Every once in a while a beauty influencer or brand comes along that’s so extraordinary in their efforts to give back, attention must be paid. Each Feel Good Friday, we’ll highlight these do-gooders along with simple ways to support their efforts.
Dawn McCoy is a jack-of-all-trades.
Just when I thought I’d pinpointed the beauty writer/do-gooder/voice over guru (it’s her chops on the Marshalls commercials!), she dropped a bombshell on me: her resume also includes a country singing career.
In a quick scan of her social channels – an excellent resource for food, fashion and beauty tips – you can also spot teasers for her new celebrity interview show, Dine & Dish with Dawn where food, wine and giving back collide starting May 2016.
But while her packed schedule probably resembles that of a celeb on a press tour, McCoy always finds time to champion the causes that move her the most. “I’ve always been a people person, so it was just natural that I would do what I could to ‘pitch in and help’,” says the beautyfrosting.com founder who created her own #Dear15Me campaign to help participants reflect on the wisdom they’d give their younger, less confident selves.
Here, the self-proclaimed talker (her answers may be long-winded but it’s worth reading every word!) reveals her many nonprofit partnerships, favorite brands making a difference and how giving back can be as easy as purchasing a bottle of wine.
Alexis Farah: You’re involved in so many give back initiatives! Tell us about the organizations you work with and your role at each.
Dawn McCoy: First of all, what a compliment that you asked to interview me! I am so honored and am so happy to live in a world where you have created such a happy – and helpful – haven as this.
As for my involvement, I am proud and grateful to work with many organizations, and to work with many brands who give back. I am a proud ambassador for No Kid Hungry, a Dress For Success Y.E.S. ambassador and a Luminary member of Step Up Women’s Network. I love working with brands with a charitable component, or with a heart-based initiative, as I call it.
One of my favorites is Dove. What they have done for body image is unparalleled. I was so honored to collaborate with them recently.
As for food and gift brands, I adore Hickory Farms. I grew up looking forward to delicious Christmas gifts that my professor parents would receive from their students from this company, and when I found out that they supported No Kid Hungry, I knew we had to partner up.
I think the Neutrogena #SeeWhatsPossible campaign with Girls Inc. is really smart, and can make a difference in the way that girls view themselves, so I was proud to partner with them for the Academy Awards.
I also love working with Philosophy, who donates 1 percent of all their net product sales to support community-based mental health efforts. That’s why I give Philosophy gifts a lot! Because I feel good doing it.
I could go on and on.
I love that companies who give back are seeing sales grow, and therefore, other companies – especially, newer companies – are inspired and incentivized to do so, as well, by that leadership example.
It makes me very hopeful for our future, both as consumers, as philanthropists, and just as good-hearted, feeling people.
I also love to emcee for the charities and organizations I work with, and am so excited to be the announcer again at the 13th Annual Step Up Inspiration Awards for my 2nd year in a row this May 20th at the Beverly Hilton, and the emcee for Max Love Project’s Farm To Fork dinner next October 15th. I am also proud to announce that I was just asked to be the Keynote Speaker at the West Hollywood Women’s Leadership Conference Empower Breakfast on May 6th.
I have found that many folks think there are only two ways to give back: 1) Give money or 2) Give lots of time.
That is simply not true.
Most organizations out there are happy to utilize your talents, skills and passions, if you make them heard.
Maybe you’re working a day job that you don’t love and secretly want to be a writer? Get involved with an organization in need by telling them that you’re a writer and would love to help. In my case, I love talking. I love communicating with people. And, I am fortunate to work regularly with organizations that recognize my strengths, talents and loves, and put them to good use.
AF: Do I remember that you also did a stint in politics? Tell me about that and how it shaped your charity work.
DM: I worked as a White House press liaison and then later as a trial consultant intern for President Bill Clinton in college. They were both brief stints by nature, but their impact was lasting and resonant.
I have always loved politics, and that was the first time I had dabbled in them as an adult. Because of those interesting little sojourns, I went on to work for Jerry Bruckheimer Films (my first job in LA), and then for Barbra Streisand, as her personal shopper and runner for years.
In 2003, at age 25, I spearheaded and hosted a “Young Hollywood For Kerry” event here in LA at the Luxe Hotel with William Baldwin and Alex Kerry. I look back and can’t believe my chutzpah – or, more likely – my naiveté.
I was inspired to do this because I felt disheartened after hearing my weekly brunch buddies talk about marching and lying down in the street in protest against the government for something, yet they said they didn’t vote. It just didn’t make sense to me. My parents had raised me to vote and be an active member of society. And, please note, they were republicans, so this was not their endgame, I’m sure.
So, I got together with a few other forward-thinking folks, and we decided to have this event for Kerry. The best part? It wasn’t a fundraiser. It was a purely informational party with food, drinks, information and speeches by Alex, Billy and myself. That was my one caveat when I agreed to co-host because none of my friends had any money. I certainly didn’t! I remember I was so excited that one of my co-hosts, Melissa, had talked the Luxe into catering it! I was so nervous to speak with these Hollywood and DC big wigs, but I have never met a podium I didn’t like when it came to helping inform – or inspire – others.
Still haven’t. We all have a voice and it is ours to use, however we may wish it to sound and however we might want to use it to share or to teach.
AF: What motivates you to do so much good for the world?
DM: I’ve always been a people person, so it was just natural that I would do what I could to “pitch in and help.” I began in middle school with babysitting because I loved babies and that led to me deciding I should be a candy striper to newborns and their moms at Presbyterian Hospital my freshman year of high school. I volunteered so much – simply because I enjoyed it – that I ended up winning the Community Service award, and getting a leadership scholarship to college. An added bonus for sure!
Honestly, I “blame” my big heart. In a pretty nasty fight one time, my big brother yelled at me and said, “You just came into this world wanting to love everybody!”
He meant it as an insult, but it was a moment of clarification for me. “Yes. Yes!! That is what I came here to do!!”
And, it was clear to those who knew me from a very young age. I liked taking care of people, and I loved seeing people smile. If I could help them do that, than why wouldn’t I try to do that every day?
The difference between 3-year-old me and 38-year-old me is learning boundaries, and learning that you can care for everyone, but you can’t take care of everyone. That’s a very valuable tool I wish I had learned much, much earlier.
AF: How did you come up with the #Dear15Me campaign and why should everyone complete their own?
DM: For years, I had asked celebrities a ton of questions: “What’s your daily beauty routine? What’s your nightly beauty routine? How do you stay young? Who are you wearing? And – what shoes are you wearing?”(a question I could honestly care less about). But, the question I always loved asking most was “What would 13-year-old you think of you now?” It always reached a softer spot in them, and they were always my favorite answers because it caught them so off-guard and got them in touch with their younger selves, back when they were less self-aware and yet more self-aware all at the same time.
I had been asking that question for two years, during which time I was writing my blog BeautyFrosting as well as writing for FabFitFun and Living Healthy, and then last spring I found myself at my dad’s house in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I walked into his office and saw this picture of this gorgeous teen girl with braces hanging on his wall. For a split second, I didn’t realize it was me. I mean, that girl was beautiful. Like model-beautiful. I asked my dad (a photographer and photography professor) how old I was when I took that. He said I was 15. Wow. That was not what I remembered being like at 15. At 15, I was too tall, too chubby, too talkative, too self-conscious, too imperfect, too much for boys, too much for my big brother, too much for my parents, just too much. And, then after looking at that girl with such sadness and such empathy, I wrote to her. “Dear 15 Me…”.
It was my most popular post to date. Emails poured in, posts poured in, and people were telling me how it resonated with them. I realized that this was something much bigger than me. What if we could all go back and give hindsight wisdom to ourselves?
So, in addition to “what would 13-year-old you think of you now?”, I began asking celebrities at events I attended”What would you say to 15-year-old you if you could go back and share that hindsight wisdom?”
I’ve asked everyone that question from David Beckham to Lea Michele to Heidi Klum to Cindy Crawford – my childhood idol – and more.
From these interviews, I ended up being asked to go on The Real this past November, and they played this tearjerking montage – a kind of “This Is Your Life” of my life – a “what brought about this movement” kind of piece – and all of the hosts and audience members surprised me by holding up their Dear 15 Me letters.
After that, I received a ton of emails and was tagged in more posts than I can count of people sharing their stories. It is my favorite thing I’ve ever done, or ever been a part of. And, I can’t wait to see all the stories I collect – and share – over my next 15 years.
I hope it’s a social media movement that will continue to grow as my reach and I do.
AF: About how much time do you spend giving back in your daily life and how do you balance that with other work obligations?
DM: It might sound trite, but it’s so much an ingrained part of me, that I don’t count the time. I love sharing. I do it for a living on social media, on my blog, on tv, and now on my podcast. It’s so easy for me to integrate giving back into my daily life and communication. I’d like to think I do something every single day, but I don’t know if that’s true, because, again…I don’t keep count! I will say that one way I give back is a little different. Anytime I “get a hit” (as I call it) to write something deeply personal on my blog or social media, such as Dear 15 Me or a post about mental illness or body image, etc., I always write it. Sometimes, I might worry it’s too personal or too self-involved or might change the way that people view me. Sometimes, my family or friends will write me or call me, and tell me I should be more guarded. But, then I remember that I “got that hit.” What I’ve realized through experience is that anytime I get that hit to share, it’s because there is at least one person out there who needs to hear it for some reason. Without fail, when I share deeply and honestly from my heart – from that vulnerable place – I am always rewarded with at least one reader, follower or friend saying, “You don’t know how much I needed to hear that. Thank you.” And, that is why I live my life so publicly and so open-heartedly. I don’t see myself changing anytime soon.
AF: How can our readers support your efforts and/or do you have any advice on how they can find a nonprofit they can connect with themselves?
DM: I give advice a little backwards on this.
As I mentioned above, I think it’s really important to be true to your passions first before helping other people. I think once you discover either what you’re gifted at or what you truly enjoy doing, you will be able to better offer those gifts generously to others.
On the flip side, if you’re not quite sure what you’re “good at” or what you “love to do” just yet, I think getting involved with a charity or give-back organization can help you discover what you are best at, and what you love to do. When I give my public talks about living a life you love, I often give that advice to people who feel lost, or who have just suffered a loss, whether it be a death, a divorce, a breakup or the loss of a job. It can turn your life around in the best possible way. I’m living proof of that.
I also think you can give back simply with your purchase power. If you’re going to give your best friend a bubble bath for her birthday, why not buy a bubble bath from Philosophy who donates 1 percent of that sale to mental health organizations? If you’re going to someone’s house for dinner, why not take a bottle of One Hope Wine? If you’re taking a hostess gift to your in-laws for the holidays, why not take a Hickory Farms gift set that benefits No Kid Hungry? Once you get your brain into thinking in a heart-based, give back, pay it forward way, you will find it is impossible to go back.
And, you won’t want to.