Recently we had the opportunity to chat with Sharon Feldstein, a dynamic mom who is co-founder, CEO and the visionary behind YourMomCares (YMC). This amazing organization was founded by Sharon and her lifelong friend Patsy Noah and Terria Joseph; these women are moms to some very famous kids (Sharon’s children are actors Jonah Hill and Beanie Feldstein, Patsy is mom to musician Adam Levine and Terria is mom to musician Alicia Keys). They’re harnessing the incredible power of Moms—and the star power of their kids!—to advocate for mental health awareness in young people. We’re thrilled to be teaming up with YMC to champion this crucial cause. September is National Suicide Awareness Month, and there are few things more worthy of our attention than our kids’ mental health—all the time, but particularly now. Here’s a bit more about YMC, Sharon and the impressive things they are getting done.
You met Patsy when you were both 17, and then YourMomCares came to fruition after you filmed a PSA for the Affordable Care Act for President Obama. Can you share a bit more about this wonderful backstory?
Yes, Patsy and I met when were just seventeen years old and have been friends since. My kids are represented by William Morris Endeavor (WME) and their head of philanthropy asked me to do a PSA for the Obama White House. I was like, I don’t know, I’m very busy…Jonah was just nominated for an Academy Award and I was going to be his date. But I said I could I do it with my best friend, because then you’d have Adam Levine’s mom too, so it would be that much more effective. I helped produce the segment, filmed at my house and the PSA got a million hits in an hour—before anyone could get a million hits in an hour! It didn’t hurt that Michelle Obama ended the PSA with “we nag you because we love you, #yourmomcares”. The PSA was such a success that we were invited to the White House (where we met Terria Joseph) and were lucky enough to have a meeting with President Obama in the Roosevelt Room and took pictures in the Oval Office. After coming home and given my career background, I realized that Your Mom Cares was an incredible brand. I asked for permission to trademark it and promised to use the power of the celebrity mom to harness it for good. Terria Joseph is our third cofounder, and we have also rallied moms of other celebrities, including Zendaya and Michael B. Jordan’s moms, to focus a collective spotlight on mental health in kids. Pre-pandemic, mental health for those 0 to 30 was affecting too many people—now everyone’s mental health has been affected. There was an earthquake and now there is a tsunami. As celebrity moms, we have the power to get rid of the stigma and change the dialogue.
So amazing. On a personal note, you’d had an impressive career before launching YourMomCares. Can you please share some of the highlights?
I graduated from FIT and went to California with my husband in 1975. There was no REAL fashion business there at that point aside from costume designers and stylists. So I went into television, and landed my very first job on Taxi, a sitcom. I was the costume designer and it was so much fun. As a stylist, I was always seeing what the trends were and predicting the next ones. I kept losing my cell phone in my giant bag so I embellished my nokia yellow phone with sparkly Swarovski crystals, thus the birth of the sparkle cell phone/microphone trend. The highlight for me was when my idol Patricia Field used it for Carrie to call Big in Paris at the end of Sex in the City. My daughter [Beanie Feldstein] was 7 or 8, and she and her friends would come over after school and help me organize and pack up all my sparkly creations. When the business grew bigger I had to “fire them”. We stopped shipping from my home so I baked cookies with them instead!
When everyone started copying me, I was on to the next trend. I could see that experts were becoming stars – this was after Dr. Phil, but before Dr. Oz. I started Expert Management and worked with agents to elevate the brands of the experts I represented. Simultaneously, I was teaching master classes at my alma mater FIT. One of my live-bys is “just show up”—I show up to everything and try everything so I renamed my master class after that motto.
One of the reasons I love teaching, is that I love kids. I love to raise, them, be around them, take them under my wing, I just love kids. When my kids were growing up, my house was the house they hung out in, I was and am a Mom they talked to. I realized how important it is for kids to have someone they trust to talk to which is a big component of mental health. We as an organization chose mental health because it was an epidemic pre-COVID and now it’s even worse. We are a very unusual organization, I call us “the Netflix of nonprofits” because we create our own content and we fund other people’s.
So great! Can you please share some of the projects you’re proudest of from over the last few years?
They’re like my kids and I love them all…but one I am very proud of is with the University of Pittsburg Medical Center. We gave $500,000 to help create an app for adolescent anxiety and depression. It’s prescribed by a pediatrician and connects kids to trained mental wellness professionals who help them manage their anxiety and/or depression. We have heard from experts that many children will benefit from this service because of the mental health tsunami being created after the earthquake of COVID. It has already saved kids’ lives. When kids go to the pediatrician the brain isn’t really looked at—and this is a huge problem, given that the second leading cause of death in kids over 10 is suicide.
The second partner I’d like to highlight is the Children’s Health Fund. Their Mobile Medical Unit visits underserved communities like a mobile medical office. Everywhere they serve physical health needs we hope to also provide mental heath – so far YourMomCares has reached over 4,000 kids in South LA. We also founded “Rising Stars” the first ever group therapy for homeless children on Skid Row. We had it up and running and had to pause it due to COVID. We pivoted to virtual in a couple of the middle schools and also getting kids COVID tests, laptops and access to hotspots. Kids in LA were sitting outside of Taco Bell for hotspots. We’re giving masks, clothing and more.
I have worked with cancer charities forever. I’m not taking anything away from that effort – I’ve gone from seeing kids dying to living and I’m proud of that work. But mental health has a real stigma attached to it, and it is a confusing space to fundraise in, as there are so many diagnoses. I think celebrities and athletes are helping a lot with the stigma by talking about it.
What advice would you give to moms who aren’t sure how to support their children’s mental health during this extremely stressful time?
We just did a Back to School mental health checklist written by our expert moms who are psychologists and other types of experts, that is a great place to start. My biggest advice, mom to mom, doesn’t cost any money. If I don’t feel well or take care of myself, I can’t take care of my kids. I do yoga, meditation, I have always eaten healthy, and I exercise – I walk a lot, many miles a day. The endorphins will help your mental health. And sleep—I love sleep. I get 8 hours a night. You go on Instagram and you see green drinks, personal trainers, food service delivery…while these things are great, they can be costly. The things I do don’t cost money, except eating healthy —and even that doesn’t have to be fancy.
What’s next for YourMomCares?
We are partnering with female-centric brands to do collaborations and partnerships. We are very proud to be opening a virtual store of curated brands/products called #BrandsWhoCare, where there is a charitable component to every product sold. We also are starting a mentorship program I’m really excited about. We are working on a podcast. I want YourMomCares to be a household name like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I want everyone to know what it is, know what it stands for, and for everyone to be behind it so I can move on my next project!
Anything else you’d like people to know?
Everyone has their own causes– like I said, I worked for pediatric cancer for 25 years. But mental health is so devastating …it affects everything. We see lead in the water in Flint, Michigan is going to create issues with mental health. So we have a Mobile Moms unit to give funding to pediatric emergencies like Flint, Michigan. We’ve supported organizations helping kids at the border. We can support almost any cause that’s helping children because so much falls under the umbrella of mental health. There’s a million reasons to give to our cause or volunteer but what makes us so unique is if you give us $100, it goes directly to the cause and we have the voice to amplify it. We don’t have to go to a publicist, manager, agent, friend. We just have to ask one of the kids, “is this something you want to support”? and one or more of them will support us.