iCarly's Reed Alexander | Interview
iCarly’s Reed Alexander might play a villain on TV, but his real-life pursuits are hero-worthy. The jovial Nickelodeon star has kept busy promoting healthy eating habits to kids through his website KewlBites.com—an online destination for nutritious recipes and tips for living a healthy lifestyle. By partnering with local and national health organizations such as Chicago’s Purple Asparagus and The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Alexander is helping to change the food culture for young people. Thursday May 3, he paid a visit to The Nettelhorst School in Lakeview for a cooking demonstration with CPS students.
TOC Kids sat down with Alexander to talk about KewlBites, the temptations of junk food, and induction burners as survival tools.
Can you tell us a little bit about how and why you stared KewlBites?
Well, about two and a half years ago I was overweight, lethargic, lazy, tired. My eating habits were out of control. Exercise was nominal and I really needed to make a change. I also have a family history of diabetes and heart disease.
Considering I’ve always been a major foodie—I love food, I love cooking for friends and family or going out to a great restaurant—there really wasn’t anything out there from a kid’s point of view, or from a kid’s voice that was right for me. I didn’t want to join something temporary or a dietary program. I wanted to build the arsenal of tools that were going to work for me and help me to change my lifestyle fundamentally.
As I was losing fifteen pounds, I was very inspired when people would say to me, “Wow, you’ve made a lot of changes, what’s going on here?” I was blogging to myself all the time with notes and tips and ideas that were working for me. So eventually when I stepped on the scale at the doctor’s office and realized, “Ok great, this is where I should be in terms of my weight,” this wasn’t something I wanted to cross off the list, on to the next. I realized this is a perfect opportunity to fill up the hole I originally encountered, to create a resource and a destination for kids and families to turn and that puts a fun spin on the topic. That’s what KewlBites is—it’s a forum for discussion.
How has the "foodie" part of you factored into your work?
The crux of KewlBites is this message of healthy living—making it fun for kids and families. We have a constantly growing library of recipes that I’m creating. I’m always in the kitchen. It’s trial and error, and working with the flavors that I love. If at first you don’ succeed, try again! It’s really a blast. Sometimes it’s like the bulls-eye—you get the recipe on the first take, and then sometimes it’s a process, it’s a procedure of reincarnating, getting closer. I try to challenge myself all the time.
You touched on lifestyle. Aside from good food and healthy eating habits, do you see KewlBites doing anything for self-esteem?
Completely. For me, the self-esteem came in the form of having confidence and having energy. On iCarly, sometimes people will ask me, “What was the motivation behind KewlBites? Was it because there was a camera pointed?” We all know about the camera and the plus-ten-pounds myth.
Well, at the end of the day, this is something that kids across the board can relate to. Kids want to feel they have the motivation, the empowerment behind them. It’s also about creating a mentality. It’s a very exciting movement, and the ability to meet kids one-on-one, hear from them and see their inspiration for cooking, about feeling great, is very inspiring itself.
Just out of curiosity, how do you resist temptation for junk foods and such? I, literally, can’t keep my hands out of the cookie jar.
[Laughs] You know, it’s interesting. I think that there’s a notion that feeling great can get boring, that it’s constantly steamed broccoli with chicken and a lemon on the side. That’s not the case. For me, chocolate is my big fix. I used to have a very big sweet tooth. I still do, in some ways. I don’t resist anything. I don’t deprive myself or lock things up in boxes far away. I still really enjoy the favorite flavors that I love. That’s what I do with the recipes. But you know, sometimes I have a bar of dark chocolate and I really enjoy it because I space things out. It also helps me to develop an appreciation for different kinds of foods. I mean when you’re really tantalized by every bit, you savor things. It puts it in perspective, like “that was really satisfying. I’m so glad I enjoyed that.”
Kids look up to you in a lot of ways. How does that have an impact?
I feel really lucky because I’ve been given a platform to speak to kids. iCarly is one of their favorite shows, hopefully, and my character Nevel might be the villain but they still love to tune in. Hopefully I’m someone they can watch and relate to, who’s in the same boat, same age bracket, same kinds of struggles, who is, I suppose, a testament to what can be done.
Speaking of your character on iCarly, how do you feel about playing a villain on TV and doing hero-like work in real life?
[Laughs] Nevel’s a little zany. His lens might be a little bit murky, but nonetheless, he’s very interesting because throughout the course of the show, we’re continuing to develop his character. He seems like he’s insane, but he’s actually got a lot of different facets. He’s very steadfast, very perseverant. I guess the one take away for me, I always say, “If I don’t eat lunch, it’s not hard to get into character.” But it’s definitely fun to have that emotional release in Nevel.
It’s cheesy, but I have to ask. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what sorts of ingredients would you bring with you and why?
That’s a very good question. If I was going to be stranded once and permanently, I would probably bring with me…I definitely would bring eggs. You can do anything with eggs. I’d bring unsweetened cocoa powder. I’d bring some whole grain flower, and maybe a chicken to hatch the eggs. Oh, and my induction burner, if I could bring cookware. If anyone were ever to invent—I don’t know why this isn’t out yet—but if they could just invent little portable power outlets, I would be the happiest person alive. I love to have my little portable burner. I would cook up a storm. I could send smoke signals and save myself!