Eli Brown is doing his best to Shine the Light On Mental Health Issues

I was recently introduced to a company and movement I immediately clicked with called Shine the Light On. Shine the Light On is on a mission to bring a voice to mental health issues impacting youth. I’ve had a few phone conversations with the charismatic founder, Eli Brown, who has impressed me even more! You should head over to the website and check out the Our Story video to see him in action speaking on stage and giving away t-shirts like a rock star! But, it’s not all fun and games, on the homepage you can view a video explaining more about the company and the Our Cause page tells you that “with every purchase, STLO donates one educational program to advance mental health in youth.”

The facts may be a bit shocking to some but “1 in 3 youth from all walks of life suffer from mental health related issues. Two out of three suffer in silence due to fear of rejection and alienation.”

From the first moment I spoke to Eli, I felt like I knew him and his own struggles. His battle with his issues began after he was sexually assaulted at a young age. The shame and difficulties navigating his feelings were familiar to me in my own experiences and struggles as a youth. I know his story will resonate with many young people and adults and his advice is important.

As with all Social Good issues, the most important part is that WE CAN HELP others in what may seem like a small way. Buying a shirt or a few shirts may not seem like much but once you see what they are doing you realize that collectively, it will help a great many people. After you read our little chat, be sure to head to Shine The Light On to check out the merchandise for yourself.

Q: For those who aren’t familiar, tell us a little about you and how Shine the Light On came about?

Eli Brown: Shine the Light On is a clothing company that uses thought provoking designs to let people suffering from mental illness know they aren’t alone. People wear the clothes and become billboards, carrying the message with them. We work with non profits to partner and send this message throughout the communities who need to hear/see it.

We want to shift the conversation from reducing the stigma to acceptance and for every purchase we donate one educational program to help advance mental health in youth.

Q: As you have said, when we suffer certain traumas in our lives or carry certain secrets, we tend to feel we can’t talk to anyone about it because they won’t understand. Looking back, do you think now that you could have come forward earlier?

Eli Brown: Looking back now, having gone through sexual abuse I think I could have said something earlier and gotten help. It can be embarassing and difficult. As far as sexual abuse, there is a lot of shame and embarrassment. I was pretty uneducated on the symptoms of depression and anxiety so I thought it was normal freshman college issues. I went through sexual abuse at the age of 14 and kept it inside for years. At 18, 19, I turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. That caused the mental struggles to grow.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who is suffering in silence or struggling with their mental health?

Eli Brown: The best advice: Find a support network that will help you get assistance. Guidance counselor, teacher, health professional. Reach out so you can start to receive help. Telling one person or two people creates a support group of your own and will give you the courage to go forward to seek out professionals. A friend or family member, talking it out with them helps you to get guided and ready to talk to professionals.

Q: Movements like Shine the Light do help to erase some of the stigma that surrounds mental health issues but there is still lots of work to do. What would you say to loved ones of anyone who is struggling?

Eli Brown: The stigma around mental health is definitely decreasing. I can say that when it comes to the people who reach out to me, I can only listen with no judgement. Hear their pain and their story, and then help them to seek professional help. Validation and support are key.

Q: You’ve been open and honest about your own struggles and the things you have done to self medicate. We see so often that individuals get to the point of overdose and many times it ends tragically. Are there certain signs we can look for in the ones we love that could prevent things from going so far? There is a difference between experimenting as we grow up and abusing to escape. Is it a difference that can be caught in time?

Eli Brown: I do think it’s something that can be caught. It depends on whether people want to act upon it. Weight loss, sleeping in, suddenly pale complexion. There are tons of signs but sometimes it’s difficult to confront someone about it. I went from being a high performance athlete, playing tennis, getting up early, eating healthy  to not working out, not eating healthy… you may notice changes.

Q: I know you have some exciting things going on and coming up, can you tell us some of your future plans for Shine the Light On?

Eli Brown: One exciting thing is that we are going to start donating a significant part of proceeds to affordable housing for people who struggle with mental health and addiction. We have found that being able to afford a place to live can be difficult for those you are dealing with these issues and trying to seek help.

Another thing is that we will be launching in Europe. Mental health awareness is different in each city in the states and each country in Europe. The Royal family in the UK is on the leading edge in that. They are doing some ground breaking things for the people there and they have been open to doing what it takes to help.

Q: I ask this of everyone, What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

Eli Brown: One thing I can’t live without is this little book I carry with me where I write daily activities, phone numbers, notes. I love writing stuff down. I keep all of my notes and numbers in there. And ice cream! I love ice cream so I’d definitely say that.

I wish that at meals people could live without their phones. I don’t what it is, it really bugs me. People are out on dates or together in groups and are on their phones instead of paying attention to each other. People should pay less attention to technology during intimate dinners or gatherings and more attention to the people who are present there in the moment.

Q: Since you are so open about your own story and have spoken about it at events, do you have any particular stories that have touched you in surprising or memorable ways?

Eli Brown: I think one of the main things that surprised me is how many people there are that are impacted by mental health. When I was going through it, I felt like I was alone and I’ve found out so many others are going through it. So many of the stories I hear are impactful. Always very, very impactful stories after I speak somewhere or meet people through my work.

Q: I LOVE the partnership of Social Good and fashion, would you consider doing clothing for other causes?

Eli Brown: Yeah, when we initially started that is something we discussed. I think as we go on we will continue to Shine the Light on other social causes that impact youth.

Q: Where can we find you and Shine the Light online to learn more and to order some items so we can proudly and stylishly support?

You can go to our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and visit the Website for more info on us, to find out where I’ll be speaking, where we will be featured, and of course to order our clothing.

Q: Since you are someone who had a vision and made a success of it, what advice would you give to those who have passions, dreams, and visions but are having a difficult time getting stared or haven’t been able to overcome certain fears that come along with pursuing them?

Eli Brown: One of the most difficult things to do is to stay focused and to stay tight on your vision.

There was too much feedback on what I was trying to do. I was getting sidetracked listening to eveyone else.

My biggest piece of advice is once you have that vision established, stay on that course until you start to see the vision becoming a reality.

Tommy: I want to thank Eli for sitting down with me for this interview and I definitely look forward to working with him more. I’m proud to be one of the brand ambassadors for Shine the Light On and would love to do something possibly for the LGBT community with them at some point in the future.

 

From Aris with Love, Music, and Film

Losing a loved one is unthinkable. Knowing it could have been prevented makes it even more horrific. The people responsible not taking responsibly is unacceptable. There are no words to comfort someone who has suffered such a loss, there are no actions that can bring a loved one back but there are ways we can help to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. If you don’t already know him, I want to introduce you to my friend, Aris Ziagos, and I would like to share his story and the story of his mother, Virginia.

I met Aris after the loss of his mother and from what he has told me of her, I’m sorry I never got to meet her. She was an interesting, kind, loving soul and someone I would have LOVED to interview! I know she was amazing because she raised one amazing son. I’m so proud of him for taking on this latest project and I want to help him to make the film a reality.

In his words:

“On October 29th 2012 Bellevue Hospital was crippled and left without power in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. My mother was a patient in the ICU, and died in the aftermath of the storm. In the midst of the worst tragedy that has struck my family, the biggest storm ever to hit NYC changed our lives forever and revealed cracks in our emergency management and health care systems. This documentary is so important, for learning from the lessons of these events, for grieving and healing.”

You all know I have always felt entertainment and social media are best when we are telling stories that help others and this is definitely the case here. Please enjoy our interview and visit the fundraising page if you can help. Even one dollar can assist and hopefully prevent this tragedy from happening to others.

Q: Your project, From Virginia With Love: A Documentary, is a labor of love and the story of your mother. Can you tell us a little about your mom?

Aris Ziagos: Yes, thank you! My mother was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and travelled around the country a lot in her youth as the daughter of an army family. In her 20′s and 30′s she toured as a belly dancer across America, finding a home in New York City. It amazes me that an Irish American girl from Ohio taught herself Greek, how to dance and sew, and made a career out of it. As she approached 40, she went on to real estate work and had me. I grew up around all these amazing photos of her from her belly dancing career, and it definitely influenced and inspired me to find my own way to the stage. When I made this choice and at every step along the way afterwards, my mother was my biggest fan, attending every show and offering any help she could.

Q: You suffered such tragedy during hurricane Sandy, and it seems like it could have been avoided if the hospital was better equipped to deal with natural disaster. Is part of the motivation behind the film to try and correct this for others going forward?

Aris Ziagos: Yes, that’s exactly what sparked my desire to make this film. The hospital (Bellevue Hospital) where my mother was an ICU patient did not make the necessary modifications to their emergency power systems or infrastructure for a tropical storm or hurricane in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. Worse yet, because the hospital is run by a corporation and the city, they worked in lock step to keep their failing infrastructure out of the news, until the entire hospital was unable to function with doctors unable to wash their hands, medication not reaching patients, toilets not being able to be flushed, no food for anyone. It was an absolute nightmare. We can’t change the past but we can learn from our mistakes by addressing exactly what happened and what could and should be done differently going forward. Anyone who lives in a coastal area should be thinking about ensuring the safety of the vulnerable in emergencies like this.

Q: We hear so often that “it gets better” but that surely doesn’t happen all on it’s own. Where did you find the strength to go on after all of this? What advice would you give to people who are grieving right now?

Aris Ziagos: My biggest motivation has been living in a way that would make my mother proud, and also finding a way to transcend the tragedy and find a way to honor my mother’s legacy of love. Her passing was so tragic, and I got stuck in that for a while in deep depression as could be expected. A big motivator for my life moving forward from that was to make sure my mother was remembered by her amazing spirit, not just by her passing. That’s been the inspiration for a lot of my music, and definitely for bringing this film to the world. The arch of tragedy to grieving to healing to finding purpose is one everyone can take something away from, and it’s one that plays out during the documentary.

Q: Since you have gone public with the story, what responses have you been getting from fans and friends?

Aris Ziagos: Everyone has been very supportive, encouraging and sympathetic. A lot of people were surprised to hear about the events surrounding my mother’s passing, because very little of the information made it to mainstream news. It was a week before the 2012 Presidential elections, local elections, and the entities that hold New York City together were very careful to present the story in a way that would not cause public outrage.

Q: Has anyone from the hospital contacted you since you started the campaign?

Aris Ziagos: No, not a peep. The hospital’s official story is they triumphed through the disaster with no loss of life. In spite of a great deal of independent reporting, and some good mainstream reporting exposing the hospital’s faults, there has been no accountability for the choices made. They have made some improvements to their infrastructure as defense against a future Hurricane Sandy, but we’ll have to see how thorough those defenses are in a future hurricane.

Q: How can people help you to get this story told?

Aris Ziagos: I’m raising funds for the documentary on IndieGogo:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/from-virginia-with-love-a-documentary/x/260537

I’m offering some really cool merch, like vintage photos of my mom’s belly dancing years, original music, tickets to advanced screenings and fun experiences, as well as pre-selling the documentary.

Q: What are some of the greatest lessons your mom taught you that you can share with us all?

Aris Ziagos: So many things! Love can move mountains. Never stop believing in yourself. You can achieve anything if you keep trying and learn from failure. Be of service to others and give back often in different ways.

Q: I know you have other projects you are working on as well. Can you tell us about some of those?

Aris Ziagos: I’m finishing up work on a few new songs and remixes which I’ll be releasing on the deluxe edition of my album “Pulse” in a few months. I’m also excited to finally release my collaboration with Paula Cole as a single in 2018.  It will be a year that will also see me focused on completing this film, and some new music to accompany it. I have a lot of other songs in the works for future releases, so there’s a lot on the horizon for the next 24 months.

Q: Where can we find you, your music, and your projects online?

Aris Ziagos: You can find me on my official site at http://aris.fm

and on social media at -

http://twitter.com/arisziagos

http://youtube.com/arisziagos

http://instagram.com/arisziagos

http://facebook.com/arismusic

Q: Do you think you will be doing more film work in the future? Would you stick to the social good theme or perhaps branch out into other genres?

Aris Ziagos: I can definitely see exploring film more in the future, a short film, more documentary work. I tend to put my heart into things that inspire me that I can get fully passionate about, who knows what the future will bring?

Q: I always ask people to give me one thing they absolutely cannot live without and one thing they wish we could all live without.

Aris Ziagos: CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT: MUSIC!

WISH WE COULD LIVE WITHOUT IT: TRUMP!

Q: What’s up next for Aris the artist?

Aris Ziagos: Next up is the deluxe edition of my album “Pulse” and some new singles in 2018!

I want to thank Aris for taking time to talk to me and for being a part of my NYC family. Take my word for it, he’s one of the good ones. Here is the Indiegogo page if you can make a donation:

And, for your enjoyment, here is the video for his song ‘The Music’:

Make a Statement of Equality and Style with Gay Pride Bow Ties

When I think of style, class, and high profile events, I have always thought of bow ties. For some reason, they just give me the feeling and look of sophistication, so I have always included one in my outfits for any major event I attend in the past few years. Recently I met Jorge Santana, President of Gay Pride Bow Ties, and he shared with me that he would like people to think of equality when they see, wear, or think of his ties. The mission of his company is to unify people and make a difference in the world.

Gay Pride Bow Tieswere recently at Kansas City Pride, the PFLAG National Convention in Portland, and I’m sure quite a few same-sex weddings. I am so excited to wear mine this fall and winter for the formal events I know I’ll be attending.

John Raphael from the digital comedy series 'A Brit and a Yank'

The neat thing about these ties is that five dollars from each tie sold is donated to various non profits, depending on the style you purchase. This means you look good and do good at the same time!

Gay Pride Bow Ties are made of fine silk and are high quality pieces to add to any dapper guys wardrobe. With the various styles, there is sure to be one that fits your personality perfectly and there are even pre-made ties for those of us who just can’t get the hang of tying a perfect looking bow tie.

How many of us like to wear something that stands out and makes a statement? I’m sure most of us would love to have a special piece in our collection that will make us look sharp and grab attention wherever we go. Plus in the age of selfies, I must say, Gay Pride Bow Ties make for quite a picture and post! And trust me, they aren’t just for same-sex weddings, you can rock these classy ties at any wedding or event!

James Stapleton from the digital comedy series 'A Brit and a Yank'

When I asked Jorge about what he hopes for for the future of Gay Pride Bow Ties he responded, “The next step is to create the best bow tie for breast cancer and that for every $400 donated it will help 12 women battling breast cancer to get a wig. If people start purchasing the product and don’t care about the name Gay Pride Bow Ties, then we have done our part. We hope to create more bow ties like this in the future.“

How do you wear your pride? Pick one up for yourself and show the world.

You may recognize him.. had to show off mine as well.

WINGS Helps Domestic Violence Victims become Victorious

You may have seen me tweeting about an organization called WINGS. I wanted to take some time to explain what they do a bit further and invite you to join in showing your support to victims of domestic violence. Many times a person who is in such a situation feels hopeless, alone, and embarrassed. I believe, and so does WINGS, that with the proper encouragement, and the option of a safe place to go, victims can become victorious. So many times being heard and understood can inspire people to make difficult choices and turn their situation around.

WINGS has become one of the largest domestic violence service and housing providers in the state of Illinois. Single women and women with children are able to receive temporary safe shelter through WINGS housing. The staff provides assistance on an individual, one-on-one basis that allows women to set personal goals which enable them to work, continue education, and take care of themselves and their children.

The statistics are staggering, 19.3 MILLION women in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime. With those numbers, I am sure almost all of us know someone who has been affected by the issue.  The programs WINGS offers helps give them back their lives and their courage.

What WINGS wants to do for Mother’s Day is to give everyone an opportunity to show support for the women and children we know in our lives that have had to deal with this. You can be a part by participating in the campaign, #WINGS2beBOLD. Simply upload a photo of yourself or one with your Mothers holding a poster or paper displaying the hashtag  #WINGS2beBOLD to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram. It’s an easy way to offer some encouragement and possibly inspire strength in someone who desperately needs to know we are with them in spirit.

I’m sure you have heard me say that each of us should take any opportunity we have to be a voice for the voiceless. Fear, shame, and hopelessness rob so many of their own voices. Any support we can offer may just help someone to take the steps necessary to turn their lives around and in many cases, even save someone. While we are all enjoying Mother’s Day with our own loved ones, we can surely take a few moments to extend a virtual hug to someone who truly needs it.

If you want to take it a step further, you can also donate to WINGS and find out more about what they do. Their website is full of valuable information and you can donate here: WINGS Program.

VP JOE BIDEN AT GROUNDBREAKING OF WINGS METRO:

Friend Movements 2nd Annual Stardust Soiree

The time has come for the 2nd Annual Stardust Soiree from Friend Movement. I am so honored to have been in attendance at the very first last year and extremely thrilled to be a host this year. All the preparation is really paying off as you will see from the official press release below. There are some amazing sponsors, fun raffles, amazing performers, and lots of friends gathering for the event.

There’s still time to grab a ticket at any price point so you get to enjoy some part of the festivities. I would love to see you there since my time in LA can get quite busy these days. This is a perfect time to catch up for a great cause! Check out the details here:

2nd Annual STARDUST SOIREE – OCTOBER 24th, 2015

Friend Movement in collaboration with AFU Productions, KSP Systems, Bodvar, and Go Channel is proud to present our 2nd Annual STARDUST SOIREE – Black-Tie VIP Dinner & Concert Fundraiser

SCHEDULE
5-7 PM VIP Cocktail Reception / Purple Carpet Arrivals + Interviews
7-7:30 PM Seating (Dinner & General Admission)
7:30 – 10 PM Dinner & MAIN EVENT Concert
10PM – Midnight DANCE PARTY concert

MAIN EVENT concert PERFORMERS (8 PM – 10 PM)
♥ The Summit
♥ Frenchie Davis (AMERICAN IDOL / RENT/ DEAD 7 / WE ARE FAMILY)
♥ Ryan Boone

DANCE PARTY concert PERFORMERS (10 PM – MIDNIGHT)
♥ Aylin Bayramoglu (GLEE PROJECT / CHEERLEADER DEATH SQUAD)
♥ Abraham Lim (GLEE PROJECT / HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS)
♥ Lily Mae Harrington (GLEE PROJECT / SOME FREAKS LOSERVILLE / PEE – WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY)

SPICE AFFAIR
50 N La Cienega Blvd #120, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
5PM – Midnight

Proceeds benefit the work of:

Born To Act Players: a unique theater company comprised of professional performers with and without disabilities. The concept came about when two young men with Down syndrome became friends. Both young men lovedacting and they realized one’s mother was an actor and a drama coach and the other’s worked as a representative for professional talent with disabilities. In 1996, in a small studio space in North Hollywood, California, a handful of young people with Down syndrome began meeting weekly to memorize lines and play theater games.

Friend Movement’s heART Therapy workshops: a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The creative process involved in expressing one’s self artistically can help people to resolve issues as well as develop and manage their behaviors and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness.

$20 – DANCE PARTY (10PM – Midnight)
♥ Drink Specials
♥ Dance Party Concert
* Dance Party ticket holders are welcome to network & enjoy the wonderful drink specials at the main restaurant bar at any time before the DANCE PARTY portion.

$50 – GENERAL ADMISSION (7PM – MIdnight)
♥ Drink Specials
♥ MAIN EVENT Concert
♥ Dance Party Concert
* GENERAL ADMISSION ticket holders are welcome to network & enjoy the wonderful drink specials at the main restaurant bar at any time before the MAIN EVENT portion.

$100 – DINNER & GENERAL ADMISSION (7PM – Midnight)
♥ Dinner (Mushroom Cappuccino, Punjab Connection, Saffron Rice, Fresh Seasonal Vegetables & Dessert. Note: Vegan option available – please note a request during ticket purchase. Vegan option must be noted by Oct 16)
♥ Hosted Wine at dinner
♥ MAIN EVENT Concert
♥ Dance Party Concert
♥ Swag Bag

* DINNER & GENERAL ADMISSION ticket holders are welcome to network & enjoy the wonderful drink specials at the main restaurant bar at any time before the MAIN EVENT portion.

$150 – VIP RECEPTION & DINNER (5PM – Midnight)
♥ Hosted Wine & Apps Reception + Talent Meet & Greet
♥ Dinner (Mushroom Cappuccino, Punjab Connection, Saffron Rice, Fresh Seasonal Vegetables & Dessert. Note: Vegan option available – please note a request during ticket purchase. Vegan option must be noted by Oct 16)
♥ MAIN EVENT Concert (front rows)
♥ Dance Party Concert
♥ EXCLUSIVE VIP Swag Bag

Master of Ceremonies
♥ Ronnie Kroell
♥ Laughing Eddie Lobo
♥ Jeanie You

HOST COMMITTEE
♥ Tommy Geraci
♥ Louise Masin Sattler
♥ Henie Reisinger
♥ Ashlee Marie Preston
♥ Mary Rings
♥ Jerry Silverhardt
♥ Kyle Chan
♥ Monica Danielsen
♥ Roberto Quinn
♥ Karamo Brown
♥ Nina Boski
♥ Santwon McCray
♥ Dean Hale

SPONSORS
♥ AFUproductions
♥ Kettle Glazed Doughnuts
♥ Perfectly Afflicted
♥ DIABOLO Beverages

♥ VIVA GLAM MAGAZINE
♥ Bodvár of Sweden
♥ Blue Chair Bay Rum

SILENT AUCTION
♥ THE STUDIO | 1 day photo/film rental – Monday – Friday from 8am – 6pm ($2500 value)
♥ Francesco Scavullo | Liza Minnelli Limited Edition Print ($2500 value)
♥ KSP Systems IT Consultation ($750 value)
♥ A set lunch for “Goodnight Marilyn” April 2016. Meet the cast and crew. (Priceless)
♥ Walk-On Role in “Child of the 70′s” web-series. (Priceless)
♥ Garnet & Rose Quartz Necklace by Hector Camacho ($250 value)
♥ Canvas print Tulips and Fountains by Robin Magee 20″ x 16″
♥ One-HourProject Consultation & Strategy Session with Debra Eckerling, Guided Goals.
♥ Andrew Christian Gift Basket

RAFFLE
♥ $100 Cake & Art Gift Certificate
♥ Kyle Chan Design Bracelets (5)
♥ Organic Teeth Whitenening Treatment | Studio City Ortho ($99 value)
♥ $50 Kettle Glazed Gift Card (3)
♥ $50 Amoeba Music
♥ Perfectly Afflicted T-Shirts (10)
♥ Bella Dots Collection 2.0 | 12 Cup Coffee Maker ($50 value )

You’ll also have a chance to bid on some hot and trendy shoes like these from Guilhermina ShoesNA:

Be sure to get your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2nd-annual-stardust-soiree-tickets-19003560160