Tanna Frederick takes life by the reins, then rides it for all it's worth. An award-winning actress, she's also a producer, director and co-founder of the Iowa Film Festival in her home state. Off-screen, Frederick is a marathon runner, second-degree taekwondo black belt and surfer. She created the nonprofit Project Save Our Surf, which promotes ocean conservation and works with underserved youth.
I caught up with her while she was in New York for the premiere of "The M Word," a romantic comedy about menopause, among other life changes. Directed by Harry Jaglom, the independent film stars Frederick alongside Michael Imperioli and Corey Feldman.
With so much going on in your life, how do you find balance?
I'm an incredibly unbalanced person [laughs], so I try to keep myself very busy and involved. I believe we have one life, and I choose to live my life to its absolute fullest. I'm so lucky to work with kids in a nonprofit, to be able to run marathons and practice taekwondo. I've tried yoga, meditation, chanting, but when it comes down to it, the thing that keeps me most grounded is having not one plate that's full but 20 plates that are full. That's how I keep balance.
You describe yourself as addicted to surfing. What is it about riding waves that compels you?
I first saw the ocean when I was 17. Now, living near the ocean, it's like having a huge playground with no boundaries. When I got on my first wave and felt the beauty and power of the ocean, I completely lost myself. I think too much. When you're surfing, if you're not focused on what you're doing, you're going to pound your head on the sand. You have to pay attention to the ocean because it can kill you.
How does your active lifestyle complement your acting career?
In my creative life, my workouts give me structure. I'm very goal-oriented, so ... having a goal and making a schedule help me. It's basically a syllabus for my life. I remember the first time in college that I got a syllabus — I was so relieved.
Do you manage to eat healthfully when your schedule is at its fullest?
No, I don't think I eat healthfully. It's L.A. As a woman, there's a lot of pressure in this town. And especially in this field. Being a dentist or an optometrist is probably more forgiving as far as personal appearance than being an actress. I'm not going to pretend it's something that's not on my mind or something I don't try to control. Eating has always been a weakness for me.
What do you feel are the most important components of a healthy lifestyle?
I think knowing yourself and knowing how to get yourself through your own rings of fire. In college, I was determined to get a nose job. I have a beautiful Danish nose — I love it now — but I couldn't look into dressing room mirrors without hating myself. Then I read a quote by Katharine Hepburn, talking about some part of her body she didn't like, where she said — and I'm paraphrasing here — take that thing you don't like about yourself and make it the thing you love the most.
I've broken my nose three times now. It's pretty big, so it's not that hard to break. The first time, I ran into a wall playing a dog on stage; the second time, I broke it in taekwondo; the third time, I cracked it on a board when I was surfing. Now I love my nose because it represents all the crazy stuff I've gone through, and it represents my strengths.