Photo by Tony Duran

Photo by Tony Duran

Interview: Maranda Pleasant

Maranda Pleasant: What is it that you are passionate about?

Nancy O’Dell: My family. My daughter. My stepson. My family is the biggest, my kids. My daughter and I are so close. She just turned six. I can describe anything she’s doing, the least little thing, and I get all excited about it. It’s like medicine. When I come home from work and the first thing I see is her and she runs and jumps in my arms—everything that went bad in the day goes completely out the window. It’s like taking a dose of medicine. It makes everything better.

MP: What makes you most vulnerable?

NOD: I feel very vulnerable when it has to do with family. Having lost my mom, who I was so extremely close to, now I feel so vulnerable when somebody gets sick or hurt. I become a complete wreck until they’re well. Even if it’s a cold! I compare myself to Marlin in Finding Nemo.

MP: How did your mother pass away?

NOD: She passed away due to complications of ALS. She lost her voice for about a year and nobody could tell us what was wrong. Somebody suggested we go see a neurologist. We knew one of the possibilities was ALS, but that was the worst diagnosis she could get. We prayed it would be anything else, and that was the diagnosis that we got.

She was my best friend. A wonderful, wonderful, person. It’s devastating. Obviously, life-altering, life-changing. Once you lose somebody so close to you like that, you become very overprotective.

MP: What causes do you support?

NOD: I started bettysbattle.org, which is a charity in honor of my mom, associated with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, a charity that is near and dear to my heart. We turned to them for resources and information. They were there for us every step of the way, from the day that Mom was diagnosed. I formed a charity in honor of my mom and them. I’m the national ALS ambassador for MDA. I do their telethon every year.

Best Buddies is another one. It’s an organization that helps people with intellectual disabilities get out into the community and form one-on-one friendships.

I do a lot of work with the Red Cross, too. As a reporter, before I went to entertainment news, I tended to follow natural disasters. I went to Charleston, South Carolina, after Hurricane Hugo. I went to Miami the year after they were recovering from Hurricane Andrew. I came to California when they were recovering from a big earthquake. I’ve seen the Red Cross and how they stay there years after a natural disaster. They’re not just there when a disaster is happening.

MP: What project are you working on right now?

NOD: I have a relatively new project. The first storybook came out this past December and we have another one coming out, called “Little Ashby: Star Reporter.” It was named after my daughter. It’s a storybook for the iPad. I saw how much my daughter, who is six now, was enjoying it. It’s a whole new world for kids. “Little Ashby: Star Reporter” is an extremely interactive storybook app.

I love my job so much. I thought, what a cool way for kids to learn, via assignment, via reporting. I learn so much as an adult going around and covering these stories. How fun it would be to do it via a storybook app and cartoon characters. My daughter can work on an iPhone and iPad like crazy. That’s their world. If you can use that, use it educationally. They can learn while they’re having so much fun. They don’t even realize they’re learning. All the proceeds go to MDA.


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