Deepak Chopra, Fran Drescher and 50 Cent. While a top doctor, The Nanny and a celebrity rapper may seem like an unlikely combination of personalities, at Thursday night’s Love In Action event, these three recognizable figures worked in perfect tandem, opening up a dialogue about health, education and activism.
The event was held at Deepak HomeBase, an intimate salon-style room housed in the ABC Carpet & Home store. The setting created an instant feeling of comfort for all attending, as guests sat on plush couches, beautifully-crafted wire chairs — and even a few meditation cushions. This “family room feeling” seems to be what Deepak Chopra and ABC Carpet & Home CEO, Paulette Cole, were aiming for when they created Deepak HomeBase, described as: “both a physical and a virtual salon; a vital, living, interactive, experiential platform; a multi-media expanded classroom and a curated conversation.”
This past week Chopra — a HuffPost blogger and an internationally recognized doctor, public speaker and writer — led discussions with several celebrity activists, including Russell Simmons and Mark Ruffalo, about the causes that they hold dear. Thursday evening’s event included conversations with both Fran Drescher and surprise guest 50 Cent (a.k.a. Curtis James Jackson III). Jackson’s talk focused on his childhood struggles as well as his current success and socially-conscious entrepreneurship. Fran Drescher’s conversation centered around healthy living, delving into her life, her struggle with uterine cancer and her quest to push women to be medical consumers, rather than passive patients. In a powerful opening, Chopra requested that audience members stand if they had personally been touched by cancer — either in their own struggles or by the struggles of a close family member or friend. Three-quarters of the audience stood immediately. “And those who aren’t [standing],” remarked Chopra, “just aren’t comfortable standing.”
Although the mood was at times quite serious, Drescher quickly reminded the audience just why she was so beloved as the iconic nanny in “The Nanny” television series; her trademark laugh was familiar, and quite comforting in person. The 53-year-old spoke candidly about some of her darker life experiences, including being told by her mother (as a young girl) that her birth had caused near-fatal hemorrhaging, being raped at gunpoint in 1985, going through her difficult divorce and being diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2000. “As a chubby kid growing up in Queens … if I knew then that my life would take some very dark turns … I would have pulled the covers over my head,” she said. “Fortunately we don’t have a crystal ball.”
Drescher, who described the way in which she dropped to her knees and wept when she received her cancer diagnosis, became an vocal activist for women’s health in 2007 with the launch of non-profit organization, Cancer Schmancer. The organization has three areas of focus: education, policy change and cancer prevention — specifically working to bring attention to women’s gynecologic cancers, which affected more than 80,000 women in 2007 alone, killing 27,739 women. Drescher views her activism as a natural part of the healing process. “Turning pain into purpose is extremely healing,” she said.
Ever in-your-face and opinionated (“You don’t need a uterus to be sexual … I love men, I love sex, I love orgasms,” elicited a particularly raucous bout of laughter), Drescher became especially animated when speaking about the importance of targeting and protecting low-income women — whom she said work so hard putting food on the table, that they often don’t have the time or money to think about demanding screening tests from their physicians. “Big business health insurance stands in the way of patients getting tests [they need],” she proclaimed to a round of applause. “We need to mobilize as consumers.”
Being proactive — about our personal health, our education system and our country’s public policy — was the true crux of what Chopra, Drescher and Jackson were discussing. “Love without action is meaningless, and action without love is pointless,” said Chopra.