Native New Yorker, Lois Robbins is best known for roles in some of our favorite ABC daytime soaps. She has successfully played intriguing characters on All My Children, One Life to Live, Loving and Ryan’s Hope. The seasoned actress is no stranger to the big screen, acting alongside names like Penelope Ann Miller, Kathy Najimy, Meg Ryan, and Sam Shepherd, just to name a few. Her list of acting credits continues with popular shows like Blue Bloods, Sex and the City and Law & Order SVU. Most recently, you may remember her as Penelope from TV Land’s hit show, Younger. The gifted professional has made a mark on the theatrical stage, as well. Lois starred in a long list of musical productions such as A Time for Love and My History of Marriage. In 2019, she played alone in the show L.O.V.E.R. The self-written, single act play about the various stages of life from a woman’s perspective.
In 2019, Lois opened up about her journey on life’s stage in a New York Post interview. She shared her battles to work through demons in the face of fighting breast cancer, struggling with self-esteem, and ending a relationship with a man who saw her as a meal ticket. Her frank disclosure during our conversation about the details of these challenges hit a chord. Lois’ raw and honest revelations helped me connect with her story. Although, from the outside, I couldn’t imagine we would have anything in common, it turned out that I was wrong. We should “never judge a book by it’s cover,” as they say.
Everyone has inner conflict, as adults we have the responsibility to deal with unresolved issues that hinder us from living our best life. As a woman, one of the biggest challenges we face is learning to balance the woman we want to be while managing others’ expectations of who we should be. The tug of war creates significant turmoil. AW had the opportunity to ask Lois about her journey from a young insecure soap star to a woman embracing her true self.
You began acting in soaps during the late teens. I imagine it was difficult to find your true self while working in the adult world of television. At what age did you have your personal awakening and what sparked the journey? The period during life when you began asking yourself “Am I doing what makes me happy? Am I living the life envisioned? Am I embracing the real me?” Spending a lot of my 20’s lacking self-confidence and trying to figure out who I am as the youngest of four girls had its challenges. My mother was an extraordinary woman who dedicated herself to our family. My father worked all the time and the expectation was for my mother to care of the home. Getting married without being “fully cooked” created difficulties for me. It is tough to join your life with someone else’s without truly knowing yourself. I took time off, staying home to be a mother, wife and loved it but eventually, started planning my return to work. It takes effort and patience to get all the pieces to mesh together. You can have everything you want but not at the same time! I began writing a book which turned into a play to deal with the struggles of finding my true identity, late in life. It is an ongoing effort but worth it, as you walk the path of self-discovery.
There are readers that may think you cannot relate to their journey because you come from a life of privilege. However, I believe women share a common thread. We are connected by many of the experiences endured as women. What would you say to address the ambivalence of those who think they have nothing to learn from you? In life what we experience is relative to circumstance. As a mother, breast cancer survivor, a child who suffered loneliness there are emotions others can relate to, even if worlds apart. My father raised me with a strong work ethic, he believed that hard work gets rewarded. I took jobs reading to the blind, as a candy striper, partaking in philanthropic efforts to learn responsibility and empathy. It is important to put yourself in someone else’s place to understand others and nurture your compassionate side. I consistently practice it in my own life, believing we can cultivate and promote mutual growth. We are bound to find some similarities in human experience.
Women often grow up emulating their mothers or closest female figure in their lives. This can lead to adopting certain behaviors that manifest later in life, particularly in relationships. Did you experience this, if so, how did it affect the woman you were becoming? I wanted to emulate my mother because she was a devoted wife and mother. When time came to raise my children, I made the decision to bring them up, a bit differently. You never truly know what it will be like until you are in that role but I appreciated everything my mom was and did for us. I learned that I was less puritanical than my mom and more like my dad, less strict. As I gained confidence, I was able to find a balance that would create a parenting style suitable for my home life.
Our journey as women is beautiful but taxing, it drains us in countless ways. Personally, the most painful aspect of this ongoing work has been embracing my truths. It is something that doesn’t come easy but it’s the only way forward. What has been the most difficult part about your own journey to finding that authentic self? I was raised to believe that you don’t air your dirty laundry to the world. Play the part of perfection but there was so much of me that wasn’t perfect! I did not tell anyone when I got my breast cancer diagnosis then when I wrote the play, I left the life-changing event out of the manuscript. One day, I was asked to write a scene that can break hearts. I decided that if I was going to be imperfect, I would do it perfectly. Speaking all my truths for everyone to see. Realizing none of us are without flaw helped me embrace all of me – I was perfectly imperfect and that was OK.
What helpful advice has been shared with you that you can pass on to others searching for their true self? I have been lucky to receive so much good advice from my mother but often it’s me giving friends and my kids, advice. I am the first call on speed dial. I would say, take the time to know yourself. Figure out who you are and what you want to be. It is key to most of the decisions we make during our lifetime.
I like to end interviews with a positive message. Is there a quote or mantra that has inspired you during challenging moments of your journey? Michelle Obama: “For me, being a mother made me a better professional, because coming home every night to my girls reminded me what I was working for. And being a professional made me a better mother, because by pursuing my dreams, I was modeling for my girls how to pursue their dreams.” It is important we encourage our children to go after their dreams and goals. If they see us work for the things we are passionate about then they learn to do the same in their lives.
Lois was soft-spoken, eloquent, humble and generously open to a candid dialogue about her personal story of becoming a woman, mother, wife and professional. My connection with her story was unexpected and truly welcome because one of the things I most enjoy about these interviews is the feeling that comes from listening to women tell stories that resonate. I have been able to do a lot of self-work in my life to find a happier me. Women everywhere identify with the work required to dig deep on the way to become their best self. It is the biggest reason why I continue to write these stories.
We spend a lot of time and energy looking at the differences between us. Lately, I’ve been wondering what our world would look like, if we made the same effort to find ways we’re similar or relate to each other, instead of seeking distinction. There are lots of opportunities to empower and support the women around you. Don’t be afraid to extend an olive branch to someone that does not have a life in common with you. Although, the journeys differ, you can still learn from others out there.
Lois’ story encourages us to listen to each other with an impartial and compassionate ear. Hopefully, I have planted a seed in your mental garden that helps spread light, maybe enticing you to consider looking at things from an alternate perspective. Women are bound by the experiences unique to the gender. Let’s use human connection for good.
AW is incredibly grateful to Lois and her team for letting us share this story on our platform.
Catch Live Lessons with Lois on IG TV, Fridays at 5pm EST.
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