Veronica DeLaurentiis is the daughter of recently deceased producer Dino DeLaurentiis who did movies like “King Kong”, “Serpico”, “The Silence of Lambs”, “Blue Velvet” and “Conan the Destroyer”. Her mother was Silvana Mangano, a famous actress in Italy in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. When she was little, she sat on the lap of Sophia Loren and lived a life of luxury and fame. As a young woman, Warren Beatty wooed her.
However, not all is as perfect as the media claims in the life of the rich and famous. Behind closed doors, they have to deal with traumas and difficulties just like everyone else. Veronica opened that closed door of secrecy and went on to become a writer and mentor for women in Italy. She divides her time between her home in Rome and her house in Beverly Hills, where I had the opportunity to speak with her.
We are talking about her life, how she overcame adversity, and her latest book: “Riprenditi la tua vita — Le otto chiavi di Veronica”, in English: “Claim Your Life with Veronica’s Eight Keys”.
Dana Heidner-Krueger: Why do you think women have to “claim” their lives?
Veronica DeLaurentiis: In my own life, I dreamed of having certain things, but I never had the courage to pursue them. I would not exclude men, but I am a woman, so I can relate to women even better. I think we really have to stand up to ourselves and look at what we want. And to do that, we need the courage to follow our truth, follow our dreams. I was always very afraid when I was very young. And then I discovered courage. This happens to many women: they discover in a moment of need or crisis that they are much stronger and courageous than they believe they are.
DHK: You have written two books which are bestsellers in Italy. The latest one has the title “Riprenditi la tua vita — Le otto chiavi di Veronica”, in English: “Claim Your Life with Veronica’s Eight Keys”. Tell me three “keys” out of the eight that you consider most important.
Veronica DeLaurentiis: The first one is Truth. The other ones are Purpose and Love.
In my life, I had to look at a very difficult truth, which was the fact that I was raped when I was 19. It took me 20 years to come to terms with it–but I did. So, this taught me: if you don’t look at the truth and you try to forget and bury the difficult things that you are ashamed of, it becomes like a cancer that slowly kills you. And you don’t even realize this. The words that you speak aloud make you free, make you realize that it’s not that terrible, that you are not alone.
DHK: And you really spoke it out loud: in your first book, which was your auto-biography, you write about the fact that you were raped and disclose your catastrophic first marriage in which you and some of your children were abused and molested by your first husband. Before we continue with the other two keys, tell me, what made you go public?
Veronica DeLaurentiis: There were many reasons, first of all, that as a child, I never had a voice. When I wrote my story, I felt I needed to express what happened. But really what I wanted was: to use my difficult experience, my tragedy, and to transform it. By sharing the message und using my experience and my famous family name, I was able to help so many women. And this became the purpose of my life.
DHK: In the USA, everybody loves the Comeback Kid, the one who prevails over the most difficult circumstances–after all, this confirms America as the Land of Opportunities. In Europe, it seems to be different. The media especially, sometimes likes to dig up dirt and rather concentrate on negative things.
Veronica DeLaurentiis: Yes, but actually, not in my case. I think everybody can see when you are coming from a place of truth and love. There was not one journalist in Italy who wrote something negative about me or falsified my story. I think, there is a need in Europe for a more spiritual approach to life. A change of the negative mentality, the constant complaining that is so “Italy”.
DHK: Let’s go back to the Eight Keys–in the chapter about Truth in your book you wrote a sentence about forgiving that I found very interesting: “I forgive you for not being the way I wanted you to be.”
Veronica DeLaurentiis: Yes, and this is not only about others, it is also about yourself. “I forgive you that you are not the woman I wanted you to be–and accept the fact that you are who you are. Maybe you want to be there, but you are here, and you have to accept it. You are going to get there. And forgiving other people… I had a really hard time forgiving my rapist and my ex husband. But forgiving is not condoning their behavior, it is letting go the anger we keep inside. Because that anger will really destroy you and keep you prisoner of whatever happened.
DHK: Tell me more about your technique that you describe in your book to practice real forgiveness.
Veronica DeLaurentiis: The first is really to forgive yourself–and for this, I pictured myself as a little girl. When a little 2 year old girl did something wrong, would you not forgive her? Of course you would! And the people who hurt you, you can picture the same way.
DHK: As little boys and girls?
Veronica DeLaurentiis: As little boys and girls who went through whatever they went through; and I am not condoning their behavior because they were adults when they did something bad –but–they did something bad because they went through pain themselves and were not able to cope. They didn’t ask for help, they didn’t look at the truth, they didn’t do what you need to do to heal, and they acted out.
DHK: What I think is really tough, though, is when you encounter people who consciously know they are messed up and should be getting help, but still make people around them suffer because they just don’t want to change.
Veronica DeLaurentiis: There is evil in this world. There are a lot of people who are evil. I am not saying that forgiveness is like saying: “You poor one, you should not have done that, but I forgive and love you anyway.” It is letting go, this is all it is.
DHK: And our world has polarities, this is how it is built.
Veronica DeLaurentiis: Yes, and it happens everyday that we encounter a person who gives us reason to say “Why did
he or she do that? Why is he so mean?” And the best thing is really to say “Okay, you know what-it’s your choice when you behave like that. I am going to picture you in a pink heart, sending you some love and wishing you the best. But I am not going to be friends with you. And with this, you let it out of your system. It’s all about energy.
DHK: Now on to the second key you mentioned earlier, something that probably concerns quite a lot of people: Purpose. Originally, you wanted to be actress, but you didn’t pursue it further back in the days.
There are many people who just hold a job to pay their rent, but they really don’t like it. What is your advice for them.
Veronica DeLaurentiis: Go for your dreams. Follow that intuition. And I did. It took me a long time to find that courage. First, I was afraid of my mom. Then, I was afraid that I couldn’t do it. But those are the dreams we have that are burning inside, and you must follow them. I didn’t become a famous actress, but the training I received when I decided to go for it helped me in the hundreds of interviews I did in Italy when my books came out. And I still pursue acting. My passion for acting is still alive. But I am also pursuing my new purpose of writing.
So, go ahead, if you are not happy, if you are not satisfied, if you are not full of energy and enthusiasm for this gift of life that we have. Do what you have to do.
DHK: I agree. Even if this means that you have to work 60-70 hours a week. Many people in LA do this–they hold a full time job and built their own business in the time they are off. I myself know what it means to work for my goals. But it is interesting, because you don’t really feel exhausted. It gives you energy.
Veronica DeLaurentiis: Yes. Plan it. Just pursue whatever feels right to you, because we all have a special gift. And if you are confused and are not sure what to do, remember what you used to enjoy as a kid. That’s how I remembered. I had locked that door so tight, that I could not even express my dreams, or talk about them.
DHK: What I see as a red threat throughout your book is really, that the basis for everything is self-love. Which brings us to your last key out of your book about your eight keys: Love.
Veronica DeLaurentiis: Yes, Love is the most important thing. And it is not easy, because we learn not to love ourselves. We learn from a really early age to look for love outside.
From things, from people…
Love is supportive, understanding, generous and giving, never possessive but trusting and kind. I had always conceived love as care-taking: pleasing, soothing, making everyone happy–except myself. Often, even at my own expense.
There is one exercise that helped me a lot: Looking in the mirror and speaking out “Veronica, I love you.” At first, it gives you a strange feeling. Then, you become sad, because you realize, that you don’t really love yourself, that you are not your own best friend. You have to learn to appreciate yourself, and make it real.
DHK: Your daughter Giada is a very famous cook in the U.S. and has her own TV show. What is her opinion about what you do?
Veronica DeLaurentiis: My kids always tell me that I inspire them. I think a mother’s best way to teach is by example, once they are grown up. You have to learn to not tell them what to do, but show them by example. They see that a woman who went through difficult times–partially with themselves–can change her life, and is now teaching women through her experience.
DMK: What is your next project?
Veronica DeLaurentiis: I am writing about women I met who inspired me. They are women who transformed whatever happened to them into a message of love.
One of them is a German woman who is blind, who was able to do amazing things and start a school for the blind in Tibet. And now, she is very happy.
How does it happen that some women, when they are confronted with a very difficult situation, instead of giving up, they get even more fire in them to overcome it and help others? After all my research I think it is because we all have a purpose. And women who do this have that particular purpose. There are a lot of stories from women who can inspire other women to be who they really are.
Veronica’s books are at this point in time only available in Italian language.