Actress Molly Ringwald

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Ringwald reflects on lessons learned from her jazz musician father and talks about her memoir.

Molly Ringwald began performing early. Born and raised in Northern California, she was just six years old when she cut her first LP, with her father, jazz pianist Bob Ringwald, and also landed a role in a local stage production. The following year, she started appearing in ads and TV guest spots and performed in the touring company of the musical Annie. One of the "Brat Pack" of '80s teen actors, she went on to have a solid stage, film and TV career. She also launched a side career as a writer, with book reviews and a memoir, Getting the Pretty Back.


Tavis: Pleased to welcome Molly Ringwald to this program. The actress who helped define the 1980s with films like “Sixteen Candles” and of course “Pretty in Pink” now stars in the ABC family series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” She’s out now with a new book aimed at women called “Getting the Pretty Back.” Molly Ringwald, nice to have you on the program.
Molly Ringwald: Thank you for having me.
Tavis: We’ve got to start with that title, “Getting the Pretty Back.” (Laughter) Who came up with this one?
Ringwald: It actually came from a friend of mine when I was pregnant with my first daughter, Matilda. She said, “You’d better hope it’s not a girl, because she’ll suck the pretty out of you.” (Laughter) Which I thought was kind of funny. Then after I had Matilda I thought oh, she’s right, because after you give birth it really does take it out of you, and you spend all this time just sort of caring for your children.
I don’t think that I went to a doctor for myself for about the first three years of her life. So that’s really where the title came from, and then also there was this association with “Pretty in Pink,” so that’s where it came from.
Tavis: We just had a picture on the screen, so it’s not just Matilda. You have a set of twins.
Ringwald: I do. They’re 11 months right now, but they were actually in utero while I was writing the book. I wrote this book sort of in bed, in between naps.
Tavis: Is it difficult for fans of yours – I mentioned earlier that for so many people, you define the ’80s in the movies that you played – difficult for people to accept the fact that Molly Ringwald is married with three babies?
Ringwald: Well, I don’t think it’s that difficult because a lot of those fans have their own families now. We sort of grew up together and now a lot of them are on their first, second, maybe third marriages, so I think I’m sort of like a touchstone, which is one of the reasons why I wrote the book, I think. Because so many people grew up with me I really wanted to write a book, in a way, for my fans, where even though my life is different we’re really going through a lot of the same issues.
Tavis: You started to feel the pull to do this around – was there a connection to turning 40?
Ringwald: Yes, definitely. I’d been thinking about writing a book for a long time because my husband, Panio Gianopoulos, has an editorial background and he’s a writer, and he’d been telling me for years that I had to write a book. I’ve also written things myself for years. But I didn’t know exactly the book that I wanted to write, and just as I was turning 40 years old, I thought this is the perfect book because it was the book that I wanted to read.
It seemed like all the books about turning 40 were so down and dour, it really shouldn’t be that. I don’t think that turning 40 should have a stigma attached to it, because 40 of my generation is very different than 40 of my mother’s generation.
Tavis: In what way, you think?
Ringwald: Well, I think back then it was really twenties were the time of exploration and thirties were all about families and forties was sort of like the now what generation, and I think that’s really changed. People are having babies later; our life expectancy is a lot longer, so I think really forties for me is kind of like the time to explore.
Tavis: How did you personally navigate – everyone who’s turned 40, yours truly included, everyone who’s turned 40 has some story about it. For some of us it’s easy, for some it’s more difficult, but everyone who’s had that experience has a story. How did Molly Ringwald navigate turning 40?
Ringwald: Well, I talk about it actually in the introduction of my book. There was a lot of angst because there is that sort of sociological stigma attached to it, where it’s the moment where you feel like you can no longer call yourself an ingénue. You’re really serious, you’re 40 now. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I didn’t really feel like having a big, blow-out party and I didn’t really feel like hiding myself either.
So I just kept saying, “What am I going to do, what am I going to do,” and then out of the ether I thought fondue. I’ve got to eat cheese. If I’m going to turn 40, I’m going to eat a lot of really good cheese. (Laughter) That’s what I did – I corralled about 12 of my best friends in New York in the middle of winter, because my birthday’s in February, and we just went to this really wonderful cheese and wine bar and just ate a ton of cheese and drank a lot of wine, and it didn’t seem so bad.
Everything leading up to 40 is way worse than actually being 40. My forties have been great thus far.
Tavis: When you mentioned your birthday, I think I read this somewhere, you and John Hughes, who directed you, of course, in some of those memorable films, you guys have the same birthday.
Ringwald: Yeah, February 18th, and we were born 18 years apart.
Tavis: Wow, how funny is that?
Ringwald: Kind of weird and spooky. (Laughter)
Tavis: That is kind of weird. When it comes to turning 40, I’m really curious to ask you this question. Of course, you talk about it in the book in your own way, but some of us turn 40 and we have – I’m trying to say this the right way. (Laughter) Some of us turn 40 and there are major, major highlights in our life that happen before 40.
There’s no guarantee you’re going to hit that high mark ever again. You’re already 40 and some of your best stuff is behind you. There are other people who are turning 40 and it kind of serves as a kick in the rear to say, “Hey, you’re 40 now. You’ve got to get busy doing something.”
You’re in that former category because you had such huge success prior to turning 40. Ever doubt the fact that life would get better, that the roles would get better, that the acclaim would get better, that life itself could be more meaningful on the other side of 40 than it was before 40 for you? Does that make sense?
Ringwald: Well, I think I’m in both categories, because I think I had a very strong career as a young person but I also really feel like the best is yet to come. I really feel like everything up to 40 in my head is sort of like things happen to you, life happens to you.
I never planned to be in these wildly successful movies but I made the movies, they are what they are. But I feel like everything that happens after 40 for me it’s like you’re responsible for your life, and I think everything that I do now, it’s sort of like it’s now or never.
If you’re going to write a book, you write a book. If you’re going to sing music, which I’ve always been interested in – my father’s a jazz musician and after turning 40 I thought I’ve got to get my group together. So I have a great jazz band and I really feel like all of the projects I’m going to do I’m going to be sort of responsible for.
It’s a very empowering feeling. I don’t feel like you have that kind of confidence, at least I didn’t, before I was 40.
Tavis: To your point about music, I love how you – you’re very modest, you just kind of skipped past that. Your father was a great artist and you recorded when you were very young.
Ringwald: This is true.
Tavis: Tell me the story.
Ringwald: (Laughter) Well, my father’s a jazz musician and I sang with him from the time that I was three and a half until I was a teenager, and when I was six years old we recorded an album together, basically just so they could have some kind of record of it because there weren’t that many six-year-olds that were singing Bessie Smith, who was my childhood idol. (Laughter) I used to swing on the swing at preschool and sing, “Give Me a Pig Foot and a Bottle of Beer.” That was my – it was a big crowd-pleaser.
But it was really something that for some reason when I was a teenager I thought I have to pick one thing. I can’t act and sing and write, it’s just got to be one thing, and I don’t know why I felt that way. I guess because at the time there weren’t really a lot of people that were doing all three.
I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel like everything that I can do just sort of feeds the other art, and so I’m really getting back into it in a huge way.
Tavis: Your father was blind?
Ringwald: He is blind, yes.
Tavis: He is blind. What do you learn from that as a child? You’re performing with your dad and you see how great your dad is, even though he doesn’t have sight. What do you take from that as a kid, and for that matter, what do you take from that as an adult?
Ringwald: I think for me he’s the only dad I have, and he’s amazing. I never thought about it, really. I guess I would think about it more in terms of how other people would respond to it, but whenever I would think about my dad it was just my dad who could do anything and everything.
He is an incredible musician, he’s very charismatic, so people were always very drawn to him, and he was also up on the roof, fixing the shingles (laughter) or putting up shelves. He’s just an incredibly capable human being.
So I think I – both of my parents are amazing, but I think a lot of my strength and a lot of my will, I think, comes from my parents, and certainly my dad. What my dad has accomplished with his disability is – most people can’t accomplish those things with their sight.
Tavis: To your point now you only have one dad and you’ve only lived as a woman, to my knowledge, at least (laughter) on this planet. Tell me about the unique nature of the advice that you offer in the book for women.
Ringwald: Well, I’ve always been the go-to girl for all of my girlfriends in terms of relationship advice or clothing advice. I’m just I guess naturally opinionated, and I really wanted to write a book that had the feeling of sitting down with a girlfriend and talking about stuff.
All of the advice that I give, I’m not an expert by any means, but it’s just my opinion. So if somebody likes me or likes y style or my career, I think they should have that feeling. But the book also has a pretty strong memoir aspect. There’s a lot of stories in it about my life and my career and my friends’ lives, and also there was a period of time when I moved from America to France and I write a lot about that, why I did that, what I experienced there.
Tavis: The book is called “Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family and Finding the Perfect Lipstick.”
Ringwald: Was that hard to say? (Laughter)
Tavis: Yeah, I was trying to figure out how to get that out, but I got it out.
Ringwald: But you did it.
Tavis: I got it out.
Ringwald: I’m proud of you. (Laughter)
Tavis: Written, of course, by Molly Ringwald. Molly, good to have you on the program.
Ringwald: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Tavis: Congrats on the book.

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Last modified: April 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm