Retta talks self-care and hosting HGTV's 'Ugliest House in America': 'I was shocked at how bad some things still were'

HGTV host Retta shares her self-care secrets. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
HGTV host Retta shares her self-care secrets. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

When it comes to self-care, Retta learned from the best: Oprah Winfrey.

"I grew up watching Oprah, and that’s one of those things, when you watch talk shows, that they say you need, and I took it as Bible," the former star of Parks and Recreation and Good Girls tells Yahoo Life. "I don't know that I was necessarily able to do it, but I've always known that that's probably your best route. Once I was able to do it, it wasn’t hard for me."

That said, squeezing in a full night's sleep can be a challenge when she's traveling for work as host of HGTV’s Ugliest House in America: Ugly in Paradise.

"Sleep is hard, in that my body wakes up after six hours," said Retta, who admits that things got worse during the lockdown phase of the pandemic, when she felt consumed by what was happening in the world around her.

"Especially because of quarantine and the COVID of it all, I had some anxiety," she explains. "I would stay up all night watching all the bad news and stressing about it. Melatonin really became my friend."

The comedian is well aware that she's often associated with the phrase "Treat Yo’ Self," the words touted by her beloved character Donna Meagle on Parks and Rec. In the past, people would yell the phrase, which is meant to encourage one to indulge in joyful pleasures, at her on the street. That's "not as prevalent now," thanks to her more recent success as mom Ruby Hill on Good Girls. But that doesn't mean the actress doesn't know how to enjoy the finer things in life. Retta says her favorite ways to treat herself include luxury body treatments, like getting massages and being stretched out by a professional.

"When I can, I like to get stretched. I really found that does affect me daily," she says, adding, "I want to get my mani-pedis more often, I just don't have the time because of work."

To care for her physical health, Retta loves to swim. And like her former character Donna, she's partial to some retail therapy.

"I do a lot of online shopping," she admits.

Retta spoke to Yahoo Life as Ugliest House in America: Ugly in Paradise returns for a new five-episode season that chronicles her road trip to visit 15 unsightly homes nominated by their owners. One house will be crowned the “ugliest house in America” by HGTV, earning the owners a $150,000 renovation. While Retta does consider herself a fan of home improvement, she makes it clear she isn't out there DIY-ing projects herself.

"I like to throw money at the problem," she says. "But I do like to watch it. I love a before-and-after — that’s my favorite thing. So I am an enthusiast in that I will watch it happen all day if I could. It’s one of those things you just keep on, and say 'I see why they use stone here.'"

Of course, trekking around from the mountains to the palm trees to find the most hideous house possible for the show proved to be quite the shock.

"I was shocked at how bad some things still were, and the people were still living in the house. Some people can't afford [to go elsewhere]. I remember when I redid my apartment, I lived in my guest room while it was getting done," says Retta. "But they're just living with the crazy, and just now decided maybe we should do something."

Her own go-to design upgrade? Installing TVs in every room in her home so she can enjoy her favorite programs anywhere she wants.

"What don't I watch?" she responds when asked about her favorite shows. "I feel like I panic when people ask me that question because I watch so much. Bingeing is the thing. Mostly scripted shows. I watch Ted Lasso, Hacks, Yellowstone, ...And Just Like That, Better Call Saul, Only Murders in the Building. Right now, those are the things that I’m keeping up with, and I do like to revisit Monk."

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