By Teryl Warren

You know she’s beautiful and talented and funny. But did you know Denise Richards was a cheerleader in high school?

“I was more of a tomboy when I was really young and then one day, I woke up and things changed and I loved dresses and makeup and Barbie dolls!” At that point, the whole “tomboy thing” pretty much went out the window, and fans of Richards’ performances in movies like Wild Things, Drop Dead Gorgeous and The World is Not Enough are certainly glad it did.

I recently sat down with the A-List actress prior to the premiere of her new movie The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders and that’s just one of the secrets she shared with me.

This Labor Day, Denise is kicking off Lifetime’s Cheer, Rally, Kill  End of Summer Movie Lineup with her starring role as the overly ambitious Candice in The Secret Life of Cheerleaders.  As a working single mother trying to help her daughter Ava (Savannah May) transition into a new school and a new social scene, Candice walks a tightrope familiar to parents of teenagers everywhere: the effort to strike a balance between being present and protective while also managing to trust and let go.

“I definitely can relate to this movie. I have teenagers now and things have changed so much from when I was younger. Candice has a daughter who made some mistakes and choices that weren’t the best and she’s trying to figure it out. And really, that’s all we can hope for our kids: that they’re safe and healthy. We know they’re gonna make mistakes – and they should – because that’s how they learn and grow – through consequences.”

Photo courtesy of Lifetime

In Secret Lives, audiences will also relate to the difficulties modern families face in maintaining their intimate relationships while juggling their hectic schedules.  Even in an era when technology keeps us connected at all times, there are still only 24 hours in a day. As a busy working actress in Hollywood, Denise Richards regularly has to find creative ways to be present for her kids, her husband, find a little time for herself – and manage to do it all while still looking flawless.

So, what’s her secret for keeping it all together?

“There’s no other choice!” she laughed. “That’s life. We’re all busy and nothing’s ever completely balanced.  There are times when it’s hard – when I’m working and the kids have school. But we figure it out. My husband and I make sure we have quality time together because we’re a family unit and that’s important. But nothing’s ever perfect. It might look like it’s seamless, but it’s not. We call it ‘organized chaos’ and we embrace it because there’s no other choice.”

From Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, to putting in work on The Bold and the Beautiful and a stint on the reboot of the 90’s teen soap 90210, Denise Richards has spent a lot of time living the glamorous life in the world’s most famous zip code. But despite the glitz and bling, she has a reputation for being one of the most down-to-earth celebrities in town. So, what’s her secret for staying so grounded in a world full of stars?

“I think that comes from how I grew up. My parents were very grounded. I grew up in the Midwest and I have a lot of Midwest values and that’s who I am as a person. That’s what’s carried me through. Hollywood is my job and I’m grateful that I get to do something that I absolutely love, but I’m a Midwesterner at heart.”

Photo courtesy of Lifetime

One of the things that excited Denise most about the The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders was that it’s a movie she can watch with her kids. The warmth and connection that Denise felt with her parents is evidenced in the way she speaks about her relationship to her kids. And she brings so much of her personal insights into her role as Candice in The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders. The late-night worry. The disappointment in the face of let down. The deep desire to see your kids succeed. On screen, and in life, Denise Richards is her kids’ biggest fan and cheerleader.

“I love being a Mom. It’s the most important thing I’m doing. It’s a difficult and challenging time for teenagers now. And it’s hard for parents, too. Because you don’t want to be their friend instead of being their parent. But you want to give them the freedom to go from being a kid to being a young adult. All you can do is raise kids. I just want my kids to turn into young beautiful adults.”

The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders is produced by HYBRID and will premiere on Lifetime this Monday, September 2 at 8pm EST/PST. 

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