Getting Personal: Jill Harlan

Getting Personal: Jill Harlan

Getting Personal is a Q&A with a local personality. Here, 37-year-old Savoy resident Jill Harlan chats with The News-Gazette's Melissa Merli. Harlan is a co-founder of That's What She Said, which she describes as not just a show but also a local 'funny' business that helps companies get noticed in ways that stick through our social media, events and year-round shenanigans. As for something we don't know about her: She recently became addicted to Buffalo Wild Wings — boneless mild wings. Just thinking about them is making her drool a little.

Are you still involved with the International Breast Milk Project that you founded?

Yes, I am one of four board members.

Since it started, how many bottles of human milk have been distributed and where?

We have sent more than 75,000 bottles of frozen human milk to infants in need around the world. We primarily have focused on South Africa and sent to hospitals in Cape Town and a home for children in Durban.

What was the most meaningful honor you received for having founded the IBMP?

The friendship I made with Dominique Bischoff-Brown, chief operating officer of Quick International Courier. The other honors are very exciting in the moment, but this one has made the biggest difference in my life.

What was it like being on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" for your IBMP project?

Oprah and ABC World News wanted to film at my house so they could get a visual on the ridiculous amount of breast milk tumbling out of my freezer. Oprah Winfrey and Charles Gibson voiced over for their different shows. Oprah's was called "Women of the World" and ABC's was for the ABC World News Person of the Week.

On a side note, I had plum-colored helmet hair during the interview. It was bad. Yes, I did get to go to the Oprah show — and oddly enough, a month later, my older brother ended up being on the show for a completely unrelated reason. After 10 years, I still am close with the producer of the show. It was quite an experience for all of us.

What role do you play in That's What She Said and the show, presented by Christie Clinic? What do you hope the show accomplishes?

Most days, I feel like I just do what (TWSS co-founder) Kerry Rossow tells me to do. Yesterday, in fact, I shared a sweater with her — as in we wore it at the same time — for a vlog that we made for our own entertainment. It ended up getting 800 views on Facebook in the first day.

Most of the stuff we do is born out of moments like this, where we are just doing what we love and the outcome ends up being pretty cool. I am so lucky to have found a business partner that will take leaps with me.

I hope the show makes my family proud. I hope people want more of the authenticity we bring to the stage. I hope people pee a little in their chairs (sorry, Virginia Theatre). I hope Kerry Rossow gets her own show on Comedy Central.

Did you have a soccer scholarship to Truman State University? Do you still play soccer?

I did get a soccer scholarship to Truman and started all four years, except the first nine games of my freshman year because (can you believe this?) my coach thought I needed to be humbled a little bit! It worked.

What did you major in?

Communication, with an emphasis on public speaking.

What did you do as an intern at Dale Carnegie Training in St. Louis? Do you like to speak publicly? Don't you get nervous?

I remember hearing about Dale Carnegie Training and deciding I wanted to work there, but they didn't have an internship program and they were not hiring. So I cold-called the president of the company and asked him whether I could meet with him to propose a program that we would pilot together. So, that was my first time I created my own job and I guess I have not really stopped doing that.

My favorite part of working there was learning the philosophy behind motivation. I still think about what I learned there just about every day. It became a part of who I am. I attended the courses and helped people running for office to hone their skills. I also answered phones, got to wear my first suit to the office — which I borrowed from my grandmother — and remember going to the vending machine quite often.

I used this same approach last year when I started working for the Second City, by the way. I guess when I see an experience I want, I go for it.

I don't get nervous about public speaking; I'm more excited and in the zone. I look forward to it completely. I become more nervous about socializing afterward. Last year, post-show, I sat alone for an hour in the dressing room to just mentally absorb it all.

So, yes, if I had to pick between speaking in front of 2,000 people or socializing with just a few, without a doubt I would pick the public speaking option. It feels more private and protected to me. How backward is that? If it is a planned public speaking event, I have actually thought about what I will share and say, but in a small group there is usually no editor or Kerry Rossow to stop me.

What kind of dogs and cats do you have and what are their names?

Wiener dog with seven nipples named Bo-Bee + Bella and a white Chihuahua whom I co-parent with Russ, Peyton and Carson Stewart.

What was it like being inducted into your high school Hall of Fame?

I remember having a little moment of "Wow, is this really happening?" as Stone Philips, fellow Hall of Famer and gala host, talked about my breast milk in front of hundreds of my high school friends and teachers.

What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?

I get up as soon as light creeps in my room, so lately around 5:47 a.m. That is my ideal time. I love the quiet alone time. I read a chapter in one of my many self-help type books and create my schedule for the day in my planner. If I skip this step, I usually feel like I want to poke my eyeballs out by the end of day.

Who are your favorite musicians and why?

My daughter when she writes songs and sings them to me.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

The happiest memory keeps happening every day. By the time I write this, I will have had another one. Here is one from last night, though: My ex-husband came over to hang out and say good night to the kids, my husband-to-be fixed a wobbly table, and my girls and stepdaughter-to-be decorated cupcakes while they watched "Clue." Everyone was just happy.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite? What would you serve?

I would invite Natalia and Giselle Popik, my BFFs from growing up who moved to Argentina. I would serve Bacaro and pretend like I made it myself. Oh, and I would invite Kristen Wiig.

Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?

Does Jon Stewart count?

What personality trait do you most hate in other people? Most hate in yourself?

I can't think of things I hate in people, but I can say without a doubt that I hate wobbly tables. And stepping in dog poop. And for some reason, I really hate fruit flies. I also hate it when things roll around in my car.

What's your best piece of advice?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was after soccer practice one day at Truman State my sophomore year. I was a defender and had literally never scored a goal at the college level. I wanted to learn how to score headers off corner kicks so I asked my coach, Mike Cannon, to stay and kick with me. We must have gone through 50 crosses and then he said, "Attack the ball. Don't wait for it." A light bulb went off and I have applied that to everything I do. Side note: I became leading scorer that year; most of my goals were headers off corner kicks.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

I believe I worked at Tippons. I wanted to work there because I could get free pies. That was enough payment for me, but I made under $3 per hour plus tips.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

Starting That's What She Said seemed like something we had to do. Didn't seem like a choice. Much like all of the things I have done. All the cards stack up that make not doing it not seem like an option.

Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?

I feel like every regret of mine has taught me such a valuable lesson that I am not sure that I regret them. That being said, most of my poor decisions can be traced back to times when I was afraid or rushed.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

I have been known to fake going to the bathroom to hide for a few minutes to think. I also have been known to take periods of hibernation in which I reduce just about everything in my life to gather self and thoughts. Oh, and I cry to my fiance, Paul Pyrz.

What do you consider your greatest achievement or accomplishment?

Being a part of my "modern" family is by far the thing I am most proud of. It took an enormous amount of forgiveness, acceptance, humor, patience and love to get here. My new family tree/forest includes: my parents, my fiance, my ex-husband and his girlfriend, my daughters, my stepchildren-to-be, my in-laws-to-be, my ex-in-laws (who we call outlaws), my sister-outlaw and her wife-to-be and their baby, and my brother and his family, and last but not least, my friends who stuck it out with me. Wait, I feel like I just wrote my own obit. Delete, delete, delete.

What do you regard as your most treasured possession?

Paul's XL Sun Devils sweat shirt that I would never buy for myself because it is like mustard-yellowish-gold and maroon but perfectly worn in and way too big so it makes me feel like I have not gained the 10 pounds that I have this past year.

Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?

Diet Dr. Pepper

What book are you reading now? What is your favorite book ever?

I am reading "Mating in Captivity" by Esther Perel. I ordered it after watching her TED Talk about intimacy and what makes or breaks relationships. My favorite book ever is "Untamed," non-fiction, by Will Harlan, because he is my older brother.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

Home. I always just want to be home.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

Friend Lee Kitty. He had three legs and was a trooper.

What's your favorite sports team?

1984 Cardinals because I had a massive crush on Tommy Herr.

What would you order for your last meal?

Almond-crusted goat cheese salad

If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?

A cat.

 

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