Q&A with Mia Hamm


Fempower Q&A’s: Hi, Mia! We’re thrilled to have you on Fempower Q&A’s. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.


Mia Hamm: I spend most of my time helping parent our three wonderful children with my husband. I am fortunate enough to still be very involved in the sport I love (soccer) as a coach (Team First Soccer Academy), advisor (AS Roma) and as a part owner (LAFC). The game of soccer has been so good to me and I just hope to continue to help grow it in this country and abroad.


FQA: What obstacles have you faced in order to reach the very high and competitive level of soccer that you did?

MH: The hardest thing growing up was finding places to play at a high level since our family moved a lot. In fact, soccer was the one constant in my life and it enabled me to meet so many great people and open up so many wonderful doors for me.


FQA: Was there any point in your soccer career when you wanted to give up? 

MH: If so, how did you overcome this? I faced adversity like a lot of people do in sport but I never considered giving up. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by such a great family, terrific friends, and teammates that helped me though the tough times.


FQA: In your opinion, what makes someone a great leader? 

MH: I think leaders come in all shapes and sizes. There is no magic formula but you must lead by example. You also need to be caring and connected to those that you are leading in order to be effective.


FQA: What projects are you currently working on? 

MH: Mia Hamm Foundation and its missions is always near and dear to my heart. I am also dedicating a lot of time to our Team First Soccer Academies so that we can instill the correct skills and values in the next generation of girls that love this game.


FQA: What was the best part about playing for on the US Women’s National soccer team? 

MH: My favorite part was being able to represent this great country with a group of women that I loved and admired. There is no greater honor than to wear the Red, White and Blue.


FQA: Who is your hero/heroine? 

MH: Aside from my parents, my hero was probably my brother, Garrett, who passed away from complications of a bone marrow transplant. He was such a great athlete and kind person but most importantly, he handled his disease and lot in life with such grace. He was such an inspiration to all of us. 


Follow Mia on twitter: @MiaHamm

Mia Hamm Foundation: http://www.miafoundation.org/index/


Image: http://www.miafoundation.org/index/



Q&A with Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order actress, and creator of Joyful Heart Foundation

Photo Credit: Riccardo Savi Mariska2

Melissa Seymour: Hi, Mariska! Thanks so much for speaking with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Mariska Hargitay: I’m an actress an activist, and a mom of three.  I’ve played Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for the past 16 years. I’ve also taken my turn behind the camera, directing the groundbreaking NO MORE PSAs and a number of episodes of Law & Order: SVU.  I am also the Founder and President of the Joyful Heart Foundation.


MS: Has your role as Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit changed your perspective? How so?

MH: When I first did research for my role on SVU, I couldn’t believe the statistics I was learning. Then people starting sending me letters and e-mails disclosing their stories of abuse—stories they had never told anyone before. I was holding in my hands the stories behind the statistics I had learned. And they made a very deep impression on me. 
The fact that these people were revealing something so personal to me—someone they only knew as a character on a television— showed me how much they wanted to be heard, believed, supported, and healed.


What was the most difficult scene you ever had to shoot? How did you prepare for it?

MH: There were two, and both involved me facing off with my kidnapper, William Lewis. In “Surrender Benson” summoning the fear and rage to attack Lewis with a pipe after escaping my handcuffs was draining and challenging, but in the end, very rewarding.  And before the “Beasts Obsession” scene where I was forced to play Russian Roulette with Lewis, I didn’t sleep for days.  It was a true exercise in the “what if” game of acting: believing what you are experiencing.  There was really no way to prepare for that.  They were both harrowing experiences.


MS: Why did you create the Joyful Heart Foundation?


I was proud to be on a show that was going into territory that no one was talking about, but I knew I wanted to do more to help survivors heal and reclaim their lives. The Joyful Heart Foundation, which I started in 2004, was my answer.

Over the past 11 years, Joyful Heart has evolved into a national organization that is paving the way for innovative approaches to treating trauma, igniting shifts in the way the public responds to sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and advancing policies and legislation to ensure justice for survivors.

We’ve raised more than $17 million in private funds from some visionary and very generous people – and leveraged $74 million in-kind contributions – directly served more than 14,000 survivors and the professionals who care for them; connected over 2.5 million visitors to our website and social media to resources and life-saving help; garnered more than 2 billion media impressions about these issues and our work; and effected policy changes in jurisdictions across the country.

I am proud of all the work Joyful Heart is doing and especially proud that we are at the forefront of the movement to test the hundreds of thousands of untested sexual assault evidence collection kits – known as rape kits – sitting in police storage and crime lab facilities across the country. For more information on the rape kit backlog, you can go to: www.endthebacklog.org.


MS: Why is the “NO MORE” campaign so important?

NO MORE unifies the movement to end domestic violence and sexual assault for the first time.  The campaign seeks to break social stigma, normalize the conversation around domestic violence and sexual assault, and increase resources to address these urgent issues. Hundreds of organizations working at the local, state and national levels have aligned around NO MORE and the commitment to bringing this violence to an end.

I am deeply proud that the Joyful Heart Foundation is a part of this transformative initiative.  I was honored to direct the NO MORE PSA campaign, which involves more than 75 celebrities, athletes, and public figures stepping up join this cause. The campaign challenges bystanders to engage in addressing domestic violence and sexual assault.

Much of the reason survivors stay silent about domestic violence and sexual assault is that as a society, we simply don’t talk enough about these issues. It’s so much easier to join a conversation than to be burdened with starting one. On top of that, victim-blaming is woven deeply into the way we think, talk and behave around these issues. The NO MORE PSAs highlight the myths and excuses that create misplaced blame on survivors and allow perpetrators to evade accountability for their crimes. NO MORE calls on bystanders to end the excuses and inaction on these issues.

Since its launch in September 2013, an audience of more than 1.6 billion has seen the PSAs.


MS: What needs to happen in order for our society to truly tackle and defeat domestic abuse? 

MH: We must all foster—envision, pursue, create, not settle for anything less than—a society that simply does not tolerate these crimes.

At Joyful Heart, we talk about a society that says, “We hear you. We believe you. And your healing is our priority.” Unfortunately, society tends to question, doubt and assign blame. And perpetrators of this violence rely on that response.  We need to talk – to bring these issues out of the darkness and into the light – that is part of our mission at Joyful Heart.

Engage your loved ones and friends in the conversation about sexual assault and domestic violence.  And engage in a conversation with yourself. Examine your own attitudes that might be contributing to—or tacitly sanctioning—the perpetuation of violence. As the collective of people willing to take a stand grows, the weight of these heavy issues, the weight of having these difficult conversations, the weight of bringing enormous social and cultural change, will begin to be more evenly distributed. With more people doing what they can, advocates and survivors will no longer have to shoulder so much of the burden of bringing attention to this cause.  Visibility will change the landscape for sexual assault and domestic violence. Don’t underestimate the power you have to help can shed light on these issues.


 MS: Who is your hero/heroine? 

MH: Overcomers. People who overcome their fears every day, without fanfare, without recognition. Quiet, everyday courage, that’s what I admire most.


MS: Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to provide community for a person who has experienced sexual assault or domestic violence. The amount of blame our societal attitudes place on survivors is staggering, and you can be a real light in someone’s life if you’re willing to be the exception and really be there for that person.

Simply asking a neighbor or friend if they’re okay can be a powerful question in the life of someone who may feel very much alone in an abusive relationship. If an inquiry like that—”Are you okay?” or “I noticed you missed a couple of days of work. Is everything alright?” or “I totally don’t mean to pry, but can I ask you about those sunglasses you’ve been wearing the last couple of days?”—comes from enough people, that person might actually get the message that she has a community of support around her. And that can alter the trajectory of her life and her eventual healing.

And when a survivor shares his or her story with you, listen.  Simply listen, without judgment.

Joyful Heart Foundation: http://www.joyfulheartfoundation.org/

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Q&A with Princess Awesome


Rebecca Melsky and Eva St. Clair weren’t impressed with the limited clothing options for girls, so they made their own! Princess Awesome clothing revolves around the idea that girls shouldn’t have to decide between dresses and dinosaurs or ruffles and robots.

Melissa Seymour: Hi, Rebecca and Eva! Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Eva: I’m a SAHM of four (ages 9, 6, 3, 1), and I moonlight as a web editor for a project in medieval philosophy.  I’m originally from Tucson, AZ, and I have a BA from Stanford University.

Rebecca: I’m mom to two (ages 4 and 2), and I teach third grade full time in DC. I grew up outside of Chicago in Evanston, IL. I went to Brown University for undergrad and got my masters in education from Northwestern University. I’ve been teaching for 10 years.

MS: Why did you create Princess Awesome?

R: When my daughter turned two, she began insisting on wearing dresses every day. We could occasionally get her in a skirt if we called it a two-piece dress. Because she also likes rocket ships and robots and trucks and things, I would buy her pajamas from both the girls’ side of the clothing store and the boys’ side. One day I went shopping for pajamas for her, and, as I headed out of the store with my motley assortment of jammies, I thought, “I really wish they made some of those cute, twirly dresses with spaceships or robots because my daughter would totally wear that.” And then, “Maybe I should do that!”

When I asked Eva if she wanted to work together on this idea, she immediately said yes. Since that first conversation, back in April 2013, we’ve been united in our goal to provide clothing options for girls like my daughter who love twirly dresses, sparkles, and pink and who also love spaceships, dinosaurs, and pirates. And to provide options for the parents, like me, who want to honor their daughters’ feminine fashion choices and also help maintain their interest in science and pirates. We know a lot of little girls out there who fit this profile, and we want them to be able to wear all that they are in one article of clothing.

MS: What do most clothes or toys in our current market tell girls? What do your clothes communicate to them?

R: I think when girls walk through the aisles of most mainstream clothing stores, they are implicitly told that dinosaurs, trucks, cars, space, pirates, and so many other topics are “for boys” because you simply don’t find those things on the girls’ side of the aisle. There is nothing wrong with the rainbows, butterflies, and flowers that are offered to girls – we love those things, too! – but we want our clothes to help communicate to girls that dinosaurs (and trains, spaceships, robots, etc.) are just as much “for girls” as they are “for boys.” We want our clothes to communicate to girls that having feminine style preferences and enjoying hard science (or construction equipment or conceptual mathematics) are not mutually exclusive.

MS: How have people responded to your Kickstarter campaign? 

E: It is so wonderful to hear the stories people have told us about how their girls dress and play – all the same things we’ve observed spending time around children – that kids have a wide range of interests and that they want to wear all of those interests all at once.

R: The response has been so overwhelmingly positive that we’ve been blown away. Parents are clearly looking for more and different options for their girls than what they can find in mainstream stores.

MS: What types of clothing do you offer? What are the prints or themes of your collection?

E:  Right now we are starting with play dresses and skirted snapsuits for infants in five themes: pi, dinosaurs, pirates, atomic shells, and ninja. Our play dresses are made from 100% cotton and are soft, stretchy, easy to move in, and easy to layer with a long-sleeved shirt and leggings.

R: We are also immediately moving our line of Busy Dresses into development. Each of our Busy Dresses features a different form of transportation – trains, planes, or cars – that is attached to the dress which the wearer can drive, fly, or chug around the tracks, clouds, or road stitched onto the shirt of the dress.

MS: What are your dreams for Princess Awesome? 

E: We hope first to change the way people think about girls’ clothes by offering something new and different. We hope our company is just the first of many to offer clothes that reflect everything girls are and do and can be.

R: We hope to continue to grow and expand and offer many different lines of dresses as well as other apparel that feature a range of themes from chemistry to fine art for young girls and up through teenagers. Throughout our growth, we are committed to manufacturing in the U.S. with sweatshop-free labor.

MS: Who is your hero/heroine? 

E: My own mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother have most directly influenced me and given me confidence and courage. Outside my family, my heroine is Judith Martin (Miss Manners), who taught me that being polite and proper does not mean being a pushover.

R: I’d also have to say my mom. She has taught me so much about how to understand other people, how to communicate effectively and clearly, how to understand myself, and how to prioritize what really matters.

MS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

E: We are so grateful to everyone who has supported our project!  We are thrilled to be able to make awesome clothes for awesome girls, particularly here in America with sweatshop-free American labor.

R: We have also gotten to know many other companies that are expanding the clothing options for girls (and boys, too!). They were all founded by moms who had experiences similar to ours and couldn’t find clothes that fully encapsulated all that their kids were and enjoyed. Girls Will Be, Jill and Jack Kids, Jessy & Jack, Quirkie Kids, Handsome in Pink, and Princess Free Zone (as well at the current and upcoming Kickstarters Svaha and buddingSTEM) – just to name a few. These companies are doing amazing work.

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Like Princess Awesome on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Princess-Awesome/175354239328989


You can pre-order Princess Awesome clothing here: https://princess-awesome.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders

Q&A with Kody Keplinger, author of THE DUFF

 the-duff-final-movie-posterKody Keplinger 2014
Melissa Seymour: Hi, Kody! Thanks so much for chatting with us. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Kody Keplinger: Thanks for having me! I’m Kody Keplinger, and I am the author of five books for kids and teens, including The DUFF, which was just turned into a major motion picture!

MS: Can you describe the moment you discovered your book THE DUFF was going to be turned into a film? What was running through your mind? What did you do?

KK: So, I don’t really know if there was a “moment.”  The film option actually sold before the book was published, and while I was of course very excited, but I was also really trying not to get my hopes up, because an option isn’t a guarantee.  For a couple years after that, there were little steps.  CBS signed on, for instance, and I would start to hope a little more with each turn.  Then, at the end of 2013, and all of a sudden it was real. I got the call that we were going into production, and I don’t even remember how I reacted. It was this thing that I knew COULD happen for years, and all of a sudden, it was! I think I was in shock, honestly. I really didn’t believe it was real until I visited the set last year.

MS: Why do you think high school is such a difficult time? Why is it so important to write from an honest perspective when tackling a story set in high school?

KK: I mean, I had a hard time in both high school and middle school. I think it’s just to be expected when you’re forcing a lot of people – going through the most awkward years of their lives – into a building together. And, as a kid, I always had this fear that it was just me. That I was the only awkward one. I found comfort in books by authors like Judy Blume, which were just so honest and real. I remember reading her novels and thinking she had read my mind.  It was so honest and made me feel like I wasn’t alone. As an author, that’s been my goal from day one.  To write honestly. To show the good the bad and the ugly in my work. Because if it makes even one other person feel like they aren’t alone, it’s worth it.

MS: How do you get into the minds of your characters? Do you do anything specific to immerse yourself in that world? Is there anything strange or unique about your process?

KK: For me, the best way to really bring myself back to my high school years is to put on the music I listened to at the time. I have a huge playlist on my computer that has all the songs I loved throughout high school. I listen to just a few, and all those awkward, angsty feelings come right back.

MS: Now that THE DUFF film is out, the word has become much more well known. Are you worried about any negative effects that might stem from this? What about high school students using this word to bully others?

I want to be clear on one thing first – which is that I didn’t actually create this word. It was a word that was being used in my high school. It’s been out there for a long time. It actually got popular when a guy on a reality dating show in the early 2000s used it.  My intention in writing the book was to reclaim it. Because if it was being used in my high school, it was being used it others, and I wanted to turn it into something that was positive, not a weapon. I know some are concerned about the word becoming popular now. But I think if the movie or the book is how teens are being introduced to the word (if it hasn’t already been used in their school before now) then my hope is that the point of the movie and book will help counteract that. Because everyone is somebody’s DUFF. I mean, if Kylie Jenner can wear a shirt proclaiming she’s felt like a DUFF, then we all have.  And if we are all DUFFs, how is it an insult?

MS: There were some major differences between THE DUFF book and film. If you could change one thing about the movie, what would it be? Why?

Yes, the book and the film are different, but I really love the film and I think it gets the spirit of the book right.  The one thing I’d change? I’d add in more of Jess and Casey.  I liked the film’s take on those characters (I loved writing those characters in the book, too) and I’d love to see more of them.

MS: Who is your hero/heroine?

Tina. Effing. Fey.  I have loved Tina Fey since I was a little girl and she was on SNL. But as I got older, I really started to see her as the amazing role model she is. Not only is she funny, but she’s such a smart, talented writer. And she’s such a great representative of a woman in charge. And she’s unapologetic about being seen as “bossy.” I love her.  I want to grow up and be as badass as she is one day.

MS: Thanks so much for chatting with us, Kody! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

KK: Well, for those who have read The DUFF, I want to let you know that there is a companion novel coming out called LYING OUT LOUD. It releases April 28, and Bianca and Wesley play a role in the story! So I hope y’all will enjoy that!


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Visit Kody’s author site here: http://kodykeplinger.com/

Twitter: @Kody_Keplinger

Q&A with Jessie McShane, creator of Wool and Whiskey

Melissa Seymour: Hi, Jessie! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Jessie McShane: Hi! My name is Jessie McShane and I am originally from Spooner, Wisconsin. I relocated to Saint Paul for college and have been been living in Minnesota ever since! I work full time at the Women’s Center at the University of Saint Thomas and am currently in the Master’s program at UST getting my MA in International Leadership. In 2013 I started a business by the name of Wool and Whiskey, which combines my love and passion for design, marketing, and fashion all into one brand.

MS: What is Wool and Whiskey? How would you describe the style?

JM: Wool and Whiskey is more than the name of my Etsy shop where you can find my handmade knitted scarves, mitts, and headbands. It is a brand that tells the story about what it means to be warm – specifically what it means to be warm in the Midwest. All of the items in the shop are knitted or crocheted accessories to keep you warm in the cold temperatures Minnesota brings. The style can be described as authentic, cozy and chic.

MS: Why did you decide to create Wool and Whiskey? How did you come up with the idea?

JM: I decided to create Wool and Whiskey because both items seem to keep one warm on those cold winter nights. OK… that might not be why I decided to create it, but that is true! I originally learned to knit while I was teaching abroad in South Korea. When I got home I decided to keep up the hobby and knit myself a few cozy scarves for the fall season. When people started stopping me to ask where I got items I was wearing, I thought I would try an Etsy shop – the rest was history! Before I even put one single item up in my shop, I knew I had to come up with a name. Once that was established I thought about what I wanted the concept of “Wool and Whiskey” to look like from a branding perspective. By the time I put my first item up for sale, I already had photos and a posts on my blog that portrayed what the items looked like from a “Wool and Whiskey” lifestyle standpoint. By showing buyers what the items would look like in real life and giving them a portrayal of the lifestyle of the brand, they were then able to have an idea of what that item could look like in their life, and relate to that lifestyle with the piece of clothing being a part of it.

MS: What’s your favorite thing about running your own business? What’s the hardest part?

JM: My absolute favorite thing about running my own business is getting to design and create new items and then see those items being worn or posted on social media. I love getting feedback on my items and hearing about how much customers love their products. Another aspect of owning my own business I love so much is being able to make my own rules, and meet other amazing creative minds along the way. I can’t tell you how many talented, artistic individuals I’ve met through Wool and Whiskey and I cherish the new relationships I now have with them. Not to mention I love collaborating and bringing two brands together!

The hardest part is definitely balance…and time. This last year I think I slept 2 hours in 4 months. Not really, but it’s probably not far from the truth. Trying to balance my time while getting orders produced, packaged, and mailed out in a timely manner on top of a full time job and graduate school was definitely challenging. After Wool and Whiskey really took off last October it was a full speed race with no light at the end of the tunnel. It taught me some valuable lessons about time management and really helped me assess where I want Wool and Whiskey to go. I’ve cut back on my classes and work hours at my full time job and plan to spend 2015 focusing on Wool and Whiskey, putting more time into building the brand to help it succeed into the future. One day at a time! It’s extremely exciting and absolutely terrifying at the same time but I am really looking forward to what the future has in store.

MS: How has Wool and Whiskey been received? Are you selling a lot this holiday season?

JM: Wool and Whiskey has been received very well!! One of the great features of Etsy is the option to leave a review for the public to see once you receive your items you purchased. I have had nothing but positive responses on the warmth, color, quality, and overall authenticity of the items which makes the long nights and hard work all worth it!

Last holiday season I sold a little over 400 items in about three months. I’ve had requests for custom orders and wholesale accounts so my items are able to be put into boutiques and stores around the area, so this year I am focusing on hashing out the details to make that a reality!

MS: Why is it important to shop local?

JM: There are so many reasons to shop local! From community well-being to local decision making and keeping dollars in the local economy, there are many benefits to shopping local. One of my favorite things about shopping local is the distinctive character and authenticity of the items you are buying. Supporting a creative designer or artist that provides one of a kind quality goods that you know will last a long time is something you really cannot put a dollar amount on. When I shop local I love knowing I am helping someone pursue their passion to build their business so they can stick around for the long haul. It’s a beautiful thing.

MS: Who is your hero/heroine?

JM: I don’t want to sound cliche, but my mom deserves credit as someone I consider to be my heroine. She has continued to be a strong female role model in my life and without her Wool and Whiskey would not be as successful as it is today. She started her own photography business in 1992 before the digital age of photography. I was 2 at the time and as I grew I watched her business grow. So much so until she built her expertise and her brand into an extremely successful business. I watched her succeed, learned what worked and what didn’t (and what it meant to fail at times), helped her in the studio, learned from her business techniques – all of which has helped me tremendously as I continue to grow my very own business.

MS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

JM: For anyone thinking about whether or not they should start their own business, my advice would be to go for it. Two years ago I never thought my business would be running at the capacity it has been, and I wouldn’t have learned the lessons I have or developed the connections I have if I didn’t go for it and decide to put my stuff out there. There are always excuses not to, there is never enough time, and there are always negative things you can tell yourself that impede you from taking that first initial step – but the experiences you are missing out on and the possibilities your ideas could lead to if you just try, will far outweigh any negatives.



Instagram: Woolandwhiskey_

Facebook: www.facebook.com/woolandwhiskey

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/woolandwhiskey1/

Q&A with Jean Kilbourne: Internationally recognized feminist activist, filmmaker, author, and advertising critic

Melissa Seymour: Hello, Dr. Kilbourne! Thanks for speaking with us today. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Dr. Jean Kilbourne: I’ve always had a hard time describing what I do because I’m involved in so many different fields.  I basically invented my career and I need to come up with a name for it!  Mostly I say that I am a cultural theorist, a feminist activist, and a critic of advertising. For decades I’ve been studying how advertising and marketing contribute to a wide range of public health issues, such as violence against women, eating disorders, the sexualization of children, high-risk drinking, addiction, and other problems.  Usually when there is a public health problem, there is an industry (or industries) contributing to it and profiting from it, as in the case of the junk food, sugary beverage, and diet industries and obesity, for example.

MS: What was it like working on the first Killing Us Softly? How has your approach or perspective changed?

DJK: I made the first version of “Killing Us Softly” way back in 1979.  It was simply a filmed version of my lecture on advertising’s image of women.  It was done very cheaply, with one take and only one camera.  There was virtually no marketing but, in today’s language, it went viral and has gone on to become one of the most popular educational films of all time.  I’ve remade it three times, most recently in 2010.  Much of what I said in 1979 is still true, but I think my analysis has deepened and certainly the films are infinitely better technically.  Although they are still based on my lectures, we now use commercials and graphics and a range of film techniques – and several cameras!

MS: Your work with gender issues and media coverage is brilliant—especially the concentration on eating disorders. Do you think things are getting better or worse?

DJK: Thank you!  In terms of the image of women in advertising and the popular culture, things are getting worse.  The ideal image of beauty is more tyrannical than ever before, as is the obsession with thinness.  This is partly due to the widespread use of Photoshop to create impossible ideals.  The sexualization of children is worse and images of violence against women are more widespread and extreme.

Alarmingly, pornography has become our nation’s primary form of sex education. On the bright side, however, I was alone when I started speaking about these issues and my ideas were often considered radical.  Now these ideas are mainstream and there are countless individuals and organizations working on these problems.  So this is heartening.

MS: So Sexy So Soon demonstrates how scary our society really is for kids… What can we do each day to try and combat these issues?

DJK: The most important thing we can do as parents and caregivers is to talk with our children honestly and openly about sex and sexuality and relationships (in an age-appropriate way, of course).  Children need at least one adult in their lives with whom they can have authentic conversations.   We also need to lobby to change this toxic cultural environment.  It would be great if we could ban all advertising and marketing aimed at children (as some other countries have done) but,  since that’s impossible in our society these days, let’s at least get advertising out of our schools.  Let’s support organizations like the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, SPARK, the Brave Girls Alliance, and others.

I have an extensive resource list on my website (www.jeankilbourne.com)

MS: Was there ever a time in your career when you weren’t taken seriously?

DJK: Was there ever!  I began speaking at a time when some people still believed that women shouldn’t speak in public.  To make matters worse, I was a feminist talking about sexism.  Women are still taken less seriously than men (and there’s a whole lot of research backing up that assertion) but it has gotten better.  I had many jobs before I launched my career as an activist and public speaker.  I was a waitress, a secretary, a teacher, a saleswoman, a model.  And I was sexually harassed and discriminated against in every one of these fields.

MS: What are you currently working on? Is there a specific issue you’ve been drawn to recently?

DJK: I’m still lecturing and working on updating my presentations.  But I’ve begun to think about writing a memoir, maybe something about the making of an activist.  I’ve also been taking more time for personal travel.  In the past few years I’ve been to Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bhutan, Morocco, and many other places.  My mantra these days is If not now, when?

MS: Who is your hero/heroine?

DJK: I’ve been so lucky to have many people in my life who inspired and helped me in a variety of ways.  Jean Baker Miller, the author of Toward a New Psychology of Women, was a friend and mentor, as was George Gerbner, a renowned researcher and professor.  My mother died when I was nine, so I’ll always be grateful to the mothers of some of my friends who made a bigger difference than they could ever know – especially Inez Emerson, Helen Perry, and Rosalie Cartwright.  In 1968 I had the great good fortune to begin therapy with a brilliant psychiatrist named Paul Russell.  I am not exaggerating when I say that he saved my life.  I’m also inspired and moved by all the people in recovery from addictions whom I’ve met along the way. And my daughter Claudia Kilbourne Lux and her friends give me hope for the future.

MS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

DJK: I’d just like to say that, although things often seem quite bleak and hopeless, I do think we are making progress.  And I’ve always believed that action is the antidote to despair.

Follow Jean on Twitter: @jeankilbourne
For more information, visit www.jeankilbourne.com


Q&A with Rachel Johnson, director of Henrietta Bulkowski

Rachel Johnson’s most recent stopmotion film, Henrietta Bulkowski, was funded through Kickstarter—all $70,000. Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks plays the voice of Henrietta Bulkowski and Academy Award Winner Chris Cooper plays the cop that stars alongside her. Johnson is the founder of Lift Animation and the director of Henrietta Bulkowski along with several other shorts.

Melissa Seymour: Hi Rachel, thanks for speaking with us today! Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Rachel Johnson: I’m a mom, businesswoman, and artist. I run a stopmotion company here in Los Angles. We produce commercials, PSA’s and are currently pitching for TV.

MS: What was is like having Kickstarter fund your film? Were you anticipating the support you received?

RJ: The Kickstarter support was overwhelming. I still get choked up thinking about it. We had no idea how 40K was going to fall magically out of the sky. 70K was a godsend. It was the validation I’d been needing for a decade.

MS: Tell us about Henrietta Bulkowski. What inspired her character and story?

RJ: It’s entirely autobiographical. I was born with one leg shorter than the other and have endured too many surgeries to count to correct it. It’s still uneven and I wear a raised sole on one foot, which has been a source of shame for me since I’ve had it. I’m a mother now and I want my daughter to be proud of herself no matter what. I know that starts with me. This film was a way for me to say, “I’m good the way I am. “ It’s for her as well. 

MS: Why is it so important to challenge society’s ideal of beauty?

RJ: Because it leaves the vast majority of us out, and no one likes to be an outsider.

MS: What’s the team that created Henrietta like? What was it like working with Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks and Academy Award Winner, Chris Cooper?

RJ: Christina and Chris were amazing folks to work with. Both patient and supremely talented. I can’t wait to share their work with the world!

MS: What are your hopes for Lift Animation?

RJ: I want Lift to have a television series in the next three years.

MS: Who is your hero/heroine?

RJ: Hands down Hillary Clinton.

MS: Anything you’d like to add?

RJ: I just feel so happy and blessed to be able to do what I love everyday.

Henrietta-Bulkowski-post-2Screen shot 2014-10-07 at 7.13.57 PM

You can check out the trailer for Henrietta Bulkowski here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/henriettabulkowski/henrietta-bulkowski