News Column

Possible HBO series in tea leaves for Ojai author, Zhena's Gypsy Tea founder

May 8, 2014

By Lisa McKinnon, Ventura County Star, Calif.



May 08--The life story of an Ojai woman who founded a multimillion dollar tea company is the inspiration for a possible HBO series, thanks to a deal with the executive producers of the Emmy-winning shows "Entourage" and "Boardwalk Empire."

Zhena Muzyka started Zhena's Gypsy Tea nearly 15 years ago as a way to support herself and her then-infant son, Sage, who was born with a life-threatening kidney defect.

Muzyka signed the agreement with Leverage Management, a production company operated by rapper turned Oscar-nominated-actor Mark Wahlberg and business partner, Stephen Levinson, in February.

The deal stayed under wraps until this week, when it was reported by the entertainment industry publication Variety.

"I won the cool mom award with this one," Muzyka said Wednesday. "Sage's first reaction was to remind me that Mark Wahlberg is the star of the next 'Transformers' movie."

Still in the preproduction stage, the series will be loosely based on Muzyka's motivational memoir, "Life by the Cup," which will be published by the Simon & Schuster imprint Atria Books on June 17.

Subtitled "Ingredients for a Purpose-Filled Life of Bottomless Happiness and Limitless Success," the book delves into Muzyka's Ukrainian gypsy ancestry and her experiences studying herbal medicines in Peru. It also marks the growth of her company from its origins as a cart parked in a Ventura consignment store.

Each chapter focuses on a different organic, fair-trade tea blend and the life-lesson story of how it came to be.

Inspirational quotes from Helen Keller, Oprah Winfrey and Mahatma Gandhi appear throughout. Recipes for tea-infused foods by Ventura-based pastry chef Kate Dunbar are included in the author's notes.

Muzyka also has given the show's producers several years worth of the daily journals she has been writing since age 6.

"That's to help them with character development. There's nothing in there that I wouldn't want anyone to see," Muzyka said with a laugh.

A 1993 graduate of Lompoc High School, Muzyka has lived in the Ojai Valley since her early 20s. Her family now also includes Gerard Linsmeier, her husband of eight years, and daughter Mia, 4 1/2.

Leverage learned about Muzyka's manuscript from Audrey Kelly, a longtime friend who also is a producer.

Despite its history of producing male-dominated shows for HBO and A&E, Leverage is the perfect choice for such female-centric material, Muzyka said.

"They have great sense of humor. They also have a lot of free rein with what they are going to do with the characters. We have yet to see how sexy or unruly things will get," she said, laughing again.

An email to Leverage Management seeking comment about the project was not immediately returned.

The impending publication of "Life by the Cup" is accompanied by the launch of a lifestyle website devoted to inspiring other women to start businesses that tap into their passions while helping others, Muzyka said.

Visitors to the site, http://www.zhena.tv, can sign up to receive emails detailing meditation exercises and watch DIY videos on tea ceremonies.

They also will find an online store stocked with teas and, in the coming weeks, tea accessories made by fair-trade artisans. "Goddess" necklaces by Ojai jeweler Jes Maharry will be available starting in June. Ten percent of sales will be donated to Educate Her and similar charities.

Muzyka is writing a second book, "Business by the Cup," and plans to write a third, "Love by the Cup."

A book-release party for "Life by the Cup" will take place in June at Azu Restaurant in Ojai.

___

(c)2014 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)

Visit Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.) at www.vcstar.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel



Source: Ventura County Star (CA)


Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters