How Jewel found happiness in fame

Her ethereal voice dominated the radio in the 1990s, but for singer-songwriter Jewel, her name on the top of charts wasn't enough.

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Haley Draznin (CNN)
(CNN) — Her ethereal voice dominated the radio in the 1990s, but for singer-songwriter Jewel, her name on the top of charts wasn't enough.

"Fame never was a lure for me, it was always sort of a false prophet. My currency has always been to have an authentic happy life," Jewel tells CNN's Poppy Harlow in the latest episode of Boss Files.

The Grammy nominated artist has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. Her debut album, "Pieces of You" went platinum 15 times.

"At first it was really difficult to handle the level of fame that I achieved. I didn't plan on that," she continues. "I wanted to make sure my number one job was to be a whole happy person and that my number two job was to be a musician and to never switch those two around."

Jewel, 44, now thinks about her creative work more broadly. It's something that has inspired her as a single mother to her six-year-old son.

"When I looked into my son's eyes the day he was born, I realized there was still a better woman in me that I wanted him to know. And it made me really redouble my efforts to be that woman that he would know and see," she says, "It really caused me to... do a career shift."

Jewel has published a memoir, "Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story," and launched a nonprofit with a digital platform described as an "emotional fitness destination for those seeking more happiness in their lives." The site provides companies with a tool kit and a curriculum for employees to follow on how to live a happy life.

"We're forming what we're calling the next frontier of corporate culture," Jewel tells Harlow. "Right now corporate culture has been about perks and it's created a culture of entitlement, which I think as Americans we would see as fundamentally flawed."

Jewel acknowledges that some people still only see her as an artist, but says she's hopeful her new venture will have as much influence as her music.

The exercises she taught herself as a young girl evolved into the lessons that are now the foundation of her nonprofit, she says. When she was 16, she became homeless and hitchhiked across the country on what she calls her "happiness project."

Jewel's rags-to-riches success story is widely known. She lived in her car while traveling and doing street performances and small gigs.

"It sounds odd, but when I was homeless I really discovered what being happy was," Jewel reflects. "That first song I wrote, 'Save Your Soul,' was really about seeing America for the first time and this idea of 'can we save ourselves?'"

At 18, she was "discovered" while singing at a coffee shop in San Diego.

"I had no fan base, but I started bringing people in and it was two people, then four people, then 12 people," she recalls. "Labels started going, 'Who the heck is this girl with an acoustic guitar at the height of grunge talking about hopeful things?' And so, all of a sudden limousine after limousine started showing up."

Jewel says the challenges she endured with her success -- from the heartbreak of failed romances to being millions of dollars in debt -- made her more resilient and she hopes to use her experiences to help others.

"I'm happy with my career. I'm very proud that my fans allowed me to have the career that I did, where I was allowed to be authentic. I never had to be perfect. I was allowed to lead with my flaws," she says.

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