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Tatum O'Neal: Journeyer

Tatum O'Neal shares her ups and downs to help others at women's journey conference.

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Women's Journey Conference speaker Tatum O'Neal hopes to share hard-won wisdom from a life of ups and downs: “I have a lot to say.”

Even before Tatum O’Neal authored two memoirs, her triumphs and stumbles have been an open book – from mega success as the youngest actor to win an Academy Award for her role as Addie in the 1973 film “Paper Moon,” to her long struggles with drug addiction, to her painful efforts to reconcile a dysfunctional relationship with father Ryan O’Neal in a “docu-series” produced by the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011.

O’Neal brings her brand of hard-won wisdom to the 13th Annual Women’s Journey Conference happening September 12 at UC Irvine. The conference, which includes a free self-esteem-building program for girls 8 to 18, aims to empower women of all ages through networking, mentoring and a speakers roster that includes local entrepreneurs and celebrities like O’Neal and Lindsay Wagner.

“When women share their wisdom, women advance,” conference founder Patty Turrell says. “Tatum was selected to speak because she has struggled in many different ways. Amidst her fears, her pain and abuse, she managed to emerge stronger.” For more on exactly how, we asked O’Neal herself:

Coast: From the very first page of your most recent memoir, “Found,” you are fearless about exposing and exploring your imperfections. What do you hope your candor offers others?
Tatum O’Neal: My fearlessness was a natural instinct. From an early age – as one knows from reading my memoirs – I truly had to fend for myself, make decisions as a teenager that even now as a grown woman and a mother I have to digest and process. I have found with being brutality honest I can work on my imperfections and not try and cover them up, nor make excuses for myself. I understand and empathize with the millions of other women and girls who have gone through what I’ve gone through, made poor decisions – and may I add I’ve made some pretty great decisions too. I have so many imperfections, and so many blessings. Sometimes, going through these difficult times, I believed I was alone in the world. We are not. I am not.

Coast: What do you hope women learn from your journey?
TO:
Believe. Believe. Believe. In yourself, in God, whatever God you ascribe to. Believe in a higher power. That always got me through cloudy times. Communicate, help each other. Ask for help. Don’t feel asking for help is weak or insignificant – asking for help is as strong and as enriching as giving someone help.

Coast: You raised a girl and two boys. What’s the greatest gift you have tried to give your kids?
TO: Every day is a gift. Every day I see them or speak to them, give them guidance but at the same time allow them their independence to make choices. Growing up in two households, like any other children from divorced parents, is difficult and at times confusing. My children have two strong parents. I feel my children have gotten both of the genes I’m proud to possess, my sensitive side and my strong side. My children are my life, and are my greatest accomplishment. They always gave me purpose; still do, every day.

Coast: A weird thing we’ve always wondered: Having once been married to John McEnroe, the bad boy of professional tennis, can you kill it on the court? How’s your serve?
TO: I played tennis once with my ex-husband, and that was the last time. He was the best. However, with John, we ran every day. We loved to race and I was always right at his side. I’m a good runner – but I don’t “run” from things. I’m a fighter.

Coast: Can we just say, you look fantastic. You seem to be aging backward, a fact we’re trying not to feel resentful about ...
TO: Thank you. Lots of yoga, meditation and good food in my body keeps me glowing and gives me a certain sparkle. No sun! Being happy. Happiness is the key to beauty. I’m happy!


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