Mariel Hemingway is, as most people know, the granddaughter of the famous writer Ernest Hemingway. She never met her grandfather — a few months before she was born, he had already taken his life. As a child, she was the caretaker of her cancer-stricken mother. One of her two sisters suffered from a mental condition. Only a teenager, worldwide success came to her: at 16 she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in “Manhattan”.
When she became a young women, she used to diet excessively, suffered from eating disorders, and was looking to find answers in her life.
In her exploration of overcoming the most difficult circumstances, she is most definitely a Hemingway.
I spoke with her about her life in Hollywood.
DANA HEIDNER: You have already lived for quite a while in Los Angeles and had huge success as an actress – what is your opinion about the acting industry?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: There is tremendous creativity here, and tremendous corruption and bizarreness going on. When it all started for me, I was very young, but I knew it wouldn’t be the place where I would find my true self. So, even though I have been “in the business”, my passion has been health and wellness and finding balance, doing yoga — really finding out who I am and having more self-awareness. And now that I am in my forties, I am starting to understand a little bit more about myself.
DANA HEIDNER: tell me A BIT more about your journey from a Hollywood actress to a purveyor of a healthy, holistic and spiritual lifestyle.
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: It started early. When I was a child, the outdoors was my savior because my home life was pretty dysfunctional. There was a lot of addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, cancer, heart disease — there was a lot of crazy stuff going on in the house. Not that this is very much different from everyone else — we all come from various dysfunctions, but my savior was really getting outdoors and that has led me to my passion, which is food, and being outside and moving and drinking good water. I think it is the simple things we do in life that are our most profound and powerful teachers, so it is about reconnecting ourselves through what we do daily.
I have come to understand that all the crazy diets, like being macrobiotic, being vegan, all these different ways of eating, because I was “in the business”…there is not only one way of eating, one spiritual path, and one way of believing in something bigger than ourselves. It is very personal to each individual, so what works for me is not going to work for you, but what I can do is to give people tools so they can find their own right course.
DANA HEIDNER: What, for instance is it that you are suggesting?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: One of the things is to actually connect to the food you are eating. If you need to change something for yourself, change your breakfast, focus on that. Make it a really quality meal and see how you feel. Then begin being conscious of your breath, be conscious of how you wake up in the morning, perhaps see a sunrise. Breathing, good food, drinking good water, taking silence during your day and some form of movement (and it doesn’t have to be for a long time) that is conscious and aware, and thinking of your breath while you are doing it. These are five things that can absolutely transform your life and they don’t take that much time.
DANA HEIDNER: Is there one realization that guides you throughout your life?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: Well, you know, I have realized that I am my best teacher, my best nutritionist, my best guru — I am my best guide — when I get quiet.
DANA HEIDNER: In “Healthy Living from the Inside Out” you said you tried many things in your search to become saner, stronger, healthier and happier, yet the best lessons in life have come from something that is completely free: being silent. Tell me more about the Quiet Zone. How do you get there?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: You just make it a point to get there in your life. You just make it a decision. It’s about making that a priority — and you don’t have to do it for long. You begin with 2 or 5 minutes and you work it up to 20 min, half an hour — but the important thing is: it is so powerful. Just saying: ‘I give myself three segments of time, maybe 2 minutes each, where I turn my computer off, close my eyes and listen to my breath. That’s all you have to do. People say ‘ah, I can’t be silent because of my thoughts’ — sure you can! They don’t have to take you away. And if it is that important, you will surely remember it in five minutes.
You realize: ‘I don’t have to do anything to be me.’ You actually don’t feel yourself unless you are quiet.
You also have written that you have come to the conclusion that, in order to lead a satisfied life, it is vital to surround yourself with people who care for you. That seems to be something that a lot of stars in Hollywood have not really realized yet.
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: When you surround yourself with people who you love and who love you — you feel your best. The key is about finding that self-acceptance and realizing that this voice in the back of your head is really something that you do need to acknowledge, but also to realize that it is not your true voice. That’s the voice of habit, that’s the voice of environmental influence, that’s the voice that really doesn’t serve who you are at your best. You need to acknowledge that, because I think playing the game of pretending to have positive thoughts is also not helpful. It is about acknowledging that and then, you want to lessen the volume of that voice and bring up the volume of the loving, kind voice that isn’t judging you inside.
DANA HEIDNER … and of course, having people around you that are like that also enhances this.
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: Exactly.
DANA HEIDNER: Would you say you have really found your confidence as a woman by now?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: I have — I mean there are moments where you fall of your center, but I have.
My feeling is — to find your feminine side, you have to look into your past. You know, I never was really trained to be feminine: my mother was too sick, I was her primary caregiver when I was a child, so I didn’t really have the opportunity to learn what it is like to be feminine because she didn’t have the time to teach me. My sisters were out of the house by then and it was almost like being raised as an only child who is kind of trying to be an adult. And then I was “in the business” where you are only as good as your last movie or only good if you are skinny or if you look this way or that way.
Every woman has this kind of pressure on them, especially nowadays because of the media, so finding ones true femininity becomes a journey about finding yourself and finding out what is true for you.
DANA HEIDNER: What do you think about roles women play in society — have they changed since you were a young woman?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: In the Eighties, it was all about women’s liberation, we were trying to gain our power through being masculine. I think now what is happening is: there is this really strong force of feminine nature. Being a woman is powerful, being different from a man is really our strength and knowing that that is okay and giving ourselves permission to come from emotion, from femininity, from softness is our power and our strength. It’s not better, it’s just different.
DANA HEIDNER: What is the most precious advice you have for your daughters?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: They are 20 and 21, they both live in NYC and I live in L.A., so my influence is less big. You know, they have their issues that are very important to them and it can become very dramatic — and I just know that what was important yesterday is not going to be important tomorrow [laughs]. Hopefully, it was your mirroring and influence in childhood that can come about in their lives eventually. It is about constantly reminding them to be conscious and aware of how they are perceived in the world and how they feel about themselves in the world. Tuning into who they are inside is really important and I try to remind them about that.
They have their own journey to go on, I can’t change them or make them do things a certain way. I don’t think it’s easy in this society being a young women (probably not a young man either) because of the constant pressure to be like somebody. I love them to pieces and yet they are on their own journey and that’s beautiful, I have to embrace that — I had my own stuff to go through and we really only learn by our own experience. One is a top model in NY and Europe, the other one is becoming a fashion designer.
DANA HEIDNER: What future projects are you currently working on?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: I am writing a book. It’s about becoming younger and healthier and having more fun in your life. I am also producing a movie based on a book from my grandfather; it is called “A Moveable Feast” — I am doing all kinds of things. My health and wellness business is huge — my company “Mariel’s Kitchen” has just come out with a cookie named “Blisscuit” — the recipe for it is in my cook book; it is a gluten free, sugar free cookie that is amazing.
DANA HEIDNER: Who knows, maybe it will make it into stores in German speaking countries?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: That would be fantastic!