Call 2017 the year of Laura Dern. From her recent star turn in the HBO miniseries Big Little Lies to roles in this month’s reboot of Twin Peaks on Showtime and the next Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, debuting in December, the Academy Award-nominated actress has seemingly been at work nonstop.
Still, it's not keeping her from making time for a cause close to her heart: the health and happiness of families across the globe.
Dern is serving as the official celebrity ambassador for the Global Moms Relay, co-founded by the United Nations Foundation and Johnson & Johnson. From May 3 to June 16, celebrities like Dern, community leaders and parents are invited to answer a pivotal question in a blog post on the Global Moms Relay site: “What do you wish were true for every family, everywhere?"
The relay baton is then passed to the public. Each time anyone "likes," tweets, comments on or shares a post on social media, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 (up to $500,000) to five programs that are doing good for moms, families and kids worldwide: Girl Up, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund, Shot@Life and Nothing But Nets.
Dern sat down to talk to us about why she’s dedicating time in her busy schedule to support the Global Moms Relay—and how it’s a movement near and dear to her.
So here’s the money question (literally): What do you wish were true for every family, everywhere?
I wish that every family everywhere never had to worry about protecting their children. And through the Global Moms Relay, Johnson & Johnson and the UN Foundation are doing beautiful work in the many areas that this wish touches on: They’re funding organizations that provide healthcare for children at risk of disease, medical support to vulnerable families, and education so girls can have the life and emotional well-being they deserve.
What made you so passionate about this issue?
Becoming a mother. It affected me a million percent!
When I had my first child, I immediately wanted him to have a safe, beautiful life. As an infant, he needed to have surgery, and we had the luck—the luxury—of being at an excellent hospital with an outstanding surgeon.
We use social media, anyway. So long as it’s here for us to look up our favorite pop stars, why not use it for good?
But I immediately thought: What about other families who didn’t live near first-rate hospitals, who couldn’t afford insurance? It was heartbreaking for me to picture mothers who were in my situation but for whom a baby’s safe operation was a remote luxury.
Plus, growing up around relatives in the South, I saw a lot of people who couldn’t provide for their families the way they wanted to. I have also worked on the issue of environmental health for children, spending time along the Mississippi River in what has been called the “Cancer Corridor” of the U.S.—where kids play in soot from plastic-producing plants, making them vulnerable to cancer.
How can the relay itself make a difference?
The beauty of the Global Moms Relay is that we can reach people in a way that solves three problems: being flooded with charitable causes, feeling hopeless when it comes to helping and being hooked on social media.
First off, Johnson & Johnson and the UN pared the issues down to getting girls educated, getting kids protected from malaria and helping mothers get empowered.
Secondly, since it’s so easy to feel paralyzed, the Global Moms Relay says: You know what you can do? Open up a device and spend one minute making a difference. You don’t have to travel to Africa or Guatemala. You can raise money and consciousness by simply “liking” a photo.
And to the third point, we use social media, anyway. So as long as it’s here for us to look up our favorite pop stars, why not use it for good? My daughter got so excited by the fact that, with one click, she could help a child in Guatemala get a bike. Every day she goes to another friend and says, “Hey, ‘like’ a photo! We can help!”
That’s one reason I love the social media aspect of the Global Moms Relay. It’s an easy relay for all of us to “run,” and it speaks to the people who can make a difference—including the next generation.