by Alexandra Fairweather
I caught up with the gorgeous environmental activist, producer, and director Nina Montée Karp for lunch at Barneys’ beautiful rooftop bar, overlooking the Los Angeles hills, one Sunday afternoon. It was the perfect setting. “I fell in love with California and everything it had to offer: its beauty, people, pace and nature,” explained the Belgrade native, who first came to the U.S. to visit her sister and uncle, a successful entrepreneur and former Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, Milan Panić. She returned to Newport Beach in 1981 and decided to stay and call California home.
Multitasking for Moms—and Dads
This modern-day wonder woman owns Nina Montée, a skincare line, that was until recently only available at dermatologists’ offices and premiere spas, runs the Happiest Baby on the Block with her husband (renowned pediatrician and author Dr. Harvey Karp), produces and directs documentaries, and champions a host of social causes that are dear to her heart.
“Few things are as fulflling as working on projects that have a positive impact. My husband and I get great joy in immersing ourselves in these efforts. I could not imagine being on this incredibly powerful and passionate journey without him,” explains Montée Karp.
In order to assist parents around the world, Montée Karp directed and produced the award-winning educational DVDs The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block.
“As my husband was writing his first book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, he realized two things: (1) new parents often don’t have the time to read a whole book and (2) his techniques are best learned by watching them done, step-by-step. To capture the best shots, he had to make house calls whenever a parent called with a crying baby, night or day. Fortunately, I had experience directing and producing short flms, so I became his ‘24-hour, on-call’ crew.
“The DVD was so popular, we decided to do the same thing when he wrote The Happiest Toddler on the Block. And today, 12 years later, our short flms are arguably the most watched parenting DVDs in history. It is very rewarding,” refected Montée Karp.
In addition to the Happiest Baby DVDs, Montée Karp also co-produced Not Under My Roof, an award-winning educational video that teaches parents about the effects of environmental hazards. “It was so exciting making that documentary because it was the very first video to teach parents about preventing child exposure to hazards such as pesticides, lead, solvents, air pollution. These exposures can have a potentially serious impact on children's health. Our DVD was the first educational tool on how to substitute common sense and natural alternatives for harsh chemicals to protect our children's well being.”
When asked what advice she has for new or expecting parents, Montée Karp remarked, “Get help! You deserve it. Ask questions, shop around for the best pediatrician and don’t be shy about quizzing new parents you see at the park or in cafes. Finding voices you trust is so important because it’s easy to get information overload from the Internet and become totally confused. Sleep and rest as much as you can before the babies come... and line up some friends and family to help you cook and clean for a couple of months after the baby comes.”
In addition to assisting parents, Montée Karp is a champion of breast cancer awareness and produced and directed Breast Cancer: The Path of Wellness and Healing.
“I have nine girlfriends with breast cancer and a sister-in-law who succumbed to the disease at a very young age. The more my friends confided in me about the very serious decisions that had been thrust upon them, the more I recognized the dearth of information to help them.
“There is so much to learn when you get hit with the diagnosis of cancer and there are so many misconceptions (even among doctors). I wanted to help my friends and the one in eight of our mothers, sisters and daughters with this terrible disease. Because of that experience, I joined the board of directors of Breastcancer.org, the world's largest Internet support for women, and men, with the disease. And over two years, I created a comprehensive visual guide on healing from breast cancer: body, mind, and spirit.
“Rather than adding to the black-and-white sea of pamphlets and books on the topic, I decided to create an intimate DVD weaving together the voices of America’s greatest doctors and wellness experts with the inspiring stories of women surviving this great challenge. It is a broad and detailed platform of essential information on every stage of the breast cancer experience, assisting women and their families from the very first steps along their path of healing.
“This two-DVD set contains a two-hour disc that documents inspiring—and even funny!—first-hand accounts from breast cancer survivors including celebrities like Sheryl Crow, Christina Apple- gate, Melissa Etheridge, Olivia Newton-John, and Jaclyn Smith; and powerful lessons from preeminent doctors and wellness experts including Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Marisa Weiss, Dr. Susan Love, Dr. Dean Ornish, and Marianne Williamson.
“In addition, there is a three-hour bonus disc of 16 discussions on a wide range of issues, from reconstructive surgery, to the use of hormones, to diet and meditation. The overwhelmingly positive response we have received—from the medical, wellness, and breast cancer communities—has made every moment of this effort incredibly satisfying and worthwhile.”
Every Day Is a Winding Road
When asked what a typical day looks like for Nina Montée Karp, she reflected, “On a good day—it starts with a joint meditation with my husband, then a hike with girlfriends. The rest of the day is filled with meetings for our company, The Happiest Baby, and for various non-proft organizations. There are always events to go to and usually, after dinner, it’s back to work!”
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: Take the riskiest path, be your authentic self, forgive.
Q: What is your biggest virtue?
Q: What is your biggest vice?
A: Dark chocolate!
Q: What is your favorite place in Los Angeles?
A: Our home—our sanctuary—with our favorite art and books, and the most beautiful view of the Pacifc Ocean.
Q: What do you hope your legacy will be?
A: Making a meaningful, positive impact on people’s lives.