Interview with Karen Firsel, full on lady boss!

A former Oprah Show producer & seasoned media specialist

by Nicole Bloomberg, MBA
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Mother of two, Daughter Emma & Son Eli

Karen Firsel is a full on lady boss. She is a mother of two and a Lifestyle Expert focusing on the worlds of fashion, beauty, health and parenting. A former Oprah Show producer and writer for Daily Candy, Karen is a seasoned media specialist and curator of all things trending and stylish in the city and suburbs.  A key influencer in her current home of Chicago, Karen is also connected with national television stations and travels across the country and beyond for media tours. We caught up with Karen here in Toronto after one of her segments on our very own Breakfast Television.

Q: You are a successful Lifestyle Expert and mom with a distinguished career in media. What are some of your tips for staying balanced and inspired with such a hectic schedule?

A: At work I am a problem solver. In the workplace I have to keep calm, cool, and collected and I use that same strategy at home. I feel lucky that I got into a career that has taught me how to manage my time and be hyper-focused on everything around me.

Q: How did you start working as a Lifestyle Expert?

A: I had been working as a producer for the Oprah Show for about 3 years. I was exhausted and needed a change. I met my now husband, got married and had my daughter (Emma) and son (Eli). I was ready to go back to work and I saw a real void in the market for Lifestyle Experts in Chicago so I began to put myself out there. It was a breath of fresh air to get onto TV.

A lot of moms lose their identity when they have children and I wanted to make sure I had my own thing going on. I am creative and I have always had that spirit. I wanted to build something and be home with my kids as much as possible, all while still being true to who I am. To be on camera and in the spotlight takes blood, sweat and tears to be on camera and in the spotlight, but in the end I want my kids to see that I am a strong working-woman.

Q: What are some challenges of being in the public eye?

Being on camera has a lot of power as you maybe a huge influence on so many people. I have become an ambassador for a lot of brands but I am always honest. I want to make sure that when I tell people to spend money it is worth it. I may pass on a lot of opportunities because if it doesn’t resonate with me and who I am then it isn’t authentic. The worst-case scenario is my best friend calling me and saying, “Really Karen, you would never use that.”

Q: Working with Oprah as a producer must have been incredible. What was one of your most memorable moments while working there?

A: I have to say the car giveaway show was quite amazing!

We had amazing letters over the years from people who reached out to us because they needed a car. We looked through letters and put some thought into who really needed it. We had to come up with a way to give away the cars and think about how to do it in a way that had never been done before. So I’m lying in my bed and I come up with this idea: we put the car keys in boxes under the seats in the audience that all get opened at the same time. Oprah announces that everyone gets a car! It was an amazing show to be a part of. It was TV history.

Q: What was it like knowing Oprah as a person?

A: Oprah is a very real person. She walks around with no makeup and she is involved with everything on the show. She was good to her staff and appreciative of the work being done.

Q: What is your overall parenting philosophy?

A: Honestly, I make it up as I go along. I didn’t have a birth plan and I don’t have a parenting plan. My daughter changes by the hour so I try to stick with what I know and trust my instincts. I want to be real with my kids. We live in a nice area, and I don’t want them growing up with a sense of entitlement. For the last year we have been watching The Today Show together and we encourage a lot of dialogue about what is going on in the world.

Q: What are some tips you could give to moms out there who are struggling to do it all?

A: Give yourself time during the day and try to put yourself first. You have to give that time and energy to yourself. Make sure you are still in charge of you.

Q: How do you find time to stay on top of trends, beauty, health, wellness and parenting?

A:  I read so much and a lot of the stuff that I find is on Instagram. Because of what I do, I am also privy to brands that aren’t out yet or are just launching. I also spend a lot of time taking in things around me, whether it is in a grocery store of just walking the streets of a city. I try to look for inspiration in my surroundings.

Q: What are your favourite beauty products?

A: I love the Luna Night Oil from Sunday Riley. I am also really obsessed with Frank Body. Australia is so ahead of the curve with food & beauty. They have the best body balms, chocolate and coffee scrubs.

I always get spray tans before a segment and I discovered a place in Toronto called  “Tan on the Run.” The products sold there are called Oh So Organic. It’s perfect for someone like me who hates sitting in the sun.

Q:  Working moms always have a great assortment of items in their purses, what is in your purse right now?

A: I carry a Lululemon backpack and it’s filled with; my wallet, big ear phones, packets of peanut butter ( because I am a peanut butter crazy person), lipstick, lip gloss, old receipts, and a change of clothes if I am going from the gym to a meeting.

Q:  Who inspires you?

A: My mom- that sounds so cliche. My mom always worked as teacher and is a great example of a working mother.

Q:  How do you prepare for the back-to-school chaos in your home?

A: It’s hard to transition from the lazy days of summer back into a routine in September. I make lunch and get organized the night before because I don’t want my morning to be chaotic. We have a solid morning routine- I make sure my kids make their beds, get dressed for school and eat their breakfast.

Q:  What is next for you? Where can we get excited to see you contributing to in the future?

A: I will continue doing style segments in Chicago. I’m sure I will be back in Toronto for fall or the holiday season. I hope that I continue to evolve my show content.

Q: What do you hope your kids will learn from you?

A: If you ask my kids, I always talk about being kind and putting in effort. I want my kids to see me working and understand that there are other things going on in the world aside from them.

Q:  What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

A: This is kind of funny- I didn’t like college and my friends know it. I went to University of Illinois and I did very well. I graduated with honors in broadcast journalism. I always felt like I wasn’t in the right place for me. The small town mentality left me feeling stifled. I knew back then, it wasn’t the place where I was going to grow professionally. After college I quickly moved to New York City.

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