Joan Steffend is a well-known name in the Twin Cities and beyond. She has spent almost 30 years in the media, first as a national Emmy-winning news writer, reporter and anchor at KARE-TV (Channel 11). While there, she won many national and regional awards.
“I don’t believe the awards were for my reporting, but for my ability to tell a person’s story from their hearts,” she said.
Joan will be the featured speaker at “Hello Beautiful!,” the Women’s Expo sponsored by “Girlfriends” magazine Oct. 15 in Owatonna. She plans to speak on “Be Yourself or Miss Your Life.” Her vibrant, funny and direct to-the heart way of speaking will fill your heart and make your day. We hope you will join us that day, along with other women who hold special places in your life.
She was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame Sept. 30. Others joining her; Paul Magers (KARE anchor 1983-2003), John Hines of WCCO Radio (AM 830), Joe Soucheray of ESPN Radio (AM 1500), and broadcast veteran Paul Stagg.
“One of my life lessons is that I always tried to be who everyone wanted, but not quite myself,” she said. “You need to stop chasing other people’s dreams.”
After Joan left KARE-TV, she spent 11 years as a top-rated host on HGTV’s “Decorating Cents,” which was based on the premise that you can make a $500 budget stretch all the way around a room, inspiring viewers to re-use, re-cycle, and re-imagine design.
Joan said she looks at her life in four different stages.
Stage One was her childhood (she was born in Cambridge, Minnesota) through college.
“I was always looking for a self-deprecating laugh….and believed my destiny was to be Carol Burnett,” she said. “Finding the position had been filled – quite well actually – was tough to swallow, but I carried on.”
She performed onstage in college at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, in summer stock and at Warner Brothers Film Actors Workshop in Los Angeles.
Onto Stage Two. Joan began work as a television news anchor and reporter at the NBC affiliate in Duluth.
“By the time I left for an anchor job at KARE-11…..I had figured out my favorite part of the job – telling people’s stories and having the license to ask people almost everything,” she said. “I started looking for people and stories to uplift the viewers, and in the process won quite a few awards, including a national Emmy…. My favorite achievement, though, was getting 40 30-second spots on the air at KARE called ‘Something to Think About.’ They were meant to encourage and inspire myself and my two beautiful daughters, and I think they did.”
Stage Three allowed Joan to be creative, laugh more and have a little extra time for her family. That’s when she began hosting “Decorating Cents.” “I laughed more and hugged more people during (the time I was there) and 400 episodes… than you can imagine,” she said. Her work lead her to appearances on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Live with Regis and Kelly,” “The CBS Early Show,” “Today,” and “Entertainment Tonight,” among others.
“While at HGTV, I hosted many of the top-rated specials, including six ‘Dream Homes,’ several ‘Christmas at the White House’ specials and the Rose Bowl Parade,” she said.
Forward to today, Stage Four of Joan’s life.
“This is where it all comes together, right? I am in the middle of an optimistic, spiritually centered Stage Four, encouraging myself and all of us to recognize that we are magnificent just as we are, and that there is magic all around us, just waiting for us to find it,” she said.
She has written two books, both in their second printings. “….and she sparkled” was first published in 2010, and “….peace in peace out” in 2012. “I went out and spoke to group after group about them and found that, after years of avoiding public speaking, I actually loved it when I could speak from my heart and about the heart,” she said.
“So, that’s what I do now. I speak to groups of all sizes about how much we all matter in the world, how kindness to yourself and others is the path to world peace,” she said.
We asked Joan more about Stage Four and what it means to her and her audiences. Her family is her pride and joy – her husband, two grown daughters and sons-in-law, two grandchildren (age 3 and an infant born several months ago), along with their dog, Charlie.
What’s important to you?
Authenticity and respect. For the past several months, I’ve been posting things on Facebook about the smallest things you can do in the realm of kindness. I’m amazed at the positive response; I hadn’t really given it that much thought. I ask people, “What can I do to make the world slightly better for me and for others?” I post about the smallest things you can do in the realm of kindness.
It’s also important to be connected and to be heard. I’ve felt this all my life, along with wanting to be seen. I wanted my parents to be proud of who I was, not just what I did.
(The other night), I was tucking my 3-year-old grandson into bed and told him, “Just by being alive, you have changed the world for better.” He sat up and said, “Really? That’s awesome.” The world would be so much better if people were seen for who they are.
What makes you happiest?
Using both sides of my personality. I love being on my own and being able to dive deep about anything I’m curious about. I can Google for hours. On the other hand, I used to hate being on stage and speaking, but now there is some special kind of energy that flows through me when talking about things I love. l love the flow and energy between people.
What inspires you?
The idea that we can do it better. This isn’t all there is. We get caught up with material objects and financial success. The idea that we can live a better life tomorrow – that’s what keeps me going.
We like that you’ve named the stages of your life. Does it inspire others to do the same?
The world of women has changed. It used to be that we all expected to grow up, then get married and have children, along with a career the rest of our lives. It’s been impossible for me to have just one stage. I’ve spent all this time trying to figure out life and how to express it.
What do you tell women when you are speaking with them?
I love to encourage people and to think intuitively about them. I’ve interviewed thousands of people over the years; that gives you a chance to read people. I try to help them figure out where they are and where they want to go.
How do you get women to change the stories they often tell themselves, especially the unhappy ones (“I’m a victim,” “I have shame,” “I’m not good enough”?)
I can’t change anyone’s life, but I can drop seeds into their lives. They make take years to sprout, or they may never do so. I can tell them, “Here is what has helped me.” I’m still broken, and I’m not a guru; I just live my life the best way I know how. It’s not about being able to change someone’s life, showing them that they can be changed. I’ve been a storyteller my whole life. While looking at others’ lives, I’m still trying to find mine.
What do you tell your daughters?
The same (as I tell other women), tailored for who they each are. They’re very different. One’s an exterior worrier, one is softer on the outside. I tell them to be kinder to yourself and to other people. Be gentle to yourself.
We are so ugly with ourselves; sometimes, we wouldn’t want to live with this person who is in our brain. Be forgiving to yourself. Even if you’re bruised and broken, you can build something out of it.
You started an organization called Peace Begins with Me. Can you tell us more about it?
I wanted to inspire people. It’s the “world’s smallest peace project.” It starts with me, then with you, then with the next person. I hand out cards with a fingerprint on one side and
“Thank you for leaving kind fingerprints on the world. Love, the world’s smallest peace project… you and me.”
It’s our responsibility to promote peace. If you think the world is unkind, then you be the kind one. Kindness is action associated with peace, and it’s pretty much all we have to impact the world.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Life all makes sense when I look back at it. It never made sense when I was living it.
Now I understand; I’ve never felt more in tune with who I am and my own value when I am right now. I can also go to the opposite – I’m 62, and maybe less relevant to today’s culture – but I wouldn’t trade what I know about myself. I’m grateful to find out I’m an OK person after all this time.
I believe in you, whoever you are. Women are special beings. We’re not told that enough.
We need to feel that and know that and move in the world like that. I believe that we are on the verge of changing the world in pretty dramatic and wonderful ways.