AN AMERICAN PRINCESS
Balance? Are you crazy? My life isn’t balanced! I feel completely insane, being pregnant, with raging hormones and emotions that run the gamut from elation to sheer despair–all in the span of a minute! My life used to be so peaceful and organized when it was just my daughter and me. Then I got married and had another baby; we recently got custody of my husband’s two young children, and now we’re about to have a fifth child. I feel like I’m the only tidy person in my universe! I’m struggling to find balance within the chaos of all of these people under one roof. And, even if I knew how to find a sane way to deal with all the stress, I’d probably not be able to express myself coherently, as the pregnancy hormones are messing with my ability to think clearly! In other words, I can’t help your readers at all!”
Catherine may have been laughing when she said this, but she meant it. Thus the reason she has long been one of my most treasured friends. And, as any interviewer knows, when you get this kind of honesty from someone in the public eye, you might as well get down on your knees and thank your lucky stars because this uncensored kind of free-for-all sharing just doesn’t happen when the tape recorder’s running–especially not when your subject is gorgeous and royal. Certainly not when she’s about to host her own reality show (American Princess on NBC), shoot a new movie, and is married to a movie star who happens to be nearly as beautiful as she is (Casper Van Dien: Star Ship Troopers, Tarzan). I mean, what’s her publicist going to say about this blatant honesty?
My guess is that Catherine doesn’t care. “I never felt that pretending to be perfect would help anybody,” she says. “The reality of my life is that I somehow ended up with a house full of kids, who all go to different schools, with different pick-up times and different needs. Casper’s kids have therapy and so do we, which has been a godsend; it keeps us sane! Everyone has to be driven here and there and everywhere and we live on top of a mountain! We might as well open a shuttle service, although since being pregnant, I delegated that responsibility to my husband so I can stay in bed until Maya wakes up. My job is more of the short-order-cook for constantly hungry mouths variety. The kids wonder why their bedtimes keep getting pushed earlier and earlier… it’s our evil plot to steal some private time before we are too wiped out! The childrens’ needs are most immediate, so it’s a real challenge to find time to work on the relationship. When we put each other on the back burner, the whole family tends to suffer; but when we work together, we find strength in our solidarity, and that radiates to the entire family.”
From before the time I interviewed Catherine five years ago for my book Lives Charmed: Intimate Conversations with Extraordinary People, where she divulged radical truths about being incested as a child and combating and winning the battle over resulting eating disorders, until now, I have found Catherine to be humble to a fault and extremely courageous. She may say that her mind is incoherent, but she’s a genius, and those who know her can’t wait for her to write a book. I’ve been telling her for years to do so because she’s one of the most profoundly intelligent, forward thinking and educated women I know. Thankfully, she’s now writing one, and I’m sure it will be the first of many. As far as speaking her mind: It stands to reason that anyone who is courageous enough to fling giant prawns at Prince Charles to avoid boredom at a palatial party (causing a large-scale food fight), has learned a thing or two about getting on in the world and not being too terribly driven by the concept of playing it safe.
Despite being in the public eye since the day she was born (with a New York Times headline announcing that her mother–the Princess of Yugoslavia–had just delivered the great, great, great+ granddaughter of Catherine the Great of Russia, and named her after the Czarina), Catherine never cared much for societal rules or restrictions, choosing instead to find instruction and models in the realm of the spiritual.
“I didn’t feel protected as a child,” she told me, “but I feel protected now. I think God is supremely loving and benefic, desiring for every one of us to reach a self-realized state. I only wish God could interfere more in our process! Sometimes free will really sucks. I feel that my responsibility on this planet as a spiritual being is to maintain my spiritual consciousness while I’m in a dense dimension, in a physical body. That is hard. It is so hard.”
Catherine’s family knows about hardships. They were driven out of their Yugoslavian palace and homeland by Hitler in WWII and forced into exile in South Africa. Although they had to leave everything behind one fateful night, Catherine’s grandfather–Prince Paul–was ultimately able to rebuild his fortune and move the family to France, where they started a new life. The whole lot learned to carry on, despite the devastation of being humiliated and sacrificed on the world stage. In perhaps one of the most fascinating political tragedies of the war [profiled extensively in Lives Charmed], Catherine’s family showed incredible resilience and strength–which her friends know to be two of her strongest traits. Certainly these qualities may have been handed down from those born long before her, and will add to the reality behind the reality of her show, American Princess.
I relish researching the woman I once admired from afar on the television screen; the stately Dynasty home portrayed in the hit nighttime soap, of which Catherine was a star, was near my childhood home. I was mesmerized by Catherine’s cool accent (a result of growing up predominately in England) and her total confidence. Little did I know, she was at the height of an eating disorder and painfully insecure. She was faking it… acting.
Catherine remembers her Dynasty days as if it were a lifetime ago (even though worldwide fans of the show continue to be part of the astronomical flood to her website, CatherineOxenberg.com, which gets as many as two million hits per week). “I was a basket case on that set! People who meet me now often think I am extroverted. That is only because I have healed a lot of the part of me that wanted to wither away and disappear into myself.”
After watching Catherine consciously choose healthy habits for years, I asked her to share some of the things I know she does to stay balanced. She jokes about being out of control, but her life is beautiful and she has great discipline. Yes, the details can make you dizzy, but much of what she does within and around the chaos works brilliantly.
“I never, eat junk food, never; and I don’t drink coffee, smoke or take drugs. Once in a blue moon I’ll have a glass of wine. Supplements and nutrition are key. I try to maintain a regimen of going to the gym or doing yoga five days a week, and I align myself with the divine force each morning and evening with prayer and meditation, although both have been harder lately with the full house. If I’m too busy, I pray on the treadmill. I am very conscious of my downtime because I run on empty quicker being pregnant and have fewer reserves. I love to read inspirational books and do so whenever I can find an extra five minutes. And, I’m less afraid of being called a selfish bitch, if that’s what taking time for myself means. In fact, I’m proud of my newfound bitchiness and say, ‘When Mommy’s rested, the bitch is gone.’
Quite honestly, the older I get, the more effort I have to put into staying balanced and healthy. Stress can really take its toll on my skin. I am noticing a huge difference by using a line of skincare/cosmetics and herbs from Fem One [that Catherine is now representing]. I suffered at the beginning of my pregnancy with hormonal imbalances; I felt terrible. Then I found these herbal remedies, which gave me immediate relief. Hormone imbalances, from pregnancy, post-partum depression, PMS and menopause can send many women into depression and despair; antidepressants are often not what we need and many of us have been looking for alternatives to HRTs (hormone replacement therapy). So, part of my stress management is using these safe remedies and products, which were developed and patented by Angela Harris, a woman who was pregnant and cured herself of stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She went on to have the baby and two more, which doctors claimed impossible. She believes that by tapping into her great-grandmother, who was a master herbalist and spoke 18 dialects of Native American, she was literally able to access the genetic history of her great-grandmother, including her strength.” As she’s talking, I wonder if she sees the coincidence here.
Catherine may say that she’s in a midlife crisis, but my guess is that we’ll see her catapult through the chaos, playing a much more public role in coming years. From TV host and actress, to author, spokesperson and public speaker, she’ll undoubtedly be asked to wax philosophical about inner and outer beauty and the secrets of balance. And, we’ll get it straight from the Princess’s mouth!