Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Lisa Lucas and Debrianna Mansini are Helping To Change Our…

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Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Lisa Lucas and Debrianna Mansini are Helping To Change Our World

Don’t Take Relationships for Granted. — We never knew that every single person we have ever known, or met, or worked, with would cross paths with each other (which is SO WEIRD when you think about it). And that secondly, they would become so vital to helping us reach our success with either fundraising, networking, or advice. Lesson for any creative endeavor — don’t burn any bridges and be kind to people along the way. You never know who may want to help you in the future.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Lucas and Debrianna Mansini.

Lisa Lucas and Debrianna Mansini, known for their work in Hollywood’s entertainment industry, co-host Corona Kitchen, a weekly Facebook Live and YouTube cooking show. Lisa Lucas is a professional writer/producer/actor who has worked on over 37 TV series including The Bachelor on ABC, Work of Art on Bravo and is a 2 time Emmy winner for My 1st Time on NBC and the documentary feature, However Wide the Sky on PBS. Debrianna Mansini is an actor, writer, and activist known for her role as Fran in AMC’s Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, and playing opposite Oscar winner Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. Their debut cookbook from Apollo Publishers, That Time We Ate Our Feelings, drops August 8, 2023. They currently live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Debrianna: I grew up in an Italian family of immigrants — I am first generation. Several of my aunts and uncles had restaurants. I was the eldest of five sisters and we had a bakery out of our house in Connecticut, back in the days when you could do that kind of thing. In fact, my one-woman show, The Meatball Chronicles, is based on my life growing up in the kitchen. My mother’s third husband was a Vietnam veteran and his younger brother was paralyzed from the war. Their lives impacted me greatly and my perspective of the importance of activism when I was growing up.

Lisa: I am 100% Croatian on both sides–and also grew up in a family of immigrants. I am second generation. One of my grandparents came here to escape World War II. On the other side, my grandparents’ parents were escaping World War One. My last grandparent was a 14 year old mail-order bride. Their stories of struggle about coming to America for a better life were very prevalent in my life. Also, like Debrianna, (I swear I am not making this up), I, too, am the eldest of six sisters. And believe it or not, our family started a restaurant too!

My dear mother once helped me choose to play Susan B. Anthony for American Heritage Day at my religious school as a kindergartner. When I gave my cute “women’s lib” speech about “no man is good enough to govern any women without her consent”, there were crickets in the audience, and a feminist was born.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

Debrianna: When I was about 14 there was a book that they made into a Harold Robbins mini-series called 79 Park Avenue. It was about New York City’s most famous Madame who was forced into prostitution. I always thought she should be able to do what she wanted to with her own body. I grew up with a single mom who was raising us all on her own. She was very strong and this led me to believe I could do anything even though the world did not see me as equal to a man.

Lisa: I was a voracious reader as a young child and gobbled up Judy Blume,Louise Fitzhugh, and all the ‘70’s children’s writers. I also read a lot of things that were not age-appropriate, but somehow those female empowerment concepts sunk in. Jane Eyre is still my favorite book to this day. I’ve probably read it 100 times. It taught me that a woman could leave a situation where she wasn’t being respected. Even if she didn’t want to leave emotionally. She could rise above. She was worth it. I also love Margaret Atwood and Marge Piercy, whose work I was introduced to at the end of high school. Their books just blew my mind. I was always searching for stories about strong, complex, female protagonists.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Debrianna: When I was a young actor in mid-twenties, I went into a big talent agency in New York City for a meeting and I was supposed to bring a monologue. So, of course, I brought Medea and performed this intense, dramatic classic because this is how I saw myself. After I left, the agent called my manager and said, “I don’t know what to do with her. She waltzed in here looking like Grace Kelly and did a performance like Colleen Dewhurst. Why can’t she just be pretty and do something nice?”

What did I learn? Well, that this industry is called show-business for a reason and it is not about being in the creative business. It made me so angry because I wasn’t just a pretty face. I was a trained, serious actress, who had studied my craft and wanted to show them what I could really do. I did not want to be considered for just my looks. It was a big wake up call about being a woman in this business. Men were not treated this way in any way, shape or form. They still aren’t.

Lisa: And on that note, I had a baby at 35 and was determined to breastfeed for at least a year even though financially I had to go back to work after 6 weeks of maternity leave. I got hired on this huge network series and in the interview they wanted to make sure all your time and focus would be on the show during your 60+hour weeks. Any other distractions would be frowned upon like having a significant other or a child.

I got the job based on my experience. I had paid my dues and deserved this. Who cares if I have a baby? Nobody needs to know. It was a huge leap for me, and more money than I had ever made on a TV show as a story editor — even though I was ten years older than everyone else. That’s another factor in getting hired that I purposely omitted. So every day at lunch I would lock myself in the handi-capped bathroom, get out my manual breast pump and retrieve the amount of liquid gold needed for my kid. I would put the glass jar in a small ice chest under my desk and get on with my work. I did this for a year.

No one ever knew. I got a raise. I got a promotion. Not a peep. Then one day we were late to break for lunch and I started leaking through my shirt. I ran to the regular bathroom with all the stalls, seconds later only to be followed by the two most gossipy bitches at the office. I instinctually splashed water all over myself so that the entire shirt was soaked and started laughing hysterically and babbling “How crazy it is when you get spaghetti sauce on your shirt, right, hahahaha???”

They looked at me like I was a total freak. I didn’t make any friends on that job, but I didn’t care. I had made enough money to pay my bills, take three months off, and stay at home with the baby if I wanted to. It was the price of freedom. I told my former boss this story years later. He was totally shocked–certain there would have been no problem hiring me. After all, you became a Emmy winning producer! Of course we would have hired you back then.

I said, “You know you would not have hired me if you knew I was 35 and had a kid.”

To which he admitted, “OK you’re right. I wouldn’t have.”

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

Debrianna & Lisa: We never set out to make a social impact with this cookbook. But, when we pitched the idea — comfort food recipes with personal essays in a scrap-booky type format to our publisher, they wanted us to remain exactly who we were. Our liberal political stance was part of that. And so now with the book coming out, we have an even bigger platform that is entwined with the way we live our lives — completely engaged in social issues — that’s all there. The book reflects every part of us. We are cooks who truly believe food equals love. We’re sharing our amazing recipes and making connections to universal experiences through our stories, with a side of encouragement to make a difference outside of your kitchen table.

For both of us, in each of our individual families of origin, being born female meant you had to fight to exist, fight to be heard, and fight to be validated from day one.Now we are on the road to becoming those old ladies we saw in our twenties who carry the signs at every women’s march that say “We’re in our ‘80’s and we’re SICK of protesting this shit.”

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Debrianna: Lisa’s story about accidentally calling her friend’s grandmother a pig in France.

Lisa: That time Debrianna had the apartment in LA with the gray shag rug that ate everything.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

Debrianna & Lisa: It’s funny. Pre-pandemic, our lives were so scheduled and busy, it was really difficult to find the time to hang out together as friends. If we were lucky we would see each other at political marches and remember how much we liked to spend time together. This experience has deepened our friendship from the mere stoppage of time with the lockdown to allow for it. That is one of the best silver linings of those three years.

We never set out to do anything but be ourselves with Corona Kitchen. We set out to share our love of making good food and helping others to do the same. What we found was, some people were really traumatized by the loneliness of the pandemic, in the first year, especially. What we also didn’t know was that our friendship and our cooking were comforting to these people who were watching our livestream shows. And one night, after 143 days straight of Corona Kitchen episodes in a row, we realized, hey wait–we own this show, we’re the network. We realized this allowed us to slow down a bit and do it once a week. When we went from 120 to 5000 followers in three months, we realized we were on to something.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Debrianna & Lisa: We have received many comments and DMs from our members who were strangers before all this. These viewers told us (and still do) that they felt “saved” during the lockdown because we were there every day, sharing, guiding, laughing, and crying with them. So many of them were alone. It was gratifying to know we helped in some small way by building a cool micro food community.

You never know what your reach is. You never know who’s out there and if it’s possible to touch another human in some way to help them cope with life. Simple acts of kindness like cooking a soufflée may be out of your element or range of cooking skills. But with a friend there to encourage you and believe in you, the act of actually doing these small things — whether they turned out ok or not made us (and our viewers) — feel triumphant. We knew somebody out there could relate to that and felt better because of it.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Debrianna & Lisa: One of the really cool aspects of our friendship that will forever bond us is our devotion to political activism, doing the right thing, seeking truth and justice for all and standing by the belief that we could absolutely have a country that is equal for everyone. A country that evolves, includes, represents and learns from our mistakes. One with forward vision that improves all our lives and changes for the better; one that progresses, not regresses.

Here’s how politicians can help:


Women deserve to finally be represented in the constitution!


Reform the courts in line with appellate court numbers. Codify Roe. Make fair reparations a reality in our lifetime. Eliminate campaign financing (we need major election reform). Criminal Justice Reform. Federal anti-discrimination laws based on a person’s national origin, race, color, religion, disability, sex, and familial status–put permanent protections in place. We shouldn’t be banning books, we should be finding solutions to drastically improve our school systems on every level. Remember separation between church and state? We need single payer/affordable healthcare for all. Let’s see, how about getting back affirmative action. Raising the minimum wage. Student loan forgiveness. We’re just getting started.

PASS SENSIBLE GUN LAWS. Make assault rifles illegal tomorrow. Even Reagan knew this. Our kids are being slaughtered. Make getting a gun like getting a Driver’s License. Also make it required to carry insurance to have one.


Join a group. Get people educated on why voting matters, register them to vote and VOTE in EVERY election. We post groups to join on Corona Kitchen every week and we talk about political issues regularly, sharing our views and experience. Originally, we thought at the beginning maybe we shouldn’t say these kinds of things and just stick to food. But we were so angry about the state of our country and the world that we were like, “Hell no, we are going to speak our truth about this kind of stuff and if people didn’t like it, they were free to leave.”

Turns out, it’s that authenticity without us trying to be anything but ourselves that spoke to people. It wasn’t fake. Ironically, our community didn’t leave because of our politics and we know there are people with differing views that are faithful fans of the show. We hope we have helped educate people and set examples with our own activism. Because we do what we say on the show in everyday life.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Debrianna: Those who DO, not talk, are leaders.

Lisa: The opposite of Trump. Someone who is intelligent, good under pressure. A person who listens to their team, constantly learning, not afraid of change, makes informed decisions and possesses true empathy and respect for others. And by others I mean all people. Everyone.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Debrianna & Lisa:

1.) Think Through Your Social Media Strategy BEFORE You Launch.

We should have launched Corona Kitchen on Youtube instead of Facebook and immediately started an Instagram account with it because our content is more geared towards those two platforms. But at the time, we didn’t know and made the snap decision to go on Facebook.. Really there was no thought put behind it. But in actuality, Facebook is quite limiting and we would have had a larger audience faster with the other platforms.

Also, we could have never predicted the fall of Facebook in terms of dislike by the public with Meta. You live, you learn. It’s been hard to get people to migrate to our other platforms from Facebook. There’s a very specific audience on each platform. But we have very healthy platforms now — multiple social media destinations — and we’re even Tiktokers now! The real story is we never in our wildest dreams thought this would take off. We thought we were just going to invite our family and friends to a livestream and cook and have a few laughs and that’s it.

2.) Try to Anticipate Your Next Steps.

We didn’t realize we were test-kitchening a cookbook at the time. Now we know that this is something you have to do when you write a legit cookbook with tried and true recipes. We were thinking, “Hey we could go down to a local printer and get a few laminated copies of a bunch of recipes and sell it for a few bucks to pay ourselves back for all the food costs to do this.”

Then there was this absolute synchronicity that happened with a good friend’s boyfriend who happened to hear from his publisher in New York that they were looking for a quirky cookbook and he implored us to submit a proof of concept and pitch an idea for one. We did — and damn if we didn’t get a book deal! It was shocking.

This opportunity opened up an entire new and exciting path for our careers. That Time We Ate Our Feelings has turned into something next level. What started as two friends coping during a pandemic by cooking along with their friends and family became a welcome pivot in this third act of our lives.

3.) Take Better Photos.

If we had known that we were doing a legit cookbook from the get go, we would have taken better cell phone photos of our food. We have learned that it is imperative that you have high resolution photos for a printed book. Duh.

4.) Don’t Be Afraid to Bring in a Pro.

Fortunately we were able to hire Penina Meisels, a seasoned pro food photographer, for most of the photos in our cookbook. Pro tip: we learned from her that during professional food photoshoots, you never use real ice cream! We also learned that food shoots are like micro film shoots with super tiny sets. Everything is miniature like a doll house. Olive oil is great applied with a small paintbrush for making things shiny. You have to prepare three of everything and God help you if the bread doesn’t rise on the day of the shoot.

5.) Don’t Take Relationships for Granted.

We never knew that every single person we have ever known, or met, or worked, with would cross paths with each other (which is SO WEIRD when you think about it). And that secondly, they would become so vital to helping us reach our success with either fundraising, networking, or advice. Lesson for any creative endeavor — don’t burn any bridges and be kind to people along the way. You never know who may want to help you in the future.

P.S. Listen to your publisher when they suggest a graphic designer with actual book publishing experience for your book.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Debrianna: This life matters. Make it count. These quotes motivate me to work harder towards helping the greater good.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

– Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision. ~Helen Keller

Lisa: I am inspired by so many who can put into words all of their sage advice. We’re all just trying to figure it out every single day.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

“The only fixing is accepting.”

Judith Kaplan, PhD Psychologist

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.” — Howard Zinn

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂


Lisa: Ditto! Or if we can’t Madame Secretary, we’d love to dine with any of these amazing women who inspire us profoundly: Nancy Pelosi, Michelle Obama, Marian Wright Edelman, Gloria Steinem, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Zakiya Thomas, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, Alice Waters, Jose Andres, Ellen Barkin, Rosie O’Donnell, Barbra Streisand, Viola Davis, Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid, Kamala Harris, Tina Fey & Amy Poehler. To name a few.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Join their Facebook Group @CoronaKitchen or their IG @thecoronakitch, follow their Tiktok, or visit their Corona Kitchen channel on YouTube.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Lisa Lucas and Debrianna Mansini are Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.