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Steven Cuoco: I turned my childhood pain into a passion for helping others overcome trauma

Steven Cuoco survived a harrowing childhood with his biological family embroiled in addiction and emotional turmoil before foster care gave him security and solace he’d craved. Now an award-winning publicist, best-selling author, and successful radio presenter, Cuoco explains to Unfiltered how he uses his training as a grief counsellor to help his celebrity guests open up about their lives to empower listeners overcome their own trauma
Steven Cuoco
Steven Cuoco

Steven Cuoco is an award-winning publicist and the founder and CEO of public relations, management, and media agency United Angels Dream, as well as EMAGE Magazine International, Power 98.5 Satellite Radio, and Model Me VIP. He is also a distinguished radio host and media personality, a seasoned radio and podcast producer, and author of the international best-selling book, “Guided Transformation: Poems, Quotes, and Inspiration”. Follow him on X and Instagram. Visit stevencuoco.com.

Having faced multiple challenges throughout his childhood, Steven Cuoco’s story is a testament to resilience and the transformative power of self-expression.

The US-based radio presenter and counsellor describes his early years as being marked by dyslexia, a speech impediment and the fear of being murdered for being flamboyant – challenges that were exacerbated by an environment of verbal and emotional abuse within his biological family.

“It all came to a head when my biological mother secretly planned to commit suicide, but before she would take her life, she ordered her husband one evening to go upstairs to kill me,” Cuoco recalls.

Placed in foster care aged seven, Cuoco found solace in connecting with people, hearing their stories, and honing his communication skills to avoid judgment and rejection.

Before being removed from his biological family, Cuoco says his household was plagued by addiction and emotional turmoil. He found escape in movies, TV shows and radio programmes.

“My flamboyance and biracial identity made me a target for abuse within my family and in the community,” Cuoco says. “Despite daily struggles for basic needs and at times never knowing when I would eat and being beaten almost every day, I clung to my dreams.”

Adopted at the age of nine, Cuoco underwent counselling and experienced a transformative shift. Embraced by a loving family, he found the freedom to express himself through acting and discovered his passion for radio journalism. Dreaming of using the media to heal and inspire, he recorded his thoughts privately, fearing judgment and attack.

Seven months before the Covid pandemic, Cuoco launched his radio show, “Live on Air with Steven Cuoco.” It quickly gained international recognition, with celebrity guests like Dan Aykroyd, Jeff Timmons and NFL star Alex Bachman opening-up to Cuoco in a way that immediately resonated with audiences.

Today, Cuoco is not just a successful radio host but also an author, grief counsellor and certified NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) coach. Having been invited on multiple occasions to speak at TEDx, he is now ready to share his complete story, free from fear and judgment. His Amazon bestseller, Guided Transformation: Poems, Quotes, and Inspiration, is a testament to his journey from trauma to triumph.

In sharing his story, Cuoco continues to break down barriers to inspire others to overcome their pasts, embrace their true selves and thrive through genuine connections.

Where did the idea for “Live on Air with Steven Cuoco” come from? What inspired you to launch the radio show?

I started it because I wanted people to have a place in space where they can share their stories, and where we can have real conversations and connections.

Unlike the pay-to-play landscape, my focus is all about being the kind of radio host and media personality that is there to help get the word out, so that people can share their story beyond their success and their accolades.

My belief is that every person in this world has got something to say and something to share, and it is my responsibility, vow, and passion to ensure that I do my job and live up to my responsibility.

You’ve worked in PR for many years, did the transition from representing celebrities to interviewing them come naturally? What are the key differences in the roles would you say?

The roles of a publicist and a journalist share striking similarities. In my capacity as a publicist, I took an oath to uphold fairness, honesty, and the disclosure of all material facts.

Conversely, as a journalist, my legal responsibility mandates neutrality, objectivity, and factual reporting, necessitating an unbiased approach.

Being in the dual position of a publicist and a journalist is not only rewarding but also offers numerous opportunities to connect with people in diverse ways. It goes beyond the confines of a singular role in my career, providing a multifaceted and enriching experience.

I believe that genuine connections are essential for personal growth and overcoming fear. The power of conversation [is] the foundation for every great beginning.

You launched “Live on Air with Steven Cuoco” prior to the COVID-19 pandemic? What impact do you feel that had upon its format and its popularity?

The impact of the show both before and during the pandemic, has been unprecedented. I believe it highlights the profound connections and relationships forged, emphasising the perfect timing that reassured myself, the listeners, and my guests that life had not come to a standstill.

I aimed to dispel the notion that a guest must only appear on my show when achieving something significant or unveiling a new project. Instead, my vision for the radio show and platform was to provide content that fosters connection, builds communication, and encourages people to ask questions.

The emphasis is on creating a space that transcends achievements and product launches, focusing on genuine engagement and meaningful dialogue.

How do you explain its almost instant success?

I believe that genuine connections are essential for personal growth and overcoming fear. My show, especially during the pandemic, became a sanctuary for guests seeking reassurance and understanding. I emphasise the power of conversation as the foundation for every great beginning.

Can you share a memorable moment or two from the show – anything involving any of the celebrity guests you’ve featured?

One of my proudest moments was when actor Dan Aykroyd endorsed me, sharing a heart-warming testimony about his feelings towards me as a person and a professional. I am privileged to play his testimony at the beginning of every episode, a testament to our mutual respect and the longstanding connection I’ve had with him.

I make it a point to feature Dan’s endorsement because, I believe, he wouldn’t have done it unless he genuinely wanted to. His endorsement is significant, given the high regard I hold for him and the considerable time we’ve known each other.

This encouragement extends beyond personal connections; peers and individuals who value my moral and ethical compass have urged me to have my own radio show. Their confidence in my commitment to doing the right thing has been a driving force.

Your approach on the show focuses on genuine connections rather than achievements. How have you nurtured this approach?

The greatest compliment I’ve received from both guests and listeners is that my show feels like a gathering of two life-long friends, engaging in a genuine conversation to catch up on each other’s lives.

I think this stands in stark contrast to mainstream media, where promotional content is aggressively pushed as clickbait to validate media companies to shareholders, investors, sponsors, and advertisers.

I am honoured to have interviewed notable figures such as professional boxer Nikita Ababiy, former New York Giants player Alex Bachman, ex-New York Rangers player Julien Gauthier, Ryan Lochte, Mike Manning, Olympic gold medalist Ryan Murphy, actor Austin Aaron, Sam Carlson from the Mariners, NASCAR Xfinity series driver Jeffrey Earnhardt, IndyCar driver Connor Daly, professional bull rider Dustin Martinez, and Brian Quinn, to name a few.

Why do you believe your style as a presenter resonates so well with audiences?

I emphasise the distinction between being a journalist and a media company. While media companies prioritise financial obligations to stakeholders, journalists, in contrast, don’t undergo university training to exploit people and their content for website traffic or product sales.

I advocate for platforms to define their identity, whether as a radio station or a magazine, steering away from becoming mere “penny savers” – 24/7 infomercials leveraging music, artists, personal stories, and tragedies to promote external products.

In today’s era, effective selling and promotion require meaningful reasons, as people resist being force-fed content that imposes societal standards and makes them uncomfortable about their lives based on subjective opinions.

Life unfolds emotionally, progressing from the mental to the physical, and finally, into the cosmic, scientific, or spiritual realms.

Beyond being a successful radio host, you’ve also ventured into grief counselling and neuro-linguistic programming coaching. How did these additional roles come about, what spawned your interesting counselling and coaching especially?

My grandfather instilled in me, from a young age, the importance of learning about my passions. As a publicist, journalist, and media personality, I believe my responsibility lies in understanding people.

This drove me to delve into psychology, aiming to simplify life and human understanding, distinguishing between parasympathetic and sympathetic processing. Delving deeper, I recognise that to address any problem, understanding the emotional component is essential.

Life unfolds emotionally, progressing from the mental to the physical, and finally, into the cosmic, scientific, or spiritual realms. Unravelling the genesis of each situation is crucial to comprehend reactions or responses to experiences or trauma.

Furthermore, to comprehend others better, I sought to understand myself, exploring how my brain functions and why I respond to stimuli in specific ways. As a publicist and journalist, reading into situations, people, and circumstances daily, understanding psychology and mental health is crucial, particularly when living and working among others.

The press release with your book documents the trauma you experienced as a child. Can you give us a little insight into the impact that has had upon you as a person and perhaps influenced your decisions to help others through your counselling?

I find this question intriguing. Throughout my life, I’ve dedicated myself to uncovering my generational curses and understanding my belief systems in comparison to my family’s. In nearly 50 years, I’ve observed that many people navigate life governed by survival instincts and adopted belief systems rather than their own.

My adoptive mother emphasised the need to be cautious about what we consume – whether it’s through listening, reading, or watching.

While I understood her message when I was younger, I also questioned much of it. Initially sceptical about the influence of music or TV on my behaviours, my research into mental health later revealed the profound impact of the content we expose ourselves to. Subliminal messages, behaviours, and environmental factors play a role in shaping our thoughts, often with subtle transformations or creating confusion.

In a world where we are constantly being influenced, whether by television ads or subtle suggestions in videos, many are more impressionable than they realise.

It’s not about living in fear or dismissing things as insignificant; rather, it’s acknowledging that everything has a potential trade-off, and each person should recognise that emotional and mental alignment is crucial for overall well-being. When these aspects are out of sync, it disrupts homeostasis, affecting not only mental and emotional states but also the physical body and its embodiment.

As someone who breaks down barriers, what advice do you have for individuals looking to overcome their past and embrace their true selves?

To overcome past traumas and break through barriers, you must consistently embrace discomfort.

Throughout my life, I’ve consciously engaged in uncomfortable situations and tasks I initially didn’t want to tackle. This constant exposure to discomfort has forged resilience and openness, providing me with clarity. I’ve grown uncomfortably comfortable with being uncomfortable, understanding that this discomfort has been instrumental in shaping my life, akin to the pressure needed to create a diamond.

While some individuals may lead easy lives, it often comes at the cost of limited growth and maturity, hindering independent success. In contrast, my independent lifestyle, though perceived by some as solitude, allows me the necessary space for self-reflection. I recognise the benefits of both social interactions and solitude, tailoring my approach based on personal needs.

Observing others, I’ve learned to be cautious of complacency, as anyone can fall into its grasp, even amid stress. Stress, whether healthy or unhealthy, has the potential to become chemically addictive. I personally experienced this chemical dependence during the pandemic, realising that my body had become accustomed to stress, even when it wasn’t beneficial.

What’s next on the horizon in terms of upcoming projects you’re excited about?  

I’m excited about delving further into reality TV. I’ve been auditioning for CBS Big Brother since 2010, and I’m committed to persisting until I secure a spot on the show.

I also have my sights set on numerous upcoming Netflix projects that I plan to audition for. I’m eager to expand my team through my public relations firm, creating more job opportunities. Each day, I wake up and go to bed with gratitude, and I’m looking forward to continuing this positive mindset in the days ahead. I plan to publish a second book as well.

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