Q&A: Better than 'Cats' - Life lessons from Imogen Lloyd Webber

NEW YORK (Reuters) - If you want to start a debate at any party, here is an easy method: Ask people to name their favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber song.

Imogen Lloyd Webber poses with her father outside the Winter Garden Theatre in New York. @illoydwebber/Instagram via REUTERS

The task is like having to pick your favorite child. “Memory,” from Cats? “Music of the Night,” from Phantom of the Opera? “You Must Love Me,” from Evita?

Imogen Lloyd Webber has a particular favorite: “The First Man You Remember,” from Aspects of Love. Sung from a father to his daughter, it has special meaning for Imogen. She is the British composer’s firstborn with Sarah Hugill, whom he divorced back in 1983.

Now an author and commentator based in New York City, Imogen Lloyd Webber has a new book out, “The Intelligent Conversationalist,” about how to talk to anyone, anytime.

For the latest in Reuters’ “Life Lessons” series, she sat down to chat about what she has learned from her life as musical theater royalty.

Q: Growing up in London with a unique set of parents, what life lessons were you absorbing?

A: It was an amazing upbringing: On the one hand, I got to experience the crazy side of the world with dad, doing things like going to the Oscars. On the other hand, I was just a regular London schoolkid living with my mom, taking the tube and having beans-on-toast for dinner.

Q: Even though your father is very wealthy, did your parents keep you grounded about money?

A: I was on a very strict allowance with my mom, so in that way it was a pretty normal life without much pocket money at all. My first proper job was as a data entry clerk in the summer, because at heart I’m a boring nerd. I worked very hard, because I had seen my dad’s work ethic firsthand: Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you fail, but you just keep on working.

Q: In building your own career, did you find your famous name helped or hurt you?

A: It certainly opens doors, but once they open, you have to work hard, or those same doors will slam in your face. What I appreciate about America is that sometimes people have no idea who my dad is. Once I worked alongside one journalist for six months, and she had no clue. I loved that. In America, they don’t care about what your name is, they just care about whether or not you are good at your job.

Q: Do you have any role models you look up to, regarding money and life?

A: I love what J.K. Rowling has to say about success and failure. After all, Harry Potter was originally rejected by nine different publishers.

Q: Since your dad has had such massive success, have you thought about how to handle wealth?

A: My dad, quite rightly, doesn’t believe in inheritance. He thinks it makes children feel entitled, that they won’t ever have to do any work. He did give me the gift of an amazing education, though, which is the most important thing.

As a result, I have my own career in modern media, writing books while maintaining other broadcast jobs on top of that. There were a couple of years where I almost didn’t sleep. If you had told me 20 years ago media would be this challenging, I might have chosen another line of work.

Q: Where do you want to have an impact in your giving?

A: I would one day like to help my alma maters - Queen’s College in London, and then Cambridge University. I would love to help people get educated, because it opens so many doors. I’m not quite at that financial level yet, but when I die, that is where I want my money to go.

Q: What money lessons would you like to pass down to future generations?

A: That being entitled is a very dangerous thing. The most important thing is to work hard. And to be decent: My grandfather was an extraordinary man, and one of the models for the character of James Bond, who worked with Ian Fleming behind enemy lines in France during the war. “Decent” is the best word to describe him, and I would love to embody that as well.

Q: Did you tuck any life lessons into your new book?

A: All you can do is be prepared, and do your best. Once I had a really disastrous TV segment with Sean Hannity on Fox News, and the moment I left the building, I broke down in tears. Just a couple of days later, I was made a contributor for MSNBC. So you never really know where things are going to lead. Life can be funny that way.

See more Life Lessons here

Editing by David Gregorio