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The limit did not exist for Amanda Kloots and her husband Nick Cordero in the fall of 2019. They’d both packed up their New York life—the one in which they’d met on the set of Bullets Over Broadway and later had their first child, Elvis, together—and put down roots across the country in California where Cordero, a Tony-nominated actor, was starring in an L.A. production of Rock of Ages and Amanda was growing her burgeoning fitness company. Kloots called this chapter “kismet”—they had the world on a string. But that world was flipped upside down when, at the end of March 2020, Cordero became infected with COVID-19 and spent 95 days in the hospital where he endured a massive lung infection and even a leg amputation due to complications from blood clotting. On July 5th, Cordero passed. And while both families privately mourned his death, the world mourned with them: Kloots had intricately documented her husband’s battle on Instagram from the outset providing daily updates to over 600K Instagram followers. People from all corners of the globe were deeply invested in Cordero’s treatment and would log on every day at 3 P.M. to sing and dance to a song he’d previously written titled “Live Your Life” to encourage his recovery. The outpouring of love, which also came by way of countless letters and gifts, was integral to Kloot’s strength.
“It was a huge support system,” she tells me over the phone. “There were days where the last thing I wanted to do was sing at 3 P.M., but I would get on Instagram Live and I would see the over 17K people joining me at the same time, and it was this instant energy. The outpour was amazing, and it helped me every single day. It was a lifeline.”
In addition to the unique circumstances of Cordero’s fight, followers were drawn to Kloots’ unfaltering positivity. The former Rockette would start each morning by sharing a “positive thought of the day” along with tender stories about her husband spoken through a sparkling grin. Her ability to see silver linings seemed unprecedented, but for Kloots, it was a natural coping mechanism.
“Being positive does come pretty naturally to me,” she says. “I do think I’m innately a positive person, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it always comes easy. I definitely sometimes, and through this whole pandemic and 2020, have had to be like 'Okay, no, we’re just going to focus on the positive things here.' I do, though, think I’m innately someone who sees the glass half full and I am grateful for that because I know that isn’t something that comes easily to people, but I do focus on it and I do stress it in my day." A particular morning habit of Cordero's has also helped shape Kloots' positivity—one she's continued since his passing. "I also play music in the morning—that started when Nick and I were dating. I used to always first and foremost turn on a news program and just kind of have it on in the background as I was getting ready for the morning or doing whatever I was doing, but he would always put on his favorite DJ that’s over in London—his name is Gilles Peterson—and he would always put on Gilles and listen and make coffee, and so, you live with somebody, and their habits sort of turn into your habits, and it ended up how I started off my mornings too. It’s such a great way to start your day because you eventually hear the news and what’s happened, but those first 5,10 minutes, if you can start off with some art, and culture, and some good music, it really helps.”
It’s a widely known theatre trope to say, “The show must go on,” and Kloots, who’s performed on Broadway and the big screen, knows this ideology all too well. “I’ve always thought I was a strong person," she affirms. "My chosen career before starting my fitness company was a Broadway performer and a dancer, and when that’s your job, you have to have thick skin—you have to be a strong person because you’re pretty much told ‘no’ every single day and you’re battling one spot in a Broadway show against 500 other really talented people, so you’re innately strong." Kloots' strength was only compounded after her husband's diagnosis, and through the rollercoaster of emotions and uncertainty, she discovered that her resiliency is unyielding. "I think I found a new strength in myself," she says. "I think my faith got a lot stronger, which wasn’t necessarily surprising, but in a way, it was comforting that I was able to really lean deeper into my faith because it was a huge lifeline to me as well. I think that you definitely don’t go through something like this or something even like the pandemic and not come out without learning something about yourself and how you deal with trauma and loss. It's definitely a learning experience.”
The trouble with grief is that it’s an unannounced guest—you can’t open the door for it or ask it to leave. To help temper the spontaneity, though, Kloots packs her schedule. “I’ve found that when I keep myself super busy, it really helps. Obviously, grief will always find you, or what I’ve found is that it kind of finds you at the weirdest times, and it will last maybe for a minute and then it will last sometimes for an hour, but I think today, I’m doing okay.”
One such way she's kept herself busy is by picking up a new pastime; a close girlfriend suggested she find an activity that has no connection to her late husband—an untethered activity that would forage new memories. “I’ve always wanted to play tennis, but I’ve always had excuses for it, like, ‘I’m too busy with my job,’ or ‘Now I’m pregnant’ or “Now I’m a new mom’ or ‘It’s too expensive’ or ‘I’d have to go out and buy a racket and clothes and what if I don’t like it?’ So I just constantly made excuses in my head for why I couldn’t do it even though I always wanted to do it. And [my friend] was like, ‘No excuses, you’re doing this. Go get the stuff and start lessons.’ And I did, and just jumping in with two feet on something completely new and really just embracing myself in it was one of the best things I could do, and it still is something that makes me so happy. I play twice a week and it’s just wonderful. You’re outside, you’re moving your body, you’re hitting something… it’s good.”
When I ask Kloots what she’s looking forward to in the upcoming year, I expect the list to be minimal—baby steps, as they say. But instead, it’s clear she’s leaving the gate open for growth and allowing herself to experience happy moments. “I’m really just looking forward to new experiences and getting stronger emotionally. I’ve heard that time is a helpful tool ... so I’m looking forward to that. And I think just being with Elvis and raising him. He’s been such a light in my life through all of this. He’s at such a cute stage in his life, he really is. He’s just so fun, every day he’s doing new things.”
Grief will always find you, or what I’ve found is that it kind of finds you at the weirdest times.
Kloots also believes in the power of manifestation to help determine her future. For years, she’s crafted a vision board during the first week of the new year without planning what she’ll put on it. “I get a ton of magazines, and I look through them, and I re-look through them, and I look through them again, and whatever speaks to me is what I cut out and put on my vision board,” she explains. “It just happens at that point in time on that day. Of course, as the year goes along, I’ll add things to it, but it always is just a spur-of-the-moment vision board. It’s very intuitive.” Cordero joined her in making a vision board last year, but not to the same extent as Kloots. “Nick put two things on his vision board in January and it was Rupaul and the Geiko gecko. I remember asking him why Rupaul? And he said, ‘Because she’s fabulous.’”
What Kloots didn’t know, however, was that the gecko would serve as an omen. “I literally go to bed every night praying that Nick will visit me in my dreams, but he hasn’t yet." She pauses for a second, as if to digest the words that just escaped her. "But the back cover of his People Magazine issue, when I turned it over—I was home in Ohio, and I hadn’t even been able to give myself the courage to read the article yet—so it was just sitting on my bed, and I moved something, and it fell off, and the back of his cover was a Geico gecko ad. I can’t remember if I asked him about the gecko and why it was on his vision board, but ironically, when I researched what geckos mean on a vision board, it was crazy. It was all about rebirth and regeneration. So to have that exact picture too—you know, there are a couple of Geico gecko ads—but it was the exact one he cut out and put on his vision board. When I was in Ohio and picked up that magazine, it was very early—it was only a week or two after Nick had passed, so I was still really going through it, so it was very comforting. It was pretty emotional for me, because of all the things that could have been on the back of his People magazine cover, to have it be that, I thought it was pretty special and I thought it was him telling me it’s going to be okay, you’re going to be okay.”