Dee Wallace is primarily known to the world as an actress – above all as the mom in E.T., but also as the mother in CUJO, a reporter investigating werewolves in THE HOWLING and more recently recurring as the Blutbad (werewolf) mother of Monroe (series regular Silas Weir Mitchell) on GRIMM and as Willie Sterling on THE WHISPERS. However, Wallace has many other aspects to her life. In addition to being a mother, she’s been a dancer, a teacher and is still a practicing life coach.
Now Wallace is adding toy creator and children’s book author to her resume with BuppaLaPaloo, a teddy bear designed to help extremely young children develop self-esteem. A series of books and songs will accompany BuppaLaPaloo – pronounced buh-puh-LAH-pah-loo – and a Kickstarter campaign http://kck.st/1FOsjtw for the toy goes through October 7.
In a phone interview, Wallace explains BuppaLaPaloo’s mission, why the Kickstarter campaign is necessary and how she came to invent this confidence-building companion for little ones.
ASSIGNMENT X: How and when did the idea for BuppaLaPaloo come to you?
DEE WALLACE: It percolated for a couple of years. People kept saying to me, “Dee, you need to do something to reach kids.” Through all of my intuitive life-coaching work, I found that everything went back to the lack of love that we learned very early in childhood for ourselves. And the more I studied the brain and its development, it became quite apparent to me that if we do not have self-love instilled by four years old, then we spend the rest of our lives trying to love ourselves enough to accomplish what we want to do.
And so the first idea was, “Well, maybe I could write a book addressing early childhood stuff, but I really want to reach the kids [which a book about psychology would not accomplish].” Then I saw – it’s all over the Internet – this little thing that this little girl named Jessica did. She used to get up and stand up on the basin in front of the mirror and go, “I love me, I love my body.” And I would play it in a lot of my seminars and ask, “How many of us as adults can get up and look at ourselves in the mirror like this and go, ‘I really love you. You are really awesome’?” And people would just break out into tears.
One day, I thought, “What is the standard toy that all of us have always gone to bond with and to feel love when you’re a little kid?” It was a stuffed teddy bear. And I thought, “I’m going to put really empowering first-person messages in this bear and have the child repeat it back to the bear.” We know that when something is joyful and you’re having a lot of fun doing it and claiming it in first person, it gets created almost instantaneously. So that’s what the bear does. The kid’s having fun, he’s in his joy, he’s bonding with his playmate, and saying in first-person statements while he’s in this emotional state, “I love me. I love my body. I am so loved. I’m going to be great.” It’s such a simple concept, but it brings together all of the elements that teach a child’s brain to build the synapses for self-love.
I was astounded to find that there is nothing else out there like this on the market. Parents are so focused on pushing our kids and the electronics and the games. There’s so much data to back this up – bullying and bulimia and anorexia and low grades, poor grades, which escalate into school shootings and eating disorders for the rest of your life and everything else, the catch-phrase is “low self-esteem.” But you can’t have high self-esteem if you don’t love who you are. It’s not possible. So in order for a child to believe that they can do all the things that we’re hoping that they do in their lives, they have to love themselves and they have to trust themselves to go out and do it.
AX: Why is the bear called BuppaLaPaloo?
WALLACE: I even call him Buppa, and I’m sure the kids are going to call him Buppa, or they’ll rename him whatever they want. But we did some research and kids love nonsensical names, like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” We had been challenged a little bit with the trademark names that we wanted, so I said, “You know, after reading this research, I’m just going to make up a fun name.”
AX: Who is “we” in this instance?
WALLACE: I have a team that works with me. The idea is mine and I created the look of the bear. When I took it to Tonya Martines, I said, “Look, I would like a partner on this. I’ll take care of the creative and the financial, but I need somebody to do all the research for me, the technical stuff.” She’s quite an amazing videographer, so she shot the commercial that we did. So she’s my silent partner, and then I’m working with quite an incredible visual artist, Vincenzo Lodato. I’m not even sure what his overall umbrella title should be. I’ve written the book and he’s doing all of the illustrations now. But he’s also been invaluable in directing me with marketing, with putting together all the presentations of BuppaLaPaloo – he’s really been invaluable to me. So he also is a part of the creative team.
AX: How does BuppaLaPaloo work?
WALLACE: The bear faces the child. The child presses the left paw, and there are fourteen empowering statements. And with one press, she gets one statement, and then she repeats that back to the bear. That’s what the left paw does. The right paw – the parent or grandparent or the child herself can put in a personalized message. We had a little boy at the Toy Fair who put one in for himself. This little five-year-old boy said, “I want to put my own in.” And he put in, “I used to be afraid to go to sleep, but now I’m brave.” And he looked at me with these gleaming bright eyes, and he said, “I’m going to use this to help me be brave and go to bed by myself.” And I thought, “You know, out of the mouths of babes. This is the perfect reason that I created this bear, was that a child can use his own power to empower himself more.” I don’t think we can teach our kids anything more than that.
AX: Who provides the bear’s voice?
AX: So in fact BuppaLaPaloo is a she?
WALLACE: BuppaLaPaloo is a child’s voice. It’s not a gender [laughs].
AX: Does the book come with the bear, or is that separate?
WALLACE: Well, it’s not even finished yet, so right now, it’s not coming with the bear. That’s a whole marketing plan that we haven’t gotten into yet. I’m thinking that the first song – it’s such a fabulous song – will be a download. I don’t know how we’re going to use it yet. It’s all coming so quickly together. We just rolled it out in February at the Toy Fair, and all of this has come together in the interim, so it’s very exciting. Pretty overwhelming, too [laughs].
But the plan is, we already have the first book written, it’s being illustrated right now, I just recorded the first song in the studio two days ago, and what I see is a series of books and songs much like the Berenstain Bears for a younger audience that can really teach how powerful you are and how you really have the power to create your life by what you do and what you think and how you see your world. And that’s the message.
The point of the books is to teach the teachings of the bear, which is, you’re powerful, the world loves you, you have a lot of creative power in your own life, the more you love yourself, the more you can create what you want, all those principles. We as parents kid ourselves in thinking and believing that we teach those, and a lot of times, what we’re actually teaching is, not unconditional love, but competitive love, how well you can achieve, how good a grade you get, how much you compete in gymnastics, all that stuff. We’ve really swallowed that hook as parents, instead of teaching a child how awesome they are just because they’re here.
That’s the most empowering, loving thing we can do for our kids. And within all of us adults, there is that kid still trying to unconditionally love himself. How many of us wish we could love our bodies right now? How many of us wish we could love our ideas and follow through with them? [As a life coach], I have clients that say, “My God, Dee, I’ve been trying to do this website for three years. I can’t even take the first step.” They can’t take the first step because they don’t trust themselves, and they don’t trust themselves because they don’t love themselves enough to know how powerful they are. Why does a kid bully another kid? Because he doesn’t know his own power, and that’s one way that he can feel powerful, by taking down somebody else.
AX: What is the Kickstarter campaign for?
WALLACE: It’s to manufacture the next shipment [of bears]. I’ve put in thousands of dollars of my own to get it to this point. The first thousand bears have just landed in L.A. So this Kickstarter money is for p.r., it’s for marketing, it’s for ordering the next round of bears. It has to be for five thousand, which is around $35,000, and getting it out and all of the connections that need to be made. If we go on QVC, they have to have a certain number of bears. I need some funding to do that. People are ordering the bear already who have found out about it. It’s www. Buppalapaloo.com You can go there to order the bear.
AX: Where are you making your bears?
WALLACE: They’re being made in China. We did our due diligence about making them here, but they were just cost-prohibitive.
AX: Besides the BuppaLaPaloo website, will the bears be available anywhere else?
WALLACE: Well, you know, we’re just launching them, so the hope is the website and perhaps QVC, we’re talking to them right now. And yes, my dream is that Toys ‘R Us or some other retailer picks it up, absolutely. My dream is that this bear gets to every kid in the world – well, I almost started to say “that needs it,” but every kid needs it.
AX: Are you incorporating anything into BuppaLaPaloo that you’ve learned about parenting in your own experiences as a parent?
WALLACE: Oh, absolutely. I was studying this stuff the whole time I was raising my daughter, reading about self-esteem and parent effectiveness training, and making sure that you never took the power away from the child. You never say to the child, “I don’t like you when you do this,” you say, “I don’t like what you do.”
I’ve studied this all my life. I’m a licensed teacher. I’ve taught high school, I’ve had my own acting studio, I’ve had my own dance studio with very young children. I’ve studied children and teaching and what works all my life. And I’ve studied it within myself. I can tell you, when I’m on the set as an actress, the more I feel appreciated and honored, the more my creativity opens up. That’s just the way with me. If there is a secret, that is the secret, is to be able to give ourselves the honor and the acknowledgement that we’re waiting for the rest of the world to give us.
AX: Do you feel like you’ve succeeded with this with yourself?
WALLACE: I feel like I’m succeeding with this every day with myself. It’s a continuing learning process to find all those hidden perspectives that really keep us in self-abandonment. So yeah, it’s an everyday process of being conscious and really loving who I am more and more and more every day. And the more we love ourselves, the less we can abuse anybody else, because we don’t love ourselves when we abuse other people. So the whole world works when the kids love themselves, basically.
AX: Do you know if you’re you coming back to GRIMM this season?
WALLACE: I have not heard yet. The way GRIMM works is, they want to do characters and storylines and then sometimes two to three seasons later, you’re asked back to continue it. So I’m waiting to hear. I would love to go back to GRIMM, because I feel like I’m part of the family. And Chris [Mulkey, who plays Wallace’s husband on GRIMM] is just a doll. I just love him to death.
AX: Do you have any other acting projects we should know about?
WALLACE: I have a new series for Amazon that I just finished that will probably launch in December or January called JUST ADD MAGIC and I’m on my way to do a movie in Australia in the middle of November. So I’m circling a lot of great, wonderful, incredible things between the bear and the acting.
AX: Is there anything else you’d like to say about BuppaLaPaloo?
WALLACE: I would just say to all my fans out there, come on, step forward for this. Make a love donation to the world, because we love to romp through our horror films so that we can practice being strong enough to face the real horrors of our lives. I really do think this little bear can change the world, and I’m asking my fans to get behind it.
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Article: Exclusive Interview with Dee Wallace on BUPPALAPALOO