Building a Kinder + Braver World: Spotlight on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation
You probably know by now that March is International Women’s Month. But March is also the birthday month of the trailblazing, chart-topping Lady Gaga! In honor of Gaga’s birthday yesterday, (March 28), let’s check out the incredible work the artist/philanthropist is doing to, in her words, “build a kinder and braver world.”
The Born This Way Foundation
In 2011, Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, launched the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF), a charity centered around empowering young people, facilitating mental health discussions, and promoting kindness. Sharing a namesake with Gaga’s hit song “Born This Way,” the charity has created impactful programs and conducted scientific research to better understand how youth navigate mental health issues.
Though mental health can be a taboo subject (yes, even in 2021), the pop star doesn’t shy away from these tough conversations. Gaga has opened up about the bullying she endured in both high school and college, noting how “it stays with you your whole life.” She is also very open about her PTSD diagnosis, which she discussed in this personal letter to her fans. Drawing from her personal struggles, Gaga is equipping youth across the country to express their emotions and recognize signs of mental illness among their friends and peers.
The Born This Way Foundation has several programs and projects aimed at destigmatizing mental health conversations and encouraging the next generation of young people to implement kindness into their everyday lives, such as:
- Channel Kindness
Channel Kindness (CK) is a project that features stories about inspirational (and dare I say, Outspoken?) young people channeling kindness in their communities, like Sage Dolan-Sandrino, who founded “The TEAM Mag” to offer better representation for queer people of color, and like Nadya Okamoto, who is fighting to end period poverty. In 2020, Channel Kindness published a collection of 51 moving stories entitled, “CHANNEL KINDNESS.” This New York Times Best Seller shares the real-life experiences of “young changemakers who found their inner strength, prevailed in the face of bullies, started their own social movements, and decided to break through the mental health stigma,” as CK puts it.
Every September, the foundation encourages people to “practice an act of kindness each day” and share their experiences on social media. This can mean anything from wearing a mask in public spaces to raising money for charity. The 21-day pledge is known as the #BeKind21 campaign, which began in 2018 as a way to encourage people to make kindness a regular habit. Mark your calendars for this year’s campaign, and in the meantime, let’s try to #BeKind365.
- Finding Help
The Born This Way Foundation website shares self-care tips and resources for support, including hotlines for issues like domestic abuse. Even if you don’t fall within the foundation’s target audience (aka youth), these resources and tips can still be useful for anyone with concerns about things like stress management or drug use.
- teen Mental Health First Aid
Partnering with the National Council for Behavioral Health, the BTWF has helped bring teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) to over 180 schools in the United States. Through this course, at least 150,000 people have been trained in “how to recognize and respond to people who are experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.” One teen who participated in the program shared with Gaga, “It was really helpful for me because I actually ended up speaking up and talking to my teacher privately about something. And it’s changed my life.” Another noted, “If this were to spread across the country, how much that statistic of suicides for teenagers could go down is incredible to think about. And it’s a really beautiful step.”
“I, (Name), agree to stay alive. Even when the world seems to stop spinning, I promise I will keep going. I promise to keep fighting.” This is the #PleaseStayPledge created by the BTWF and Find Your Anchor, a suicide prevention organization. The #PleaseStayPledge website is a great resource for discovering self-care ideas and for finding support if you are struggling. The site also encourages visitors to find their anchor, the thing in life that gives them faith and keeps them rooted during trials.
“Don’t Be a Drag, Just Be a Queen”
As one of the most famous artists today, Lady Gaga has remarkable influence. She’s made an iconic pop anthem for the LGBTQ+ community and her evocative music has allowed her to make beautiful connections with her fanbase. Using her platform to spread kindness and educate people about mental health is just one more thing that makes her a queen. So in true Gaga fashion, let’s be bold, brave, and kind in our own lives.
How Can I Support the BTWF’s Mission?
- Join the Advisory Board. The BTWF is currently hiring for their 2021 Advisory Board. If you’re interested in joining the foundation, click here to fill out the application. (You have until April 1!)
- Get Connected. You can subscribe to their newsletter here to stay up to date on the foundation’s programs, social media campaigns, and other news.
- Make a Donation. Feeling passionate about Gaga’s mission? You can donate to the BTWF here to help support programs like Channel Kindness.
- Be Social. You can visit the BTWF website here, and also follow the foundation on Instagram @btwfoundation, Twitter @BTWFoundation, and Facebook @bornthiswayfoundation.
–Maya Santos, Content Creator