Denise Love Hewett’s ‘Do the Work’ podcast mines the connection between showbiz and spirituality
Denise Love Hewett’s name may occasionally get her mistaken for the star of “The Ghost Whisperer,” but on her podcast “Do the Work With Denise Love Hewett” she practices a different type of Hollywood spirituality.
No relation to Jennifer Love Hewitt (note the spelling), Hewett is the founder and chief executive of Scriptd, a digital screenplay marketplace that showcases unproduced scripts from underrepresented groups.
“Being an entrepreneur at the intersection of the startup world and entertainment, I [saw] that those industries were deficient when it came to representation of quality,” Hewett says. “The driving force behind my company was to change that.”
She learned the ins and outs of Hollywood as a television and digital producer with stints at MTV and the production company Endemol, and working with all sorts of entertainment personalities, including actress and musician Courtney Love, costume designer Patricia Field (“Sex and the City,” “Emily in Paris”) and Nylon magazine co-founder Marvin Scott Jarrett.
On her podcast, launched in September through the speaking agency ENTertainment Speakers Bureau, she talks with executives, entrepreneurs, actors and content creators about creativity leadership in an increasingly diverse world and the elusive crossover between business and spirituality.
“I found that there were all these amazing leaders who were not [part of] our mainstream media story,” Hewett says.
Her guests have included Orion Pictures President Alana Mayo, manager and “mompreneur” Carmen Milian, experiential entertainment producer Vance Garrett (“Sleep No More,” Museum of Ice Cream) and actors Tony Revolori (“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Grand Budapest Hotel”), Griffin Matthews (“The Flight Attendant”), Tina Lifford (“Queen Sugar,” “Parenthood”) and Mishel Prada (“Vida”), among others. Each guest shares some form of knowledge about achieving success or a story illustrating how spirituality affected their lives.
“Great leadership,” she says, “stays at the intersection of inner work and professional success.”
“How do we start to create businesses in the world that reflect the world that we live in?”
— Denise Love Hewett
First, let’s explain what your podcast is about, and what you see as the purpose of “Do the Work.”
The leaders I most admire in my moments of hard times gave me the tools to figure out how to keep going. And in that process of being lucky enough to be on the other side of that wisdom, I realized I wanted to create a space where we could not only give those tools to other people, but really start to redefine leadership.
How can we redefine leadership as we move forward in this new administration — this new world that we’re living in where the global majority is people of color, and as we get to 2050 where there are more people of color than white people? How do we start to create businesses in the world that reflect the world that we live in?
Your podcast isn’t relegated to just Hollywood figures, but there are many. How do you begin a conversation with someone about their spirituality?
Spirituality can show up in so many different ways. It doesn’t have to be defined as religion. It doesn’t have to be defined. For me, spirituality is something bigger than ourselves, right? We’re living in a world where tech is something greater than ourselves.
Most people in Hollywood are usually there because they’re feeling a spiritual mission or need. I don’t think you come to Hollywood lightly. I think it’s a calling. To even get into the industry is a path unto itself, and so to do that there has to be a need or want to be in entertainment.
For me, it’s just about humanity. A lot of the relationships I’ve built in Hollywood have been because I think of people as people. What I look to do in the podcast is humanize people who have big jobs or people who are famous in this industry. How can we just really get to know the people behind the titles or the people behind the roles and just share that authentic-ness with everyone else?
Is it ever awkward, if you’re physically in that Hollywood setting, to have meaningful conversations with people who might come on your show?
I was a TV producer prior to my startup. What’s cool about being a founder is that as you’re meeting with high net-worth people to raise money; there’s a lot of what I call “the intro machine.” And so I found myself at conferences or at dinners or with investors where I got to meet a lot of really powerful and incredible people. I met Tina Lifford at a dinner. Griffin [Matthews], I went to see his show “Witness Uganda” and we met after because the person I came with was a mutual friend of his.
Tony [Revolori], I met at a friend’s wedding and — this is the other side of the coin — I’m also a professional DJ. So I’m in those rooms a lot and meeting people through that channel as well.
It’s always these weird things. I have a theory that you attract what you are. Oftentimes, you’re in places and you don’t know why. Staying open and curious, as I meet people I want to get to know them and learn more about them.
In your episode with actress Tina Lifford, it seemed that she may have been influential in inspiring what you’re doing now, as well as your thoughts and philosophies on everything.
The genesis of this podcast really came from what I call “the five sage women” in my life — women who really were impactful, with different nuggets they gave me, from Tina Lifford to [producer] Anne-Marie Mackay, who’s on this season. There will be a few more in the next couple of seasons that were a big part of the process and genesis for me to say, “OK. Wow. These things have really changed how I live and walk through the world. How can I share that with everyone else?” Then I also have people who are maybe more peers than mentors, who have also given me nuggets. I’m constantly adjusting and learning, trying to understand how to integrate more and more of these principles to show up better in the world.
Why a podcast? Why not a YouTube series or something like that? What influenced you in terms of the medium?
I joked that I had two podcast types. I listen to spirituality podcasts or true crime podcasts. And so I’m specifically in a lane, but I have learned a lot in terms of just in my own anti-racist education [through] people like Layla Saad “Good Ancestor Podcast.” I listen a lot to “Insights at the Edge” with Tami Simon, Oprah [Winfrey]‘s “SuperSoul [Sunday},” Brené Brown’s podcast, Amanda Seales’ “Small Doses.” I’m actually a visual learner, but I have really come to enjoy the process of hearing people speak. It’s really a beautiful medium.
And I’m a professional speaker. I speak on inequity and venture in Hollywood. So a podcast felt like a really easy segue from what I do at conferences into being able to give people a piece of that in their own time, in their own home, in their cars. But also having the ability to really bring in people that I think can really radically change someone’s day or, hopefully, inspire them in the place where they’re at, or make them feel supported. Or little, tiny tidbits that can stay with them for the rest of their lives.
There’s a section on “Do the Work” called rapid fire. We’ll do our version of it here.
What was the last movie or TV program that you saw?
Wow, this is going to embarrass me. I am a big sucker for the “90-day Fiancé" universe. I find it fascinating and I just watch it and study. So that is the last program I watched.
What was the last book that you read?
I am reading right now “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.” And I just finished “My Dark Vanessa,” which was a gift from Griffin on the podcast.
This is a question that you ask many of your guests: What are you struggling with right now?
I think uncertainty and possibility. I think that I’m sitting at a place where there are a lot of different balls thrown in the air and I don’t know which ones are going to net, [so there’s] some discomfort. But there’s also a lot of possibility, so it’s trying to hold both at the same time.
Who are you excited to speak to in the entertainment world? And who would you like to have on your show?
On my dream list I can say that I would love to speak with Shonda Rhimes. I would love to speak with Michaela Coel. I’m sure you heard her mentioned approximately four times on this season. I think she’s a great example of what Hollywood needs more of. Gloria Steinem, AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], people like that. Glennon Doyle who wrote “Untamed.” I have a very small dream list, but people who I really believe are portraying that leadership that I so desperately think we need more of. I think these people are really good examples of people doing that.
Lastly, here’s a philosophical question about Hollywood. Do you think the creative and business world will be able to get back to what it was before the pandemic — and should it?
I don’t think it should get back to what it was. I think that what we had, when it was done right, worked really well for one type of person for a really long time. It’s time to reevaluate the system as a whole for all the people. I also think when you have a surplus of choice, we need more infrastructure. And I think Hollywood has had a deep resistance to technology for a long time. I think there’s a lot of tools that can help Hollywood make more money if they were willing to be a little less fear-based. I think that people are holding on to an old way of doing things, and the reality is that change is the only constant. We have to have an ability to be more flexible to new opportunities and new ways of change.
I hope that as we move forward, we start to do that. Because otherwise, as things break and things rebuild, we’re going to end up with a very similar system to the one that we’ve had. I actually think that for us to make the most amount of money and to make the most amount of healing possible, we need to restructure so many facets of the business to be inclusive and holistic and to understand a global entertainment world. What does that look like? And how can we be more strategic and intelligent about building that?
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