Nancy Fuller is a powerhouse and as authentic and real as they come. She’s a Food Network Star who is grounded and down to earth. Having her own show on The Food Network was a bit of a fluke as it happened organically with a producer coming by on her own for a different reason! Nancy’s personality came through and before she knew it she had a show in the works.
As Nancy has a packed calendar, she wanted to lend her voice to our campaign while I helped to facilitate a conversation with her daughter, Nita. We had reached out to a few Millennials to join with her but couldn’t quite find the right pairing. Her daughter, Nita, jumped in and shared her voice and her relationship with her Mother. It was a refreshing and candid conversation between the two and I was delighted to meet the two women who know who they are and stand for authenticity.
Nancy grew up as an only child in a home that didn’t center around TV. She went off to boarding school and dreamed of one day having a big family of her own. As she likes to say…”Be careful what you wish for”…as she now has a giant family as well as a TV show of her very own. She’s a downhome gal who has been raised on the farm and loves to promote farm to table. Nita and the entire gang join her on the show and running the business and live a quiet and drama free life.
We spent a lot of time connecting about the difference amongst our generations and the lack of authentic and deep connection and communication. When she first met the producers on The Food Network, they told her she was a natural instantly. Her immediate response, “Honey, I’m 63…I’m f’in fat and I’m as natural as can be!” Well…that’s Nancy Fuller in a nutshell. Lively, vulnerable, sassy and filled with wisdom. As she likes to say, I call it as I see it…give me a break. She’s pure delight in this edited world we live in today, having been raised long before social media and firmly rooted in her values of respect and integrity.
So, what is like to one day be on a farm and the next day, be on your own show? If you’re a member of the Fuller Family, according to Nancy and Nita, it means life goes on just as it did before. Nancy shares her feelings at the beginning. Everyone was asking if she was nervous and she couldn’t seem to understand. Classic Nancy Fuller…nervous about what? And with that, life went on much as it had before just with a house filled with lights, producers and cameras.
Nita recalls a time when she went out with her Mom and Nancy had forgotten to put on makeup. She was approached by some fans for a few photos. After a moment realizing she was barefaced, Nancy had to laugh and say…”Tough that’s how it is…let’s take the photo as the real me.” As they both say, there were no adjustments needed in their lives and that’s why the show has been so successful. They are just being who they are. The producer’s advice was clear. Just be who you are and with that, “Farmhouse Rules” was born.
Nancy and Nita are a refreshing duo with values that reflect times gone by. As Nita says, she was raised in a loving home without drama but with a lot of discipline and respect. She learned to speak up and to be valued for who she was. Nancy openly shares that she has high expectations and she expects those expectations to be met. She calls herself strict, reliable and accountable as her Mother told her that “You are only as good as your word.” In her words, “If you say it, then do it!” You have one opportunity to make a first impression and you better make it a good one.
She raised her children to be of strong moral fiber with a strong work ethic. She walks the talk and is the ultimate role model. She shares that her wisdom comes from the people before me in my life. Nita learned the importance of discipline from her Mother. Nita says, “I yell because I care.” She goes on to say, “Mom probably thinks I’m softer than she is…I have more tolerance for misbehaved children or sassiness. I don’t want to squash it. I want to figure out how to navigate it. There is a confidence I see in my children that I foster and I make sure no one else takes that away from them.” She feels that addressing things in the moment with constant feedback and learning right from wrong is most important.” She doesn’t expect perfection and her children appreciate that quality in her.
When we brought up the subject of Bridging the Gap and the division amongst Millennials and older generations, Nancy gets a bit more heated in her rhetoric. “My biggest problem…how do I say this nicely…is that I think they are a pain in the ass and have no respect for what they are doing. I feel they have expectations way beyond their abilities. I think they don’t take the opportunities they have been given and I don’t think there is any respect for older people.” She continues, “There is no perception or emotion as their brains have developed while connected to a screen. They haven’t had any interaction as they have been allowed to be on these devices and there was no way for them to learn or have that brain development.” The research shows there is a lot of truth to what she says. Nita adds, “If they don’t have a device…they are lost.”
Nita likes to figure things out the old fashioned way with good old hard work and she sees them giving up too easily if their devices aren’t working. Some of the family’s fondest memories come from deep connections fostered at “Camp Gigi,” a summer camp where the family spends time together every year. They have a huge family get together at Christmas, piling as many as 17 on a sleepover or a crew of 28 at the dinner table. Nita told me how the family is dedicated to one another and to pulling together to create a wonderful show. They take the show very seriously as their high expectations always begin with themselves.
Nancy feels that it will take another full generation to really impact lasting change. Her legacy is one where she wants people to say, “ She made me realize I can do it on my own. I want to be a role model for women to do it on their own.” People have to be comfortable in their own skin. I want women to recognize their power, their needs, and their desires.” She continues, “Recognize your power and don’t ignore it or be subservient. Don’t mask your feelings.” She knows there are circumstances such as financial issues that may make it difficult but she says do whatever it takes to leave a powerless marriage.
Another profound wisdom is to detach from negativity. She said she had a lot of negativity in her life and she had to clean house. It was draining and burdensome for her. She’s much too old for drama as Nita says to leave it to the Reality TV shows! “Happiness for me is waking up in the morning and being alive!” Classic Nancy. Simple values equal happiness. She is not a complicated person.
Nita goes on to say that growing up they were very normal. They were never fighting and always communicating. She feels immense sadness for families that aren’t able to bond together. Her Mom is her own woman, a woman who knows who she is and lives a take no prisoners approach. Always accepting of her size as she leads a healthy life, Nancy believes “Big is Better!” Can’t argue with that philosophy.
The lesson they have learned from being on The Food Network is all the kind and amazing individuals who watch the show as they are the kindest people in the world. It attracts a certain type of person with the majority of her viewers in the South and Midwest, rather than the coastal states that tend to get more visibility on TV. Nancy adds…they are so LOYAL! A quality she deeply embodies and admires. Nancy worries about the younger generation and lends her voice to help guide them. “I think they are going to have to fall back on us in order to move forward. No one is going to put up with it. Ultimately, they will return to the values we were raised upon.” Good old fashioned values are what the Fuller Family is all about.