I don’t think that I am interesting enough to endlessly write and share about only my experiences. I thought it would be fun to reach out to other artists and professionals who are also parents and find out about them. What they do, some insight into their life and some tips and life lessons. These are going to be my “cool parent” interviews. My first interview is with Denice Duff. An Actor, photographer, director, humanitarian, wife and mom.
1. Tell me a little about what you do as a photographer and director?
I have been shooting actors and musicians several times a week for the past 16 years. Peppered throughout my week are beauty campaign and lifestyle shoots for the Young and Restless-QVC make up line “Jabot”, Soap Opera Digest, People.com, InStyle Magazine, LA Health News and even food and product shots for Sky Mall.
I also do work for dozens of websites and billboards. As a director, I shoot music videos primarily but started with directing a feature film back in 2001 that made it onto the shelves at Blockbuster. That was not an easy task and I have a whole new respect for any film that gets released as it takes a lot of follow through to do that!!
2. How did you get into the field and how has your career evolved?
I was photographing cats and kids in my apartment from the time I was 11. My dad gave me a 35mm film camera. I always liked how I could make some scene or person look more interesting or more beautiful through my lens than maybe people thought. When someone says,”The camera never lies” I never believed that! If it didn’t lie, I wouldn’t have had a career as a model..Hah!!
I started acting and became a SAG member at 23 and did many commercials. I bought a house when I was 28. That same year I had a kid. Busy year! I took a one year break from acting and started to do photography full-time by converting my garage to a studio with seamless paper backdrops and a full strobe light kit.
I still kept my foot in the casting door and was cast in a contract role on the Young and Restless as Amanda, MacKenzie “Mac’s” mom. I would still shoot actors headshots though on my days off. Sometimes a client would arrive to my studio and say “Hey, you look familiar, did I just see you on a TV this morning….?”
3. What have been some of your favorite projects either as a photographer, director or actor?
Traveling to Romania, a third world country, to act in the Vampire Series I did called Subspecies by FullMoon Entertainment was unforgettable. It combined everything I love in life. Visiting different countries, photographing different cultures, collaborating with artists, making friendships for life….
4. Tell me about Paris, She seems to be a really sweet girl and you both seem close.
That little whip is the coolest “project” I’ve ever created. I had a home birth and invited or “cast” 15 of my best friends to be there and help. For 5 hours we all hung out in my bedroom and they massaged me with each contraction and aided the midwife with whatever she needed to ensure all went smooth. My daughter was one of the first babies born in my group of close friends and so she immediately had multiple mommies and daddies who took her under their wing. Now, ironically, she is the babysitter for many of my friends who are just starting to have babies.
6. How did having your girl impact you as a person?
Great question!! I only have one sibling, a brother. We were always VERY different. I always envied girls with sisters, but I felt a bit more like a tom boy as I didn’t care about clothes, shopping, manicures, shoes, bags, makeup etc. I’m kind of low maintenance and can count the amount of shoes in my closet on one hand! I was nervous that I wouldn’t know how to raise a daughter and be “girlie” enough. Well I was wrong! I actually have all the right skills, as any woman does, which are patience and the ability to show affection to your child. Coming from an Italian family back in NY we were very loud and VERY affectionate. A daughter will gravitate toward what they will and my job was to just provide opportunities that were positive for her to gravitate toward.
7. You and your husband are both artists, how did you balance you both working with raising your daughter?
Being a happily married woman is the badge I wear that I am most proud of. I must admit that it’s not very hard to love your child, it’s not very hard to want to stay up late to help them with their homework, it’s not very hard to worry that they are doing well, not very hard to buy the right foods for them to stay healthy, not very hard to brag about their success and accomplishments BUT……. to be able to still do ALL those things for your spouse…?!!! Now THAT’S an accomplishment of magnitude to me. And I just adore my husband. I think he’s the kindest man I’ve ever met. When we were dating I was 21 years old and would get hit on by guys, But when they would meet my ”boyfriend”/ “Fiance” as he was at the time, one for one they would say “Wow, you got yourself a good man there!”
I think that because we both are artists it has saved our marriage. Instead vacations to Hawaii sitting on the beach or the routine of going out to dinner and a movie, we do things like renovate rooms in our home, clean and organize a closet together, edit a new music video, create the best font for my blog or retouch a photo for a client together. I have his back and he certainly has mine. Honestly, more than just loving each other, we ADMIRE each other. And we never have gone to sleep while upset with each other in 23 yrs.
8. Your daughter is grown now, what are some things you used to think were important and you now know really don’t matter?
Insisting she cleaned her room. I think I wasted energy and created undo arguments because I always wanted her to keep her room clean. Most of my friends kids kept their room clean….so I thought. Then I came to find out their house keepers did it. In the end, she has the capacity and the knowledge of HOW to clean a room and when she moves out on her own, she will figure it out, or will have a room mate or a boyfriend who will insist on it. Ideally, she will do it just out of sheer pride of living on her own, with stuff that she has bought with her own money. I can’t wait to visit her at her first apartment and she can’t wait to get one. In the meantime my husband and I are doting on every second we get to briefly see her these days, popping in and out for minutes to change before whirling out on a photo shoot, party or humanitarian volunteer project…..
9. This past year you did a complete facelift on your house and documented it with your Design on a Dime videos. I loved watching them. What did you learn from that experience?
First of all People LOVE seeing before and afters on Facebook I realized. If I just put an after picture it’s kind of like “who cares, cute kitchen”. When you see the journey and know the rules of the game and know how strict those rules are, yet STILL manage to get a stunning product despite the obstacles, THAT’S a great inspiring story. It’s like when a skinny chick posts a picture of herself on face book in a bikini, that’s boring, cheesy even! BUT if they were fat and then lost weight and want to inspire people with their accomplishment then by all means POST IT! My mode of operation is to inspire people to do creative things that lift their mood, help them not sweat the small stuff, make their surroundings prettier, make their bodies healthier and get a little more enjoyment from this thing called life.
10. What is your view of our tag line for the blog “turning life into play”- what are some ways you have found to do that?
Oh Dude, that’s ALL I do. My husband and I wanted to take a road trip and wanted to take pictures so we decided to shoot a music video for one of his songs he wrote 5 yrs ago. A 3 day trip ended up being a complete high end video shoot with props, wardrobe, a storyboard, a trip to Vegas and a surprise concert he snuck in to see my favorite singer Eddie K from the band LIVE. Things like that make road trips linger on longer. It makes them inspire and help others. I want everything I do to somehow help and touch someone else, otherwise to me, it’s like it didn’t even happen.
I think one of my diet tricks is that I never eat fattening foods alone. It just seems like a waste of calories. I’d rather gnaw on radishes and green tea or applesauce by myself late at night on the computer and then wait to be with friends to have that cake….but that’s getting into a whole other set of questions. “Denice, fitness and health: How she has maintained her same body since she was 17 years old while posting on Facebook all the yummy treats she eats?”