How a daughter’s alopecia inspired a gluten-free recipe book
Her life could be a Hollywood movie . . . except nobody would believe it.
Unless your head has been buried under a pile of poopy diapers for the past 10 years, you’ve heard the infamous story of actor Dean McDermott leaving his wife of 13 years, Mary Jo Eustace, for Tori Spelling following their three-week on-set affair.
Him: “She’s my soul mate. She loves me unconditionally.”
Mary Jo: “You’ve known her three weeks. What conditions could those possibly be?”
He and Spelling married three months later.
And so began the saga of this brilliant and extremely resilient single mom as her life’s most painful and personal moments played out in the tabloids and on reality TV. Add to the mix she and McDermott were in the process of adopting a baby when all this went down, and your Hollywood movie just morphed into an epic miniseries.
She went through the adoption on her own.
Since then, this kick-ass mama has gone on to a successful career as a TV host, chef, and author, and she is currently promoting her new book, Scared Wheatless: Delicious Gluten-Free Recipes That Won’t Make You Lose Your Mind (Whitecap Books Ltd., 2015).
Oh, and she’s super funny!
Q: How old are your kids now, and what are their names?
A: My lovely children are Jack, who is 18, just graduated high school, and is off to San Francisco State in the fall; and Lola, who just turned 12 but, at times, seems well into her 30s.
Q: In the midst of your marriage unraveling, you decided to go through with the adoption of your daughter.
A: It was like everything was in slow motion except it was moving very quickly. It was your basic hell with little relief. I was served with divorce papers 12 weeks after the adoption was approved. Dean was around for only the first eight weeks. We had just moved here. Then unrelenting tabloid coverage, friends bailing, lawyer fees, bouts of head lice (courtesy of my son), magazines saying I was 57 years old and six feet tall. [Although] tragic, there were parts that were absurdly funny.
Yet it never occurred to me to not go through with the adoption. It was difficult for many reasons, and with all the media attention it took 18 months to complete, which unearthed the birth father and his agenda. But Lola is the joy of my life, the magic in the mix and a total mini-me. It was meant to be.
Q: How did you help your children navigate this challenging time, and how do you help them with its remnants today?
A: I was always there, supportive, probably very irritating in my need for routine, manners, and respect. It was a unique experience and has since been a horrible thing to navigate—but we always communicated and stood by each other. I feel it is finally over. Jack is going off to college, and I have no reason to have anything to do with my ex-husband or his wife. It’s very liberating! Yay for me!
Q: How did you survive?
A: Friends, chardonnay, dark humor, and being fearless and not afraid to change. The whole experience made me less of an asshole. It was a serious schooling in humility! Sometimes minute by minute; other times, hour by hour; and, in a good week, day by day. Just moving forward—and having some level of personal hygiene—helped.
Q: When your status shifted from married to single mom, did you find a shift in your community?
A: Oh, man, did I ever! I got dumped by the married mom groups. They were total beyotches! You really see who your friends are.
You are allowed to choose a team that supports and loves you. That is your right. During this time, you need serious advocates, and I have to say the majority of people who jumped ship I never let back on board. I forgave them, but they weren’t my peeps anymore. And the friends who stayed and nurtured the friendship were spectacular. A whole new community of people opened up to me. And by the way, married mom groups, nobody wants your husband . . . nobody!
Q: What are some of the things you’ve done since the divorce?
A: I wrote three books, produced and hosted 90 episodes of cooking shows, had my own morning radio show, started a gluten-free food company, fell in love, dated, bought a house, met a whole new set of lifelong friends, was a regular on CNN, appeared on all of my favorite shows, met some of my heroes, and just joined a firm to advise and help women with life planning and their financial health.
None of this would have happened if my marriage had not imploded.
Q: How are you able to navigate a career and raise two children?
A: Help, help, help is key. We have to ask and put great support systems into place, or it will never work. There were moments of guilt, extreme stress, and it gets lonely being a single parent. I have been one for 12 years. Some days you don’t do a good job at either place of employment, and the key is to forgive yourself and start again tomorrow. The upside of being a sole proprietor: you should see what I wear around the house—frightening.
Q: Tell me about the book. Why gluten-free?
A: I wrote it for my daughter, Lola, who was diagnosed with alopecia October 29, 2013, and lost 60% of her hair. I felt so helpless. I became obsessed, did a lot of research, and learned about autoimmune diseases, which are about inflammation: lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Hashimoto’s disease. I took our family gluten-free and found a great doctor who had a topical cream for alopecia. Six months later, her hair sprouted. I think I cried for six hours.
We had bought an amazing $3,000 wig: Amy Gibson Hair—a godsend. They are wigs for women going through chemo, alopecia, etc. Amy was an invaluable resource of positive energy and information. The book, Scared Wheatless, is a love letter to my daughter and families who have the added burden of needing to watch everything they eat. I wanted to make it fun. All the recipes are gluten-free, tested on kids, and pretty delicious. I just did a segment on The Doctors, and the response has been amazing!
Q: What now?
A: I just started at Raise The Bar Financial Group in Beverly Hills with an inspirational team of diverse people. We are concentrating on divorced women, families, and the LGBT community. After over 20 years of listening to women and living their stories day to day, it is a privilege to be able to bring it all together under one umbrella and give them the tools for physical and financial well-being. It is essential for women.
We know after our nasty divorces that nothing beats a perfect summer pesto and money in the bank!
Q: Of what are you the most proud about yourself as a single mom?
A: That I never gave up laughing or trying. I turned a whole lot of lemons into lemonade. I’m like Styrofoam—I won’t go away. Also, starting a new career that combines all the things I am passionate about: women; their health, both physical and financial; and taking care of themselves and their families while getting the most out of their lives.
Q: Favorite single-parenting shortcut?
Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.
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