Take a seat and listen in on a roundtable discussion among four of Westport‘s most dynamic women, hosted by Editor-in-Chief Samantha Yanks. Close friends, who meet often for lunch and dinner to chat about their careers, their personal lives, and to help each other succeed, share here what they love about Westport, their professional challenges and triumphs, and the lessons they’ve learned through it all. This talented group is the perfect feature story for our silver anniversary.
Samantha Yanks: It’s the 25th anniversary of Westport, Wilton & Weston, a real honor. It’s so interesting to understand what draws people like you to this community. Why did you move here and what do you love about our town?
Alisyn Camerota: I’m so glad that I get to live here. We moved to town before I started working at CNN. I’d heard about Westport’s reputation as an artsy community. In the ‘80s, both my mother and I had friends who lived in Westport and planted the seed for us. It did take me a while to adjust once we arrived, but I’m very happy we made the decision.
Lindsay Czarniak: My husband (Craig Melvin, anchor on NBC’s Today) and I were living in Washington, D.C. and working at a TV station together. Our contracts were up at the same time, and we ended up getting engaged as well. In conjunction with that, I got a new job at ESPN, in Bristol, CT, and Craig got a job in New York City.
So, we literally pulled out a map and figured out which towns were halfway between the two. I pointed to Westport and said, “I’ve heard Martha Stewart talk about this place.” We then came and checked it out and really loved it. I was working overnights, and Craig and I were like two ships passing, so it wasn’t easy at first, but we made it work.
Emily Liebert: Before moving to Westport, we lived in Westchester for 10 year and already had two young kids. We knew we wanted to relocate to CT, but didn’t truly understand the differences between Weston, Wilton, and Westport or which one would be right for us, so we looked at about 100 homes between the three. Finally, we found a home in Wilton, which ended up falling through.
As luck would have it, the next house we saw was in Westport, and it was perfect for us. What’s funny is that, at the time, I didn’t appreciate how exceptional Westport’s school system is. My husband and I had both grownup in NYC and attended private schools, so I said to him, “We should really start applying to kindergarten for the boys.” And he was like, “What do you mean? They’re going to the public school. That’s one of the main reasons why we live here.” He was correct.
Stéphanie Szostak: My husband and I lived in New York City for 16 years and were very happy there. We had family and friends who lived here, so knew it well, and we’d also considered moving to L.A., since I’m an actress. But, thankfully, I had to come to Westport to work with this genius dialect coach, Tim Monich, and I fell in love with his house. I’d never lived in a house before. He told me all about the town and how illustrators from The New Yorker used to live here. I called my husband and said, “We need to move to Westport.” It didn’t happen until a few years later when my husband’s cousin, who lives in Westport, engaged in covert operation with her realtor friend and found the right house for us. We’ve never looked back.
Samantha: Let’s talk about your current projects. What Are you working on now? How do each of you define yourself?
Alisyn: Fundamentally, I’m a journalist. My official job is anchor and correspondent at CNN. I’ve anchored for many years and have done various shows at different hours, from early morning to late at night, which have all been unique and interesting in their own ways. I truly feel like my job is a public service. I try to be human, ask human questions, and provide some levity, if I can. Also wrote a novel called Amanda Wakes Up, which was published in 2018, and now I have a memoir due out in early 2024.
Lindsay: I’m a sportscaster, a content creator, and a podcast host. I’m passionate about storytelling, being at live events, and breaking sports news. My podcast is called Lunch with Lindsay And My goal is to have conversations with people I feel are relatable. Right now, I’m doing some self-discovery and learning how to lean into fear in the way of new career experiences.
Stéphanie: I’m an actress, which isn’t necessarily an easy career path.T en years into it, when doors finally started opening for me, I lost my confidence and developed imposter syndrome. Was unable to perform, and–for two years—I actually didn’t get a job. I’d go to these big auditions, get on-set, and mess them up.
Then, one day, I found a book by Deepak Choprah called The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, which really changed my whole experience and drove me to discover tools that would help me overcome my apprehension. Ultimately, I created a playbook for myself on my phone with important take-aways from all of the material that inspired me.
During Covid, I did a show called A Million Little Things about depression and suicide. There was a mental health consultant on the show who started a non profit called Give an Hour®, and I did some work with them. When they asked me, “What do you do for your mental health?” I told them about the playbook and we decided to partner to create a playbook for others. It’s called Self!sh and it comes out October 10th.
Emily: I’m a bestselling author of seven books (six novels and one narrative non-fiction) and a celebrity ghostwriter. Currently, I’m working on three different projects at once—my own seventh novel and two collaborations—which is typical for me and very fulfilling. It’s a gift to have a career you’re passionate about, and I’m grateful for that every day.
Samantha: Emily, can you give us a sneak peek as to what your new novel is about?
Emily: Yes! It’s about a young woman named Julia, in her mid-thirties, who helps run her family restaurant — which is an institution in Newport, RI —and has aspirations of becoming a professional chef in a big city. She grew up with a single mother, who told her that her father (a one night stand) had passed away. When her best friend asks her, as a favor, to take a genetic test with her, Julia is shocked to find out that her father is still alive and well. He’s also a very high profile multimillionaire, living in Greenwich, CT with his wife and two daughters (Julia’s half-sisters). Naturally, Julia decides she has to meet her father and the rest of his brood. Add in an extravagant engagement party for one of her half-sisters and a tremendous amount of family drama…I guess you’ll have to read it to see what happens next.
Samantha: You’re all professional working women, moms, and great friends who come together to boost each other, both professionally and personally. Tell me about that.
Stéphanie: Through our regular lunches and dinners together, we’re always talking and finding ways to help each other. For example, I told Lindsay that I was working on an app to complement my book and, immediately she said, “You should meet my friends who own a branding agency. I think they’d really love this idea.” As it turned out, they were our neighbors, and now we’re doing the app together. They actually came up with the book’s name, Self!sh. Emily also really helped me by suggesting the publishing house I’m working with—she’s our “cruise director” and the best cheerleader for her friends.
Alisyn: I’ve spent the past 12 years working on my memoir, which is a total passion project. It’s a labor of love, and it’s been both challenging and rewarding. Even Though I’m not a professional writer like Emily is, she still takes what I’m doing seriously. Throughout the process, she was so generous and supportive by offering to connect me with various agents and publishers, which made it much easier.
Also, Stéphanie and Lindsay are both working with a publicist who they introduced me to. All of these women are great sounding boards, and they offer valuable suggestions and advice.
Emily: I’ll never forget one piece of advice Alisyn gave me many years ago when my kids were younger, and I was griping about having too much on my plate. She said, “Just don’t do it all. Lie in your bed. Someone else will eventually take out the garbage and no one will starve.” That was empowering. Stéphanie and Lindsay are also exceptionally supportive of my career and I cherish the wisdom they share with me, both professionally and personally. It’s not all work talk when we get together.
Samantha: Do you feel that your husbands are super supportive of your careers?
Alisyn: My career wouldn’t be possible without my husband’s support. When I was anchoring the morning show, I never would have been able to leave the house every day at four in the morning if he wasn’t there to help make the kids breakfast and to get them to school. He’s also been my biggest motivator. During really intense moments in the news cycle, when I was feeling drained exhausted, he would say things like, “Now’s not the time to take your foot off the gas. Get in there.” It was very helpful to have my husband remind me of my purpose.
Samantha: What’s the toughest thing, professionally speaking, that you’ve endured and learned from?
Stéphanie: For me, the toughest thing was filming A Million Little Things in Vancouver, which meant that I was living on the opposite coast from my husband and two sons for eight months at a time, commuting back and forth as often as I could. We made the decision as a family, and it allowed my husband to step into more of a caregiver role than ever; it was amazing to witness how good he was at it.
Emily: The most challenging aspect of building my career has been the rejection. And, believe me, I have thick skin. What frustrates me was the fact that I’d always believed I could accomplish whatever I wanted if I just worked hard enough and—in the literary world—that’s not necessarily the case. You can write a phenomenal book and it can still be rejected by five editors before one decides to buy it.
Lindsay: I’ve realized that I really suck at dealing with not getting a “why” when something doesn’t workout. I need an explanation and there isn’t always a good one.
Samantha: Is there a specific place in our community or something specific about it that’s meaningful to you?
Lindsay: The Westport Library. It’s one of the first places that really made Westport feel like a community to me. When you have kids, before they’re in preschool, it’s hard to figure out what to do with them and where to take them, whether you’re working or not. I was working, but I didn’t have to go in until 10:30 am at that point, which was great. So I would go to the library for kids classes and to explore. It’s such a creative space. Our whole town is.
Emily: For me, it’s the people. Over The last 10 years, I’ve found so many talented, creative women and men whom I’m honored to call my friends, which includes everyone at this table and beyond. Without my tight-knit Westport Circle, life would be pretty boring. I’m also a major foodie, so I love having so many excellent restaurants to choose from.
Samantha: Lastly, do you have a ritual that’s part of your day and is helpful to you?
Alisyn: Yes, I do! And I feel very strongly about this. Stéphanie gave me this great gratitude journal. Writing down what I’m grateful for is a practice that has reframed my day. It’s the first thing I doin the morning and the last thing I do at night.
Stéphanie: I started doing meditation 10 years ago. And transcendental meditation seven or eight years ago. It’s been amazing for me.
Emily: Mine is simple. I walk about five miles six mornings a week I take a Pure Barre class. That’s my time to clear my head. It centers me.