With 13 published books on the shelves, and a website that speaks to millions of women about faith and family, Lisa Whelchel is nothing like her perfectly snooty and bossy character Blair Warner. From 1979 to 1988 Lisa’s role on “Facts of Life” stole the show. But for Lisa, being in the limelight wasn’t enough—she wanted a down-sized life. A real life. A kid-filled life. Now, this mother of 3 spreads her gospel as mother and wife through her Women of Faith  movement. This year, she’ll fill arenas and visit over 30 cities. Lisa may have traded in the Hollywood lifestyle, but she certainly hasn’t traded in her desire to connect with others. As an author, Lisa - who has a book coming out this Spring about friendship - is best known for her book “Creative Corrections,” which sheds light on ways to discipline kids beyond using time outs and spankings. Sure she’s busy and juggling it all. But hey, she’s a mom, and business is just …. A fact of life.
Okay, first things first, two of my biggest childhood crushes have been on “Facts of Life”: Mackenzie Astin and George Clooney. Only one of them has gone on to become an adult full-on love interest for me (hello, Dr. Doug Ross!) and I need to know: Were you or any of the cast members equally as enamored by them when they were on the show?
Mackenzie Astin was younger than all of us. He was definitely adorable but he was, you know “just a kid” and we were all so mature (she laughs). With George though, I don’t think any of us felt anything romantic towards him because he was so much fun and mischievous. But we definitely liked having the testosterone set. We didn’t think he’d go on to be as famous… He was cute, but he did have a whole mullet thing going on at that time. He’s a much better actor than he was back then. George has gotten better with age in all ways!
How did you meet your husband Steve? Is there anything glamorous or “Hollywood” about being a Pastor’s wife that people may not know about?
I met Steve at our church. We had a small prayer group and I was very shy and he made me feel very comfortable, which I really appreciated. We became friends and then thought “hey this may actually be something,” and it just progressed from there. Is there anything “Glamorous?” about being a pastor’s wife? Hmm. Yes and no. My husband isn’t the kind of pastor that stands up and preaches, but he’s been around (the church for many years) and when we are in the “church circle” and he is kind of a little celebrity.
Okay, 10 months after you got married you were pregnant with your first child and went on to have 3 children- 3 years in a row. Were your pregnancies and labor/ delivery experiences easy?
My pregnancies were pretty easy, but all three of the deliveries were not routine. My oldest, (now 19 years old), was breech and I had a c-section. My second 2nd child (now 18), was an emergency c-section and she contracted Group B strep and almost died. With my 3rd child, my c-section scar opened during my third trimester and she stopped breathing after she was born. They were definitely pretty challenging deliveries. As far as having other children, my OB recommended I not have more children; I never did anything different as far as birth control, but I never got pregnant.
When did you start to feel like you got the “knack” for parenting? What inspired you to share your “tools” with others?
I don’t think I ever got the knack for parenting. When my children were young, my friends and I felt like we had no clue what we were doing. We all felt like failures and we did everything "the book" said to do and nothing was working. By nature I’m creative and I literally cried out to God to help me raise this kids. Through that experience I realized I had to go outside the box, come up with alternative solutions for discipline. My friends noticed my strategy, so encouraged me to write a book. Raising my son Tucker, who has ADHD, was the hardest job I ever think I dealt with. I figured out that by lowering my expectations and celebrating who he was, I was better able to cope. I just had to trust that he was going to be fine even if he wasn’t going to fit into a mold that everyone else expected. That really made a huge difference.
Tell me about losing your home and how “down-sizing” is something that families shouldn’t be ashamed of.
I certainly never anticipated that we’d experience that-- We didn’t even make a lot of bad choices. It was late 80s’s and everything crashed at once but as it turned out, it was a gift. We may have lived in a much smaller house with not as much money to do stuff, but this meant that I could stay home with the kids more. I may have missed out on special moments otherwise.
There’s no doubt that everyone has been affected by the recession. What kind of advice to you give to moms who are struggling to support their families?
I can only speak from my own experience. I would say to look for the hidden treasures in the dark; they are sometimes more valuable than what they appear on the surface.
Are you working on any film or television projects these days? What would you say if your children wanted to get in to “the biz?”
I am not working on anything right now and I don’t know that I won’t; but I don’t have any plans to in the near future. I have discouraged my kids from “the biz” but now that they’re getting older they can make their own decisions.
Rumor has it that you were offered the role of “Rachel Green” on Friends but turned it down – a role that an unknown Jennifer Aniston went on to play. Knowing that she made $25 Million in 2008, is there any part of you that wishes you had taken that part?
No, but there’s a big part of me that wishes they hadn’t put that in the press release. I certainly would love to make that money, sure. I’m not going to say that I would love to be married to Brad Pitt because my husband might read this, but no. I would have would have missed out (if I had taken that role), because I would have missed too many moments with my kids.
We have to know: Do you talk to any of the “Facts of Life” cast? (And if you say George Clooney, I will die.)
As a matter of fact, I was on the phone with Kim Fields when my iPhone alarm went off, reminding me that we had a phone interview! I had just sent her an email because I’m speaking in Anaheim for a Women of Faith event, so I wanted to see if she could come. I do talk to Nancy McCeon- we stay in touch. I also talk to Charlotte Ray every few months. I speak to Mindy Cohen probably once or twice a year.
Interviewed by Jenny Herschko. Jenny is a Writer/Producer, and author of Perfectly Disheveled , a blog about being a new mom. Jenny studied Acting at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and worked for several years as a Reality Television producer. She now spends her time writing for various parenting websites while trying to channel her former Type A - pre-baby personality.