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Montel Williams talks new online talk show (Exclusive Interview)

Montel Williams is best known for his long-running, Emmy-winning talk show The Montel Williams Show. While the show ended several years ago, Williams continues working as an inspirational and motivational speaker. Even though he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was 43, he has never stopped working to share his story and inspire others.

Williams’ latest venture is Living Well With Montel, a new series that is available online and through Video On Demand platforms. The series kicked off earlier this month, with an episode featuring an interview with a breast cancer survivor. The goal of the show is to inspire ordinary people, helping them understand that overcoming any obstacle is possible. As someone who has dealt with multiple sclerosis is your own experience as someone who has had tragic news, has that helped your understanding of what these people that you’re talking to are going through?

Montel Williams: What I’m doing is building a community where I’m going to share my personal
journey and my discoveries as well as that of other people who have been on journeys no matter what their illness... It’s not about tragedies and overcoming tragedies, it’s really going to be about getting information out there to help them live well.

Now, my journey with MS doesn’t help to understand other people, it helps shed a light on a story in a different light, but I intend to shed the same light on other people’s stories. I’ll give you an example. Today’s show is about breast cancer and that’s the first installment of the show. It’s out there right now on the web. And that show’s not really focusing on the tragedy as much as sharing with other people how they overcame and dealt with and live through a crisis. So, now, they’re thriving and we give them an opportunity to share with others. So that’s really what the focus of the show is. It’s not just about tragedies.

TCC: So, it’s about trying to, give a positive spin, to make sure that when you hear that news, you don’t go into a depression or...

Montel: I would take it a step further. It’s not just putting a spin. Today’s show, again, is on breast cancer, but I’m ready to launch three shows with women of different age groups, 25-40, 35-50, 45-60. And these women sat down in groups and talked about what we call the three S’s: stress, sex and sleep. So, there’s no tragedy in stress, sleep or sex in discussions. What we’re talking about was ways for people to handle and navigate... different stresses in their lives. So that’s really what the focus is... The whole idea of the show is to empower people to, not just through the telling of bad stories, but to empower people by giving them information that can make them champion their own plight, no matter what it might be. Anything from an illness to just apathy. There’s so many people who are couch potatoes who have no illnesses whatsoever, but that couch potato-ness is making them ill all by itself.

So, the entire idea of this whole new show and the whole idea of this community is to bring people together who can share information that can help others live well. If you look up on our website right now, you’ll see shows and information on how to make a new, healthy, smart, heart smart resting...You’ll see some information there on how you can better protect your brain from brain ecology. It’s a breath of information that’s designed to give people the tools they need to live well.

TCC: So, it’s more on lifestyle, right? It’s not targeted towards people who have gone through specific thing. It’s more like trying to help people understand the best of life.

Montel: Absolutely. I mean, you take a look at what I’ve been through. I’ve learned through so much of my journey to mitigate and reduce some of my symptoms of MS that those same things that I’ve learned to help a person, if they’re just dealing with the stress of changing jobs.

I mean, what I’ve done in my diet, to have an anti-inflammatory diet and I’ve shared that diet with as many people as I possibly can. That diet in itself can help you live well. If you were to maintain this diet for 21 days, I will guarantee you, you will live better than you did the day before you started it. Why? I’m reducing the things that’s putting a strain on your digestive system. I’m reducing the things that inflame us. So, you are healthier and that’s what I’m striving to do, taking other people’s ideas...adding that to the mix and then when I do come across that story of a tragic illness or that story of where people didn’t think there was hope. Now, they recognize that by doing the same things that other people have done and listening to other people’s information can help them navigate the same space.

TCC: By putting the show online, that sounds like the perfect place because you can really target the people who are looking out for this kind of advice and making sure that they’re getting it.

Montel: Absolutely. And I’m also giving it to them in a way that they are now used to receiving information. I mean, if I have a talk show that went on air at 2:00 in the afternoon, five days a week, I’m missing out on a large part of the population that’s no longer even looks at daytime television. They’re looking at the smartphones. They’re looking at the iPads. They’re looking at their handheld devices and making sure that they can download information that way. So, what I’m also getting an opportunity to do is... you can watch the show that we have up there today and that’ll be there at your leisure so you can download it and see it. But then, over the course of the next couple of week, we’ll dissect the same show and break it into smaller pieces and add more information to it, so that you are then...whatever information you need to know about anything from patient navigators to nurse navigators to giveaways that you can approach your own individual care.

We’re not going to be WebMD [but] I think we’re going to be able to provide some of the information to fill in some of the gaps to help people navigate their healthcare footprint.

TCC: It’s a living, breathing show then, right? You’re constantly adding content to even past episode. So, as you said, you have the breast cancer episode, but it’s not like you’re going to abandon that topic.

Montel: No, we’ll go back to that topic and do that topic multiple times throughout the year. But I may take the same show up. I’ll give you an example. We went up to and we had an opportunity to go to Lehigh Valley Medical Center in the show and we took a look at the way they approach medicine. Well, that same facility has invited us back. So we’re going to go back and look at another option and keep updating the show. Keep updating information, so that we become the go-to source for people.

The toughest thing right now in this entire medical quagmire in America is understanding the right question that you have to ask. Right now people who are trying to go up online to become a part of the mandatory health care system don’t even know the right question to ask before they go online. Can you imagine going into a doctor’s office and thinking you have one illness and finding out you have another and it didn’t prepare yourself for that? So, I want to be that place where people are able to go over time...

You know, it’s going to take us awhile... WebMD and the Internet’s been at this for about 20 years, longer than 20 years. So it’ll take me a little while, but I’m going to reach a point where I hope that I have programmed the majority of most asked questions through a show or content that is entertaining, but at the same time is informative and will help the person or the viewer get that information they need to help them live better.

TCC: It’s so important that people understand the questions that you go into a doctor’s office to ask and it’s kind of overwhelming when you don’t know what you’re asking. So you’re providing the questions, like prepping to go to a doctor’s office?

Montel: Yeah, I’m trying my best to get you as informed as you can possibly be. And again, this is going to be a building process. Right now, we’re working on nutritional content and exercise content. We’ve got segments that are going to be on living well tips from coaches and experts. I have a daily blog, but I’m also going to be doing shows right now. The immediate shows are going to be reaching out and doing something on colon cancer, we’re going to be doing something on alzheimers and do something on brain fitness, memory and ecology. We’ll be doing things on sleep, why it’s so important. And again, I’m going to be doing the three S’s, stress, sleep and sex from multiple different angles.

It’s just going to keep growing and growing... I have a pretty voracious appetite for any and all things medical and the more I can learn, the happier I am. So, I’m going to try...whatever I learn, I’ll share.

TCC: So, you’re taking viewers through the medical topics that you’re interested in as well?

Montel: Oh yeah, I mean I’m also hoping that I’m going to get feedback from our viewers and our community members and they can guide me on what it is I provide information to. I want to be able to respond to emails and tweets when they say “Hey, I wish you could do something on this.” And the second I have time, I’m going to try to do a show on that.

TCC: Moving on to the other work that you do. You’re still working with the MS Foundation, which you founded. Do you think it’s kind of your duty to help others with the disease because of your high profile?

Montel: I am absolutely 100 percent convinced that we all do better when we share information that works. So, whatever I learn, I think it’s almost criminal to not then share with somebody else that could relieve somebody else’s pain or somebody else’s suffering. So, it’s not an obligation as much as it’s just a lifestyle. I don’t believe that information is... I think if we look back in history, we can find that information is what most society’s control to contain people. And when you limit people’s ability to add knowledge you limit people’s ability to control their own destiny. I think the more knowledge the better and that’s what I’m trying to give them.

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