13 minute read

CARRIE ANN INABA

Our favorite Dancing With The Stars judge gets candid about her Hawaiian roots, representation in the entertainment industry, her journey to wellness and reevaluating the meaning of success. 

Carrie Ann Inaba is well known as the dazzling judge on Dancing with the Stars. But off the dance floor, she is a masterful multi-hyphenate, wellness warrior, and a selfless leader who sees no limits in life, especially when it comes to helping others. Inaba takes every opportunity with gratitude and grace, no matter how large or small. Each accomplishment is filled with appreciation, and Inaba wears her heart and mind on her sleeve for others to learn from. Of all the hundred questions I wanted to ask her, I hope her responses to these can have the same impact on you as they have for me.

Carrie Ann wears Sweater by Ulla Johnson, Jewelry by KayLee & Rose
Photo by Glenn Nutley, Make-up by Marylin Lee Spiegel, Styling by Julie Kozak

Q: What is a fun or unique fact about you that most people wouldn’t know?

A: I love to go RV-ing. There is something about pairing down your life just to the basics and living closer to nature that really helps refresh your soul. It clears the mind, and it puts things in perspective. Waking up in the morning and not checking your phone because you don’t have internet connection, going out and having coffee in the morning light with the dew still on the leaves, watching the sunset, letting your life slow down a bit. Having sensory input that is from nature and not man made really nourishes the soul, and it puts us back into a better state of being human. There was a time when all I did at night was search for RVs in different styles, and it’s one of my dreams to have an RV of my own one day.

Q: What does the term “wellness” mean for you, and when did wellness start to play a significant role in your life?

A: Wellness is something that I took for granted when I was younger. As a dancer I used my body as my tool, and I took care of it with exercise. But I didn’t realize that when wellness is not accessible, life can be very difficult. As I found out about my autoimmune disease (lupus, fibromyalgia, sjögren’s syndrome), and chronic pain became something I lived with on a day to day basis, I began to refocus my life toward wellness. That became the goal, the quest, the hope.

I had Covid-19 in December and that pushed me even further to learn everything I could about all the aspects of wellness possible. I’ve learned wellness is much more than about diet and exercise. It includes mind, body and spirit and so many other elements. That’s what matters most to me now. Success used to mean achieving certain goals in my career. Now success equals wellness, and wellness equals success. Wellness is composed of so much and you can achieve it in many ways. I believe the journey of life is to find your own form of wellness and live it every day.

Q: If you had an entire day dedicated to wellness, what would that look like?

A: An entire day dedicated to wellness would look something like this: I wake up and express gratitude for my animals and tell them how much I love them. I have three dogs and two cats, and snuggling with them is the first thing I do every day. I thank God for them, and do a prayer for their safety, health and happiness. Then I do that same prayer for myself. I realized I used to give a lot to everyone else and not enough to myself, so now for each prayer regarding my loved ones, I do the same for myself. At first I felt silly doing it, but now I have found it to be incredibly profound. 

Then I have celery juice, to start the day with something that’s very helpful for my system, make coffee, and go outside on my front porch. I created a little area in the grass to write in my journal. I follow that with a workout. I have found that fitness has been more impactful on my mind than my body. As I have taken care of my mind and spirit first, my body naturally follows in place.

I would take my bike and ride down to the beach, have a picnic and touch the ocean and watch the sunset. I grew up near the ocean so it’s always a big part of my life. I would talk to my mom or a family member on the phone. I’d then meet with a body or energy worker and get a massage. Then I’d watch two shows, because I’m working on and writing two shows right now. Seeing what other people are doing is inspiring and exciting, and keeps me motivated. I’d end the night saying my prayers, giving love to my animals and going to bed. During the day I’d eat as well as I could and there would be a lot of candles and lavender eucalyptus.

Carrie Ann wears Sweater by Ulla Johnson, Pants by ASOS, Jewelry by KayLee & Rose
Photo by Glenn Nutley, Make-up by Marylin Lee Spiegel, Styling by Julie Kozak

Q: For someone who wants to focus more on self care, where would you suggest they begin?

A: I would suggest sitting down and taking a moment for yourself and writing down where you are struggling and what you want to change, and then what you love about yourself and what’s working, so you don’t just focus on what needs to be changed, but to remind yourself you’re doing okay. Then living your life daily knowing what these goals are and doing something every day to achieve these goals. I’m really a big proponent for baby steps. I think we struggle with self care and wellness because we are so busy “doing” that we aren’t sure how to be anymore. Take time to be with yourself, and ask “who am I? What do I want? How am I feeling?” If we don’t know who we are or what we want, it’s difficult to give ourselves the love and care we need.

Carrie Ann wears Dress by Tory Burch Heels by Schutz, Jewelry stylist owns
Photo by Glenn Nutley, Make-up by Marylin Lee Spiegel, Styling by Julie Kozak

Q: What inspired you to create Carrie Ann Conversations and where do you hope to take the platform?

A: I created it to help other people feel less alone in their struggles in life. I have struggled so much in life and have felt so alone in my struggles. In all that I do, helping people is so important to me. I have a new series coming out called Journey to Wellness. It focuses on what I have done and learned over the past year in my own process to wellness based on conversations with people who have helped me on my journey. The series will be available to read or listen.

My hope is people will find solutions or inspiration to seek different solutions than the ones I suggest. Everyone’s journey to wellness is unique to them, and I don’t have answers to everyone. If what I’m sharing can help someone have a victory in their own life and journey, I have a victory as well. I believe having conversations with people is the best way to learn, and this platform is my take on providing accessible wellness for those who may not have it in their environment.

Carrie Ann wears Shirt by Salvatore Ferragamo, Pant Suit by Scotch & Soda, Heels by Gianvitto Rossi, Jewelry by KayLee & Rose mixed with stylist owns
Photo by Glenn Nutley, Make-up by Marylin Lee Spiegel, Styling by Julie Kozak

Q: In addition to launching The Carrie Ann Inaba Animal Project and partnering with PETA, how much do animals impact your daily life?

A: Animals have always been such a huge part of my joy in life. There is a special bond between animals and humans. The love I share with my animals is the purest thing I experience in life, and it’s constant. There’s nothing like coming home from an intense or even happy day and seeing their tails wagging or beautiful purrs. I believe animals have wisdom that we as humans have almost forgotten within the business of life. Animals really stick to what’s important and I always feel like I’m learning and growing from them - in that life is very simple, but very fulfilling. 

Q: You are someone who loves giving back to others. Where did the passion to do so originate from? Where or to whom do you hope to give back to in the future?

A: It genuinely makes me happy to give. I love making people smile and helping with problems, it’s a joy for me. I think I get this from my roots in Hawaii. In Hawaii we are always giving things to each other as part of the aloha spirit, rooted from the Hawaiian and Asian cultures that are prevalent. You don’t go to someone’s house without bringing something, you don’t pick a flower for yourself without picking it for the person you’re with. You are always sharing and giving. It’s a way of living life in a state of active love. Growing up in Hawaii has really shaped the way I love to give, and I am so grateful for that. Mahalo to my Hawaiian roots!

Carrie Ann wears Trench Coat by Colton Dane from Janey Lopaty PR, Dress by Zara, Heels by Shaugureitu, Jewelry by KayLee & Rose mixed with stylist owns
Photo by Glenn Nutley, Make-up by Marylin Lee Spiegel, Styling by Julie Kozak

Q: What have you enjoyed the most about being a part of DWTS? Any surprises we can expect for this season?

A: Dance has given me so many gifts in life: creative expression, self understanding, expanding my physical fitness, connecting with others through performance, soulful introspection, creativity, and my career path. When I see someone on the dance floor have the breakthrough where they learn something about themselves and expand as a person through dance specifically, that is the secret sauce that makes DWTS so special.

Now that we are in Season 30, I am just overjoyed people still resonate with what we are doing. There aren’t many shows that have been on this long, and I feel honored to have been there from day 1 with Bruno Tonioli on every single episode. It’s hard to put into words what an honor that is. People now on the streets talk about dance. I remember when I grew up, not a lot of people knew about dance, and pretty much most of America can now talk about all types of dance and the expression. That makes me happy because I have played a small role in helping people understand the part of dance that is so special to me: the emotional expression and performance connection.

Q: You have helped pave the way for so many performers in the East Asian community. As representation is becoming more prominent in entertainment, what future changes do you hope to see?

A: It’s been such an honor to be a part of the history of Asians in television, and I’ve always felt that along with the honor comes an incredibly precious responsibility. I remember when I was a fly girl, I would get fan mail. Most of the other girls got fan mail from people saying how beautiful they were and how they wanted to date them. My fan mail was slightly different. It was mostly from Asian families saying “thank you for showing my kids that there are other possibilities for Asians.” That was in my early 20s, and I understood then that what I was doing was having an impact on people who watched me.

I have seen a lot of growth in my lifetime as far as representation goes. I see more people who look like me in dramas, comedies, and alternative programming. It’s also exciting to watch how social media in ways has leveled the playing field to give more diverse voices an opportunity to speak out and be heard. It’s important for all of us to tell our stories. When we see ourselves in others, it makes us feel more connected. It gives us more confidence in our own journey when we see others going through the same things. It’s wonderful seeing new faces and voices out there in the industry. I’m very hopeful and excited about the future of representation. 

Carrie Ann wears Dress by WAYF from Janey Lopaty PR, Jewelry by KayLee & Rose
Photo by Glenn Nutley, Make-up by Marylin Lee Spiegel, Styling by Julie Kozak

Q: This past year was a huge shift for everyone. What were some of your biggest learning lessons or take aways?

A: My biggest takeaway and learning from this year has been to slow down. I realized that I was pushing myself way too hard and it was hurting me. This year the pandemic, social distancing and major changes in the world have impacted all of our lives. I am no different. I have felt lonely, saddened, and hopeless. But I have felt more connected to everyone because we have all experienced this crisis together. I feel more empowered to make choices in my own life that serve me better.

I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to slow down and take inventory of my life and make better choices for me instead of just continuing on in a fast paced lifestyle. Health is the most important gift we have. This past year has also taught us to have more compassion with each other and ourselves. While we have lost so many people, and that breaks my heart, I think to honor those we have lost - it is important to live and take the lessons we have learned during this difficult time and live with honor, grace and compassion.

Q: Do you have any self-care and wellness book recommendations?

A: The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. It’s my favorite book and such a game changer. I’ve read it so many times. It helps you to discern the difference between your thoughts and you. It’s written in such an easy to digest way and is very powerful.

Keep Moving by Maggie Smith. It’s one of those books you can read one to two pages at a time to help keep you motivated and on your own unique path in life. The Daily OM by Madisyn Taylor is another book I always turn to. There are a few pages on each topic that keep you in an elevated state of mind so you can face your day in a positive way.

Feng Shui the Book of Cures by Nancilee Wydra is a book that talks all about taking care of your environment.

Bag of Jewels by Susan Hayward is a book I’ve carried with me all throughout my life. It’s a book filled with inspirational and thought provoking quotes.

Any Book by Dr. Daniel Amen. He has been a huge part of my journey toward wellness, and all of his books are game changers. He gives simple solutions to complex problems and his entire philosophy is “all health starts from the brain.”

The Medical Medium books by Anthony William Coviello are also fantastic. They have helped me in my own personal journey to wellness.

Q: Anything else personally or professionally coming in the future that you’re excited about?

A: I’m looking forward to the finale of DWTS and finishing out Season 30 with great energy. The competition is so intense. I don’t think in the history of the show we’ve had this many incredible dancers. I’m looking forward to releasing the new series, Carrie Ann Conversations: My Journey to Wellness. You can sign up for the Carrie Ann Conversations newsletter to be updated, and can also follow me on instagram for more details. I am very grateful for everything. Thank you! ■

Carrie Ann wears Dress by Alexis, Heels by Steve Madden, Jewelry by Kaylee & Rose mixed with stylist owns