Nancy O’Dell: “Ashby Is Into Two Things: Sports & Boys”

We loved Nancy O’Dell for years as the reporter with the perfect hair on Access Hollywood. Since leaving that role, she’s never been busier. The down-to-earth mother of three – daughter Ashby, 2 1/2, and stepsons Tyler, 14, and Carson, 10 – opened up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her latest business ventures including being a spokesperson for her fabulous hair, starting jewelry and outdoor furniture lines, writing a new book, and advocating for ALS, the devastating disease that claimed the life of her beloved mother Betty.

Read all about Nancy’s latest projects, and her flirty daughter who makes her heart melt…

CBS: How is Ashby doing? What is she into? What does she do to make you laugh?

NO: “Ashby is doing great! She amazes me every day with what she says and does. I can’t believe how quickly they learn and pick up on things. Right now, she is really into two things: Sports and boys! She loves playing sports and she’s really athletic, which I love, because I played all kinds of sports growing up. She’s my little tomboy, like I was growing up.

However, it truly amazes me how much of a flirt she is at such a young age! My husband and I laugh and laugh at the way she is around boys and how many crushes she already has. She definitely knows how to bat those eyes at her brothers’ friends. Just the other day, her brother, Tyler (who is 14) had one of his friends over. The friend was sitting on the couch and Ashby was standing up behind him with her arms around his neck, combing her hands through his hair!! It was too funny!”

CBS: Any plans for her 3rd birthday in June? Will there be a theme?

NO: “No definite plans yet, but we will be having a party. I think it will be smaller this year, so we can take it all in and enjoy each moment. I may have to break down and do a princess theme. I told myself that I wasn’t going to have my daughter into everything princess because I like her being a little tomboy. But she has discovered all the Disney princesses, can name them one by one, and loves them!

However, she doesn’t like mommy being a princess. I was dressed up in an evening gown going to the Oscars this year, with my hair up and wearing fancy earrings. I walked out and said to Ashby, “Does Mommy look like a princess?” She replied, ‘No, I don’t want Mommy to be a princess! Something always happens to the princesses and I love you sooooooooo much!’ My heart melted!”

CBS: How has motherhood changed you? What are some of the greatest challenges? Greatest rewards?

NO: “Motherhood has definitely made me put things into perspective! You realize how unimportant some of the things are that you used to stress about. Now, that I am a mother, I know what truly makes one happy and that is the loved ones in your life.

The greatest challenge of being a working mother is the guilt trip. Any time away I am from my kids, I feel somewhat guilty. However, I want them to have a strong role model as far as being an independent woman.

Another challenge is the worry that comes with being a mother. I am constantly working on that. As far as rewards, everything is a reward – seriously! I feel like I am living my life all over again through my daughter. I get to experience the things I did as child again, through her, and watch through her eyes and see her excitement. Just the other day, we were in Vegas and who knew Vegas could be so much fun for child?! And that’s what I mean…life is fun in a different way all over again. I took her to pet the dolphins and see the animals at the Mirage and to the aquarium at Mandalay Bay and we had a blast! She has been talking about it ever since.”

CBS: You are stepmom to your husband’s two sons, Tyler, 14, and Carson, 10. Any good advice on how to blend families. Was it an easy transition for you and the boys?

NO: “I think the best advice I can give to other stepmoms is to treat the children as your own, but don’t try to take over for their birth parent. I am lucky that both my boys are great and truly sweet boys. Tyler and Carson were 8 and 5 when I first met my husband. The transition was a little tough in the beginning because they saw me as someone who was taking their father’s time away from them. Keith had never introduced them to anyone he had dated before me. So it was all new to them…someone else getting their father’s attention.

Keith and I just made sure we spent a lot of time doing things with them in the beginning as well. I would throw the football with them all the time and it was a major turning point when Tyler discovered I could throw a spiral. When Keith proposed, he did it with the boys, so all three of them got on their knees. It was the cutest thing and it definitely made them feel a part of the family union and not just like they were there because it was something their father was doing.

Also, as part of the ceremony, after our ring exchange, I gave the boys circle bracelets and told them I was so lucky to be getting wonderful sons as well as a husband via the marriage.”

CBS: You’ve been busy since you left Access Hollywood! You launched a jewelry line on QVC, an outdoor furniture line and wrote the book Full of Life. Please tell us about all three.

NO: “Yes, I never figured I would be busier after choosing to leave a five day a week job, but I am! It was one of the toughest decisions to leave Access Hollywood after 13 years and with two years still left on my contract, but I know now, it was the right thing. I have never been happier and feel no regrets. It is nice to be able to make my own decisions and to have autonomy in what I do. So the new ventures for me have been quite fun.

I launched my outdoor furniture line called Red Carpet by Nancy O’Dell – Our slogan is “where furniture meets fashion” – shortly after leaving Access. I have always loved furniture! Seriously, I could spend hours in a furniture store just looking around! The idea behind the line’s name is that it is furniture worthy of being on the red carpet. A-list furniture so to speak. I wanted to bring the indoors out and have so enjoyed the whole process, from designing to learning how to launch a line.

Yes, I also launched a jewelry line. Jewelry is always the best part of the outfit for me. I get dressed for TV appearances and then spend so much time changing the outfit up by switching around jewelry. I wanted my jewelry line to be very affordable as I wanted women to have jewelry for all the areas in their lives. Something they could wear to a kid’s school event, a business meeting, a date with their honey, etc. It was so exciting to launch the jewelry line on QVC on a red carpet Oscars special they held with Cindy Crawford, Isaac Mizrahi, Marc Bouwer, etc.

I have also been spending a lot of time as the new RUSK and BaByliss hair care spokesperson. I have long been a fan of their hair products as all the stylists would recommend RUSK. So that has kept me busy shooting the national campaign and making appearances on their behalf.

And I also continue to make appearances on behalf of my book, Full of Life. The book is filled with mom-to-mom tips I wish someone had told me about when I was pregnant. I talk about everything from conception, all through pregnancy, to the first weeks home with baby. From one mom to another, these are things you gotta know and I felt someone needed to tell.”

CBS: Do you and hubby Keith Zubchevich hope to have more children in the future?

NO: “We’re not doing anything to prevent it from happening. We always say if it is meant to be, it is meant to be. However, we both feel pretty content with having 3 children. They keep us quite busy and Ashby is out of diapers now. My husband says he wants us to travel the world when Ashby goes off to college, so he says he’s not sure if he wants to put that traveling the world out further. But then on the other hand, he absolutely loves children and says he’d love to have ten! So we would be soooo very happy either way!”

CBS: You were a beauty queen. Do you want Ashby entering beauty pageants?

NO: “When I was growing up in the South, it was just the thing to do. I really want Ashby to feel beautiful on the inside and focus on that. In this world, too much focus is placed on how you look on the outside. I want her to realize that it is way more important to feel beautiful on the inside and to be healthy. Some contests these days address that and involve causes versus being all about the outside.”

CBS: We were so sorry to hear about the loss of your mother, Betty Humphries, to ALS. What is it like for you raising your daughter without your mother to share in the joy? How have you worked through your grief?

NO: “My mom passed away 3 days before Ashby’s first birthday. I give thanks that mom and Ashby were able to meet each other and mom was able to hold Ashby in her arms. However, it has been extremely tough not having mom around to see her and Ashby together since. I have cried often about it, as mom and I were so very close, and I saw her with my nephews, so I know the amazing grandmother she was!

I find myself often still grabbing for the phone to call mom to tell her something that Ashby did and then realize I can’t. That’s tough. I still find myself working through the grief. The only thing I find comforting is knowing mom is not suffering anymore. ALS is truly one of the most horrific diseases. It destroys all of your muscles (including the muscles which allow you to breath), but your mind remains completely in tact, so you basically become a prisoner in your own body.”

CBS: You are a national ambassador for ALS. Please tell us about your role.

NO: “I serve as the National ALS Ambassador for MDA, the Muscular Dystrophy Association. MDA provided me and my family the wisdom we needed to handle this disease. We literally needed MDA every day of mom’s illness and I don’t know what we would have done without that incredible organization.

They provided expert medical advice, told us about the latest ALS research and clinical trials, and kept us informed about what might happen next. From the beginning, MDA told us they would be there for us every step of the way – and they were. Together, MDA and I started Betty’s Battle.

My hope is that MDA and Betty’s Battle will be able to fund the research necessary to find a cure, so other families don’t have to go through this like my family did. I want to humanize ALS, so people understand what it does both to those who have it, and to their families. ALS took one of the sweetest people who ever walked this earth. I want to do whatever I can to stop it from taking somebody else’s loved one.”

CBS: What are some of the traditions that you are carrying on from your mother to your daughter? Do you talk about grandma with Ashby?

NO: “Scrapbooking is probably the biggest tradition I carry on from my mother. I am a huge scrapbooker and so was she. I pretty much document anything and everything that happens in our lives. From just my pregnancy with Ashby, I have 8 full scrapbooks! I think it is such a great thing for a child to have their life in memories. It truly makes them feel so loved and important to see that their parents were proud of them and loved every little thing they did enough to file it away in a scrapbook.

When my stepsons came into my life, I made scrapbooks for them and, just the other day, Carson brought me an A+ homework paper asking me if I wanted to put it in his scrapbook. I knew then that he knew I was proud of him and it gave him such a sense of accomplishment and importance that we would want to keep that paper.

Also, my father recently brought me boxes full of scrapbooks my mom had made of my life. There was even this silly little poem I had written for her on a placemat when I was like 7 years old which she had in there. As a grown woman, that even made me feel so special to see mom had saved it all these years. Plus, the scrapbooks are a nice way of remembering her. I often go through the scrapbooks pointing out Grandma Betty to Ashby and explaining to Ashby how wonderful she was and how she is now Ashby’s angel watching over her.”

CBS: Was your mom able to share some of her best parenting advice with you before she died?

NO: “I am very lucky to have had two incredible parents. My dad is still living and is an amazing father. I always say my parents’ best parenting advice was by example. There was never a moment in my life where I doubted they were there for me.

My mom was an amazing mother. She always made me feel loved beyond belief and was there for anything and everything I ever did and always there when I needed her. If I can be merely a fourth of the mother to my kids as my mom was to me, I will be an incredible mom. I hope to give my children that feeling of being so loved!”

CBS: If you are working on any other projects or with any charities, please feel free to discuss.

NO: “I can’t wait to announce my next TV project. When I left Access Hollywood, I wasn’t leaving what I do for a living or entertainment. The wonderful thing that happened is the world opened up and so many exciting ventures have been presented. So now it is deciding how they all best fit together. The greatest thing is I have ownership in them and more control over what they are about and what I will be saying.

I also remain heavily involved in my other charities such as Best Buddies, where I proudly serve as an international board member. Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. My Aunt Ellen was a person with Down Syndrome.

I also enjoy my time working with on American Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet. I lived in Charleston, SC after Hurricane Hugo, in Miami after Hurricane Andrew and in L.A. after the big earthquake. A lot of people don’t realize the Red Cross is there years and years after a disaster, not just days after, and I witnessed this firsthand as a reporter in all those cities.

And, of course, I love the work I do with the March of Dimes, which is all about helping babies!”

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