DREAM CATCHER: JILLIAN LAUREN
Writer Jillian Lauren is a Jersey girl turned Angeleno, by way of Borneo. Yes, Borneo. She was an NYU theater school dropout who went on an “audition” that led to her spending eighteen months in the harem of the youngest brother of the Sultan of Brunei, a tale that she recounted in the New York Times bestselling memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem. The book has been translated into 18 different languages and is being adapted for television. She went on to write a second memoir (Everything You Ever Wanted, about her adoption of a special-needs son from Ethiopia), as well as a novel called Pretty. She’s a mom, a rock-wife (to musician husband Scott Shriner), and a teller of stories that appear everywhere from Vanity Fair to The Paris Review, as well as live through outlets such as The Moth and TEDx.
Did your original business plan change along the way or are you doing exactly what you set out to do? If it changed, how so? I’m doing exactly what I dreamed of doing when I was eight years old. I just tried about 30 different things in between!
What makes you different from your competition? I’m an artist and a teacher, so I have less of a traditional business model than most. But I do consider myself a businesswoman, and look at all of my enterprises as part of a whole. What defines me as a unique voice is my willingness to be vulnerable, my attention to offbeat details, and my insatiable curiosity.
Tell us about a time when you thought you should throw in the towel. What kept you going? As a writer, I face so much rejection, and that isn’t even the hardest part. The hardest part is facing my own self, and the blank page in front of me. It’s a real bear! I think about throwing in the towel all the time.
What three factors have most contributed to your success in business and in life? Open-mindedness, creativity, and stubbornness!
If you could have a one-on-one meeting with any woman, who would it be and why? What’s the first thing you would you ask her? I would give anything to be able to sit down with my grandmother, who passed away when I was 16. I would ask her to tell me the story of her life, now that I am so much better able to listen.
I wish someone had told me… That the road to the worthwhile stuff in life is almost always rocky and hard to travel. I know it seems obvious now, but for a long time I thought that if stuff was hard I probably just wasn’t very good at it and should quit and not waste my time. I wish I had figured this one out sooner.
I gave up ____ to pursue my dream: There is a constant give and take. It wasn’t like I gave up one big thing, but I do give up time that I could be spending with my family, and that is a huge sacrifice for me.
My biggest challenge is… My biggest challenge is always circumventing self-doubt and plunging ahead, even if the voices in my head are telling me I’m a huge fraud.
Being a mom and an entrepreneur means… Giving up on being a superwoman and embracing imperfection. I’ve particularly had to let go of that infernal, elusive idea of balance! I hear working moms talking all the time about trying to find a balance. I’ve never heard one say: “I’ve done it! My life is totally balanced!” I love the idea of striving to be good enough. I’m a good enough mom today. I’m a good enough writer today. Good enough is pretty darn good!
One thing I hope to pass along to my children is… Tenacity and compassion.