The 2024 presidential election is officially 52 weeks away, and Alyssa Milano is reminding women of the importance of using their voice at the polls. The actress, in partnership with fine jewelry brand Awe Inspired, has just launched the “One Year Out (Rise Up in Awe)” campaign with a collection designed to spark conversations around the important issues tied to next year’s race.
“I went into this wanting to tell the story of women and our struggle and our dreams and our ambitions,” Milano tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I would argue that storytelling, whether that be through fashion or music or writing or personal expression, is really the only thing that moves us forward in society. So, keeping that in mind and being a storyteller, I really wanted to tell a story with these pieces; a story of fighting for bodily autonomy and women fighting for the right to vote.”
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Awe Inspired Pro Roe Dog Tag
The collection consists of a “Pro-Roe Dog Tag” with the words “My Body My Choice” inscribed on it in commemoration of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal across the United States and was overturned in 2022 with the court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision. The second piece, a bluebird amulet, is a nod to the animal which has been a symbol of the women’s suffrage movement since the early 1900s.
“We thought there’s something so beautiful about the delicateness of the bluebird and how precious it is. You have this dog tag that’s very hard and like we’re going to battle, but then the bluebird, I think, has this feminine delicateness and beauty that conveys such strength,” says Max Johnson, who co-founded the jewelry retailer with his mother Jill Johnson, a lifelong jeweler. The brand has become a favorite among celebrities like Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez and Doja Cat.
Awe Inspired Suffragette Bluebird Amulet
As part of the campaign, 100 percent of the sales of the limited-edition items will be donated to two nonprofits: Planned Parenthood and Girl Up. The organizations were chosen for their roles in the fight for reproductive justice and to further efforts toward intersectional feminism across generations. The decision to add a charitable component to the launch is a part of Awe Inspired’s ethos, explains Max Johnson.
“It’s the business model, honestly, and I think a lot more luxury brands could be doing this. We have to be honest about the fact that there’s lovely margins built into luxury. It’s not a surprise to anyone that you’re paying for this brand maybe more so than you are for the actual value of the goods, and so there’s a margin to be, I think, more generous,” he says.
“When we have a campaign like this, we sell a very nice amount of these charitable pieces, but we also are gaining customers for our core business,” Johnson adds. “So, I think part of our success story is that we’re actually making this work. That you can be a brand that gives back very aggressively to charities and stands up for rights, and also have a good business. We have a good business and I think it’s a cool example to set.”
Here, Milano talks to THR about partnering with Johnson and Awe Inspired, remaining hopeful as an activist, and whether she plans to run for office one day.
How did you first connect with the Awe Inspired brand?
The first time that I was made aware of Awe Inspired was after [Brett] Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court. Awe Inspired sent me a beautiful Ruth Bader Ginsburg medallion, and I did this intense deep dive into this company that was actually making like these beautiful pieces with people like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And after some research on the company and the fact that it was founded by a three-time cancer survivor and her son with the desire to just make meaningful tokens of strength, and the things that we are in awe of in humanity, and the people that we are in awe of, it just all aligned with my values. So, when the opportunity came up to design pieces with them for the “One Year Out” campaign, I was so thrilled. Obviously, there’s a lot at stake for the 2024 election. So, I jumped at the opportunity to work with them.
Can you talk about the timing of this campaign and the importance of starting to get people thinking about the election one year in advance?
The statistic that one in three women under 40 in the United States has never voted — I feel like it is so important to make our voices heard. And there’s so much at stake between our body autonomy and our equality as women, the environment, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration rights, health care, the list goes on and on. I know that it feels like we say this every single election cycle, that this might be the most important election of our lifetime. But really, I can’t think of a more heightened time in my lifetime than what we are living through right now. So, to be able to inspire a different audience to use their voice, to raise awareness, to get involved in the things that they believe in is so vital. And to me, fashion and jewelry are a part of that. It’s such an important form of storytelling.
Why was it important for 100 percent of the proceeds from this campaign to go to Planned Parenthood and Girls Up?
As we’ve seen funding get cut and people being so vocal about being against Planned Parenthood, I think it’s important to remind people that Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, education and information to millions of people and is really a support system for women to grow up as a youth-centered leadership development program working to achieve gender equity.
In addition to advocating for reproductive rights, you’re also among the many entertainers who have signed and are supporting Artists4Ceasefire. Can you talk about that movement?
I have been very vocal about my support in a humanitarian ceasefire, and I feel as though terrorism can just create more terrorism. Violence creates more violence. We need to strive for peace, and we can’t do it with more war. We have to all stand together and fight for the peace that we dream, the world that we dream of for our children. I’m a UNICEF ambassador, I have been for 20 years, and so I’m looking to the NGOs on the ground who are strictly in the business of saving lives. And whether it be UNICEF or Oxfam or Amnesty International or Doctors Without Borders, the humanitarian crisis that is happening right now on the ground is tragic, and we need to get innocent civilians to safety. So, I’m supportive of the ceasefire. I’m also incredibly supportive of Hamas releasing the hostages as well. I’m supportive of humanity. I’m not supportive of hate, the rise in anti-Semitism is disgusting that we’re seeing throughout the world. Obviously, our Jewish friends need to be protected and feel safe, as do our Muslim and Arab friends and Palestinian friends. I think the whole thing is a total and tragic heartbreak, no matter how you look at it.
How has your work with UNICEF over the years shaped you as an activist?
I’ve traveled throughout the world for the last 20 years fighting for girls’ and women’s rights with UNICEF. I lived in South Africa for three months in 2000, and then I went to Angola in Africa only two years after the peace treaty was signed. I’ve been to Kosovo, India, and, most recently, last year I went to Egypt to raise awareness for those who are fighting against female genital mutilation. So, I have seen firsthand what war does to a country and what war does to children. And I do not feel that you can fight extremism with more extremism.
You slightly hinted at considering a run for office in 2024. Are you endorsed yet in the California Senate race for next year?
No, I’m not. I would be running for Congress for the House in the Tahoe District, but I have no plans on doing that right now.
An issue that continues to greatly affect California and the entertainment industry as a whole is the SAG-AFTRA strike. You’ve been on picket lines many times over the past few months. How are you feeling about the outlook of an agreement?
I think that it will be as long as it takes for us to get a fair contract. I’m not looking at it from the perspective of when will this end I’m looking at it from the perspective of when will we get what we are asking for and what we need in order to make sure that SAG and AFTRA members cannot be taken advantage of, that we still control our name and likeness, that we are fighting for those who are not the one percent of actors that are usually successful and that everyone can put food on their table.
As you lend your voice to so many causes, how do you avoid activism burnout and how do you remain hopeful about change happening?
I don’t know that I’m able to avoid the burnout. It’s really hard and it’s easier to try to avoid the news than it is to dive into it at this point. But I look to the activists who are on the ground, like my UNICEF rep, Jonathan, who I was in Egypt with last year, and is now the UNICEF rep for Gaza. I always look at these people who are boots on the ground doing the really hard work and I’m like, God, it’s such a privilege to not have to deal with that. And I need to really just focus on these people and giving them the support that they need because they’re really doing the hard work. So, it becomes a lot easier when you look at activism as supporting the more important people and that’s what I try to do. And I think with that also comes a lot of hope. I think having children is the biggest indication of having hope. I don’t think people who don’t have hope have children. And even if they don’t have hope, once they have that child, you have to have hope. Otherwise, what are we doing? You have to always be able to hope for a brighter tomorrow, for a younger generation, for the children of the world. I think every child deserves the right to a childhood free of fear, free of sickness, free of food insecurity. Every child deserves an education. Every child deserves health care. Every child deserves equitable access to education. Every child deserves clean air to breathe. And if we’re not fighting for that on a daily basis, I don’t know what we’re doing.
Every election cycle, a conversation arises around the apathy people have toward voting and the sentiment that our voices don’t matter even if we use them. What do you say to that crowd one year out from the 2024 presidential election?
There’s that wonderful Maggie Kuhn quote, which is, “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes,” and I think it is vital that we realize that the only way that we have any power over what we’re seeing that we disagree with is by using our voice, even if it shakes and part of using your voice is voting.
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