Sheri Salata is the kind of successful woman you think would be intimidating. That is, until you meet her and just want to ask her for advice. Maybe it’s something she picked up during her twenty year career with Oprah. When she left her position as President of OWN, she started The Pillar Life with Nancy Hala. The inspiration lifestyle brand is full of great advice about pretty much everything, and if you don’t listen to their podcast The Nancy + Sheri Show, now is the time to start. Sheri sat down to chat with us about her new book The Beautiful No: And Other Tales of Trials, Transcendence, and Transformation out June 4th.
Name, Age, where do you live?
Sheri Salata, 59, Napa Valley
Give us an overview of your career.
I graduated from the University of Iowa and plunged into the adult world of earning a living with a big belly flop. For years I ran really fast down the wrong roads until I got a big break as a secretary at an ad agency in Chicago. My wonderful boss taught me how to producer and by the time I was 35 I landed (yet another) entry level position at The Oprah Winfrey Show. That was the beginning of my twenty-year career working for the most beloved brand on the planet. My journey began as a promo producer and ended as the last Executive Producer of the show and co president of Harpo Studios and OWN.
Tell us about what you are doing now.
Today I am the cofounder of an inspirational lifestyle brand called The Pillar Life and co- host of the podcast series The Sheri + Nancy Show. My first book, The Beautiful No and Other Tales of Trial, Transcendence and Transformation, will be published June 4th by Harper Wave, an imprint of Harper Collins.
You started in advertising and then pivoted to entertainment with the Oprah Winfrey Show. What was it like running The Oprah Winfrey Show? As crazy as we think?
For all of us working at The Oprah Winfrey Show-it was the once in a lifetime ride of our lives. The pace was hectic but never before had I ever felt such meaning in my day to day professional life. I knew I was in service to something that mattered most to me.
Can you tell us your favorite episode or best insider secrets from the show days?
There are dozens of favorite memories and episodes from my time at the Oprah show.
I loved the book club, the season premiere episodes, favorite things and most especially when we would have spiritual teachers on and dive in to thought provoking, soul opening topics.
In my book, The Beautiful No, I write about the final taping days before the last episode. The extravaganza at the United Center will forever be among my most memorable moments as a television producer.
Your book The Beautiful No just came out. Can you tell us a little bit about it, without spoiling anything?
The title story of The Beautiful No is about how I actually got the job at The Oprah Winfrey Show. I was actually thirty-five years old when I walked through those doors and had put myself through quite a twisty turny path leading up to that glorious day.
I like to think of this book as part middle of life rallying cry, part memoir. I had a front row seat to some of the most prolific thinkers of our time and they had an impact on my life. My cofounder, Nancy Hala, and I have a mission statement “It’s never too late to make the rest of your dreams come true, and if not now, when?” That is the foundational message of The Beautiful No. It was realizing that I had created the career of my dreams but not the life of my dreams.
What was it like writing a book?
I was once Oprah’s Book Club producer so my respect for authors and the written word was already at the level of sacred. Now, having been through the process of mining the depths and putting it on paper (or a computer screen), that level of reverence has grown exponentially. It’s lonely, energizing, bone crunching and exhilarating all at the same time.
The Pillar Life is a life guidance system about maximizing your potential. You have a podcast about it as well. Can you tell us a little bit about what that means?
Nancy and I launched our podcast The Sheri + Nancy Show (originally, This is Fifty) in our own self-interest. We wanted to have an ongoing conversation about taking our lives (in this middle time) and elevating them to a full-on joy ride—literally making the rest of our dreams come true. We created a life guidance system to keep us on track called The Pillar Life. In all, we have eight pillars. Health + Wellness. Spirituality + Happiness. Romance + Sex. Friends + Family. Creativity + Innovation (formerly known as work). Adventure + Discovery. Sanctuary + Beauty. Money + Abundance. We work with each other and share with our listeners ways to implement practices that help us identify what we really want in each of those areas and how to get where we want to go.
Wellness is such a big part of The Pillar Life. What do you do to practice self-care?
I have recovered from an all or nothing mentality. Now I move toward “mostly”. I encourage myself for the many ways I have made radical self-care a top priority. For me that means nothing comes before alignment. I achieve that best through daily meditation (I practice TM) and my path is illuminated by the teachings of Abraham-Hicks. Consistent body movement in the past was challenging but I keep working on my new story around physicality and “working out.” I feel so much more energized and connected when I work up a serious sweat 4-5 times a week as a regular part of daily life. I don’t eat meat anymore, mostly plants. And I use the pillars on a weekly and daily basis to make sure I am pointing in the direction I really want to go, toward choosing happiness in all ways, the “bigs” and the “littles”.
Culturally, aging is viewed as this sad thing. In reality, I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t feel bad or sad. I feel better than ever. What’s the key to changing the conversation about aging?
Revisioning the middle of life is an inside job. But once you revise your own story about what it means to be a woman getting older in our culture, then it is a powerful move to align with tribemates to keep that energy flowing. Honoring yourself in this later in life time is the final piece of loving yourself that eluded many women who have come before us. We must honor ourselves then honor one another in order to create the culture that in turn, honors us.
What’s the best thing you’ve read lately?
Two books both released on the same day as mine: Ken Honda’s Happy Money and Elizabeth Gilbert City of Girls.
What’s your go-to hostess gift?
Brown Estate Zinfandel-one of my favorite wines ever.
Craziest thing you learned this year?
How to use a dehydrator to make Molly Chester’s seed crackers. (recipe is at https://thepillarlife.com/recipes/crunchy-seed-crackers/)
If you could have one superpower what would it be?
I want to fly.
If you had a warning label what would it say?
Warning: I entertain miniscule amounts of negativity.