Marissa Jaret Winokur
Marital Status: Married
Spouse’s Name: Judah Miller
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Zev Isaac Miller, 15 months
Marissa Jaret Winokur is best known for creating the role of “Tracy Turnblad” in the hit Broadway musical Hairspray, a performance for which she won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress. She also danced her way into the hearts of America on the hit ABC series, “Dancing With the Stars,” her stellar performance placed her 4th in the competition. Winokur was recently host of Oxygen Network’s dance and weight loss competition entitled “Dance Your Ass Off.” The show, which premiered in June, has brought record-breaking viewership numbers to the cable network. Marissa is currently spearheading the Take A Stand campaign for Luvs diapers, urging moms across the country to stop paying high prices for everyday items such as diapers.
Q: Why did you decide to become a mom later in life? What factors precipitated this decision (or dictated it)?
A: I was diagnosed with cancer at age 27 and got married at age 33 so with these circumstances in place, it just ended up being the right time for me! I feel like anytime is a good time to have a child, its all about when the parents are ready for the huge lifestyle change.
Q: What do you love about your career? What is most challenging about your work? How long are you doing it? Where do you see yourself heading? What prompted you to become an entrepreneur, and why the particular subject/product that you chose? Are you still working in television? If not, why the change?
A: I grew up wanting to be a musical theater actress and I was lucky enough for the timing to be right to be able to be successful at it. I have always loved entertaining and performing, so getting to do this for a living is a dream come true. As a mom, its really become a perfect career as I can take Zev with me to the set.
The most challenging part of my career is that Hollywood is so hot and cold – one day you’re the most sought after talent in town, the next can be the polar opposite. This career definitely teaches me to be incredibly grateful when I’m working and to save up my pennies ’cause you never know what tomorrow holds.
When it comes to career, I would love to have a clothing line and to finish up the book I’m writing. I also wouldn’t mind doing scripted television again and Broadway. When it comes to family – the more the merrier.
Q: What have you experienced through motherhood that has also helped you in your work or personal life?
A: Motherhood has made me mellow out about my career because I’ve come to realize that its not the most important part of me anymore, being a mom is.
Q: What is a typical day for you like, managing both work and home life? Do you do any work from home? If so, how do you find that? How much time do you spend daily writing or preparing for television appearances? Have you worked more or less since you became a mom? Do you travel a lot, and do you take your family? What does your child/children think of your work?
A: If I am not on the set, I’m working from home. I am the queen of multi-tasking. My jobs have been different since becoming a mom. Instead of doing a film that would take me away for six months, I chose a hosting job that only required me once a week. I am working just as much just choosing different types of jobs that do not require travel time.
I do not travel a lot and when I do, its very quick so I do not take Zev as I don’t think its fair to disrupt his schedule. I’m lucky to have an amazing husband who is very hands on with fatherhood. [Zev is] still a baby, I don’t think he knows I work. He gets to be with me all time.
Q: How do you think being a later in life mom has affected your experiences as a parent (share both good & not so good)? Has anything about being a mom surprised you? What do you most try to teach your child? What influence has your own mom had in your life and in your parenting?
A: I am glad I waited to have a child at the age I did, I think I’m less selfish now and I was truly ready to become a mommy when I did. Personally, I know I was much more ready at age 35 than I would have been at age 25.
Everything about being a mom has surprised me. First and foremost, how hard the job is – the first 6 months were a total blur as I learned the ropes. It also surprises me how much I want to be with my son; leaving to work is not easy. I am surprised to be thinking about my son 24 hours a day – even when he’s sleeping I’m worried about him.
Kindness is what I try to teach my son most. I want my son to be kind like his father, a sweet little boy that evolves into a wonderfully kind father and husband.
When I was a little girl my mother was the best mother ever – I was very lucky. She taught us about nature and made us play outside and allowed us to get dirty. I hope I’m just as great a mother to my son.
Q: Where do you or did you turn for support as a mom? Your mom? Do you have a support network and community? Others in the entertainment field? How important do you think it is to connect with mom peers? Do you find social networking sites of value? Do you consider yourself a role model for other later moms or aspiring later moms?
A: I go to My Gym, which is like a mommy and me type gym where I have connected with other mommies and have made some great girlfriends – we help each other out. This is in addition to my own mom and siblings.
It’s very important to connect with mom peers, it’s almost more important than connecting with family. These are women who feel the exact same way at the same time, they know what I’m going through because we’re all doing it together.
I don’t consider myself a role model yet, I’m only 14 months in. But I hope to be some day.
I absolutely find social networks to be of value. This is a support network open at all hours. At 2 am when I have a stressful moment, I can find 22 moms online at that time to help me.
Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a mom later in life? If you have one child at this point, do you envision having more? What was it like having a surrogate? What made you go that route?
A: I want to let people know if you want to be a parent, be a parent. Age doesn’t matter, even if you can’t biologically become a parent, there are so many other ways to become one. We would love to [have more children].
[Having a surrogate] was an amazing experience that brought me my son. Of course there were moments that I would have wanted to carry a child, but this was the miracle that brought us Zev. We are close to our surrogate and she will always be a part of Zev’s life.
I was diagnosed with cervical and uterine cancer at age 27 and underwent a radical hysterectomy but was fortunate to keep my ovaries in tact therefore allowing us to use a surrogate.
Q: When you became a mom, did your own mother share any particular sentiments or advice that really resonated? Or do you recall anything from your own upbringing that really stuck with you and you’d like to pass on to your child/children?
A: To be honest, I do not remember anything from the first six months of motherhood – I was in the mommy bubble, just in shock at this new job.