When I was a celebrity-interviewer living in Manhattan, I was surrounded by performing artists endowed with beauty, wealth and fame. My job was to help them tell their stories to the public. This gave me the rare opportunity to meet fascinating people and in the process reveal insights about themselves on and off the record. I chose to walk away from that career in favor of my more fulfilling role as a religious woman in Israel, but there are a handful of useful take-aways that stay with me.

Dustin Hoffman –Don't Be So Quick to Judge

I interviewed Dustin Hoffman when he was promoting his film “Wag the Dog.” He portrayed a wildly successful and massively conceited Hollywood movie producer. When I asked him what he thought of his character’s less-than-moral personality, he replied, “An actor never judges the character he’s playing. Never. An actor must learn to view the world as the character does. You never see him as a bad person.”

This insight taught me that when the behavior of someone we encounter falls short of our expectations, don't jump to conclusions. Instead, we should view them compassionately and try to see the world from their perspective. You don't have to agree or identify with them, but it's wrong to judge their worth as a human being just because you're not aligned with their worldview. That's between him and God.

Robin Williams – Why Be Normal?

Robin Williams was one of everyone's favorite stars to interview. No matter the quality of his most recent film, Robin showed up to each interview (and there were hundreds of them) with all the enthusiasm he could muster – which was a lot. Forget rehearsed sound bites, Robin was one hundred percent off-the-cuff and spectacularly so. He was always totally open to any question but would often tell you a joke to try and throw you off. “How can you come up with all this material on the fly?” I asked him once. He smiled and answered in a low voice, “I’m not normal.”

Robin taught me that being normal is often overrated. He also taught me that most times, a person’s genius, meaning the gifts only that person can give to the world, often comes from a place within them that is just not “normal.” So let’s embrace our offbeat creative side!

Oprah Winfrey – Own Your Story

Interviewing Oprah Winfrey was a joy because Oprah made the process easy, and also because – let's face it – she's Oprah. She effortlessly spoke in concise sound bites, and she stayed on topic throughout each of our interviews. Oprah Winfrey is one of the world’s top-ranking superwomen in many fields, and in myriad demographics, yet I never cowered at the prospect of interviewing her. In addition to being lovely to speak with, she doesn't shy away from talking about her challenges with her weight, drugs, abuse as a child, and her own relationship fails. She has also been just as honest when talking about how she overcame those difficulties and paved a better path for herself.

Oprah is an inspiration to many and her openness and honesty about her struggles and ultimate victories have helped millions of people get through their own ordeals. This taught me that sometimes opening up about a personal vulnerability can help you heal, but it can also help someone else find their own strength.

Jodie Foster – Be Prepared for Anything

Jodie Foster went from being a child star to a leading lady and was one of the most brainy individuals I have ever had the pleasure of interviewing. It was cringe-worthy hearing other interviewers ask her silly or intrusive questions at round-table press interviews I covered. Yet I never saw Jodie furrow her brow or chide anyone for asking an idiotic question. She just smiled and answered everyone with equal respect.

She also kept her private life private, revealing to the public bits and pieces when she was ready; not from a place of being worn down by the media.

I learned that when you are self-assured, naturally respectful, and level headed, you don’t have to be rude or insulting to get your point across or just wave someone off. When you are prepared, you can take a breath, relax, and be prepared to handle the bumps in the road.

Edie Falco – Hang in There

In the 1990s when I lived in Manhattan, many of my friends were unknown performers who sang, acted, or did standup comedy in audition after audition. A handful of them got their big break and went on to stellar careers.

Award-winning actress Edie Falco, who is best known for her roles as Carmella Soprano and Nurse Jackie, is one of the pre-fame friends I knew well. It took ten years for Edie to become an overnight success; ten years of auditions, waitressing, more auditions, and then landing her breakout role as prison officer Diane Whittlesey on the HBO series, “Oz.”

During the filming of this series HBO developed “The Sopranos,” the show that elevated the status of cable television and which made Edie Falco a household name before the year 2000. The struggle for recognition as a talented actress is now behind her. She would lament how pointless all of those auditioned were and wonder if she should give it all up and just accept waitressing as her profession for life. Waiting tables is an honest living, but Edie still went on every audition – and then came the phone call when she told me she landed a starring role in a TV series for a major network.

She’s remained on the radar ever since. Edie taught me that you never know if or when the “big break” is coming, but having faith in yourself and your talents is itself a goal worth having.

Keanu Reeves, Jimmy Fallon, Katie Couric, Jeff Bridges, and Drew Carey – Get Over Yourself!

It was rare for a celebrity to show up to an interview by himself, with no entourage, no publicist, no manager to babysit them. There are a handful of stars, including the ones listed here, who would have none of this. They feel completely secure to go out on their own without a gatekeeper alongside them. They welcome fans, deal with the press, and avoid the paparazzi by themselves and totally rock it.

It's refreshing when any of us – celebrities included – are secure enough in our self-worth to go places without an entourage or other human props in order to look important.

Whatever our vocation, there are always opportunities to show up and be a force for good. I'm grateful for having the opportunity to sit with people who excelled in their public career and for picking up along the way lessons and gifts I brought with me as I embarked on a completely different life.

Heather Dean's newly released book is “Searching for Heather Dean," a memoir about her exciting career as a celebrity-interviewer and why she walked away from it.