Ebony S. Muhammad (EM) – For the majority of the readers, you are best known by your roles on the hit television series “The Facts of Life” and “Living Single” as well as a number of other appearances. Throughout most of your life, you have been in what some would refer to as the “lime light” as a child star and into adulthood. There may be a misconception for those who grow up in such as way that you have an easy life that you grew up without any problems shared by those who are not on camera, no worries. However, that may not be entirely true. From your perspective, what has you life been like that may clear up that misconception to give a little truth to what it’s like being in the lime light?
Kim Fields (KF) – Well I think that even if you don’t look at my life there are plenty examples that prove that theory to be 95 percent incorrect. You’ve got a number of young adults and adults who may have been in the entertainment industry, for some people it’s the sports industry. However, when you’re in some sort of “lime light”, as you put it, and you working, you’ve got responsibilities and hopefully an adoring public. In these networks where people always want something from you or they have this very superficial presence of “love”, all of that fades away and you need to know how to deal with that and prep yourself for when it fades away– even if it comes back, it’s an even flow– there are times when it will fade away. More often than not, people don’t know how to deal with that, or they can deal with it only for a short period of time. It’s evident by the accidental or even actual suicide, broken lives and emotional breakdowns that some people don’t recover from, a period of obscurity. So there’s a negative element to becoming a child or young adult in the industry.
In terms of my own life, yes I’ve been blessed with some fantastic friends, a couple of whom may even be famous. I’ve been blessed with a great education, the ability to travel and see the world and things of that nature. So there are some wonderful perks. However, at the end of the day, there are some times when it is not at all a bed of roses. Those are the times you really have to prepare for.
(EM) – Yes ma’am, and I would like to ask if there were any elements of life that you may have missed out on, because of the work that you do? For example the ability to go to a regular school…
(KF) – Not at all. I do not at all feel like I missed out on my childhood. Quite the contrary. I definitely enjoyed being a child. I don’t ever feel as though I grew up too fast or that the industry was mean to a child who was working. I think the fact that I went to my regular elementary school for a period of time, I went to my regular high school…I was very involved especially in high school with every activity you could think of. I was in the Student Body Council, sports, I was the baseball manager for our baseball team and I ran for Vice President for the Study Body Council. I was in the drama department and a school play. I loved my government class, which for a part of a semester was a mock trial class. I was really involved. I always went to all of our games for soccer, football, baseball, basketball. I didn’t always hang out with the kids from “Different Strokes” or “Facts of Life” or “Silver Spoons” or any of that. I had friends who were not in the industry who really didn’t care about getting a dress for an award show; they were getting a dress for prom. So I definitely had a childhood.
I went to college, so even in my young adult years I definitely gravitated towards my “normal” life, and I think “normal” is such a trite word. Normal is whatever your reality is. For me to partake in things that had nothing to do with the entertainment industry was really important. My mom made sure that I was always safe. I didn’t hit a room with fifteen bodyguards when I was ten years old or doing things that were just so far out of the norm that it’s hard to be covered.
(EM) – It sounds as though that may have been a contributing factor to bring such balance into your life that you were still able to enjoy a normal childhood, and even throughout your adulthood to have other friends, school friends, around you. Maybe that’s what’s lacking in the lives of some of those who are famous that they may not be able to achieve that balance and to have those people around them; the ones that’ll keep them grounded. Having supportive family members, as you mentioned, such as your mother…maybe that’s something they’re missing. You talked about how some went into the deep end with substance abuse or suicide, which may very well be the lack of such balance that you have obviously and gracefully been able to obtain and keep.
(KF) – I don’t fully know what the formula is, because I know kids who have had very strong parents and they still got caught up with the wrong crowd. I know people who are not in the entertainment industry at all. The juvenile halls are not filled with little celebrities. So it’s really hard to say what the formula is. I know that some of the elements are certainly a strong support system, whether it’s a mother, a father, grandparents, auntie, uncles, cousins; whomever. It’s whoever is influential and putting into and pouring into young people. Also, your faith and having your own faith at a certain age is important. You really have to grasp that as well. You could have the greatest parents in the worlds, but if you’re a knucklehead then after a while your parents are going to be like, “Hey, I’ve done all I can”.
(EM) – So it definitely boils down to what choices you make in life.
(KF) – Very much so. Absolutely.
(EM) – You mentioned having a good support system and I’m glad that you did. Aside from family, what about your friends? Do you have girlfriends and other women that you can relate to? How important is sisterhood and building a sisterhood to a healthy support system?
(KF) – I think the sisterhood is in jeopardy right now. Universally speaking, and then within our own circle. I think we’ve turned “girls night out” into little ways that we can either act promiscuous or just a little event to do things we’re not supposed to be doing. It becomes ridiculous. So I think the sisterhood is very important, but then again going back to the choices that we make in terms of who we allow into the sisterhood. If all of your friends are your age and all going through the same things at the same time, then you don’t have anything but a bag of nuts. At some point you have to realize that you need one or two people in your camp who has a little more experience than you, who has been through a little bit more than you, and who understand and have gotten to the other side of certain things. Whether it’s the other side of marital trouble, career issues, financial struggles, or emotional conflicts. You want people around you who can pour into different areas of your life and not just be your “amen corner” or your “yes ma’am”, but also not just give you a bunch of bad advice because they don’t know any better due to them going through the same thing. “Girls night out” then becomes the “pity party”.
(EM) – Absolutely, and you struck a chord with me, because I know a few women who have those kinds of women around them…
(KF) – Oooh… Lord help them, Lord help them…
(EM) – (laughing) …and they disguise themselves and being the best advisors and they’re giving them bad advice. Unfortunately, the person for whatever reason; if it’s a low self-esteem issue or low self-concept issue, or just not have enough trust or enough faith, as you mentioned, in their god and in themselves in order to be able to use that spirit of discernment, lend an ear to that.
(KF) – You took the words right out of my mouth…discernment. We need to become better at discerning who is for us and who is against us. We need to become far better discerners and talk to God and pray about people that we let into our lives, even if it’s people who have been there for years and people who are really close to you. You need to really discern who you can share your secrets with, who you can share your dreams with, and who you can talk to about things that are very personal and what their motive is in how they may advise you.
(EM) – Exactly! Have you heard of this particular author, Terrie Williams, who wrote the book Black Pain?
(KF) – From ESSENCE (Magazine)?
(EM) – Yes ma’am. She featured Suzanne Taylor in the book.
(KF) – Yes, I’ve know Terrie ever since I was a kid. I love and adore Terrie. I can’t remember the name of her book, because she has written a few books. Terrie is one of the smartest people that I know.
(EM) – In her book, she featured a number of celebrities who go through depression, who go through stress, who go through those breakdowns that you mentioned. A lot of times we, who are on the outside looking in, may not consider a part of their lives, because we’re not privy to that part. We’re not privy to their struggles. I think that’s another issue that people set you all aside as being super heroes as if to say you all don’t have regular lives with regular issues and worries.
For those of us who are on the outside looking in and who are struggling with those kind of emotional battles, what would you like to share with women and men about the best way to overcome those battles from your own experience or from your observation with others.
(KF) – Well you know a lot of people are always looking for three steps to healing and three steps to being better; everything is a step-step-step. Now, I do think that’s it’s important to honor the process and acknowledge that there is in fact a process to healing. Whether it’s the four steps to forgiveness, or whatever the steps are acknowledge that you have to embrace all of it. You can’t pick and choose part of it that suits you, and it may not feel good at the time or at all. So how do you incorporate healing in that aspect as well?
I think that there are elements of forgiveness such as acknowledgement. I think that’s one of the steps in healing. They say the first step is acknowledging that you have a problem. So a part of that is to acknowledge that there’s hurt. Acknowledge that there are some issues there and how to overcome them. In forgiveness, love has to play a big role in it, whether it’s self love or love for the person who hurt you, and from there I think you can achieve a lot.
Stop holding onto stuff. Letting go, I think, is another part of the process. I want to say that it was T.D. Jakes who, a couple of years ago, towards the end of every year he’s always reminding people you’ve got to let stuff go. Stop taking stuff into a new year, a new month, a new decade, a new day even. There are certain things that we must let go of; letting go of certain pain and letting go of certain anger and realize that that is the part that can help heal you as well.
(EM) – Yes ma’am. I really agree deeply with you on that process, because this world has promoted instant gratification to be the order of the day.
(KF) – Right, exactly.
(EM) – They have these “Turn your life around in one day” quick fixes as if it’s just that simple.
(KF)- That’s right, absolutely.
(EM) – Realistically speaking, if it were that simple we would not be in the condition that we’re in.
(KF) – Well yes and no. It may not happen overnight, but there are those things where you can have that sense of relief and that sense of peace. You know, God is still God and being able to confide in Him first and foremost and be able to release that. There are times, just as getting a massage, where you may have had a knot in your back for months if not years, and it takes a good massage therapist to put that elbow and that forearm right up in that knot, and you take a deep breath and there is that release. Sometimes it’s that one cry that you’ve been holding onto and holding onto about that one thing. You let that cry go and you just feel like that world has lifted off of your shoulders. So sometimes it is that actual instant in terms of a certain release, but again, release is part of the process, I think.
(EM) – I think that when you have that real type of relief, as you are explaining, and facing what it is you are going through…You said that first step being acknowledgement…you have to do that with yourself first, and of course as you also stated, having those good people around you that you can have help you through that who may have already been through that and can help bring you over to the other side. So I definitely agree with you.
I thank you very much for your time and your inspiring words! May God continue to bless you in all that you do!
(KF) – Thank you!