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Leading with Kindness, Interview with “She’s A Full On Monet”

Updated: Sep 1, 2023


Lu Parker leads with kindness.

And she doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk.

Parker is the founder of her own company Be Kind & Co., which “Inspires audiences to redefine kindness and then use it as a tool to eliminate insecurities, get unstuck, and create a life you can be proud of.”

She draws on her experience as an Emmy award-winning TV journalist, author, her win as Miss USA 1994, and her experience as an animal rights advocate to give back to others as an inspirational speaker. Parker focuses on the message that kindness is a strength and not a weakness. Her speeches encourage people to live lives through actions that support wellness, positivity, self-care, and success.

“Lu believes every act of kindness can empower people to grow their spirit and strengthen their soul,” her website states. “For those seeking to deepen their understanding and compassion towards themselves and others, she offers follow-up phone calls and executive one-on-one virtual coaching.”

We sat down for a virtual interview with Lu Parker in honor of the upcoming Random Acts of Kindness Day (Feb 18). Keep reading below!

Kelly Castillo: First of all, thank you again for being here with us! We wanted to talk a little bit about your background and how you got motivated to start Be Kind & Co. I think it’s a really great project and I would love to hear how it got created.

Lu Parker: It started out as a blog. Actually, it wasn’t an online magazine the way it is now, because we revamped it during COVID, a lot.

It was a really interesting story on how it evolved. About four or five years ago, I had a really unfortunate situation happen where I was trying to be kind to someone and it backfired on me. It basically blew my life up, emotionally.

You know, not a lot of things changed in my life, but it was a big situation where I dealt with a lot of new emotions around not understanding why it blew up and why I was punished for trying to be kind. So, the first thing I started doing was something that it sounds like you would do, too — I started writing.

The more I wrote about it, the more I realized that I wanted to create — either write a book or do some kind of online challenge or something. I knew something needed to be done around kindness because that was what I was struggling with. It’s like I wanted to give up on kindness.

One night I was lying in bed and I woke up and I knew what I wanted it to be. When I thought of Arianna Huffington and the Huffington Post, and Thrive Global, and what she had done with Thrive Global – it’s all positive, about sleep and self care – I called a friend and we slowly started creating.

We created Be Kind & Co. and it was a blog for a long time and, then, I started doing speaking gigs and that got kind of big. Then, COVID hit and all the speaking engagements settled down. So, now we do articles, and I am going to write a book. That’s where we’ve evolved to at this point and I love it.

It’s a labor of love. I know it’s a business, but it’s definitely something that I think is really important for this world.

KC: Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, I was raised, primarily, by my grandmother and she was a fantastic lady, but she always taught me to lead with compassion and always to put compassion ahead of judgment.

So that’s something I keep in mind in my day-to-day life — even in something as simple as getting cut off on the freeway, right? My knee-jerk reaction, now, is always to say, “Oh, that person must be having a really rough day, I wish them well,” instead of getting road rage.

I think that was instilled in me so young. It’s really shaped how I interact with everyone in my life and it not just benefits other people, but for my own mental health and day-to-day life, it’s invaluable.

LP: And I would agree with you. Not only is it valuable for everyone around you and you, it’s also valuable for the universe because I really feel that if there’s constant negativity in the world, that vibrates.

But kindness also vibrates, and empathy, and compassion – all that vibrates. So, even though a lot of people don’t feel like being kind or feel that it doesn’t really matter, it does matter because you are impacting that person in front of you. They’re expecting you to be a jerk to them, right? And when you’re not, it calms them down as well.

And, on that note, one thing I do like to push with Be Kind & Co. is actually taking kindness and using that for self-care – being kind to ourselves.

Ultimately, I think that does help our health, right? If we’re going through stressful times with COVID, or if we’re going through it with a relationship, or some kind of family issue, or whatever, it does something if we can slow down and ask, “What do I need?”

It’s a practice, to be kind, but it’s also a practice to find ways to be kind to yourself. We say so many negative things to ourselves and we do it for many years. We do it for decades. It’s very difficult to flip that and, all of a sudden, say things like, “I am smart. I am powerful. I am beautiful. I am a good friend. I am a great daughter,” or whatever it is. Those things make you feel silly.

Isn’t it weird that you feel silly saying positive things about yourself, but you can kick your butt all day?

KC: I feel like, when we really make kindness a practice in our everyday lives, it becomes like a character trait – it becomes our automatic reaction to things, instead of other negative choices.

I’m sure you’ve probably gotten a ton of positive responses to this whole movement, and I would love to hear about some of those. I can imagine how rewarding it is to hear from people that this impacts them or they connect to it.

LP: I think, a lot of times, when people think of kindness, sometimes they think of it as a weakness, right?

If you’re kind, you’re gonna get bulldozed over or taken advantage of, as opposed to looking at it as a strength. That’s one thing I also try to push and talk about — is that it is a strength to be kind.

When you’re writing, you don’t necessarily get feedback until people make comments on social media. But when I’m speaking in front of people and I’m able to be vulnerable — I was very vulnerable for my first speech because I admitted a lot of things that had happened to me in my life — people would come to me after the speech and say, “I, too, have struggled with that” or “I, too, have had that situation happen to me,” and they’re crying. “I felt like you were speaking straight to me.”

That’s when I realized that by speaking your truth, it doesn’t have to, necessarily, be around kindness. That’s just what my concept is and how I’ve tried to push through some pain. That’s where I realize, again, the vibration of the universe.

That’s where you’re helping other people. But you’re also helping yourself.

KC: How do you balance kindness with boundaries and with still having a powerful role in whatever interaction you’re having?

LP: I feel like I bring confidence to the table, wherever I am. So, I have the confidence there, in terms of having the strength, but I don’t like conflict. So, I shy away from conflict — if it’s happening — and I, sometimes, won’t speak up and diffuse it.

When I was competing at Miss USA — I was Miss South Carolina, at the time — I was with a bunch of the contestants for two weeks. We were all together because we had to do filming, and rehearsals, and stuff, and one of the girls never, ever, ever acknowledged me.

And I was like, what have I done wrong? But I realized that was a manipulation on her part that was her being unkind, right? I’m not sure what she was trying to do, but it was a lesson for me to realize that I can continue to be kind even if I’m being treated unkind or being manipulated in a way. There are sayings out there like “kill them with kindness,” right?

Stay in your kindness zone as much as you can and just realize that everyone else is doing their own stuff. And if you are drawn to that energy you’re going to get off track and then probably become unkind, right?

If we’re being kind in order to be liked, or we’re being kind because that person is ignoring us — and we want them to notice us — if we’re being kind with any agenda behind it, other than the agenda of just being kind, we need to examine our motives and and recenter our commitment to kindness for the sake of kindness.

I also remember when I first worked in a newsroom. My first newsroom was a very small newsroom at the CBS affiliate in South Carolina. I love quotes. We had these little mailboxes and, you know, again, I came in as a former Miss USA, as a new reporter. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Not everybody was nice and I had to say, “am I doing something wrong?” I wasn’t – I was just being bullied.

Then, I remembered this really beautiful poem that I had found that this 99 year old woman wrote, and I wanted to share it with people. So, I made copies of it. I didn’t put my name on it and I just put it in everyone’s mailbox. It’s just what I do. And I remember one of the guys pulled it. He was like, “Who put this stupid poem in the mailbox? This is ridiculous,” and I remember thinking, “Oh, have I done something wrong?” but I had not done anything wrong.

All I was doing was trying to spread love and kindness because I felt this bad energy in the newsroom. I stayed in my zone, right? I stayed in my zone and those negative people ended up, either, getting fired or moving on, and then, eventually, I got a different job.

I don’t think, ultimately, I could have given up on kindness. I could have said, “oh, maybe I should just pull back and not be that person”. But it’s my core and I don’t want to give up on it. I want to be doing kind things until the day I die.

KC: I love your message. I love everything that you’re doing. It really speaks to me and speaks to who I am and, I’m sure, a lot of our readers and listeners. It will also resonate because this is such an important message in the world that we’re living in today. It’s getting more and more important, especially with everything we’ve gone through in the last two years – the isolation, and the loneliness, and the lack of connection.

LP: I mean, it’s even more important, probably, than ever. Not to mention, all the lives that have been lost. I mean, everyone’s going through something right now.

KC: So, how can our audience and our readership get involved with Be Kind & Co.? And what would you recommend they do?

LP: Well, first of all, we’ve got the site, Be Kind & Co. – we don’t have as many articles as we used to but, when we do have them, I think they’re really powerful. We also launched a shirt and hoodie line about six months ago.

I would love for your readers to be a part of the newsletter and just follow what’s happening with me, and Be Kind & Co., and what we’re up to, especially when the events happen.

I’d love for them to participate, and I think the best way to participate is to be kind and to hashtag. Even if you’re doing your own post, just do a hashtag about kindness. I think it’s really important, and just a little note to remind everyone to be kind.

KC: Yeah, that is so important, so I think that’s great. People can follow on Instagram and see when the events are going to come back up. And, honestly, follow as many positive accounts as possible. You’ll find great affirmations. You’ll just have lots of tips and reminders every day to do great things to be kind. So, I think that’s great. Everyone should definitely follow those accounts and, hopefully, you’ll be able to do some live events soon, because that would be so fun.

LP: I hope, maybe, in the middle of fall or something. I think it would be fantastic and I appreciate you reaching out. It’s always great to have a really good conversation and just, you know, feel good about what we’re doing, and also remind ourselves of why we do what we do.

There’s so many messages that you can put out in the world and, whatever that message is, just try to find a space for it. You may not even know who you’re influencing or inspiring. Someone may be reading this article or watching this on YouTube who had a really rough day today, and they’re having trouble reminding themselves to be kind to someone in their life or to themselves. Even more importantly, maybe they’re just in a bad place.

This is your reminder to do something kind for yourself today and if you have the energy to do something kind for someone else, just do it – it pays amazing dividends for the world at large.

The people in our group do affirmations: I am _____, and fill the blank with whatever word pops up. Then, just keep reminding yourself of that throughout the day.

KC: Yeah, that’s so important and, you’re right, it does feel silly sometimes to do those affirmations, but your body is subconsciously hearing that and internalizing it.

LP: Affirmations were strange for me when I started doing them. I had to do, what I call, “iffirmations” where I say, “What if I’m enough?” and then let myself explore that. “What if” I’m whatever the affirmation is? It was hard for me to authentically say those things to myself in the beginning. I struggled. Now, I’m onto the affirmations and I’m loving it.

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