May 13, 2013

Over the last few months I have formed a friendship with Hilary Neiman. In my calls with Hilary, I learned that she was once a distinguished attorney who in an out of character moment made a terrible mistake that cost her not just her law career, but also her freedom. In the coming weeks, I expect Hilary to really begin sharing the valuable lessons she learned as a result of her journey through the system.

Rather than blaming the system, her associates, or reporters (who I would argue violated their own code of ethics in writing absurd headlines about her case), Hilary totally accepted responsibility for decisions that separated her from her family and community. Her willingess to accept responsibility, together with her wanting to put her name back out there to help others overcome struggle, has truly impressed and inspired me. Like me, I think part of her motivation and drive stems from wanting to prove worthy of the love and support she continues to receive from so many, including her wonderful parents.

In an effort to share her expertise with others, I asked Hilary to write a guest blog about Lauryn Hill, who was just sentenced to three months in prison. As a fan of Ms. Hill’s music, I hope she follows Hilary’s lead and uses every moment on the inside preparing for a productive, law-abiding life upon her release. I also hope Ms. Hill shares some of her life experiences with others.

I look forward to sharing more of Hilary’s work in the future.

JP

May 13, 2013- Guest blog by Hilary Neiman

In Lauryn Hill’s, 1998 hit song, “That Thing,” she raps about relationship struggles and tells both women and men not to allow, “that thing” to ruin their lives.  One common interpretation of, “that thing,” is that it represents money. Unfortunately, Ms. Hill has recently dealt with her own issues of, “that thing,” when her financial struggles turned criminal and she pled guilty in 2012 to tax evasion.  On May 6, 2013, Ms. Hill was sentenced to three months in federal prison camp and three months on home confinement with electronic monitoring.  Although the three months that Ms. Hill will spend at a federal prison camp will be challenging, she will not only survive prison but can also thrive.

Perhaps, Ms. Hill’s song became number one on the Billboard’s Hot 100 hits because struggle strikes all of us, and therefore, we can all relate to the song. Whether its relationship problems, financial difficulties, illnesses, or other issues, we all have to endure struggle, even celebrities. In fact, many other female celebrities have faced issues with the criminal justice system and have spent time in confinement. Some notables include; Sophia Loren, Leona Helmsley, Lil Kim, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Paris Hilton, Foxy Brown, Nicole Ritchie, Michelle Rodriquez, and Martha Stewart.  Other famous ladies, such as Yasmine Bleeth, Natasha Lyonne, and Halle Berry have been arrested but received probation instead of a sentence behind bars.

Prison and jail for many of these celebrities has served as a time to recalibrate and re-evaluate their lives. After their term of imprisonment, many have come out stronger and better people with renewed purposes for their lives.  For example, prior to prison, Leona Helmsley, widely known as the, “Queen of Mean.”  After she emerged from her 18 month sentence, she became a philanthropist and donated much of her fortune to worthy causes, such as $25 million to the New York Presbyterian Hospital for medical research.

Nicole Ritchie was a well known wild party girl prior to her confinement. However, after her short jail sentence and subsequent  birth of her first child, Nicole became a productive member of society, and started a jewelry line and a charity to give back to underprivileged new and expectant moms as well as children.  Often, we grow the strongest through struggle.

While prison camp is no “club fed” it is also not as bad as one might think. Ms. Hill will have to leave her designer duds at the door and will be issued a standard prison uniform that will consist of pants and a shirt that resemble scrubs.  She will also be able to purchase and wear sweatpants and plain white or grey t-shirts.   Hopefully, Ms. Hill does not have too many dietary restrictions since prison does not cater to picky eaters.  The food that she will eat is edible but by the time she leaves, In-n -Out burger will seem like a four star restaurant.  Ms. Hill will be able to spend as much time as she wants at the gym, perhaps toning up for a new concert tour.  There are also a number of aerobic classes offered, such as yoga, zumba, and step aerobics.  Additionally, prison camps have softball leagues, basketball, and some have tennis courts.

Ms Hill will be able to shower in a stall with a curtain and use a restroom with a door on it.  Additionally, if she wants, she will be able to blow dry her hair, use curlers, and wear make-up. It’s a good thing that Ms. Hill does not appear to wear extensions or a hair piece since those are not allowed inside prison camps. Generic shampoo and conditioner, and razors, can all be purchased at the camp’s commissary.

Unfortunately, for the three months that Ms. Hill spends in prison camp, she will have to trade in her career as a singer for work as either an orderly or kitchen staff worker.  If Ms. Hill had a longer sentence, after a few months, she could trade that initial job for one that she might enjoy more, such as working in the library or teaching parenting classes.  Fortunately, Ms. Hill will have plenty of time to write new lyrics, both in her room as well as outside on the camp grounds. She might prefer writing outside in a more quiet environment since she will likely have 8-12 roommates. Ms. Hill will also have a lot of time to read, play board games, write in a journal, write letters, watch TV and movies, make new friends, and most importantly, spend time reflecting upon her previous choices and the many lessons that she can learn from this experience. Finally, it should be of great comfort to Ms. Hill that her six children and her friends will be able to visit her on the weekends, and that she can email and call them every day.

As Ms. Hill said in, “that thing, “Lauryn is only human.”  I hope that her fans will recognize this and continue to support her as she endures this struggle.  I also hope that Ms. Hill will walk away from prison camp having enriched her life with this unfortunate experience.

 

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