Interview With Debbie Phelps

About a week ago, as part of Johnson’s Thanks, Mom campaign, I had an opportunity to be a part of a panel of bloggers who interviewed Debbie Phelps, mom of fourteen-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps.

You may have heard of him.

I have absolutely no idea why I was asked to participate, but I do know that I was the only blogger on the panel with a Southern accent. And since I do not have what the business people would refer to as a “phone voice,” I just brought my inner hillbilly all up in the conference call and unleashed some excruciatingly long vowel sounds.

The other bloggers – who represented MamaPop, Mom Advice, MomLogic and Better Than A Playdate – were just great, by the way. They were smart and articulate and professional. I, on the other hand, was all, “AHM THE WUN FROM ALLYBAMMER.”

Skillz. I got me some.

I should also tell you that I totally relied on my friends and family members for questions. I did this because the only question I could come up with initially was, “So. How was China?”

Clearly I have missed my calling as a hard-hitting journalist.

And as evidence of my no-holds-barred journalistic style, the first thing I asked Debbie Phelps about was her wardrobe.

But it was a no-brainer for me. Sister and her hubby were here for a visit the weekend before the interview, and as we watched the Olympics, Sister wondered aloud if Debbie planned out her wardrobe since she seemed to favor black and white clothes – with just a splash of color.

As it turns out, Sister was dead-on. Debbie said, “I did do black and white with a splash of color on purpose. I’m just not a jeans or khakis with a button-up shirt kind of girl. I’m a Chico’s girl” (she wore their clothes throughout the games). “I wanted to elevate my pool side style the same way that Michael has elevated the sport. Plus, there were times when I’d have to leave the pool and go out for different appearances or events, and I needed to be dressed for those things.”

My next question was courtesy of FryDaddy and his beautiful bride. They wanted to know if Debbie still feels protective of her twenty-three year-old son, if she worries about people trying to take advantage of him now that he’s internationally known.

And I thought that was SUCH a good question. Travis and Angela should totally have a talk show.

So I asked Debbie if she still feels protective, and she said, “Yes, absolutely.” She mentioned a couple of times when she felt like people’s motives weren’t completely on the up-and-up, and she said, “I always tell Michael, ‘Understand who your true friends are…be very selective about who you hang out with.’ Because the one thing you don’t want is for your child to be burned or to be used.”

Then I asked her if she ever feels like she has to protect herself. She said, “I do feel that way. Just the other day someone came up to me and said, ‘Hey. Remember me? We had a beer together in Athens!’ And the whole time I was thinking No we did not. We never did any such thing in Athens…or people will say, ‘I’m such a huge fan of Michael’s,’ and I’ll say, ‘Really? How many meets have you been to?’ And it’s their first one…plus, people we don’t even know are now saying things in the media…it’s just distasteful, really.”

One of my favorite moments in the conversation resulted from one of the other bloggers’ questions (I am so sorry that I don’t remember who asked it). But when asked how she resisted the urge to be a stage parent, Debbie said, “I wasn’t a pusher. I just always let the coaches do their jobs. My job was to be Michael’s mom.”

And all the mamas say: amen.

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  1. Amen! Gotta love Debbie Phelps

  2. I’m so glad you got to do that. We appreciate your skillz.

  3. You might be from Allybammer, but you spell in street. I think I love you almost as much as I love Debbie Phelps. And her son.

  4. Amen.
    And I referenced you on my blog today.
    You know, because I’m still all PTSD about our insane travel issues to San Antonio.
    Oh, and kudos on the “skillz.” Boo would not be Boo without the accent and the ability to spell in hillbilly.

  5. You’ve got mad skillz Boo.

    And bless the girl Michael Phelps brings home someday. My baby brother was raised in a family of three women. Practically the equivalent of three mamas. Can we say overprotective much? :)

  6. Do you totally love the opportunities your wonderful writing on this blog has afforded you? How fun!!! You totally deserve them too!!!

  7. Color me totally jealous! It seems she’s done an amazing job with that young man.

  8. I’ve been so impressed with the way that the Phelps and other people thrown into the media spotlight due to the Olympics have acted. It’s so refreshing to hear from people who are successful in their area without all the ridiculousness we get from Hollywood celebrities.

  9. Great post…Debbie Phelps is someone that so many can learn some good stuff from, especially the part about her job being Michael’s mom. Great advice.

    BTW, your reporting skills are great – it’s not so much about the questions but how you report the story. Kudos.

  10. Pure class. She’s sure done something right. Funny how you don’t hear about Daddy. His loss…

  11. This momma will definitely say AMEN! Debbie has class.

  12. If you didn’t ask her who does her hair, or mention your worry at the possiblilty of wardrobe malfunction every time he wore “the little suit” then there truly was an anionting on the whole interview. You are a mess Boomama!!

  13. Great questions!! Debbie Phelps seems to have her feet on the ground and her wits about her. And I wish I had half your skillz for writing hillbilly. That is surely a gift.

  14. My stepson has ADHD and loves sports. He struggles so much in school and with his peers.

    Debbie Phelps seems to have it all together and her love and support of her son is so apparent.

    I see my stepson struggle so much everyday. He loved watching Michael Phelps win and was moved by his story.

    If Debbie Phelps reads these comments: Debbie, from what I see raising an 11 year old stepson with ADHD, you are an amazing mother!

  15. Amen and amen. That’s all we can really do, isn’t it. I had the pleasure of having the mother of an Astro’s player as a patient recently, and she said the same thing. Her job was to be his mom, and his coaches and his talent did everything else.

    “AHM THE WUN FROM ALLYBAMMER.” *snort* You kill me….LOL!


  16. It’s all about pure authenticity…being who God made us to be, planting seeds with others, and watching them grow. And it’s about knowing who/what the weeds are and when to pull them out of our life’s garden. So proud of you for living authentically!

  17. What a great opportunity you had! What a fun post to read on a Friday morning. : )

  18. WHAT???

    Alright! Interviewing Michael Phelps mother? C’mon! What is next? Giving Oprah first dibs on your favorite mexican recipe cookbook debut?

    WHEN do you have time to do all this??

    Are you really just one person?

    I’m serious……you are everywhere, Boo!

  19. What a great interview. I’ve often thought throughout the olypmics how hard it will be for Michael to stay grounded with this HUGE success, but it sounds like he has a great mama to help him keep it all in perspective. I like her! :)

  20. I was awed by his humbleness. The only time I saw he was outwardly celebratory was for the team wins. That’s some good parenting!

  21. Oh what a fine momma she is. I want to smack the people who said stuff like “He’ll never be able to focus on anyting.” Smack, smack, smack ’em.

  22. You definitely got some skillz! Thanks for sharing with us. She seems like a real great gal.

  23. Michael who? [smile]

    I love me the humor, the skillz, and your hard-hitting journalistic style. It’s a thing of beauty, I tell ya.


  24. I’m jealous that you got to interview “Debs.” She’s fantastic! I think she needs to be on tv commercials:

  25. Sophie,
    You represented the South well, you go girlfriend!!

    What a fun thing to do and each night I watched the meets I must confess I did look at her clothes,or outfits and she looked so pretty!! I am glad you asked that question. :)

    AND this mom says, Amen!

    It was great to meet you last week!! You are beautiful!!!

  26. Thanks for sharing.

    I’m a blog stalker of yours. I gave you an award on my blog!

  27. I’m so glad you got the opportunity to do that! You asked some great questions and she seems like an amazing woman.

  28. “So, how was China?” That would’ve been the first thing I thought to ask too! I love it.

    What an awesome experience to interview the mom of “the world’s greatest Olympian.” No offense to Michael Phelps because that boy seems genuine and sweet, but the real story is definitely with his mamma!

  29. I absolutely love her answer about being Michael’s mom. I coach a high school dance team. What I wouldn’t give to have parents like her that just let me do my job.

    Thanks for sharing!

  30. Awesome, awesome! You did great again!

    And if T & A have a talk show – you’re are so there too!!


  31. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  32. Boo
    Girl if I had known you were so famous I would have gotten your autograph – LOL
    Have a great weekend

  33. I had just as much fun watching Debbie Phelps as I did her son, Michael. She didn’t try to pretend to be anything but supportive, real, and her response to the “too-close-too-tell” moment was priceless. Moms all over the planet got it.

  34. Well I think you did just great. LOVE your questions and love her answers even more. What a mom. :)

    Okay I’m a little embarrsed to admit this, but when I read this sentence…

    “I just brought my inner hillbilly all up in the conference call and unleashed some excruciatingly long vowel sounds.”

    I read the word VOWEL with a B…bowel..lord have mercy I did a double take.

    I really need to catch up on my sleep…

  35. I enjoyed the blog. I am also a southerner from Tennessee.

    I loved watching Michael Phelps swim, but it was also fun to watch his mom’s expressions. She was great. I am a mom of 3 sons 21, 19, and 16. I am protective too.

    What a privilege for you to get to interview her. I know that had to be fun.

  36. Great questions (and I am sure Oprah gets help with her questions too!)

  37. I, too, love your uncanny ability to spell in hillbilly.
    You are every woman.
    Love you to bits and continue to pray for you.

  38. Well, dern. First Phelps, next Palin (ay-men). And I swear if that happens, the Gayle-friend will pitch a tent in your yard and fetch whatever beverage suits you.

  39. I am so very excited for you! What an honor to be picked. That is something I only aspire to.

    I believe that you are such a type that should you be out somewhere and happen to cross paths with Mrs. Phelps, you could ask her, “Remember me?” and she would totally hug your neck.

  40. What an awesome opportunity you had!!! I know two ladies named Debbie Phelps and they are both extraordinary.

  41. Been missin’ me some BooMama Humah lately. I finally have a minute to stop by this morning and have fallen off my bar stool (I’m at the breakfast bar in my kitchen, not the pub, mate) twice’t laughing at such lines as, “THE WORLD, IT IS A PEANUT” and “And ahm the one from Alybammer.” I can so relate to that last one. Every time I open my mouth when I’m in Europe (don’t I sound high fallutin’ like I go to Europe just about every other weekend or something?) I feel that SAME way. Eventually I either start doin’ all my communicatin’ in a real low mumble (and sometimes out from behind my hand, which I use to cover my mouth in an effort to shield others from all the sharp twanginess) or I just adopt a phony British accent, because I just can’t take hearin’ my hicktown self chime in among all the lovely European pretty-talk. Ahm from South Cackalacky, Y’all! Hoooo Dawgies. (Go Tigers, by the way. Of the Clemson variety.)

  42. I am so glad I read this post. I have an interview coming up and the artist (artist artist, not music artist) is quite the funky dresser. I now feel perfectly comfortable asking her a dozen questions about her wardrobe before I launch into more important matters.

  43. What an incredible opportunity. She conducted her self with such dignity during the whole Olympics. It was very inspiring!

  44. Somebody please get me a tissue.

  45. Oh yes, you do, girl. You’ve got some skillz!

  46. I thought the same thing about the outfits. And bless her heart, that poor lip balm incident! Like the cameraman couldn’t pan away for a moment just to let that poor woman have some peace!

    Cracking up over your “phone voice.”