Sarah Michelle Gellar is best known for her strong female roles: on TV in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Crazy Ones, and in films Cruel Intentions and The Grudge. Now she’s in a different strong female role as the cofounder of Foodstirs, which she launched last month.
Foodstirs is a culinary lifestyle brand that includes baking mixes made from better-for-you ingredients. As she told BlogHer cofounder Elisa Camahort Page at the #BlogHerFood15 conference on Saturday, the company is about “bringing memories back to the kitchen.”
Sarah Michelle has great food memories of her own. “I had a single mom… we were just getting by, but meals were important.” Her mom had a no-TV rule. “We talked about our day, and connected. I always knew I wanted that with my children.”
She didn’t cook as a kid: “I grew up in Manhattan. I’d make reservations.” She didn’t feel compelled to cook as an adult, either: Her husband, Freddie Prinze, Jr., had been to culinary school, and she loved eating his food.
But when her children showed an interest, she said, “If I didn’t get in there and have that connection, I knew I’d be missing out.”
She added, “Kids who get in the kitchen early have better fine and gross motor skills, they’re better at math, science, language. They’re less likely to do drugs, have diabetes, commit suicide. I want to give my kids the life skills to know right from wrong.”
Foodstirs was born from this desire. She and her best friend (and now a Foodstirs partner, Galit Laibow) found that their kids took pride in baking. They realized there had to be a way to give other parents this experience. “Maybe it had to be us.” That was her defining moment.
“I was doing OK in my other job. People thought I was crazy at first.” But the decision made sense to her. “I realized that the way people consume content is changing drastically. I wanted to be a part of the new creators, and I wanted to be with my kids.”
Learning the business was a job in itself. “I didn’t know anything! I thought VC (venture capital investment) meant V.C. Andrews, who wrote Flowers in the Attic. But when I do something, I do it 100 percent,” she said. “We see a lot of celebrities putting their names on things, but I wanted to be part of it every day. I have done every aspect of this.”
Those investors, she thought, treated her “almost as a novelty.” The attitude was, “‘Let’s see what Buffy has to say.’ But for every nine or 10 doors that closed, there was one person who saw something.”
Running a business also makes her feel more authentically herself than acting does. “Even when I’m producing a TV show or film, I have to answer to people. A movie gets greenlit now literally because the marketing department thinks they can market it… Our partners are all creative partners, we’re equal, we listen to each other and come together to make the best decision for our company—not for the big conglomerate that’s behind it.”
It is an “interesting” time to be a woman in Hollywood, Sarah Michelle said. “We have a huge discrepancy in pay. People are much harder on women, and we’re criticized much differently than men. But at the same time, we have a woman running for office. We’re talking about that discrepancy more… I’ve always tried to play women who are three-dimensional and strong, and flawed. It’s important to recognize failure.”
In exercise, she said, “You want your muscles to fail so they can repair and rebuild and be stronger. I try to apply that to my life.” She really thought she would be on The Crazy Ones for 10 years, but it ended “tragically” (the show was cancelled, and her co-star Robin Williams died soon afterward). “But from that came this.”
And with her new business, she’s embraced social media, which, she said, “allowed me to have my own voice, the way I always wanted to be heard.” #BlogHerFood15 was a great experience for her, she added. “It’s such an important community. Everybody shares, as opposed to keeping knowledge to themselves, and that’s the world that I want to live in.”
Elisa asked Sarah Michelle about what it was like to be so successful so young with Buffy. “I had more success than I ever dreamed,” she replied. “It’s taken the pressure off having to make something of myself… We want to be remembered. I feel I’ve been part of something like that.”
But she’s not sold on the idea of a Buffy reboot. “What’s hard about that idea is that ultimately, Buffy was a metaphor for the horrors of high school manifested into real horrors… but the story can go on, in graphic novels and fan fiction.” That’s not to say a reboot wouldn’t work, but “the show is still watched, and still dissected, and that means you’re still giving people that pleasure, and isn’t that the memory you want to leave people with?”
Now, she’s making new memories. “I slept more when I had a newborn baby than I do now. But my husband is so proud that I’m setting an example, something my kids can be proud of. My daughter hasn’t seen Buffy, but she knows Foodstirs… My daughter knows I’m doing something important, and she’s a part of it.”
Her family baked pies together last night, and sent her pictures. “My son is 3, and I see my daughter teaching him how to cook, how to measure. Put it all together, and I know it’s all worth it.”