Marla Maples has been deeply involved in both enriching others’ lives and enriching her own spiritual life for many years while being fully engaged in the world at the same time. Actress, radio and television host, spiritual motivator, producer and, most importantly, mom are just a few of the titles you could give to Marla Maples.
Marla began her career being recognized for her outer beauty, and now is being recognized and acknowledged for her inner beauty, as well. She made her Broadway debut in 1992, receiving national attention for her critically acclaimed performance in the Tony Award winning production, The Will Rogers Follies. After that success, Marla went on to co-host the Miss USA Pageant and the Miss Universe Pageant for two consecutive years.
She also co-hosted the Fox network morning show, Fox after Breakfast with Tom Bergeron. Currently, she hosts Awakening with Marla on Contact Talk Radio. Marla has been honored by numerous charities and foundations, and is currently on the Advisory Board of Spirituality for Kids Foundation and the Amazon Conservation Team.
She’s been on the cover of over 25 magazines and has shared her ideas on health, fitness and living a holistic lifestyle in publications ranging from Globe magazine to Fitness magazine.
MARLA MAPLES: Thank you. It’s always a pleasure to sit and chat with you and to experience the audience in such a way that I feel like we’re going to reach out and connect with them in a way we’ve never done before today.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Absolutely. It’s my joy and delight to introduce the cover editor of Healthy Wealthy nWise magazine, my business partner and co-author of The Passion Test, Janet Bray Attwood, who will be conducting tonight’s interview. Janet, I will turn it over to you now.
JANET BRAY ATTWOOD: Thanks, Chris. Hello, Marla. It’s so wonderful. We’re so lucky we get to spend two times this week together. How’s that?
MARLA MAPLES: Yes. I’m being very blessed this week, Janet. You are such a pleasure. You do help elevate just by speaking with you, so thank you for having me on.
JANET BRAY ATTWOOD: It’s an honor. I’m going to go right into the questions, because I know everyone wants to hear from you. The title of this series, as you know, is the Passions of Real Life Legends. Marla, how have your passions, the things you care most about, led you to what you do today?
MARLA MAPLES: I’m a big believer of what you love to do as a child is what you can be the most passionate and happiest in doing when you’re an adult. I’m very child-like, Janet, let me tell you. I still love doing so many of the things that I did as a child, which was a lot of sports, and I loved being in nature. I’m definitely a tree-hugger. Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved to climb up in the trees.
Now, if I have figs on my tree in my front lawn I can embarrass my daughter by climbing up there and saying, Thank you, God, for this gift of fruit that we have an abundance of in our world; and for family and friends. Family and friends were the core of my life growing up in Georgia. Today I look at my life, and no matter what I’ve gone through, the joys and the challenges, those were the constants.
I was always able to turn to family and friends whenever there were challenges. I knew I was loved unconditionally. Sports was always a way that I could ground myself to nature. I could be into nature. I feel like I’ve always gained so much strength from having my feet on the ground and being able to feel myself as a strong being in this earth. At the same time, prayer and connecting to the Divine was always important to me. Here I am now in a life where I’m appreciating every moment I have with my family.
I’m creating projects that will hopefully inspire and lift up people, as my friends and friendships have always done for me. Sports keep me young and feeling vibrant; it gives me something I can always share with Tiffany and her friends, or my friends. It’s really a pleasure to be able to enjoy the things that I loved as a child today and bring them into the world. Dance is another one. I was always playing music as a child and moving around.
My father was into opera and performed at the Theater under the Stars in Atlanta. I would go to hear him perform and just be awed by the energy and the presence of the entire theater. Twenty-five years later I was on Broadway performing the Will Rogers Follies. It’s always nice and interesting, I think, to look back at your life and say, Wow! I was really tuned into that so many years before I had the chance to step out on that stage myself and perform.
JANET BRAY ATTWOOD: I’ve talked with you a number of times now. It’s so clear that you have such a deep inner spiritual basis. The ‘tree-hugger’ said it all. How did you begin down the spiritual path that you so clearly walk now?
MARLA MAPLES: Janet, truly I feel I was blessed with a gift as a young child. I was born into a family deep into the South that was very reverent in believing in God. Yes, it was a Southern Baptist world. That was a part of our existence. We went to church three times a week, and woke up with prayers. Beyond that, I was born with a very questioning heart.
I remember going to my father so many times as a young girl and asking questions about anything I couldn’t understand about-I didn’t really call it the universe then-about relationships and people; and if God created us, who created God? Those deep-thinking questions were the things that were on my mind when I was really young. Today, when I talk to people, not everyone has that desire that I was born with.
I feel very fortunate to be a seeker, and to have been that way since I was young. It has introduced me to the most incredible people and spiritual paths in my life. For me, that spiritual path was something that, as a child, was in me. Of course, during the many challenges in life, sometimes the noise gets a little louder than the noise of the other side; I guess we would say, the ‘obstacle side’ seems to get a little louder than the light side.
As long as you know where to go back to and have people in your life to remind you where to go to find the strength, that’s what matters. Fortunately, was instilled in me at a really young age.
JANET BRAY ATTWOOD: In addition, you’ve done so many things. You work on Broadway, acting, modeling and all the philanthropy you’re involved in. Many people know Marla Maples from the publicity you attracted when you were married to Donald Trump. Will you tell us what you’ve been doing since your divorce, and what your focus in life is these days?
MARLA MAPLES: I was with Donald for so many years, from my early-20s until my mid-30s. I have to say you learn so much during those years. They’re such important years. I went from living in small-town Georgia to being a young actress in New York City. I met him on the first leg of my trip to New York. He was big, powerful part of my life. I grew up really fast during those years.
During those years I think I always working to maintain and find my own self-identity. When you’re with someone so powerful, your own identity is often pushed to the side. It was hard for me because I’m a very strong person. I’m a Scorpio. I like to be in control. There were many times I was way out of control. I guess you could say that emotionally, I was just trying to hold on to who I was.
After I left the marriage, I was able to start studying more about the mystical, spiritual paths that I was always so curious about, like Kabbalah. I had friends like Deepak Chopra in my life. I have become friendly, also, with Reverend Michael Beckwith at Agape, and of course with the Berg’s at the Kabbalah Center. These amazing teachers came into my life at that period of time when I was transitioning from this big world of crazy, obsessive love that Donald and I had for each other.
I was breaking out of that and getting back in touch with who I was. These teachers were really important with helping me remember who I was at the core level. I was able to get back into my acting. I did quite a few independent films then and some movies on the ABC Family Channel. The spiritual studies were at my core, along with raising my daughter. Tiffany was with me every step of the way.
I think when we first moved to California, she was going on the set with me all the time. We were shooting a lot in Canada. One day she looked at me and said, Mommy, this is boring. I thought I had to get off the road with her. It’s not a lot of fun for her. We settled into a really beautiful life in Los Angeles where we went to church, the Kabbalah Center, school, soccer, basketball and everything for her to be able to live in a world where she would not necessarily be recognized as the daughter of Donald Trump and Marla Maples.
My goal for her was to let her do as I was longing to do; to find her own identity and her own self. We pulled away from that world in a big way and moved out to a suburb in Los Angeles. I cooked dinner five nights out of the week. The other two nights we loved sushi, so we’d be out having sushi. It was really all about getting that little girl to school every morning. I would get to the gym and do my workouts, and then my work would begin.
It was always a bit of a challenge in the entertainment world. You never quite know when the next paycheck is coming, so you have to open up a lot of doors. Hopefully, one of them will be a path that will allow you the sustenance to keep doing what you’re doing in your life. The hours she was at school, I was pretty much a workaholic. I had a chance to do a wonderful show I loved doing for ABC called The Ex-Wives Club.
That was a show where we helped empower men and women who are going through divorce. It helped them get back on their feet again after they had gone through the devastation. For me, it was a gift to have a show where I could share what I learned going through the experience of divorce. That was on ABC and ran about six episodes. It was sold abroad.
I worked on a book-a couple of books, actually. It was a book called Lost a Husband, Found Myself, which is not published yet, but it’s something really close to my heart because I was able to share a lot of how I pulled myself through the dark, emotional, challenging times and the steps that I took to move through that and create a joyful life. Now Tiffany and I are loving the experience of her being a teenager.
Honestly, we are. She’s a great girl. She is full of a lot of love. Now she wants to start on her career path, so we’re working on her music. She’s starred in a couple of plays. She did a fantastic job. It’s my career and it’s her career, with a lot of loving times in between. She knows that’s the core.
JANET BRAY ATTWOOD: You can hear that in your voice. I just want you to know that. I do so many interviews. It’s almost a daily thing to do some type of interview. I work so long on the phone, that I have a sense of people just by hearing them, as I know you do, as well. You’re just such a love. I just want you to know. Thank you for the inner work that you’re doing. It shows up in the joy and love that’s in your voice.
MARLA MAPLES: Thank you so much; you, too.
JANET BRAY ATTWOOD: Thank you. Would you share with our viewers-I know they want to know this-two or three of the most significant life lessons you’ve learned? I know you went over it with what you went through with Donald. Can you pin it down to two or three of the significant moments?
MARLA MAPLES: I think one of the most important lessons that really hit me in the face very hard was judgment and the importance of not judging others. I was brought up in a strong Baptist family. You learn ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ and ‘Thou shall not judge’. However, it’s still hard sometimes when see things that are happening in the world that aren’t based on the Ten Commandments.
I was brought up in the world of the Ten Commandments, as I understood them at the time. One of the big judgments for me was-and I’ll just put it straight out there-was about anyone who was in a marriage and was cheating on a partner. I knew a few people who I met during the course of high school and college. I grew up in Carpet Capital, USA and there were a lot of transient businessmen and a lot of things going on that you would see.
I was a little bit disgusted by that entire situation of the married men hitting on the young girls, and vice versa. The girls would want a leg up and would get involved with men who might have been married. There I was in my early-20s-20 or 21-meeting someone who was also married. I learned to see that there are always two sides of everything. Thou shall not judge, lest thou be judged.
Truly, I was involved with someone before he was divorced. Even though I have every way of justifying it, the reality was I would have given anything to wait until I had seen the divorce agreement signed before he and I had any kind of interaction. That would have saved a lot of pain and suffering. The judgment is a huge thing. Don’t get me wrong. I was a people-pleasing, good girl from the South.
I was homecoming queen. I excelled in all the sports. I took part in all the different charities, church activities and groups in school. I loved to be the good girl, always. It seemed kind of perfect that the good girl got caught up in a scandalous situation. What a lesson!
JANET BRAY ATTWOOD: Don’t you always notice that whatever you’re judging seems to show up in your own life sooner or later?
MARLA MAPLES: Oh, it did! It came big, and it came internationally. It was pretty crushing. I’ve learned with every situation that I see with other people, if I have a moment where I start to judge it, I pull it back and say, Let’s walk a mile in their shoes before we make any judgment. We’re all on a spiritual path. How can we judge what another person’s path is? We try to take our ideas and transform them into what they should be doing, and we’re taking away their ability to learn the lesson. That was very big for me, Janet; that, and also not doing the people-pleasing as much.
JANET BRAY ATTWOOD: Let’s talk about that one. How did you get over that? This is an epidemic among so many. I know I’ve had that one.
MARLA MAPLES: We love to be loved. We like having people tell us how wonderful we are, and fitting into each category of being nice, sweet and successful. You can’t be yourself when you do that, always. It’s very hard to find. You’re the queen of The Passion Test. How do you find your own passion if you’re busy trying to please other people, and what their expectations of you are?
Being a kid from the South with a beautiful, perfect mom who always had her hair done right, had the right wardrobe and the perfect meals on the table, it was hard to really break. I strive to be the best that I can be, but if I’m not, that’s fine. Make people feel more comfortable with your imperfections than with your perfection, or with having to please them. That’s something we will continue to work on, right, Janet?
JANET BRAY ATTWOOD: Absolutely. I want to ask you something. Here we have judgment as one of the hurdles, and people-pleasing. Were there any specific tools that you used to learn how not to focus in these areas as you did that caused you unhappiness or pain?
MARLA MAPLES: Yes. I mentioned earlier about the different spiritual teachers who walked into my life. My dear friend Tara Sutphen was very important in my life. She’s a metaphysician and shaman. We would share what was going on in our hearts and look at it on a deep meditative level and clear a path, because so often when we get into those areas we create a lot of ‘yuk’ that is attached to you.
We cleared a path, but I will say that just the study of Kabbalah was so much of what I felt like Christ was saying and whispering in my ear when I was a child. It was what I learned in the teachings of Kabbalah. The first thing we do is take note at any moment in time that we get caught up in our chaos, our judgments, our obstacles or victimization and start asking, Why me? There’s something called the Proactive Formula.
The Proactive Formula is simple. When you feel it coming and that you’re being judged, or when we feel the need to judge or that something is coming at you so hard that you don’t know how you’re going to handle it, you stop, take the deepest breath and ask the Light or God-however you want to define that incredible, divine being-Will you show me what this is about? Let me see the lesson.
You may not see it immediately, but you’ll get it in the next day or so. Doing that and taking responsibility over what’s coming into your life, it really helps turn it around. I don’t think I’ll ever say, Why did this happen to me? or It shouldn’t have happened. I want to understand the things that come into my life and use them as life lessons. I really suggest you look at these when you feel someone is picking on you or pulling you down.
You have to stop and ask, What is it in me that might be seeing the same in another person? Try not to get off kilter. Use the old, wise oak tree and let the winds of change come and sway with them, but don’t let them knock you over.
JANET BRAY ATTWOOD: That’s beautiful. Not to be redundant, but you mentioned the Kabbalah and Deepak and the Bergs-and this might be the answer-but what have been the most important spiritual influences in your life, and why? Did you have any ‘Aha!’ moments in those?
MARLA MAPLES: My father was a deacon and a choir director in church all of my life. He was also this soul who I could always talk to beyond a father. I would have questions when my parents divorced. I would read the Bible and ask, Dad, explain this to me. Show me where it’s okay to have a divorce. He was one of the first spiritual teachers or influences in my life who I could count on when I was young.
Every step that you take leads you to the next teacher and the next teacher. I’ve always tried to be open and not judgmental about any form of religion. I want to know the peak level of that religion where the truth lies. I have a friend who replaced Norman Vincent Peale at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York. His name is Dr. Arthur Caliandro. He helped me to understand that we should not be so hard on ourselves.
We’re really here to love each other. He also helped me during a period of time when I first moved to that city. He became an influence in my life after I left home, moved to New York, and met Donald. He was an incredible influence. It was just unconditional love that I could walk into a church, no matter what I had gone through-even publicly-and feel welcomed and feel that I could be loved for me.
After him, Kabbalah came into my life. Those teachings are not for the faint-of-heart. You have to work to study Kabbalah. It’s not easy. I’m always sticking up for Madonna when people say, Madonna does it, so how great could it be? I say, Are you kidding me? I’ve seen her sit there on a Friday night, Saturday morning or Saturday evening, through all the prayers, knowing she’s working with her teachers on her day off.
The more ego we come into the world with, the harder it is to get close to God. Here’s a woman who’s created so much in the world. When you do that, there’s a lot more ego all around you all the time. Let’s let her have a place where she can go and work on herself. I’ve seen her there for years. The point is that Kabbalah is the internal study of finding those places in yourself where the darkness lies, and turning the light up in those areas by saying prayers and making the connections. You continue to study even when you think you know it all. It’s a great practice for me.
JANET BRAY ATTWOOD: It’s so interesting because you were raised a Southern Baptist. Many people think that the Kabbalah is from the Jewish tradition. How did it happen?
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For more information about Marla Maples and her work, please go to http://www.marlamaples.com/.