Clarissa Burt You Are Only As Strong As You Are Fragile
Clarissa Burt You Are Only As Strong As You Are Fragile
Clarisa Burt has had quite an impressive career in modeling, film, and television. She even won celebrity survivor in Italy. Life has not always been perfect for her. She faced bricks in her childhood and later on in her career. Early on in her life, she faced one of her most significant bricks as a child growing up in an abusive household with an alcoholic father. When she listened to the whispers and helped her mother, her sister and herself escape that house. She later would listen to the whispers of people telling her she should be a model to start her modeling career, which took off from there. She reminds us not to regret anything we go through in life because it helped to shape the person we are today. That we are only as strong as we are fragile. Life will knock you down, but always get back up and always strive for personal growth.
Welcome to whispers and bricks. My name is Ari Schonbrun I’m your host. Today I have as my guest Clarissa Burt’s Larissa at the age of 18 signed with a Willamina modeling agency in Manhattan. Soon after that she moved to Milan and he began appearing on hundreds of magazine covers such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and cosmopolitan, known as one of the top 30 runway girls in the world in the 80s CLARISSA Burt, the most important designer catwalks in Milan, Rome, Paris, New York and Japan. Soon after, she would be called by global cosmetic houses such as Revlon, Dr. Helena Rubinstein, and was chosen as the face for Orlan cosmetics for 10 years. Lewis has performed in over 20 movies and television producer credits in 1999. Starring hundreds of television shows Clarissa quickly became a household name and Italy. Clarissa Burt media group founded in Italy began with productions that included the nationally broadcast three hour live broadcast of the Miss Universe pageant, the World Sports Awards, and behind the scenes with the Miss, all garnering her various coveted Media Awards internationally, leading authority on beauty, image and self esteem. Good morning, Italy called upon Clarissa to host the popular beauty segment, Clarissa suggests Lewis has been the beauty editor for such international publications as the LA fashion magazine, fashion faces and runway. You can find her articles also in the Huffington Post supermodels Unlimited, Bella petite. And discover Phoenix. Janine, just a few. Please help me welcome Clarissa Burt.
Clarissa: you read more about me than I know about. Wow, you really did your homework there. Wow.
Ari: Wow, welcome to the show. Thank you so much coming on. How are you?
Clarissa: I’m doing really well today. Thank you. I’m doing really well. Beautiful day here in sunny Phoenix. So we love the weather here. And yeah, we get to run around in shorts and T shirts most of the time. And from here on out, things are gonna start to get very, very warm.
Ari: Okay. Well, as you know, the name of this podcast is whispers and bricks, the whispers are those voices telling us what the good thing and the right thing to do is and they represent the good life. The bricks represent the bad things that we go through in life. And reality is we all get hit with a brick at some point in time or another in our lives, some bigger bricks, some smaller bricks, some more, some less. But we know that life is not a straight line, there are ups and downs, there are bumps in the road. Now, you had several major bricks thrown at you during your life. The first one, let’s start with the first one growing up in a violent home. Yeah, tell us about that.
Clarissa: Could have been there was there was you know, I would say that that was probably for me, at least coming out of that kind of environment was was you know, rather difficult. There was drinking in the household, there was violence in a sense that, you know, there was never, you know, a calm day, you never knew exactly what was going to be happening depending on how much alcohol was consumed. And so I you know, I speak about my father, certainly not my mother. But it was it was, you know, difficult place to be at times, it was very, you know, difficult at 16. They, you know, I have, you know, some stomach issues, if you will, and so, they wanted to do upper and lower GI eyes on me to see if I had ulcers or not, I mean, that’s kind of a heavy deal for a 16 year old. You know, I didn’t we didn’t opt to do that. But you know, they gave me instead stomach relaxers, which I never took because I just I’m not I don’t like taking any like to get a Tylenol, let alone you know, something stronger. So, you know, truly so I just, you know, I was storm there. And I realized that, you know, I was pretty much going to be on my own as far as, you know, following the rules until I could until I could get out of that house. And and sort of you learn how to navigate if you will, you know the storm and stay out of its way and try to calm things down. And so, yeah, that was rather you know, I think, if you will, I think that there, I really truly came out of the house with PTSD. And I say that because I had every morning of my life I woke up with my heart in my chest. And that means I mean, just a very heavy anxiety and so The heavy anxiety kind of subsided around 40 years old or so when I knew that, you know, danger Will Robinson wasn’t really you know, there anymore. And that I could actually take a deep breath and ease into life. But it was rather it was really rather difficult because you never knew what you were going to get there was quite a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of archetype, if you will. And so, you know, sometimes it was all fun and games and parties and love. And then the next day, no tiny turned around, you know, it was the devil incarnate. So it was rather a difficult place to, to be. But you know, again, as we say already, and I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve heard that, you know, we only are who we are today, you know, in lieu of what we learned along the way. And I like to say that I am the person that I am today I write the books that I write today, I treat people today, the way I treat them because of what I learned early on in life. Well, meaning to be the complete opposite.
Ari: Right, right. Now, I guess things came to a head when you turned 18, where you weren’t like, you know, we’ve had enough and you left that violent home together with your mom. two siblings, I think, is that correct?
Clarissa: Yeah. With one certainly the one sibling stay behind. Yes. Right.
Ari: And you and you got out. Tell us, you know, how did you do that? What was the story there? Yeah, I
Clarissa: just graduated high school. And I, you know, I walked into my mother, I was going to be leaving college and a couple of weeks. This is all back in New Jersey, by the way. And so I you know, I just said, Mom, look, you know, he’s come home drunk again. You know, he’s, he’s threatening, he’s violent. And, you know, he’s waiting for me to leave. So that, you know, there’s that we don’t, there’s no buffer between he and you. And so she said, Yes, I know. And I said, you know, I think we’ve had enough. So we waited for my father to fall asleep and got into a car and left that morning, early the next morning, which was a Sunday morning, I think it was the 14th of August of 1977. We were out of the driveway, we my mother put the car in neutral, and I pushed the car into out of the driveway, so that he wouldn’t hear us starting the car, and we left and never went back. It wasn’t easy for a couple of, you know, a couple of years. I mean, we just had to, we lived in different places. And in the beginning, we were at different hotels that we wouldn’t be found. And, you know, we were scared. We were on the run. But it all worked out in the end. And you know, Mom was working always had worked. So she bought herself up bought us a little place out down in Hillsborough in New Jersey. And from there, you know, that’s when I started to say I really, you know, I want to make sure everything’s okay here. So I’m gonna live here, but I started to go back and forth from New York City, which is where when the Willamina part came in,
Ari: right, so tell us that’s the next stage of your life. I guess life was getting a little bit better. You are 18 years old. And you got to Willamina in some way, shape or form. How did you do that?
Clarissa: Well, it’s funny because I started working as an as the administrative assistant to the executive vice president of Adolfo menswear down in the garment district on 23rd Street. And, you know, in those years, Nancy Reagan was being dressed by Adolfo a lot of those Chanel looking suits were Adolfo who was a very big designer back in the day. So Adolfo menswear, it was a big deal. Let me tell you, it was a really cool place to be and I loved it. Because, you know, here I am the executive vice president, but you cannot, you know, you could walk back into the, into the shop and see, you know, people actually cutting the garments, which was extraordinarily exciting for me back in the day. It’s a flight to cool process. It’s really fun to watch. So I started back and forth and people say, you know, you really should be a model. And I went, Oh, I could never, you know, I just didn’t have the confidence. I had no self esteem at all.
Ari: And so I could never stand understandably. Yeah, but
Clarissa: it was really kind of, you know, it was my dream already. I’m not gonna lie. It’s exactly what I wanted to do. You know, back in the day, and you’ll remember that you are on the internet was the Sears catalog. That’s what we got. We got it. We got it twice a year. And it was fall, winter and summer, you know, spring summer, and I couldn’t wait to get that catalog because I was able to open it up to the women’s section. And look at the models and how they were wearing makeup and how they were posing. And that was how that was kind of like my dream, if you will to be my other icons were like Rita, Rita Hayworth and have a gardener. These are the women I thought were absolutely the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. So I love to watch their movies. And I love the Sears catalog. And you know, the dream was was this seed was there. Let’s put it that way. And so when people started to say, hey, you really should you really should become a model. I just Oh my gosh, I could just don’t think I could ever. Well, I could and I did and it went rather well. And so I modeled for, I guess the better part of six, seven years but I did a lot of work in that time. And it was really wonderful. It was just a great experience and it gave me the possibility to travel the world and you know, it gave me a possibility to learn a lot of things. The second stage there was then moving into you know, becoming an actress Did about 1820 movies, I had a blast doing that, but I really wanted to produce, I wanted to be on television, I wanted to do what we’re doing now. Which is, you know, in front of a microphone on on, I should have brought the pictures up here for you. But, you know, my first experience on stage was as Mary Poppins in the kindergarten play. When I heard the first applause, you know, they had me at hello. I mean, I was really hooked. And I loved it. I didn’t see a stage again until I was about 30. Outside of the outside of the catwalk. I didn’t really see a true stage until I bought it on Italian television when I was 30. And that’s where I
Ari: Yeah, so basically, so 18 year Willamina, you spent about six years there. And then you finally, literally leave home before you were going back and forth. But now you finally leave home at the age of 24. And you start your life is a model in Italy. Yes, I did. Wow. Yeah, it must have been so exciting.
Clarissa: It was it was scary. It was exciting. I started in Paris first. The story goes like this, I started in Paris first and I was homesick and I was jet lagged and I wasn’t ready for it. I had this great opportunity, airy, and I wasn’t ready for it. I’m going to be I’m gonna be straight up. I’m coming out of this house with my mom and my sister and I felt horrible leaving them you know, because I felt as though I as the older child. I was a protector in some way. And I just was so homesick it didn’t work. So I came back to New York. This is like 1981 Come back to New York. And what happens is I tempt secretary and they send me up to the 50th floor at Revlon which is right across the street from the gobbled today motel on Central Park South. Big hotel in the Central Park South and Fifth Avenue. Now what the hell, I can’t even remember what our nevermind. So it’s on the 50th floor and I’m at Revlon every day and I’m looking around on the walls they have all these supermodels and all of these makeup campaigns. And I wanted to jump off a bridge I just went Oh, you just messed it up. You were in Paris, you could have been these girls, you know you all you had to do was you know, put on your big girl britches and not be afraid and I really didn’t number on myself. So I go back. I’m still with Willie. So I go back to Willamina and an Italian agency is coming through. And I so I meet with a guy his name is Lorenzo pedrini And this is back in like 8283 1983 So two years go by and you know without my mind realized a dream. So Lorenza comes through and he takes a look at my book and my composite, he says, Do you want to come to Italy? Yeah. So the only money I had in the world was the money that was in the bank. And that was for one way round trip ticket. All I had round to show I’m living in the city now. It’s costly. I’m not making that much. But I put enough away for that one ticket. And I wound up in I got to Italy in October of 1983. And the rest is history. And I went back I was able to then say a couple of years. And about two years after that. I was one of those girls in the Revlon campaign hanging up in the Revlon offices.
Ari: Wow. Wow. Well, let me ask you this at any point in time in your, during your career, whether it was early on or later. There were ups and downs as as we both know. But did you ever reach a point so low where you said to yourself, you know what, I quit. I can’t do this anymore. It’s just I just don’t have the gun shadow. Whatever reason you weren’t, you weren’t able to do it. And then, at the end of the day, you were able to turn yourself around and get out of that. Tell me about that?
Clarissa: Oh, heck yeah. Well, first of all, there were you know, there were a couple of times, it was one time in my life that I just you know, you just kind of get you get tired of the fight. You get tired of you know, having to get up one more day, I’m tired of putting on the big girl britches, you get tired of things going sideways, you get tired of people in betrayal, you get tired of feeling sad you do you get I mean, sometimes life will you know, as it ebbs and flows, it will kick you in the behind. As we all know, we’ve all been there. But you know, I’m going to tell you this something you may not know is that I won survivor I did when the show survivor, and I was in Italy and it was called celebrity survivor and this goes back 10 years ago. And I we took they took us to Nicaragua was called again, you know, celebrity survivor. And I was already in my 50s at that point. And I you know, here I turned actually 53 on the island. So I’ll be 63 this month so the math works out. And so I I’m strongest I’m really strong, really strong. I’m not a wussy kind of woman at all but we only are as strong as we are fragile airy. And I think that that’s one of the if that’s the takeaway today that is That that is we are only as strong as we are fragile. And so no matter how strong you think you are, life’s gonna kick you in the teeth sometimes. So that’s why I wrote the book that I wrote, which is called the self esteem regime. And I talk about, you know, staying very strong in your stead, having the roots really strongly rooted, so that when the hurricane comes through, when the tornado goes by, when you get that really heavy storm, you might lose a leaf or two and possibly a branch, but your roots are never uprooted, you’re not carried away with the storm. And so that’s, I think, where a lot of the, the self, you know, the stuff, you tell yourself, the affirmations, the tools and resources that you use to be able to say, this isn’t going to last forever, this is just for the moment. This is this. And in all of this, I don’t know exactly what it is right now. But I know I’m supposed to be learning something. And this is a teaching moment. So hang in there, until you can get through this until that light of the you know, at the end of the tunnel, yeah, is is visible, keep moving toward it. And that’s when you’re going to understand why what’s happening to you now happened. And this is the these are the kinds of moments in life that you you draw from you, you look back on it, you can draw from as as experiences as again, teaching moments as those those life learning moments that you will be able to use for the rest of your life. You know, some things come into your life, people or things, people or experiences come into your life for a reason. They may come in a season, and some will come in a lifetime. You know. So, yeah, so a lot of the teachings a lot of the things I’ve been through, I don’t know that I changed them for the world. Because I’m able to write a book much like mine now that you know, that it’s giving me the opportunity to be able to help other people to be able to, you know, and I’m very proud to say my book is in action in Barnes and Noble, and that people are telling me that, you know, it’s actually changing their life, you know, there’s no greater moment. Good when somebody says to you caught you books really changing my life? Holy? schmoly. I mean, really, I hear? Yeah. And then, you know,
Ari: I remember the first time when I got off, when I got off the stage after speaking, where somebody came over to me says to me, you know, you changed my life. And that statement was so powerful. And I went, like, Do I really have the power to change somebody’s life, you know, and then I got really scared, because it’s like, that’s a huge responsibility. I don’t know, if I’m ready for that.
Clarissa: Well, that’s where the bricks come in. Because once the bricks are thrown at you, if you’re, if you’re, if you’re equipped enough to catch them, or maybe not let them fall and then go pick them up, you can start to stack those bricks with good cement one on top of the other to be able to build something extraordinary. You know, and I don’t mean to build a wall. That’s not what I mean. You’re able to build, you’re able to build a foundation upon which to, to, to grow a personal growth, for me is something that’s very important. I really want to be a better person, person tomorrow than I am today. You know, who I’m hanging out with some of the words I use the things I’ve learned, whatever that might be. I think that’s who we are both of us. You know. And I think when you say you got scared, it’s a responsibility, maybe there. Maybe there’s a little bit of impostor syndrome that goes and you go down, and there’s no posture here. I went through this stuff I whether I know what I’m talking about.
Ari: I hear, let me ask you this, who’s the one person that you would point to that you would say had the most influence in your life and why?
Clarissa: My grandmother, my grandmother was one of as you was the most loving, supportive, kind, gentle, never a curse word. In didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, always a lady. She was a class act. And she was a lady. She was the epitome of who I wanted to be. And there were times when my grandmother would eat she was she used to come home with all my magazine Tech was what we had back in the day work that go by the magazine. Yeah. And you had your tear sheets. There was no Internet, there were no cell phones, you couldn’t take a picture and send it home. So I would come home with my tear sheets from my grandmother and she started to create these scrapbooks for me, which I still have, by the way, I’ve got all of mice. Ah, it’s amazing what grandma did. And every time I would come home, I would surprise her. So again, I’d get on a plane come home from Paris, come home from Italy, wherever it was, get on a train in New York City, head down to Philly and then I’d take a second train out to where she lived in glenolden. And I’d ring the doorbell and she’d answer it. There I’d be she’d be thinking I was still in Paris, or in Milan and we both do a happy day we get to do a happy dance I do my If it was the cutest damn thing you’ve ever seen, I swear, I’m named after my grandmother. So I my mother. Yeah, I’m the fifth board. Actually, I’m the fifth in the firstborn girl generation. So mom is Clarissa grandmother, great grandmother and great, great grandmother. But yeah, it’s, it was always it was just the softest place to land. And she always had a teaching moment for me. In her end years, you know, I moved to Arizona when I left Europe, I came back here because I wanted to be she had moved. Actually, I actually flew out in the plane with her leaving Philly and coming to Phoenix where so that all the family could you know, be reunited hear uncles, aunts, cousins, everyone. And so she used to say to me, when are you going to come home and plop it? You’re like, what are you going to just stay here? For God’s sake? Why do you always have to be traveling on planes? Because that’s what I love to do. I love the communication. I love. I love being on the stages. I love being a rat. I just love traveling in general, when you got to come home and plop it well, of course that that meant she wanted to spend more time with me and I did as much as I possibly could. And I did a lot actually. But she would be the lady that I would absolutely say I try my very best to emulate but she’s a tough act to follow.
Ari: Let me ask you is where was she born? Was she born in America?
Clarissa: Actually, she asked she was she was born in Illinois, actually. Wow. Wow. Illinois 1915. And she, she then was somehow got to Philly, where she met my grandfather and my grandfather. My grandfather is one of 16 Irish Catholic children. My so yeah, my family tree all the way back is 1,000% Irish and little English. My great great grandmother was German. However, the first Clarissa was German.
Ari: Wow. Now I’m gonna ask you a question that I think a lot of people in my audience are thinking to themselves about. And that is, so you made it, you became a model, you became an actress, you followed your dreams, and you made it? What kind of advice would you give to my audience of all the little girls and mid age girls and all the girls that are thinking myself? Wow, that is something that I want to do? What advice can you give them?
Clarissa: Well, first of all, you know, modeling industry has changed a lot since I was in it. And it’s a lot, it’s a healthier place to be, you’re going to want to make sure that until you’re 18 there is some sort of guidance, parental guidance, no matter where you go, you know, whatever you do, no matter where you travel, you know, someone that is with you at all times. Be really wary of the kind of online kind of situations I’m not saying they’re all bad, but there are a lot of online modeling kind of situations that are not always up and up. And there are always predators out there. So be very, very mindful of that. If you are going with a bonafide agency you will go onto their website will Amina Ford elite, whatever it might be local to you make sure that you know when you they see girls, sometimes they’ll see you in person, usually the first the first introduction is by email. So they will want you to send them some pictures of you that you want to do headshots and other things, you know, body shots in a bathing suit, and very like makeups and that in and if they are interested in D then you will get a call back make sure that you tell them how much you weigh and how tall you are. But you know, the the the actual standards have changed as much a lot since then. I mean, there was there. There are websites for petite girls, there are websites now for curvier girls, I mean, it’s much more inclusive than it used to be, which I think is it was wonderful.
Ari: Wow. Thanks so much. Now if people want to get in touch with you, they heard you there. They’re getting really really excited about the possibilities and they said I need to talk to I need to talk to Clarissa what would be the best way for people to get in touch with