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Q&A: Artist and TV personality Zarah on dealing with COVID loss

The past winter, as grueling as it could be, brought not only grief to my front door, but also reflection, says Zarah.

Zarah - American television personality, writer, producer and recording artist. Image by Drab2.
Zarah - American television personality, writer, producer and recording artist. Image by Drab2.

As so many people emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic having lost loved ones, many people have been thinking, “what can we do to memorialize them?”

To gain insight to some of the ways that charities can serve as not only a memorial to a lost loved one, but also as a legacy builder, Digital Journal sat down with Zarah, the Filipino-American TV personality, writer, producer, and recording Artist known for her work performing with the rock band Goo Goo Dolls. She is channeling grief into her creativity and service with B InTuneCARES.

Digital Journal: Now that we’re finally seeing a “light” at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, can you tell us about your experiences over the past year?

Zarah: So it has actually been about year since my beloved husband, Eugene “Gene” Maillard, passed away from a non-COVID life-threatening illness, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been wondering about memorialization. While we’ve seen brighter days, I’ve spent the better part of the pandemic channeling my grief into thought: What actions I can take to carry on his legacy and start sweeping away the clouds that his passing has cast over me?

The past winter, as grueling as it could be, brought not only grief to my front door, but also reflection. When we start to work on our own self-improvement, we should start to think constructively about how we can combine what we loved most about a person and the lessons we most wish to remember from that person. It is only then that we can find the inspiration and the passion to make memories into legacies. 

DJ: Gene seems like such a positive influence in your life. Can you tell us what your relationship was like, and what he taught you?

Zarah: Gene and I were fortunate enough to be more than a married couple, we were soulmates who were involved in a great many projects together. His spirit and guidance were more golden than the reflection of the sun off the waters of the Cote D’Azur. He taught me how to succeed in my various professional endeavors among others and his advice of “never looking back, keep moving forward and to be strong” days before he passed will always leave an indelible mark in my memory.

DJ: Which professional endeavors did you work on together? 

Zarah: Gene and I founded “B InTune TV”, a television show that covered some of the early careers of the who’s who of Hollywood such as Beyoncé, Ashlee Simpson and Alanis Morissette. The early 2000s were a special time; some of the 90’s celebrities were taking time away from the spotlight, leaving a huge gap of new up-and-coming artists to break through.

Not many people get to go on such an adventure with their partner, but I was one of the lucky ones.

After a 2005 launch, “B InTune TV” aired for eight years. Each season explored new ways of using music and entertainment to spark passion and a love of learning in teenagers. Gene and I founded “B InTuneCARES” a global media initiative for youth named after our brand in partnership with the United Nations.

DJ: What was some of the experience and talent that Gene brought to the table? What did he do outside of “B InTune”?

Zarah: Gene had a wealth of understanding on how the arts, entertainment, and education intersect as a professional. He had 45 years of experience in advancing music and arts education working for the Kennedy family as the CEO of Very Special Arts (VSA) at the Kennedy Center and as the former Executive Director of the GRAMMY Foundation, just to name a few.

DJ: So you mentioned that you’ve been looking for a way to memorialize Gene. What have you decided on?

Zarah: While “B InTuneCARES” was never on hiatus, a relaunch will be the answer to the question that has been on my mind for the past year. To honor Gene and his legacy, we will be rejoining various programs and initiatives to advance the cause and values highlighting their humanitarian efforts for children around the globe. Our nonprofit’s goal is to proliferate edutainment among today’s youth through media, fostering a love for music, the arts, creative education, and entertainment.

DJ: What are some of the brick walls you’re expecting to encounter… and any thoughts about how you’ll go around, or through, them?

Zarah: Reaching a threshold in advancing arts to anyone can be so inspiring but can also be equally daunting. One of the biggest hurdles I’m setting out to conquer is the modern assumption that the arts are a saturated vertical and only the lucky or the extremely talented “make it big.”  “B InTuneCARES” is also about expanding awareness among today’s youth so that they know that more opportunity exists than they may have originally been led to believe.

Now that we can see the skies opening, we must remember that COVID-19 has robbed so many teens and children of normal childhoods. The arts and music can be one of the ways they can channel their talents, dreams and aspirations breathing new life into old passions! As Gene used to tell me, “Better days are coming!” a line his grandmother used to say to him which then became a title to a song I wrote in my record as a recording artist. And I’m asking you to go on that journey with me.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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