Exclusive Shine Interview with Maria Shriver

Maria Shriver has been many things: first lady, journalist, writer, business woman, philanthropist, mom. But when asked who inspires her in all these endeavors, she's quick to point to a woman who she calls her "ultimate role model" and her "ultimate champion:" her mom, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

"I was just saying to a friend this morning that she passed away almost a year ago and I find that I miss her more right now then ever because I always passed everything by her. I always talked about every big decision in my life, every transition in my life and now I am coming up on a really big transition in my life, and I find her voice missing."

Even with all her many causes and roles in life, mother Eunice was first and foremost a mom, something that Maria feels to this day. "She raised five kids and I think they would all say we are best friends today….We talk about everything: what we can work on together, what we are each doing, how we can help each other, how we can support each other, and I think that is really the greatest gift that she gave the five of us and that is something that I try to encourage our four children to do."

Eunice's influence is felt especially when Maria talks about her own parenting philosophy of being a "happy and engaged mother": "My goal is to raise kids who are empathetic and compassionate, socially conscious and who feel good about themselves."

That drive to be compassionate and socially responsible is obviously inherited from her family's multi-generation focus on serving others. With her deeply ingrained passion for service and activism and her entrepreneurial spirit, Shriver has used her voice to advocate on behalf of women, the working poor, the intellectually disabled, and families struggling with Alzheimer's, a disease her dad is currently battling.

She has been involved with Special Olympics in some way "since it (was) started in her backyard" by her mother, and in 2008 along with her brother Tim, launched Lovin' Scoopful, an ice cream company that donates 25% of all post-tax proceeds go to Special Olympics.

Maria has transformed the office of California 's first lady by treating it as one of the many platforms in which she has made a difference. She annually convenes "The Women's Conference, the nation's premier forum for women, which encourages women to be "architects of change." "I try to focus on areas that I see women from all walks of life dealing with" she says. "All of these things come out of talking to women, living my life, trying to be an architect of change, sharing my struggles, and these programs and this conference have come out of my own quest for the truth and my own quest for trying to find out why I am here and what my larger purpose is."

Maria encourages women, her daughters in particular, to embrace complexity. "When I was growing up, women were given the message that if you want to do really well, you have to be tough and strong and act like a man, and I think femininity got lost somewhere along the way. I try to encourage our daughters to be smart and feminine, that it is OK to feel sexy, that it is OK to feel like a woman, that doesn't mean you're not smart, that it doesn't mean that you are not strong, that all of those things can go into one package and as you move forward in life, it is to understand that about yourself and hopefully you will find a companion that can accept all of that."

"I think the greatest gift my mother had was that my father found joy in her complexities and let her, as I said in my mother's eulogy, 'he let her rip.'" She smoked cigars, he didn't say 'Don't do that'; she wore men's trousers, he didn't say 'Oh my god'; she drove in an open car with her hair flying around and he said 'Isn't she great,' and I think someone who can, whether it is a parent, a husband or a partner and say: 'Isn't she great?' and give you confidence in your complexities, in your differences, I think that is the greatest gift you can give a child, you can give a partner, someone you work with to say you know, 'Wow, you're different and let it rip.'"

Even though she isn't sure what her job will be come January when her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger's term ends, we have no doubt that like her mother, Maria will be sure to "let it rip."