When Nancy Solari was 16 years old she was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a incurable degenerative eye condition, and was told she would completely lose her eyesight by the time she turned 40. But that knowledge didn’t discourage Solari from pursuing her passions and dreams of being in entertainment.
The Redondo Beach resident is approaching 40 and is legally blind, yet she hosts the inspirational variety talk show Living Full Out that can be found on YouTube and the national radio talk show Living Full Out with Nancy Solari. Throughout the years, Solari has worked in the entertainment industry, been a successful Realtor and business owner, and started Living Full Out as a motivational speaking and life coaching company.
“It was to help people thrive in life despite their limitations,” Solari said. “You can get a disability, you can be in a bad relationship, you could have a business that goes bad … but you have to constantly evolve and grow.”
Solari’s television show debuted in March, and she taped episodes every other Sunday during the spring at Studio 637 in Hermosa Beach. She is currently on hiatus from filming. Viewers can call in live to receive advice from Solari, who is a certified life coach, or watch a coaching session with a guest, or see a celebrity discuss a nonprofit they are involved with. Another segment is with an inspirational guest, some who would “tell their story of abuse or trauma and how they survived, how they overcame that.”
The TV show is an expansion of her radio show that can also be found on radio stations around the country, spreaker.com, YouTube and through her website livingfullout.com. The show is live every Saturday at 11 a.m.
“It’s really an honor for me to be that person that people use as a vehicle to tell their stories,” she said.
Solari and her two sisters were diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa as teens.
“We were like (my mother’s) three blind mice, but it was scary for her because she was a single mom,” Solari said.
At the University of Oregon, Solari earned a degree in broadcast journalism and psychology. After graduation, she worked as an intern on “Good Morning America” where she learned a lot about how television worked with the help of co-host Joan Lunden and weather forecaster Spencer Christian. She then moved to California where she learned more about TV while working on “Entertainment Tonight.”
“When I was working at ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘E.T.,’ I noticed my vision was starting to take some jumps,” Solari recalled. “It was hard to follow teleprompters, they were wanting me to do some reads, it was just hard. So that made me question whether or not that was a career I could do because it’s so competitive. How can you be an anchor, how can you be a reporter, how can you do these things if you can’t see?”
Solari had the desire to host her own talk show, but in her early 20s, she didn’t feel she had enough life experience behind her. So she pursued another passion, to become a singer. She recorded an album and did some touring, but the “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t a perfect fit either.” At one point she almost danced off the stage because she couldn’t see the edge. Retinitis Pigmentosa affects night vision, seeing colors and depth perception.
Retinitis Pigmentosa also had an impact on her next career in the real estate business. She was a top producer but had to bring on partners when she couldn’t differentiate paint colors or couldn’t check on other issues with the houses. Then when she was driving, lines on the road started to disappear. Then an incident kept her from being behind the wheel.
“The story goes that it was a robber who robbed a pawn shop and when he was running he hit a homeless guy. They ended up fighting and duking it out. They pushed themselves into the road and I hit them both,” she recalled. “But you could imagine, the windshield’s broken … I did not want to open that car door. I didn’t know what my life would look like ... if you kill people, ‘Oh my god what’s next?’ I opened the car door and two people were laying on the ground. I about died. What ended up happening though was they must have got slowed down by the hit. The robber ended up taking off and he kept going and the homeless guy was intoxicated out of his mind, he became belligerent with everybody around him. So the cops actually praised me for slowing down the robber and they helped out the homeless guy. I didn’t get the fault at all because apparently they pushed themselves out. But in my mind, I always wondered and I took that as a responsibility … driving is a luxury, we take it for granted. That was the last day I drove.”
After 13 years in the real estate business and not being able to drive, she was at a crossroads. She thought, “There must be more. This wasn’t what I set out to do.”
“At this point, life had washed over me and I had tried enough things and kept upping the ante and taking risks,” she said. “I felt like I was at a place where I could be that mentor to others, I’ve earned that.”
Solari felt her gift was telling people’s stories, so in 2010, she joined KFWB and became the radio station’s weekend motivational speaker, while Les Brown was on during the week. She moved over to KABC where she had a “good experience” but she had an issue with some of its corporate limitations. Her radio show is now heard on a number of stations owned by nonprofits.
“I think you lose some of the quality content when it’s all about that (money), so that’s why we pulled out of KABC and took it national,” she said.” This way we’re able to align ourselves with partners that could keep the show and its integrity.”
Living Full Out is expanding while her eyesight is facing more challenges. Her six full-time employees are her eyes, since she can’t see faces anymore, everyone is a shadow. But her auditory senses have sharpened.
“There aren’t hands that I could see, there isn’t a clock I could see for the radio show for timing. All of my cues were done with people talking in my ear,” she said.
But Solari said the biggest challenge with her shows is finding the right inspirational guests. Recent guests have included Abby Rike, a contestant on “The Biggest Loser,” who lost her 2-week-old son, 6-year-old daughter and husband in a car crash. There’s also the inspirational story of Jessica Cox, the world’s first licensed pilot with no arms, and a woman who has overcome multiple sexual assaults.
“It’s really important to find those people who can be so genuine, be so honest … we take somebody’s life shot and we make it relatable to other people ... and then we open up the phone lines so people can call in and get advice,” she said.
Anyone interested in telling their story can contact Solari at livingfullout.com or by calling (310) 909-7800.
“I think my life has had a positive impact on those around me … having this eye condition has allowed me to relate to people in a different way, in a closer way,” she said.