth the sacrifice.

For those that are just discovering you, Stacey, tell them about the book that began the journey for you?
The journey began with The Knife In My Back. It is a story of two young women that are thrown together by circumstance. Brook is a smart, but naive woman from an affluent family. Tamika, on the other hand, is a street wise woman from the wrong side of the tracks. Brook opens her home and heart to Tamika, only to have Tamika betray her at every turn. But when Tamika takes the one thing that means the most to Brook (hint, it’s not a man), Brook seeks revenge in a most unexpected way.   

When it came to following up your debut did you have any added pressure as to how it would be received?
I absolutely did. Remember, I was the girl that was shocked by how well received the first book was. I was petrified that the next book wouldn’t be received in the same manner. That fear caused me to put an enormous amount of pressure on myself. Thank God I’ve learned to write from the heart and let the chips fall where they may. I truly believe that readers can feel your heart in a story.

One thing that has definitely evolved over both of our careers is social media. What role has that played in your connecting with readers?
Social media has indeed been a blessing. As you know, it has allowed us to greatly expand our reach. Social media has allowed me to meet more book clubs, book bloggers, and avid readers than I ever would’ve been able to reach otherwise. 

Have you found the online experiences to be just as fulfilling as in-person events and book-signings?
While I love the online interaction, book chats, etc., there’s nothing quite like meeting avid reader face-to-face. Their enthusiasm, kindness, and appreciation for your hard work is like food for the creative soul.

Love and betrayal are two things that you write a lot about, but there is also the discovering of one’s own power. What has that been like for you to explore in your books?
During a dark time in my young life, I lived in and through a domestic violence situation. Through my writing, I’ve taken back the power that someone once tried to steal from me and now I also write about domestic violence. It’s my chance to show that the possibility for survival and happiness beyond the violence is possible. More importantly, my  book, Hate The Way He Loves Me, has touched others, given them hope, and the desire to seek the life they know they deserve. To say there is power in the pen, is a huge understatement.

A goal of every author is to have something they have written brought to life either on television or film. If you had a choice what book of yours would you like to see on the big screen?
While I think all of my book babies are deserving of the silver screen, I’d have to choose Hate The Way He Loves Me. It is the most impactful and sadly, a very relatable book for many, many people. Whether they are fighting to survive domestic violence or someone they love is, the story is ultimately one of triumph, one deserving of being seen by the masses. 

I know that outside of readers you get other authors who want to know advice for their own careers. What do you normally tell them about the importance of believing in themselves?
I always ask, If you don’t believe in you, why should anyone else? Every writer needs to know that their story is worthy of being read, their voice is worthy of being heard. The journey won’t be easy, but it will be so worth it. 

Thanks so much for the time, Stacey. How can our readers stay connected with you?
Cyrus, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this momentous occasion. Congratulations on all of your successes. I invite readers to follow me on IG @scovingtonlee, Twitter @covingtonlee, FB @ Author Stacey Covington-Lee, visit my website at, and send inquires for events to 

16 Conversations We Want to Have

After interviewing over 8,820 guests on Conversations LIVE over the past 16 years host Cyrus Webb has been able to check quite a few names off his wish list of those he wants to chat with. As he celebrates 16 years of the award-winning broadcast, Webb shares 16 guests that are on his list to have on Conversations LIVE.

  1. Oprah Winfrey
  2. Sean "Diddy" Combs
  3. Stephen King
  4. Martha Stewart
  5. Denzel Washington
  6. Viola Davis
  7. James Patterson
  8. Celine Dion
  9. Simon Cowell
  10. Jeff Perry
  11. Jada Pinkett Smith
  12. Tom Hanks
  13. Taraji P. Henson
  14. Morgan Freeman
  15. DJ Khalid
  16. Serena Williams
Who would YOU like to see as a guest on the Conversations platform? Let us know in the comment section below online.

[To You, From Me] Doing It Afraid

Change can be scary. Starting something new can be a challenge. I know this all too well. When I started hosting Conversations LIVE radio show in July 2003 I had no idea where it would go or quite honestly if it would last. Up until that point I had started making a name for myself as a poet, artist and speaker, but would my relative success follow me to the airwaves? I really didn't know. The only thing I could say for sure is that I knew it was something I had to try. If I didn't then I would always have the regret.

Now at the time of my writing this letter to you I have interviewed over 8,820 guests on the radio show, hundreds for my web-series (and now TV show) Cyrus Webb Presents and featured hundreds in the pages of Conversations Magazine since 2006. All because I took a risk and was willing to do it even though I was afraid and unsure of the outcome.

I get it. You might think it's easy for me to tell you to go for that dream, tackle that obstacle and keep going even though you get knocked down. The truth of the matter is that I CAN tell you to, because I have done it. I have experienced the highs, the lows but never EVER did I think about quitting. I knew I had been given something that was supposed to be shared, and I was and still remain committed to it.

This issue of Conversations Magazine not just profiles some of the biggest interviews of my 16 years hosting Conversations LIVE and the 13 years publishing Conversations Magazine. It represents you, the individuals who have been with me along the way and seen how year by year we have grown, evolved and stayed committed to bringing you the very best.

Enjoy this issue. Take to heart the encouragement. And no matter what comes your way stay committed to your own goals and dreams, even if at times they are scary. 

Happy reading!

Cyrus Webb

Actress/Producer Marsai Martin: Making A 'LITTLE' Difference In the World One Project At a Time

by Cyrus Webb

At the age of 14 Marsai Martin has achieved so many things that others just talk about---and she is showing no signs of slowing down. She's an award-winning actress and a history-making producer, but when we talked on Conversations LIVE the radio show it was clear she was at her core someone who loved what she does and is glad to share it with the world. And at the time she was only TEN.

Here's a part of that inspiring chat. 

It's a great project. This is my very first TV show, so it's very cool to be on it. It's awesome working with them my TV family. They're actually like my second family.

I used to love copying some of my favorites actresses like Jennifer Hudson and Angelina Jolie. I just looked at them and said I wanna like them. I did commercials and stuff for a very long time. Now I look and say wow, I actually came this far to be doing this right now.

It felt great. It was really awesome when they said Black-ish. I was really nervous, because it was a big experience for me. The hard work payed off.

My parents are wonderful. They work on my Twitter, Facebook and all that stuff. They really help me with my social media, and they're the reason how I got here. I just love them. 

I love my fans. They're awesome. It's great traveling all over the world to see all these wonderful people there supporting me.

If you have a dream you can conquer that dream. Believe in yourself. Keep doing what you're doing. Never give up on yourself.

BILLY RAY CYRUS: The Platinum-selling Dreamer that Became the Doer

by Cyrus Webb

Six year ago in 2013 I had the opportunity to interview someone I have admired and respected for some time: Platinum-selling recording artist and bestselling author Billy Ray Cyrus. Fast forward to 2019 and he continues to make headlines, this year because of the success of the single OLD TOWN ROAD with Lil' Nas X. When we talked back then, however, he was in the news for his powerful memoir called HILLBILLY HEART. Enjoy our chat about his life, music and lessons learned that he now freely shares. 

Billy Ray, thank you again for the time. When you went into writing your book HILLBILLY HEART did you know that you are going to be so open, not only about your own journey in life, but also the lessons that you've learned along the way? 
Well, you probably read in the opening pages There's a quote that says the truth will be your shield and your buckler. And I was just wanting to bring the truth and to say here's the story of my life. This is the way it happened. Each day I'm striving for purpose and asking what is my life about. Perhaps there's morals and meanings to some of the journey that I've taken and lessons to be learned. I thought if I could write it down and read it myself, maybe somewhere along the line it might find purpose in helping others, too.

I have to tell you as someone who remembers the success of your big hit ACHY, BREAKY HEART I did not know a lot of your backstory. I did not know that sports was your first thing that a lot of people got to know you for in the beginning. It was really interesting to see how this was really something that your family was able to rally around. What was it like for you to have something that you did to be not only seen as being as special, but also being able to share that with your father and grandfather.
I had different backgrounds and influences in my life to lean on. Both of them were a big part of my life as a kid. I think that helped to bring versatility into my life. There never was a middle ground for me. It was either to the left or to the right, cold or red hot. There was never anything that was right down the middle.

That being said, I think that became part of the foundation and the character of not only who and what I was as a young kid, but through my teenage years and adolescence and then it became the foundation of a lot of the stories that I write in the songs and the things that I talk about in the book. And as you turn the pages and read the chapters, you see that I'm always referencing and going back to the beginning and who I am, where I came from. All of that makes up my journey.It was just like baseball. Knowing that you just got to keep stepping up to the plate and you just got to keep swinging, regardless of what happens at the next at bat. You just keep getting back up and keep swinging.

You even talk about in the book the way that your dad had told you life isn't fair, but it really is about what you make it. And that brings us to what for me was a transformative chapter in the book, chapter either BUY A GUITAR AND START A BAND. We talk about on Conversations all the time about how our passion, where we truly are meant to do it, never really leaves us. It'll just seem as though it's right in front of us. For you, it came in those words to buy a guitar and start a band. Talk to us about that and how that changed your life. 
Well, it was definitely a crossroads for me. I thought for sure I was going to be the next Johnny Bench, the Catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. But you know, I'd always prayed that God would give me the wisdom and the vision to do the things I was supposed to do and be the person I was supposed to be. And I heard from within somewhere 'Buy a guitar and start a band. That's your purpose.'  It became not just a one-time thing. It was over and over and over every day, nonstop.

Another moment that meant a lot to you, Billy Ray, was a Neil Diamond concert that you attended growing up. I actually just want to read that passage. What you wrote in that chapter of the book was about that experience. Neil Diamond was talking to the audience there and this is what he said. 'If you just believe in the power of love, you can reach your dreams and be all that you can be if you just believe and have faith.' And then you wrote this: 'All that I was swept away into some new place I had never felt before. Not even in church. This was a church like no other, a church of music.' And then you go back to the voice and the voice told you, 'You can do it. You're going to do it. You're going to be a positive force in people's lives. God is going to use you to share his light and love.' 

And now here you are: a Platinum selling recording artist, someone that is known around the world. The amazing thing for me when I finished the book was it really seemed as though you are still that person. You're still the person who you started out being no matter where your career has taken you. What do you think has kept you grounded? 
My dad always said it's important to be aware of your current surroundings and where you are presently while looking forward to the future and where you want to go. He also told me most importantly never forget where you come from. I think that's one of the most important things in life is to never forget where you come from.

I dedicated my book to the dreamers, even though at times it might seem to be a curse to be a dreamer. But I was a dreamer. I thought if I could write a book that somehow would touch some other human beings somewhere that's in a journey that maybe they just can't quite figure it out, maybe they can learn about my mistakes. As I say in the book over and over, I made a lot more mistakes. There were also things that I did right. Every time you fail, you eliminate one way that won't work. That put you one way closer to the one way that will work. If somebody could look at my life and learn by some of the things I did right and most of all learn about some of the things I did wrong and not make those mistakes, then that's one step closer to me fulfilling my purpose.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Actor Michael Welch: Enjoying Work and Life Each and Every Day

by Cyrus Webb

It has been my pleasure to not just call actor Michael Welch a regular guest on Conversations LIVE but a friend as well. He has always been open with me on the air and off, so of course as I was preparing the anniversary issue of the magazine he had to be included.

2019 has been great year for both of us. In this interview we talked about the journey and how he got here---and appreciating all that has come along the way. 

Michael, thanks for the time. What has it been like for you to see the way that this year started off for you?
It's been really amazing, man. I've been plugging away at this for over 21 years. It's funny, at the end of last year I kind of got a feeling that this was gonna be a good year for me. I just had a sense that things were going to start picking up.

I got a good life. I'm settling in with my baby and my new life. I feel good creatively, and I've built up all these relationships. The key to all of this is persistence, more than anything else. It's been really incredible. I'm very grateful. 

What I love about your life and your journey and even what you just shared is because it is really the epitome of what I tell people all the time. It's really about putting in the work, keeping your head down, doing your best, and then things just show up for you because you kind of set that record. Do you think that is the key to why you had that feeling in 2018? 
Yeah! I think that has a lot to do with it. I remember Russell Crowe gave an interview many years ago where he basically said, listen, I don't think I'm any good at this. Which is what forces me to work so hard at it. And the interviewer was saying to him is that actually true. Russell goes well I know if I didn't put in that work, it wouldn't result in whatever it is you guys are seeing. The stories you always hear are the overnight success stories.

The reason you hear those stories is because they're the exception, not the rule. That's quite literally one in a million. So for the rest of us we got to work. There's just no other way around it.

You've been able to work with some amazing producers and directors. What does that experience mean to you, especially looking at this year and what you've been doing?
Yeah, it's it's been great. I've been lucky enough to be able to cultivate some really great relationships over the years. You know, it's funny. As a younger person, you just don't have the perspective to understand how important stuff like this is. I never really took stock in or inventory in that before. Know I know the importance of building those relationships, knowing who the casting directors are and staying in touch with producers. In retrospect I wish I had done more of that.

What would your advice be for those who are looking to you as an example?
People always ask me what's advice for young actors. I say to them leave a good feeling for people to have about you when you leave for the day. It's really all about relationships. I would say most of my jobs in the last couple years had to do with people that either had known or worked with or had seen my work or it's a connection of a connection. Always make the most of that time you have. It goes a long way.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Be Confident, Even in the Bad Days: Supermodel/Author Tess Holliday

by Cyrus Webb

Supermodel Tess Holiday first got on my radar because of her inspiring (and often time funny) messages online, but when I discovered she was from my home state of Mississippi, I became even more intrigued with her, because she was yet another example of what was possible for anyone with a dream. I didn’t know much about her backstory, however, until she released her memoir in 2017 called THE NOT SO SUBTLE ART OF BEING A FAT GIRL. In it she chronicles not just her success as a plus-size model but lets the world into her struggles and challenges growing up that are sure to inspire people around the world.

“Growing up down south I resented it for a long time,” Tess told me during our conversation together after the book’s release. “I felt like people didn’t understand me. I never told anyone I was from Mississippi. I think I was angry for all of the wrong reasons.” Now she uses where she is from as a mirror for others. “Just because you have had a bad experience doesn’t mean that where you’re from is bad,” she shares. “You can go anywhere in the world and feel bad. Traveling all over I see that I could have had it way worst. I’m really grateful for my experiences and the opportunity to look back on them.”

Discussing her no-nonsense approach to life, Tess says her honesty is part of what her fans expect from her. “My fans are from all walks of life, all over the world. Some don’t even know what I’m saying because of language barriers. They do understand that it’s hard to grow up in certain areas and be different. I know a lot of people identify with me because they feel alone. Life can be hard, but if you have people who support and love you it can also be really great.”

She also realizes that just because she is so outspoken doesn’t mean everything is perfect. “I think it’s important to tell people that just because I wrote a book about confidence doesn’t mean that I always love myself and that I don’t have bad days. I try to be as honest as possible. I know what it’s like to not feel great all the times. I’m really glad to be on the other side and to understand that it’s ok to have those days. It doesn’t make me a bad person. it makes me human.”

And now that she has graced magazines and runways around the world, what does Tess want? Well, everything! “I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do and now I find myself coming up with more dreams and seeing what’s next.” If the past is any indication then the skies certainly the limit for her.

Shine Your Light No Matter Where You Are:Writer/Producer Will Packer

 by Cyrus Webb

He has brought the world some of the most entertaining Box Office winners like STOMP THE YARD, THINK LIKE A MAN, THINK LIKE A MAN TOO, TAKERS, NO GOOD DEED,THE WEDDING RINGER, GIRL’S TRIP and 2019's LITTLE---and there's no sign that he's slowing down any time soon. Also this year he began a new partnership with OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, expanding on his brand beginning with a new television show called AMBITIONS. 

Will Packer has worked with some of the brightest stars in Hollywood, and in the process has made a name for himself as one of the "go-to" guys for quality projects that break stereotypes and records. "This is a challenging industry," he told me. "It's tough to get into, and tough to maintain a level of success once you are in. It's a lot of hard work."

The hard work has been paying off big for Packer so that critics and movie goers alike have responded favorably to his work on the screen. He says the response is a "true validation" for his dedication to the craft. "That's the kind of validation you hope for when you are working those long hours. You hope for that kind of validation, so it feels good when you get it."

When discussing how he has been able to make his mark in Hollywood but not been changed by the industry Packer says the key is that he makes time to "get out of the Hollywood bubble" and visit his home in Atlanta. By doing this he is also showing that you can work in Hollywood and not have to become 'Hollywood' in order to "make it."

Packer also makes the time to give back as much as possible, paying it forward for the next generation. "I take the opportunity to try to work with others who have shown that they have what it takes," he says. "You can't help everybody, but you can lead by example. I try to set an example of what it takes to be successful in this industry." For him the ingredients include "hard work, having good people around you and having a lot of faith."

His advice for anyone who wants to be successful in whatever they are doing? "You never know where you are going to end up. Whatever you are doing give it 110%. You can't just decide one day to start being great. You have to give 110% everyday, even if it's a job that you don't particularly love. When the opportunity arises you got to be ready for it. You have to be used to always working hard."

Producer/Speaker/Author DeVon Franklin: Make Sure Your Life Has the Right Director

by Cyrus Webb

It's been almost seven years now since I turned on the television one particular Sunday morning for Super Soul Sunday on the Oprah Winfrey Network and became engrossed in Oprah's conversation with Devon Franklin. The two were discussing his book PRODUCED BY FAITH and before the segment was over I was on ordering the book and digesting the tips.

The premise of the conversation on OWN as well as in the book was all about direction and who we chose to take our lead from. What a timely discussion for us to have today as there are so many things that try to control your life and monopolize your time. In the book Produced by Faith Franklin discusses the importance of looking at your life as a movie with our Heavenly Father being the greatest Director of all. Will we choose to listen or will we allow our egos to keep us from heeding the direction He gives? In 2017 he released his follow-up called THE HOLLYWOOD COMMANDMENTS and in 2019 came THE TRUTH ABOUT MEN.

I connected with Devon, and the discussion that followed was not just inspiring but what I knew others needed to benefit from as well.
When I asked Devon about the response to the books and the way it was connecting with the hearts and minds of the world, Devon told me this:  "It's been powerful. By being vocal about who I am and owning who God created me to be has contributed to my success in entertainment and guided me as I chart my own course in this business. I've learned and been able to share that when you put God first, everything else will fall into place."

In PRODUCED BY FAITH, we are able to see how Devon got to this place of not just being fearless in his faith but how it has been rewarded. "Part of it came out of necessity," he told me when referring to the courage he was able to display. "When something doesn't feel right it's very hard for me to do it." When it came to assignments that made him unhappy and unfulfilled he says he recognized where the feeling was coming from. "I wasn't being my true self and operating in the confidence that God had given me," he said.

What helped Devon to get on track? He did a self-examination. "Out of necessity I had to figure out how can I begin to start to like who I really am," he says. "Every time I tried to do my job as someone else it didn't work. I realized I had to do it the way I was built to do it. There is a danger when we feel like we have to emulate how someone else operates. You can't be successful if you are just emulating someone else. You have to find your own way of doing something."

How do we know that Devon's perspective of his life and his dedication to his faith have worked? Consider the facts. At the time of our last conversation together he was celebrating not just the new book but new movie projects as well.  Before that he was serving as Senior Vice President of Production for Columbia Tristar Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, making him one of the youngest individuals in that position in the industry. He oversaw the remake of Sparkle, starring the late Whitney Houston in her last on-screen role, and The Karate Kid, starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith.

Since the release of his book Franklin has been more out-front, sharing what has worked for him. "Knowing that I'm created for a purpose, in these moments when I'm coming from behind the scenes I bring with me the knowledge I have taken in," he says. When looking at the success of his entertainment career and even the attention the books have gotten he keeps things in their proper perspective.

"All these things that are happening to me are not about me," Devon says. "It's really about God's time and God's will and knowing there are people that need to be reached." By keeping his eye on the bigger picture, he has managed to keep his focus. "When you get lost you lose sight of what originally motivated you in the first place," he explained. "It's always keeping purpose number 1. It's about reaching people and being a servant. Long as I can keep that front and center it continually helps me in making decisions. All of us have to make decisions that are rooted in purpose and what God wants you to do."

One of Devon's favorite quotes is this: "To get where you want to go, you’ve first got to become the person God wants you to be.” This takes effort but it is definitely worth the work involved. He says that his hope and prayer is that as you're looking at your life as a movie and God as the director it will give perspective. This means that we won't think the bad times we are going through are all there is to life. "The danger is that we think the scene we are in is permanent when in fact it is temporary," he says. "In that permanent perception we make decisions that can alter the direction of our story. All of us have practical things we can do to move from one scene in our lives to the next. We just have to trust that God knows our story from beginning to end."

The Best Is Yet to Come: Actor Sam Humphrey

by Cyrus Webb

One thing I have learned over the past 16 years is that you never know what the next moment might hold. Actor Sam Humphrey is living proof of this.
He has had his share of challenges and difficulties but he wouldn’t give up and is winning big time. In 2017 we saw him make his debut in his first feature film which happens to be one of the biggest movies of the year: THE GREATEST SHOWMAN.

I’ve interviewed several cast members from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN now, but Sam was the first and one that is showcasing his talent and the importance of keeping a positive attitude about life no matter what.

For those who haven’t seen THE GREATEST SHOWMAN all I can say is that it’s one of the most inspiring films I have seen in some time. Sam and I discussed the film, his pursuit of his dreams and shares what he hopes you realize is possible for you.

“It’s been a really amazing and positive experience,” he told me, discussing the success of the movie. “Just seeing all the reactions from the public, it’s just been overwhelming.” I asked him when they were filming it if they knew it was something special at the time. He told me they hoped that the film’s “message of acceptance and that anything is possible” was something that the cast hoped the public would rally around. “Also the idea that you can decide your own destiny.”

It was at the age of 8 that Sam knew acting was something he wanted to do, and the person that inspired him in that direction is the person he is now starring with in this amazing film: Hugh Jackman. “He’s been the best teacher that I could possibly have,” Sam told me. “It’s a very surreal thing, to go from wanting it as a kid and only dreaming of attaining it to now being an actor that’s succeeding.” And it’s something he doesn’t take for granted.

Having had challenges growing up has helped Sam keep the right perspective about life and especially fear. “It’s sort of something that I’ve wanted to do,” he says when it comes to acting. “With the challenges I’ve gone through I told myself that if I went through that nothing could stop me from whatever I wanted to do in life.” He also says having positive mentors and a great support system have kept him from giving into fear.

His message to you: “We all get side-tracked. We get hung up on things that aren’t really important. The important thing is to get back aligned with what really matters and follow your dreams no matter what.”

Dionne Warwick: Celebrating the Power of NOW

by Cyrus Webb

She is the Grammy-winning legend that has impacted the world through music for over half a century. Ms Dionne Warwick is a legend not just because of her voice but because of the life she has lived and continue to live. She is a perfect example of someone understanding the importance of the moment and living NOW. In fact, to celebrate her 50th anniversary in making memorable music she released a celebratory album called NOW that not only pleased her loyal fans but making new ones as well. In 2019 she announced the release of her newest project called SHE'S BACK.

I have had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Warwick several times on Conversations LIVE and twice for the magazine, and each time she was nothing but gracious and appreciative. During the first conversation I was joined by Susan Violante from Venezuela , an author who told Ms. Warwick that her music helped her to learn English! What an amazing opportunity: to be able to impact someone's life in such a dramatic way.

As I spoke with Ms. Warwick for this interview she shared some with me what this more than 50 year journey has been like for her. ""It's been a wonderful ride," she says. "I'm thankful to my supporters for 50 years. I basically thought that if I stayed true to who I am and sung the kind of songs that my audience expected of me then longevity was a given."

I asked her if she believed that what people responded to with her was the soul and the love that she puts into her music. "I think it's definitely that," she replied. "The music that I've been able to sing has grown. That is the beauty of music. It has the ability to live on and on."

Though she was confident in her gift and believed it could take her anywhere, even Ms. Warwick says she never believed she would be in the business this long. "I felt that my first 10 years would be it and I would go on to teaching," she told me. "But that 10 years turned into 10 more and on and on. Now here we are."

Because she is still here, she does understand the influence that music has in our lives. "Music generally has an amazing impact on people," she says. "I could never imagine a world without music. Artists are known as the messengers. I hope the messages that I have been sending have been effective and will continue to be."

Talking about the younger generations that are discovering her music, Ms. Warwick's says this: "I certainly hope they discover some really wonderful songs that were written before they were born. I want them to enjoy the messages I have been able to bring. " Thanks to the internet, that is exactly what is happening already, and this thrills her. "It's wonderful to hear all of the comments," she says. "I am humbled by so many young people listening to my music and enjoying it. I am glad they could jump on that train and take the ride with me."

Music is not the only way people of all generations are learning about Ms. Warwick. She is still active in her charitable work and her other businesses which include writing and even a fragrance. "As a youngster my grandfather told me that we are all on this earth to be of service to each other," she told me when I asked about the work she is doing to help others. "If my talent is the way I can do that then it's very easy to do." She then added: "I think that it's a part of what we are here to do. The messages that we send are vitally important."

Ms. Warwick continues to travel the world, sharing the gift of her voice and the inspiration of her life. Every day she reminds us that each moment is precious and should be appreciated.

Leeza Gibbons: Allowing FIERCE OPTIMISM to Guide Her to Success

by Cyrus Webb

Over the years one of the greatest blessings I have received in my life is receiving the gift of today. It allows me to remember that although yesterday wasn't perfect my life is not over as long as I have breath in my body. Though it poses a great opportunity, what a waste it would be to use it repeating the mistakes and choices that we have already made.

One of the books that I read in 2013 that really brought this point home was TAKE 2 by pop-culture icon Leeza Gibbons. Known for her contagious optimism and skills as a media personality, the book takes you into the makings of the woman she is today and allows the reader to see how where they are right now doesn't have to determine where they go. Since then she has gone on to be a winner of NBC's Celebrity Apprentice and written another powerful book called FIERCE OPTIMISM.

It was my pleasure to have a conversation with Leeza twice on Conversations LIVE the radio show, each time it was inspiring for me and our listeners. "I think in life we get exactly what we are willing to put up with," she told me. "If you don't respect yourself, then you can't expect anyone else to honor who you want to be in the world. We teach people how to treat us. You have to value who you are."

To this point she says in Take 2, "Surviving and even thriving through change depends on your ability to search out the good and work with what you have. How well you do that depends on how you view shifts in your life."

This reminds us that anything worth having is going to require some work on our part. "Whether you are trying to recreate your life or invent a new product you have to drop the dread and you have to banish the blame," says Leeza. In the book she refers to it as a form of rebooting. "That's the biggest option we have," she told me. "It comes down to thinking." She gave examples of individuals who were all great at their professions. "The one thing they all have in common is they know how to think. When you change the way you think everything else in your life will adapt."

What Leeza shared reminded me of what she wrote in Take 2 in the chapter Ask Yourself: Are You Worth It? The section was called "Who Do You Think You Are?, and she began it with this profound statement: "How we see ourselves is exactly who we'll become." This has a great deal to do with the story we tell ourselves about ourselves.

"You do have to have a real sense of who you are and a real foundation," Leeza said to me. "You have to run your own race and don't worry about what others are doing." She then shared something that I hadn't thought about before, having a mission statement for your life. "Take some time to really write down what you want and who you are," she urged. "We do it in business, and we should do the same for ourselves." Our mission statement should include how you interact with the world and how you want the world to see you. By doing this Leeza says we will then know who you are and where your lines in the sand are."

It's obvious that someone like Leeza is setting an example for men and women alike when it comes to the course she is on. I asked her what it was like to know that she was an inspiration to others. "I think that when we are of service then we really do feel productive and proud," she answered. It was then that she shared that she went back and forth about writing Take 2 and if she really had something to say that others would be able to glean from. "I finally got to the place where I said how I am received is not my work. My work is to embrace it and put it out there." It is that realization that has not just made the book a reality but put its message out in the world for others to take in.

Writing Take 2 wasn't about saying everything for her was perfect. It was more about showing a path and focusing on a way to a better way of looking at life. "Where we put our intention and attention is where things go," Leeza says. "Where focus goes energy flows." This is important to keep in mind even when we make mistakes. "If you never fail then you're not taking enough risks in your life. All successes are built on failures." Leeza says we cheat ourselves by not starting anything simply because of the fear of failure. For her it is better to try and fail and then build on that failure moving forward.

A great deal of what has helped Leeza in moving forward is the realization that she is not the source of all the answers. In the chapter Let Your Spirit Soar she discusses prayer and it's role in her life. "Anytime I need to feel connection and to recognize that there a greater power at play in my life, I pray. Often I ask for strength and wisdom and to have an open mind to recognize God's messages to me. I think so often we pray for something, but we don't like the response, so we deny it. I pray that I will accept the reply and recognize that no is an answer, too."

"Perspective is a beautiful thing," Leeza said as we wrapped up our time together. "It's about learning to be in gracious acceptance. Real strength comes from knowing your limits.  Be quiet and allow answers to come in." This definitely requires a bit of faith on our part. "We can only know so much," she says. "People who are happy don't see the top of the staircase, but they keep climbing anyway."

As Leeza relays in the book "This is your moment... Don't wait for some far-off time when the alarm will ring and you'll suddenly know to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight." All of us can begin walking towards that spotlight right now. It all begins with the choice to do so.

In 2015 as the decision for Celebrity Apprentice winner came down between Geraldo Rivera and Leeza, Geraldo said that Leeza played it safe. Her response? She said she played it smart. One of the surprising moments of the finale was when Donald Trump admitted that he never thought Leeza would make it to the end. It was then that she delivered one of the best lines of the night: 'Never underestimate a woman with passion.' Before announcing her as the winner, even Trump had to acknowledge that Leeza had led with "kindness," proving once again that bringing the best of yourself is still the best way to live. It is lessons like this that she shares in the new book FIERCE OPTIMISM.

You can stay in touch with Leeza at her website and through social media at and

Actress Jeryl Prescott: Enjoying the 'Small Miracle' of Living Out Her Dreams

by Cyrus Webb

Over the past 3 years I have had a chance to share conversations with Jeryl Prescott, an actress that became known to me through The Walking Dead and has gone on to make a name for herself in projects like BET's Rebel, Scandal and even her own project called STAND DOWN SOLDIER.

I had a chance to sit down with Jeryl in person twice and discuss what it's been like for her to slip into the skin of various characters, sharing some amazing stories along the way and producing her own content. "Every time I get a job as an actress I consider it a small miracle," she told me. Her desire to act came from her roots in the church.  "The church is where I learned to play the piano and find the confidence to speak in front of a crowd and take a bigger leadership role," she says. "That gave me the confidence and the interest in being on stage and having something to say. That's how I began to see myself as an actress."

She went to college and did theater, but even though she saw herself doing more, Jeryl experienced what so many do when it comes to pursuing their goals and dreams: the individuals who told her what wasn't going to be possible for her.  "Nonetheless I've been able to find a variety of roles to play," she says. "It's suggestive of the need for diversity and a appreciation of diversity." Realizing the conversations taking place about the roles of women---and especially women of color---Jeryl added. "It's suggestive of we are everything. We have always met challenges and create spaces for ourselves. Every profession will offer certain challenges. You have to go into it with a positive attitude and the belief that God put you there for something and move forward."

Talking about The Birth of a Nation, Jeryl says "It is a powerful project, and I am so grateful to Nate Parker. Nate Parker is an amazingly generous and bold director/producer/writer. I have an amazing amount of anticipation about the journey of this film."

Jeryl's journey continues with not just exciting projects but the relationships she is forging along the way. Whether discussing the talented cast of The Birth of a Nation or The Walking Dead, she says "There's an immortality that comes with all acting. The fans hold on to you and never let you go. The friendships that I developed have been real." Speaking of The Walking Dead in particular she says this: "The show will never die, because it constantly asks us to search inside of ourselves. It's a constant universal questioning."

During our last conversation on Conversations LIVE the radio show Jeryl was preparing for the release of STAND DOWN SOLDIER, a project that she produced that was on it's way to television. "You continue to pray, create, make connections and speak it into reality as much as you can. It's wonderful when you see things actually materialized," she told me when referring to what had happened in 2017.

As she prepares for what's next, Jeryl continues to enjoy the 'small miracle' that is her career and invites you to stay connected with her on Twitter and Instagram at /therealjeryl.

Khloe Kardashian: Proving that Success in Life Is the Best Revenge

by Cyrus Webb

Reflecting on the 16 years of Conversations LIVE the radio show and the 13 years of Conversations Magazine I knew I had to reshare this profile of Khloe Kardashian* from 2017.

At the time she was celebrating the debut of her own show REVENGE BODY WITH KHLOE KARDASHIAN on E! and her partnership with Protein World, helping to encourage and motivate others towards their own personal greatness.

For those around the world looking to make 2017 the year of their best self, Khloe and Protein World were introducing their 30 Day Challenge. "My biggest piece of advice is to remind ourselves that we all have to start somewhere," says Khloe. "I also love that someone once told me you can't get it all in one day." That is a reminder that all of us have to remember as we are setting our goals for the year.

As she continues to set and pursue her own goals, Khloe offers some tips to everyone about what they should do when it comes to themselves and what they want to achieve.

 "Anything worth having is worth fighting for," she says. "When you hurt the most, when your mind is drained, these are the moments when you must persevere. Only then will you transform mind, body and soul. What brings me the greatest satisfaction is setting out a goal and actually achieving it. I was always told that I could never be a certain size or that I could never look a certain way and that really got to me." She has learned the value of not comparing herself to anyone else but being the best that she can possibly be.

*     Photos of Khloe Kardashian shot by Mike Rosenthal and provided by Nike Communications.

Remembering Bestselling Author Jackie Collins

by Cyrus Webb

20 years.

Before 2015 that is how long it had been before I walked the streets of New York. I was 19 years old the last time I was there, and though my intentions were always to come back for a visit or to catch a show, it never happened. That is until June 2015.

So what brought me back to the Big City all the way from Mississippi? Two words: Jackie Collins.

I have been a fan of her books for over 20 years, and have had the honor of interviewing her now 4 times on my radio show Conversations LIVE as well as feature her in the pages of Conversations Magazine. We have chatted, laughed together and stayed connected---but never met. So when I was offered the opportunity to not just discuss her new book THE SANTANGELOS with her over lunch but have some one-on-one time, there was NO WAY I could resist.

On Wednesday, June 17, 2015---just one day after her new book released---I found myself at the Hotel Plaza Athenee in New York at an event hosted by Socially Speaking and Get Red PR with other fans/bloggers/journalists sitting at the table with the international bestselling author. With over 500 million copies of her books sold, the force that is international bestselling author Jackie Collins became synonymous with engaging stories, sizzling story lines and characters that are talked about long after readers finish her books. 

After an entertaining and engaging conversation about her newest book THE SANTANGELOS she allowed me a few moment to tape a segment for my television show and web-series Cyrus Webb Presents about her career. She was everything you would have hoped she would be: gracious, confident and all too ready to discuss her new book and to listen to us as well.

It was intriguing to hear her discuss the characters she has created, the parallels to pop culture today and even elaborate on her love of creating strong female voices in her books. Unfortunately months after I met one of my favorite storytellers she passed away on September 19, 2015 at the age of 77 of breast cancer. 

As I celebrate 16 years of Conversations Magazine I also honor the legacy and the impact that Jackie Collins had on readers and anyone with a dream. Ever gracious and open about her literary journey, during our conversations she shared not just her own experiences but gave some great advice for those who are looking for the key to living life with purpose and passion. 

"I have the greatest fans, the greatest readers. I'm on Twitter (@JackieJCollins), and they talk with me about the characters and the books they love. It has been great interacting with them. 
"I think I write for everybody. All ages, all colors...There's something for everyone in all of my books. I am a true storyteller. That was the gift I was given, to tell stories. My main thrust has always been to write strong women, strong positive women. I think my readers love the women I create. Success (for me) is hearing back from the fans, hearing back from people who love my characters."

"I think I realized it when I was a kid. I started writing in school and selling my stories to my school mates. I knew then I had a gift of making up a story. I read so much then, spent my leisure time reading books.

"I was expelled from school at 15. At that point you're kind of in limbo, wondering what you're going to do with your life. I wanted to be a writer. My parents said you can't be a writer, you need to go to college. You need to get degrees. When someone says to me you can't do something that's when I say to myself 'Oh yes I can.' I decided to follow the dream, and the dream was to write books. Turns out, people don’t buy books because you went to college. I'm really proud of what I've accomplished."

"I write what I want to write. I don't plan my books.  I sit down with the characters and they take me on this wild trip." (In her book The Power Trip one of the things she addresses is how issues of race still rear their head regardless of how much a person achieves.) "My brother is married to a beautiful black woman," she told me. "I understand racial tensions that can take place. If I can write about it and change people's minds I am very happy to do that.")

Her decision to "self-publish" some of her most popular books as kindle reads made news around the world, birthing over 120,000 stories about the decision. When asked about it, this is what Jackie shared about the move and the response from her fans. "All my books are on e-books in other countries, but a lot were not in America. I decided to do it myself, starting with B*tch, The Love Killers and Chances. I have gotten amazing reactions from my fans. They love it, and for me the experience has been very freeing."

During our conversation together on Conversations LIVE I shared with Jackie that though I know people like the immediacy of e-books, I still love the physical copies. She mirrored my sentiment. "I want to have a book in my hand," she told me. "I have a Kindle and iPad, but I don't like reading that way. It is the new thing. I think real book lovers will still buy books, but some like the convenience of having them on Kindle which is why I am making them available to them."

"I have a particular message for women. Whether it's making cupcakes, writing books, singing or writing songs, you have got to have something for yourself, something that's yours. Everybody's got to have a passion in life. that's what makes life so exciting."

Jackie Collins will forever remain one of those authors whose work withstands the test of time. Why? Because everything she wrote came from the heart.

Haven't enjoyed the world that is Jackie Collins? Visit her website to see a full listing of her titles including those that have been released as ebooks.