A qualified psychotherapist, Ruby has made the leap from brash television star to respected campaigner, writer and communications expert. She shows how leadership skills can be taught then honed like a muscle, and how techniques she used in celebrity interviews translate directly into the boardroom – witness the clip of her talking to Madonna. The Veuve Clicquot Woman of the Year also talks about her work to raise awareness and public understanding about depression and mental illness, and how to cope better with the stresses of the modern world.
Ruby Wax has been an unconventional interviewer, a comedian, writer, actor and campaigner. She has provided the cartoon voice of The Pope, written for Absolutely Fabulous, and interviewed Donald Trump. More recently she’s become a best-selling memoirist and mental health expert.
Born and raised in Illinois, Ruby studied psychology at Berkeley before taking the unusual step of moving to the UK to study acting. She studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and then joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. She formed a writing and directing partnership with Alan Rickman and performed in a number of Shakespeare plays before moving to TV and film. Ruby quickly found her niche in comedy, and co-wrote and starred in Girls on Top with French & Saunders and Tracy Ullman. That led to a series of comedy roles, often based on some variation of a loud, brash American character, as well as writing jobs.
Ruby became best known for her series of interview shows including Ruby, The Full Wax and Ruby Wax Meets… where she had revealing, entertaining, and sometimes awkward confrontations with the likes of Madonna, Imelda Marcos and Richard Branson. She also continued acting and performing, fronting documentaries like Miami Memoirs and East Meets Wax, and was a high profile supporter of Comic Relief.
It was partly as a result of her work with Comic Relief that Ruby found established herself as a campaigner for greater awareness of mental health issues. Having struggled with depression for many years and suffering in silence, she worked hard to encourage media, business and society to understand mental illness and remove the stigma. After touring her show Losing It, in which she spoke candidly about her illness, she realised audiences frequently had many of the same experiences but needed ‘permission’ to openly discuss it. The experience led to her book Sane New World, a look at why so many people felt it was all too much.
Ruby’s follow-up book looked at how some parts of the human mind hadn’t necessarily evolved to cope with modern life. Dealing with an overwhelming amount of information, and becoming stressed about being stressed on top of everything else A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled aimed to help those feeling they were losing control. Having applied mindfulness techniques herself in order to deal with her depression, she examined how they might help anyone struggling to manage.
With trademark wit and forthrightness Ruby dispels the myth that there is something embarrassing or weird about any type of mental health problem. She tackles some of the more off-putting aspects of mindfulness focusing on the practical aspects that can help people deal with the stresses of life before they become intolerable. As sickness and so-called presenteeism become a greater problem for businesses, she helps people lead a happier, healthier, and more productive life.
Ruby now holds a Masters in Psychology and is a Visiting Professor in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Surrey. She’s also a patron for the British Neuroscience Association, has worked with the Home Office to raise awareness of mental health, and has collaborated with Google on how technology can aid mindfulness. Her acclaimed TED speech on the importance of viewing mental health on a par with physical health is one of the most popular on the subject.
As well as speaking about mental health Ruby also tackles problems of communication within businesses and organisations, especially for leaders. Combining psychological insights with her understanding of writing and performing, and of course humour, she helps individuals and groups understand how to create an open, honest culture that encourages and succeeds.
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