I recently had the good fortune to be invited to an event where Celebrity Moms Ali Landry and Monica joined Eliza Dushku, Wilmer Valderrama, Rick Fox and Shannon Brown to help The Cheesecake Factory kick-off Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month with a free-catered lunch for 300 East Los Angeles community members. I couldn’t go, but I was able to send some questions for these Celebrity Moms to answer about the Feeding America Event, Philanthropy and Motherhood!
MAYWOOD, CA – AUGUST 31: (L-R) LA Laker Shannon Brown, recording artist Monica, actors Wilmer Valderrama, Eliza Dushku, NBA All-Star Rick Fox and Ali Landry join The Cheesecake Factory to kick-off Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month by catering a community lunch at Maywood Parks and Recreation Center on August 31, 2011 in Maywood, California. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for Cheesecake Factory)
Celebrity Mom Monica:
Q: Tell us about partnering with the Cheesecake Factory in support of Feeding America. What’s the program all about?
A: It’s just an amazing organization that for one is trying to bring awareness to the fact that there are 50 million Americans that are suffering from hunger. And it’s hard to believe if you’re not aware of it, it’s something that you don’t even think about, but being here today is the beginning of raising the awareness and finding some ways in the community to give back and to really feed some people that aren’t able to have the food that they need for their families.
Q: Why is this campaign important to you and how can other people get involved?
A: This campaign is so important to me because my husband and I, between the two of us, have three sons and the idea of children not eating and having the things they need just breaks my heart. So today was an important day for me because this is the first time I’ve been able to really be a part of something like this, so Feeding America is now a family to us, and this is hopefully going to be something that raises awareness so more people know. Because I had no idea the amount of people that are starving, no idea.
Q: What are your boys into? Do they do anything to give back to the community? Have you gotten them involved in philanthropy?
A: Yes, you know, if they weren’t in school they’d be here today; they really wanted to come today. My oldest is 6 years old and he’s been able to study a lot of different things and learn things about different countries, so he’s become very aware of some of the things that we face as a world all together. So, I just teach them in different ways and the best way is through example, so them knowing that I’m here today, those will be things that resonate. So when we do our giveaway, my husband and I do our giveaway for Thanksgiving and Christmas, they’ll be able to participate because they won’t be at school. So, you just teach them through example you don’t make it difficult, you know, or too hard to understand. Just lead by example.
Q: What’s your favorite part of being a mom and what do you find most challenging?
A: My favorite part of being a mom is that unconditional love that I feel with them. I think it’s hard being in the public eye sometimes because you get a lot of scrutiny and it comes with the territory so I’m not asking that it stop, I just enjoy the fact that when I go home you get that unconditional love. They don’t care what my outfit looks like, they don’t care what your hair looks like, they just want mommy and love. The most challenging part for me is being away. When they’re in school and I’m not there, it hurts. It’s really, really hard.
Q: And then what’s up next for you? Anything you want to tell people about?
A: Well the latest thing coming for us hopefully this lockout will end and my husband can go back to work, as well as my new album comes out on November 8th that’s called “New Life”. Just more motivation to keep striving to do what it is you set out to do.
Celebrity Mom Ali Landry:
Q: How soon do you talk to your children about charitable giving?
A: Yes, for me I feel that children understand a lot more than what we give them credit for. For myself and my daughter we have started talking to her about giving back and how blessed and fortunate she is in her life and how grateful she should be since, I don’t know, since she could start talking really. Maybe even a little bit before that. And really just exposing her to different situations so she could really see for herself, like wow, I am very fortunate, I do have toys, I do have a floor under my feet and a roof over my head. And I have food, you know, at my table for breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks, and not every child is in that same situation. And now she is four years old and she completely understands the concept and how important it is for her to give back and how it makes other people so happy.
Q: Some good ideas for charity projects with the kids?
A: Well you know, children first of all, I think we live in a society of excess and I think that because of the recession and because of what’s been going on in the economy we all have sort of taken a step back and evaluated our lives and what’s really important and where we can put our money. But, you know, myself included, my family included, my child has a lot, way too much, you know, much more than what she needs. And so what we try to do with her is look through her toys, and say, what do you think another little girl would really, really like to play with. Do you really want to play with this one or why don’t we give one of your Barbies or one of your dolls or one of your games to someone else because they might not have anything to play with and you know how happy it makes you. That’s the conversation we have, and then it’s like you see the little light bulb go off and she’s like ‘okay mommy, I am going to go in my doll bin and I’m going to pick out the Ariel and the Cinderella because the princesses are my favorite and I really think another little girl is going to like that’. So I think it’s really not just you going oh my goodness they don’t need this, they don’t need this, this is trash, let’s get rid of this and then let’s take it to goodwill. If you involve them in the process then it resonates with them more, they really understand and appreciate what they’re doing.
Q: Do you have any special tips or advice for busy moms out there like yourself, balancing career and family life?
A: Please, I need the tips. I think it’s a daily struggle, and I would be lying if I said that I had it all figured out. I think that, you know for us, for our family, our number one priority is the family unit and everything else kind of falls behind. We both work, so we really try to get a wonderful support system whether it’s friends or people who help us, family members even. But everyday that’s the goal, every single day, every single morning when you wake up it’s how do you really achieve that balance, how do I give my husband everything he needs, my child, my friends, my family, my parents. How do you give the people in your life, that you love, everything that they need to feel loved and special. But the reality is someone always falls by the wayside, but I always kind of look at it like, you know, we always have another day hopefully, and you just try your best each day and that’s all you can do.
Q: You’re currently involved with Hunger Action Month, and the kickoff for Cheesecake Factory, how did you become involved with the organization? What should we know about this great cause?
A: Well, I think what the Cheesecake factory and Feeding America is doing is really incredible, and for myself, for being in this situation where I do not have to worry about food and being a mom with a child and one on the way, I cannot even imagine what it would be like as a parent because that’s the number one priority at the end of the day, is to provide for your family. Not being able to provide one of the basic needs, which is just to feed them. So, it’s incredible that they are feeding 37 million people in this country, absolutely incredible. And for a company like Cheesecake Factory to really step up to the plate, put themselves out there with this new program that they’re doing where they’re giving 25 cents for one of their slices of cheesecake and it’s going to have 4 million meals, providing 4 million meals for Americans, I think that’s really putting a big dent in that number, which is great. It’s just so nice to see big corporations like this really getting involved in the community.
Q: Any upcoming projects you want to tell people about?
A: Oh gosh, yeah. So I sold my very first television show, myself and Alison Sweeney, and we are executive producers, we’ve partnered with Ellen Rakieten who is the executive producer for Oprah for 20 years and we’re going to be on TV Guide network. So it’s all basically started from a separate club that we started with our girlfriend with other celebrity moms. We do it once a month, we do it at each other’s homes, it’s potluck, you know just really a place for us to get together and support each other with everything that we’re doing. So we turned that into a television show. So that’s shooting very soon. Another project I’ve been working on for a really long time is a project called “Spokes Moms”, it’s a product review site for moms based on the concept of Yelp and Groupon, where every mom is a spokes mom. And with Spokes Moms, we’re doing an offline event called the Celebrity Red Carpet Event with celebrities raising awareness for car seat safety and we’ve partnered with Safe Kids and GM and a lot of other big companies, Nestle and a long list of people. But for me as a mom, every child has to be put in a car seat from point A to point B. I heard a story of a woman who basically, you know, she really thought she was doing the right thing. She had her child in a booster seat when it was a little too soon to be in a booster seat, she got in an accident and he was ejected from the car and died. I thought that could have easily happened to me, like I could have gone to whatever department store and said my child is this old and this weight, can I put her in a booster seat now? We need a new seat this one no longer works for us, we need a new one, and I would have maybe purchased the wrong thing or what’s not safe. So for me it was really just about being proactive and I knew nothing. Like my car seat was completely installed improperly in my car and I thought it was done right. I did a check at my daughter’s preschool where out of 40 parents that came through, we did car seat checks, only 4 were installed properly. Can you imagine that number? It’s really crazy. And I became a technician myself, so I’m a certified technician.
Q: Can anyone do that?
A: Yeah, anyone can do it and go through the process. You know it’s probably about 40 or 50 hours, you know, of class and tests and studying. But I saw every video, you know that’s the thing, once you know better you do better. So I saw every possible scenario of an accident and what could happen to that child, and it scared me to death. So it’s a very important thing for me as a mom, as a parent, and just again to raise awareness to bring in some of my celebrity friends, people who have a voice, people who can get the word out in the media and just start the conversation. So that is coming up on September 10th.
You may like to read more about the Feeding America Event.