You’ve got to believe in yourself: Jenny Craig adds author to her resume with new children’s book, speaks in La Jolla

By Diane Y. Welch

Famed for her global nutrition and weight-loss franchise centers, Jenny Craig has added a new feather to her cap: children’s book author.

Craig’s book “I Believe in Genevieve” — just released by Regnery Publishing, Inc. — was launched at a lively Champagne reception and book-signing event at Warwick’s bookstore on Oct. 24.

Warwick’s events coordinator, Julie Slavinsky, introduced Craig to a packed audience. Re-living her early days as the youngest of six children born in New Orleans during the Great Depression, Craig told the rapt audience about the inspiration for the book that encourages children toachieve their own greatness.

Genevieve, the main character, is based on Craig, who said she loved to ride horses as a child and who uses her given name for the story. Craig later changed her name to Jenny because she was not enamored with her French roots, she said.

Genevieve’s sister is Trudy (Craig’s sister), and Craig’s horsetrainer, John Sadler, is the trainer in the book. The horse in the story, Candy Ride, is Jenny’s (and her late husband Sidney’s) thoroughbred stallion, who was the winner of the 2003 Pacific Classic, breaking a track record at that time.

The idea to write a children’s book was suggested by a friend of Craig’s daughter, who works at Regnery Publishing. “I hadn’t thought of it before, but when we talked about the idea, I realized that I could get some positive messages across in the book using language that children understand,” Craig said.

Before she committed herself to the project, she was shown work samples of the illustrator who would partner with her on the book.

“I could not believe the talent of Wendy Edelson, the artist, and the fact that she is self taught,” said Craig. “Her work is absolutely beautiful, and when I saw her illustrations I immediately said, ‘I will absolutely do this!’ ”

Edelson’s illustrations bring to life the message of “believing in yourself,” which is told through Genevieve’s determination to compete in a horse show at the Rancho Paseana riding camp (drawn from Craig’s horse ranch in Rancho Santa Fe).

Genevieve takes the necessary steps to be competitive by nourishing herself with healthful foods and keeping active by taking care of Candy Ride, who also grows fit and strong. By the end of the summer, win or lose, Genevieve learns the valuable lesson that by believing in herself she is already a winner.

This was a message Craig took to heart her whole life, because she heard it repeatedly as a child. “My dad used to sit me on his knee, and he would often say to me, ‘You can be anything and do anything if you are willing to work for it, and if you have passion for it,’ which means the same as believing in yourself,” Craig said.

In this way parents can be very powerful in helping their kids develop a positive self- image, she added. Then she joked, “I always said, ‘Gee I’m glad my dad didn’t tell me I could fly because I might have jumped off a building to try.’ ”

“I Believe in Genevieve” also serves as a fun, smart-living guide for kids with simple, nutritious recipes and exercise plans included in the book’s pages.