Jade Zaroff of ‘Entertainment for Change’: “Life is hard enough”

…Practice gratitude and surrender to the things you cannot control and hold ourselves accountable for the things you can. I have to remind myself of this constantly. Take COVID-19, for example. If we created a chart of what we can control versus what we can’t control, it would look something like: I can’t control what […]

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…Practice gratitude and surrender to the things you cannot control and hold ourselves accountable for the things you can. I have to remind myself of this constantly. Take COVID-19, for example. If we created a chart of what we can control versus what we can’t control, it would look something like: I can’t control what others choose to do, how they live their lives, or what others think of me after doing my best. I can control my breath, the way I treat my mom, whether or not I complete my homework, recycling in my house, and sharing the gratitude I have to smile (even with a mask). We spend much of our time and energy mentally fixating on what we can’t control that we then don’t control the things we could. When I feel like life is controlling me versus us having control of life, I realize that “things are not happening to me; they are happening for me.” I remind myself to actively cultivate gratitude by pursuing acts of appreciation, recognizing that gratitude has the power to guide our perspective and stimulate feelings of compassion, hope, and positivity. This is not ignoring the negative, but focusing on the positive aspects within the human experience that inevitably includes pain. Gratitude is the foundation for both inner and outer strength and connection.

As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jade Zaroff, trademarked “impact artist” with the intention of being just that. Jade is a singer, voiceover/on-camera actress, producer, entrepreneur, and young change-maker, whose passion and purpose is to leverage entertainment as a vehicle for activism and impact. In 2016, she created an original event to celebrate Earth Day called the “Emerson Green Gala,” that now runs annually at Emerson College. Jade is currently producing and acting in an environmentally-driven comedic web series (Winner of Top Shorts, LAFA, DMOFF, Vegas Film Awards, and more) called “Jade & Jaded.” She is a leader in inspiring others to use their talents for positive change in the world through her nonprofit organization called Entertainment for Change (EFC). She is a huge advocate for the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Jade was a panelist at the United Nations Media for Social Impact Conference in 2019, as well as featured as a young leader in other publications such as Real Leaders Magazine and Green Living Magazine.

Additionally, Jade is studying to be a certified life coach via Jay Shetty’s Certification School, is currently recording the voice-over for her mother’s audiobook called “EcoRenaissance” (published by Simon & Schuster), and is a trained on-air backup guest for the Farm to Home sustainable fashion brands exclusive on QVC.

Entertainment for Change™ (EFC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides a platform that educates and empowers a community of young Impact Artists™, informed by the United Nations’ SDGs. We are dedicated to fostering and empowering artistic activism for the next generation. Our mission is to educate young people about the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) via original artistic work, non-profit/influencer partnerships, and socially/environmentally conscious sponsors. EFC is committed to a future in which being an Impact Artist™ is easily identifiable on a mainstream level. EFC shares the education, resources, and creative inspiration necessary to drive and compel the next generation of young leaders towards a sustainable and unified world. We fundamentally believe that art and creativity are the most powerful way to internalize thoughts and feelings, to motivate action in media and entertainment, making a lasting impact.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/46d035dd504d285d0d82d376940b77a0

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?

Home-birthed in my NYC midtown apartment on the 37th floor, my life was always “unconventional,” to say the least. When I was 4-years old, my school lunch boxes (aka “Jade’s special food”) consisted of tofu chicken nuggets, seaweed chips, a side of kale, and soy cheese pizza. The influence of never having eaten meat in my life was my mother, who co-founded the largest health school in the country in 1990, now called the “Institute for Integrative Nutrition.” When I was 5, my little brother cracked his chin open, and I watched as my mom cured his deep wound using the inside lining of an eggshell instead of getting him stitches. When I was 7, I designed a “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” t-shirt and “no smoking” megaphone because I knew intrinsically that Mother Earth needed just as much love and respect as my own mother. When I was 10, I began chanting the Buddhist sentiment “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” meaning “glory to the dharma” — with dharma being one’s purpose… giving me the subconscious determination to seek purpose in everything I do. When I was 11, I became my mom’s “part-time” assistant — answering phone calls for her first sustainable fashion brand, “Under the Canopy.” My childhood was happening before natural was cool, with the mainstream slowly opening up to holistic ideals in my later teens. Sometimes I felt like I had just jumped off my time machine, visiting from the future, and questioning why other little girls’ family homes didn’t have big buddhas in their entryways too. Because of my mom’s travel, by the time I was 13, I had a doll from just about every country around the world, always surrounded by diversity and a profound love of our global humanity.

My conscious lifestyle was eccentric to most of our friends growing up. However, while my upbringing was unconventional in many ways, I deeply value the relationships I have with every member of my family. I was the older sister who was checking in on my brother’s homework and making sure he was home safely from a friend’s house, sparking my fundamental need to care for others at a very early age. My passion for kids was definitely inspired by the love I had (and still have) for my little brother.I have three sets of grandparents who instilled wisdom in me daily, plus aunts, uncles, and cousins who like to fight over the title of “favorite.” I am blessed with a father who sang to me daily and has the biggest heart, with empathy at the core of who he is. I also had an entrepreneurial mother who traveled around the world, bringing back stories and culture, always encouraging my imagination to run wild. My mother’s visionary action to coin and trademark the term “ECOfashion” in the 90s was seen as “far-fetched.” And while I was always in awe of her uniqueness, my “norm” was sometimes judged by the superficial surroundings that questioned why it was more important for my mom to be on the Board of the Organic Trade Association instead of my school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

Merge my environmentally and spiritually conscious upbringing with the fact that both sides of my family are total theatre-junkies, as well as my great Uncle Joe Masteroff, now deceased, is the writer of “Cabaret” and “She Loves Me” — and therein lies the intrinsic and authentic combination of the fundamental elements of my life’s path. My passion for musical theatre was inevitable, as I was the only three-year-old in the audience of many Broadway shows. Music and the arts have had just as much of a profound impact on my life as meditation. Yes, I was President of my high school’s theatre department, my district’s representative at FL State Thespian Festival (one of the largest theatre festivals in the country), attended French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts for nine summers, and ended up at Emerson College in Boston to study musical theatre. However, blasting “La Vie Bohem” in the drama room with my friends or dancing to Stevie Wonder with my family are the memories that have fulfilled my soul.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Both my high school musical theatre society and traveling choir group significantly impacted my life, where “free time” in my teens ended up being live performances at every senior living home in Boca Raton, FL. My profound connection to art comes from constantly witnessing human beings (in their old age) who truly desired the pleasure brought to them by music. At the age of 13, dancing at 10 AM on a Sunday to “There’s No Business Like Show Business” or singing to Eric Whitacre’s “The Seal Lullaby” with some of my closest friends gave me a sense of appreciation for WHY I performed. Receiving accolades was nice and definitely rewarding, but there was something special about singing “It’s Delovely” to an old man with Alzheimer’s, bopping his head with a smile because his favorite show was “Anything Goes.” This moment resonated with me because the value of art isn’t something to explain to people. It isn’t something for which we should have to “fight.” Yes, I believe that sometimes we must peacefully fight for what we want and need in life. It is important to express our deepest desires and most important justices. However, I fundamentally believe that access to art, arts education, safe spaces to artistically express yourself and creativity are all human rights. That is what I strive to create for young people: opportunities to experience both inner and outer access to connect to why art is so necessary and valuable to being alive. Not for the reasons we are taught to believe to be true (being famous/rich/etc.) YouTube search “being famous doesn’t make you happy.” Then, YouTube search “why is art important,” and consider the impact one can make with the right intention.

You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?

The appreciation for what it is I’m learning is a different experience. Most of the time, words and actions expressed by a young person are pure and filled with genuine curiosity, innocence, and a willingness to discover the unknown. Personally, myself and Entertainment for Change as a platform aren’t interested in “talking in circles” about why climate change exists. We subscribe to the belief that proposing psychologically-driven dialogue as to what human behaviors demonstrated in the media (aka entertainment/the arts) are sharing is an effective tool to discover the collective narratives that are part of the problem, not part of the solution. We have discussions as a team, challenging ourselves to communicate our “unlearnings” to the next generation. We speak to them as young adults, not kids, as they are smarter than we think, and then come up with fun, engaging, and mentally, physically, spiritually stimulating ways to share inspiring and solution-oriented content. We listen to young people, we speak “to” young people (rather than “at”), we hold safe spaces for them to be their unique selves, we encourage radical creativity, we move our minds and bodies, we speak openly about mental and physical health being upmost importance, and then we celebrate existence itself, together.

We want to create a narrative that is rooted in empathy and love. It sounds cheesy, but I do feel that we make our very nature as a human species far more complex than it should be. It’s simple — treat others the way you want to be treated. Instead of judging the state of our world, let’s write a song about how to recycle. Instead of judging the kid who chooses to love differently than you (for example, homo rather than hetero) but looks kind of like you, have a conversation about a recent heart-break that you had as a way to connect with another person. Who cares that they are different! Instead of taking your frustration of the broken elevator out on the guy who’s just going to walk his dog, share a smile with him to release some serotonin and endorphins for a win-win. All in all, Entertainment for Change is a platform, community, and family that is dedicated to making a positive social impact by being the change we wish to see. We want to co-create a world in which being an Impact Artist is being a good person (kind, loving, grateful, open, etc.) and using creative impulses and artistic endeavors to share and express that on a daily basis, as well as on a mainstream level.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

With the love I possessed for my mother (Earth) as my driving force, I pitched an event to Emerson College called the “Emerson Green Gala” to be a major celebration of Mother Earth through various forms of artistic expression. I purchased an earth costume and had over 150 students participating in this event — acappella, comedy, fashion, dance, poetry, musical theatre performance, songwriting — you name it. Throughout my college journey, I discovered a passion for entrepreneurship and chose to minor in the field. Whenever I talk about Emerson, I light up because I realize how strongly the college faculty invested in me as a person and a passionate young woman with an idea. The president of the college even said yes to my email request of doing the green gala commercial, with the vision being President Lee Pelton holding a workout ball that we then photoshopped to be planet Earth.

The journey of learning how to produce an event from scratch was difficult and invigorating. I had coffee with every student organization’s president about why their participation in this event that wasn’t “real” yet mattered. I somehow convinced Emerson Facilities Management to sponsor the Paramount Theatre, with free vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free food (because what college student can resist free food). I took advice from people like Emerson alumni and the producer of “Friends,” Kevin Bright, who encouraged me to add a film component to the production. The second year of the gala ended up being a competition, with the winning live performance and film winning 1000 dollars each — we included judges, reception booths, and sponsors with various backgrounds in the arts and sustainability. The winning film changed all the lyrics from “Dick in a Box” from Saturday Night Live to “Recycling’s Hot,” and while leaving the theater, I overheard a student singing and recycling. Right then and there, I realized that not only was that exhausting experience so fun, so fulfilling, so collaborative, and so “me,” … but it worked. My passion and drive were needed for the survival of our mother, which I say intentionally for dramatic effect!

I realized the fundamental value of one of my favorite quotes, and the necessity to provide opportunities to bring this awareness to life: “Art is not a mirror to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” — Bertolt Brecht

The gala now runs annually at the college, inspiring my next chapter, a nonprofit I founded in known as “Entertainment for Change” or “EFC.” Funny enough, my mom’s company is “EFC” too! (Eco Fashion Corp) — yes, she birthed me and all, but I trademarked Entertainment for Change first!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

The universe has a special way of giving you exactly what you need when you’re open to receiving it. When COVID-19 happened, I started considering what I truly needed in order to share and scale the next chapter of Entertainment for Change. In an impulsive moment to do just that, I connected with an old friend I had met 10 years ago at sleep away camp. Our friendship, married with the flow we both feel when in work mode, ended up being the greatest blessing because we balance each other out. She has the strengths I don’t have, I share the guidance she needs, and we both listen actively with openness and empathy.

The story continues in our pursuit to ambitiously create a summer series when summer camps closed during COVID. We woke up one morning on Monday4 (my COVID name for Thursday) and decided we definitely should partner with the camp that brought us together. French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts is the largest performing arts sleep-away camp globally, so to impact that many children to be the leaders of change was a no-brainer. We connected with the head of the camp, and the timing didn’t seem to align. But we didn’t take no for an answer — we practiced patience and continued onward and upward. A couple of months later, our pitch became stronger, clearer, and more specific. Finally, we solidified a partnership and received a newsletter from the camp announcing, “French Wood’s partnership with Entertainment for Change in their pursuit to co-create an IMPACT ARTIST program for all Counselors in Training.” It was a bit surreal and an undertaking that I don’t take lightly. Speaking directly to the next generation of incredibly talented artists about how massive an impact they can make if they challenge themselves to integrate meaningful messaging and action into their creative endeavors is a dream come true.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

When the COVID chapter began, I was brainstorming how EFC could truly add value. When my Aunt Sue told me that my cousin Jack’s camp was canceled, I began brainstorming to start an online summer camp. My friends would say, “you’re wild” because my quarantine experience led me to organize 34 classes for kids and teens ages 7–17. We produced out of my mom’s apartment and included outstanding Broadway arts educators like Sophia Anne Caruso (“Beetlejuice”), Laura Osnes ( “Cinderella,” ”Bonnie & Clyde, and “Grease”), and Desi Oakley (“Waitress”).

Jenna, Head of Marketing at EFC, and I were messaging young people who would potentially enjoy an opportunity to be taught by someone they admire! Christy Altomare, of “Anastasia,” is one of the absolute kindest humans I’ve worked with, and we were doing a mock audition masterclass taught by her. Jenna saw a comment made on one of Christy’s Instagram posts by a mom named Laura Fall, where she vulnerably shared her daughter’s experience in the hospital and how much joy Christy’s music has brought to her during her darkest and most painful moments. Jenna texted me, “Hey, can we give this girl named Immy a free class with Christy?” My response, “duh,” and Laura and Immy’s response post-class went on for a couple of months. The amount of gratitude we received for how much of an impact this one experience made on this one young girl left an imprint on my heart. I would have gone to meet her in person if it weren’t for the global pandemic, as that was how connected I felt to someone I had never actually met. When we scheduled a FaceTime call with Immy to catch up during COVID, we learned that on the morning of the scheduled call, Immy passed away. We are dedicated to creating a possibility for Immy to live on as the reason and true Why of what we do. If we can impact one kid’s life with the power of art and creation, then everything else is just a cherry on top.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

People spend so much time and energy trying to be the difference because they are concerned with what people think of them, which is driven by ego. Jay shares that “the ego is focused on being right, while the soul is focused on doing right. Our egos want recognition by being the difference, while our souls want to serve and make the difference.

A quote I love from Jay Shetty’s book “Live Like A Monk” and his certification school: “I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am.” — Thomas Cooley

I believe that “making a difference” is truly moving someone (or multiple people) to feelan indescribable connection, shift, and drive towards some type of personal, professional, or spiritual change with an intentional positive outcome.

Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.

My first tip to be a changemaker is to think outside of the box. Hold space to be creative, and don’t limit what that means based on notions of what it means to be a successful creator or changemaker.

Second, passion is contagious. No matter what I was doing, and still to this day, I find that the more I exude genuine passion with a smile, the more I manifest into reality because people support and help the vision. I’m not alone when I’m passionate because I find myself attracting others equally as vibrant, and collaboration is key. Co-create, actively listening to and working with others’ passions too. Our egos will often convince us that we need to prove something to everyone else. We need to do it ourselves. We don’t need anyone. That’s not true! Honoring your work is important, but celebration is more fun when you can say, “look what we did together.”

My third tip would be to practice gratitude and surrender to the things you cannot control and hold ourselves accountable for the things you can. I have to remind myself of this constantly. Take COVID-19, for example. If we created a chart of what we can control versus what we can’t control, it would look something like: I can’t control what others choose to do, how they live their lives, or what others think of me after doing my best. I can control my breath, the way I treat my mom, whether or not I complete my homework, recycling in my house, and sharing the gratitude I have to smile (even with a mask). We spend much of our time and energy mentally fixating on what we can’t control that we then don’t control the things we could. When I feel like life is controlling me versus us having control of life, I realize that “things are not happening to me; they are happening for me.” I remind myself to actively cultivate gratitude by pursuing acts of appreciation, recognizing that gratitude has the power to guide our perspective and stimulate feelings of compassion, hope, and positivity. This is not ignoring the negative, but focusing on the positive aspects within the human experience that inevitably includes pain. Gratitude is the foundation for both inner and outer strength and connection.

My fourth tip is to be nice. Life is hard enough, so I believe that a true changemaker stays mindful about how they treat people. I have too many stories to back this one up. My brother jokes that I’m “too nice” to servers when we eat out. I just consistently remind myself to see every human as someone who experienced the same spectrum of emotions as myself, from pleasure to pain. Always honor yourself. However, if one of your daily priorities is to be kind, I’d say that’s the foundation of the collective change we so desperately need.

Finally, be yourself, right now. When I first started at Emerson, I began college as a BFA Musical Theatre major. We had a cut program, which essentially meant that they were going to re-audition us halfway through. Truthfully, it was tough because I’m not a competitive person and very product-oriented. So being a visionary in my nature, I found it very difficult at times to allow myself the space to discover and gain clarity around the vision for my future (in college when one is really getting to know oneself), be present, and try to “make the cut.” I ended up switching my major before the re-audition. I share this story because I observed myself trying too hard to be myself. Being yourself shouldn’t be something we’re trying to do, yet I find that our world doesn’t allow us to do that. We’re constantly told and questioned how to be ourselves, especially when we’re young.

Be yourself to get the part, but don’t wear that to the audition. Be yourself to get into college, but don’t write your essay about how you have learned to deal with anxiety in a healthy way because that is too exposed. Be yourself so that those other kids like you and you can fit in, but if you are aware of the current pop culture trends, good luck. We should be encouraged at an early age to experience what it feels like to truly belong, and that happens organically when you’re actually being yourself. So my advice on “being yourself” is breathing, being present, speaking to what’s on your mind, and not judging yourself in the journey of being alive as you! Smile, and you’re already halfway there. I love experiencing the soul and light within another human, witnessing the inner beauty that shines through one’s smile. You’ll always be well-dressed if you’re wearing a smile (and a mask). “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” — Max de Pree

What are the values that drive your work?

I live by our Entertainment for Change mantra…

* I honor that creativity is fluid, unique, and not limited to any medium.

* I dedicate my life to empowering myself, the planet, and others.

* I AM passion, unity, empathy, kindness, respect, peace, gratitude, and truth.

* I accept that we can’t spell the word “challenge” without “change.”

* I believe that achieving the SDGs is possible when I breathe, stay present, seek purpose, and lead with love.

* I recognize that art provides me a safe & healthy space to listen to and internalize thoughts & feelings, to then externalize impact.

Many people struggle to find their purpose and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centered in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?

I love this question because I feel it is a blessing and a privilege to connect with your purpose. I feel like I have been connected to this calling since I was little, yet sometimes the inner and outer noise of my thoughts and the world made it difficult to stay on track, especially in our early 20s! Balancing life’s realities (eating dinner, paying taxes, maintaining healthy relationships, honoring deeper needs, changing the lightbulb) with spiritual awareness is a journey and total learning curve… but so rewarding. Daily tools and practices that have helped me stay grounded and centered in achieving my vision include sharing openly with like-minded people that I trust to willingly hold me accountable from a place of love, meditating or having moments of silence to slow down (while sometimes laughing), following social media accounts that sharehope and positivity, eating popcorn with truffle oil and nutritional yeast, and reminding myself throughout the day to breathe.

I’d say the love and connection that I have for my Why merged with the genuine passion I possess for What I do, allows me to stay focused on the long-term. It’s like being in a relationship — you wake up in the morning, and if you don’t genuinely share interests with that person, feel safe to communicate openly, or enjoy the time spent with them, you’re going to feel distracted and needing “more” somewhere else. Waking up in the morning and needing to do the tasks at hand to achieve my goals is “easy” because I’m excited to do it. Plus, where are we desperately trying to “get to?” What happens when we “get there?” What’s to look forward to once, “we’re there?” We ought to have a deeper respect and appreciation for the in-between space and journey itself, where the majority of our lives are actually spent. The reminder of this wise sentiment often provides me clarity and peace. We are ever-evolving gifts of pure perfection. Aka, we are forever changing and forever “perfect” at the same time. Believe it, breathe, and love yourself — purpose becomes way more clear from that state of mind.

Being my own best friend, a nice friend at that, is a big one too. Achieving goals and vision takes time! “Doing enough” and then staying patient has been one of my greatest struggles. I used to be super apologetic for my ambition with others, and critical with myself if I wasn’t being ambitious enough. For example, if I watched one show on Netflix, the little devils in my brain started trying to convince me that I’m not working hard — exhausting! Therefore, I constantly challenge myself to consider the possibility of changing my perspective to be a positive one, providing myself mental freedom when experiencing emotions such as fear. Balanced reflection, along with holding myself accountable to the tasks at hand (aka my most current daily to-do list), keeps me on track and aligned to fulfilling my purpose.

In my work, my challenge is to recognize our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!

Kids should absolutely and unequivocally have agency over their future. However, they need us to set that example! Their brains are still developing. I’m pretty sure mine is too! Adults need to be held accountable. Mainstream and governmental change are crucial, and if the system is going to change, then either we need a young person to be president, or we need a president that stays young. I’d love to see a world in which the mantra I shared above is just as front and center as our Constitution, where you learn at an early age that those are non-negotiable, core values. What it means to have a better world, and achieving it becomes possible when taught how to connect to one’s deeper, more intrinsic Why. Following this Why organically leads to the What and How that happens with the education, guidance, and tools shared with each other.

‘We are all in this together’ should no longer feel cheesy… it should feel urgent and necessary. Kristen Bell and Benjamin Hart have a children’s book called “The World Needs More Purple People” where the people’s species are identified as “purple people” coming from sharing a core set of values: asking great questions; laughing a lot; using your voice all the time; working hard; being you. What if we all became a “blank” kind of person by living out the mantra of our dreams. Mine is written out above, but I’d love to ask young people: what’s yours?

The vision I have for the world I want to see feels like that feeling when you wake up in the morning on a Sunday, and the sun is out… but it’s not too hot and not too cold. Where you don’t have anything on your to-do list for that day, so you can ‘take it easy. If you grab a coffee or your favorite breakfast and, because of the lack of pressure and sense of ease, you feel inclined to smile at every single person you see, why not. No particular reason, just that inner freedom to experience the outside world becomes possible. It’s not an extreme joy, and no stress is present. It just feels peaceful and light.

We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?

So true! Could limitless resources include limitless people too? I would pair a skilled and well-established artist with a young artist, similarly to that of a Big Brother-Big Sister program, so that each kid or teen could shadow someone and gain individualized attention. That pairing would enable the young person to be directly coached and influenced by someone they admire. I would also set up a structure in which individuals, companies, organizations, and philanthropic families could financially “sponsor” a young person, feeling directly connected to and the impact arts education can make on a human being’s life.

Meaningful messaging is integrated into all of the original music we release via EFC, available on all music streaming platforms — “This Is Our Shot,” “Yes And to Life,” and #SDGGROOVE, an original song I produced to share awareness of the United Nations’ SDGs. I would also produce an original song for every SDG and utilize financial resources to scale and market those songs. I would pay artists and educators to make videos using the songs as the educational tool and driving force behind the content (which we’re doing anyway, just on a very low budget). Then, I would produce a global docu-series on what it means to be an “Impact Artist” by filming from the various perspectives of diverse artists to share stories, backgrounds, and representations of people making a difference in our world utilizing creativity. This would lead to the vision for having Impact Artist being easily identifiable.

I’d then have an online community empowering Impact Artists to make a tangible change by sharing our limitless resources to provide them enough resources to lead the change in their own school and community. This would mean having a budget for guest arts educators, and to supply tools to co-create projects aligned to SDGs, and other resources encouraging young people to recognize the power they have within themselves right now.

I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness, and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?

Testing kids and making them feel stupid for getting a C is most likely not going to boost their self-confidence to pursue leadership roles in their adult lives. Furthermore, “what if the cure for cancer was trapped inside the mind of someone who can’t afford an education” is one of the most eye-opening statements I have read. Imagine a world in which we are teaching young people to march to the beat of their own drum. We should be creating a global community of human beings who are passionate about learning, not scared or intimidated by school because of people making us feel like our weaknesses are our failures. I believe that through a community-integrated, exploratory, and entrepreneurial-driven curriculum in a natural environment, we can co-create a new model that nurtures the whole child through open-ended questions and safe spaces. We should be improving the possibility of the next generation’s future through sustainable action, not using fear-based tactics to catalyze ineffective solutions.

WE NEED CREATIVITY! And then put some positive reinforcement as the “cherry on top,” and you’ve got a whole new species of Impact Artists. Today’s educational system is built upon learning about the conscious: thinking, reasoning, and choices. Important, yes. But what happens when you can’t think clearly because you don’t feel well, or you made a choice you’re not proud of (because of a self-fulfilling prophecy driven by a limiting belief system) that has manifested into unhealthy behavioral coping mechanisms. We have no education around the subconscious, and to deny the existence of the subconscious is to deny a part of ourselves. Teaching the subconscious includes beliefs, attitudes, and emotions, which are at the core of the mental health components that stop us from being creative in the first place. For example, someone may believe that they are not a good enough dancer because they were told one time to “be better.” This belief inhibits their opportunity to utilize dance and movement to express sadness towards that comment because they’re resisting their deep-rooted fear of being judged by their peers. The belief system then sets itself up as the driver of how that young person sees the world and themselves, stopping them from pursuing the very thing they need the most. We’re not taught that this cycle is even a thing!

We don’t learn about why we do things the way we do them until we’re sitting in therapy in our early 20s and encouraged to buy a crystal. If I hadn’t been in acting classes, I’d say that I wouldn’t have been aware of the necessity to connect with the rawness and realness of our emotions and the human experience. We are told that it is important to acknowledge and validate our feelings, but they aren’t who we are. “I am sad,” is not true. “I feel sad, and I am still strong” is the truth. This reframing skill becomes an impossible dream when the algebra test is scheduled the same day as that history exam, and their crush hasn’t texted them back. We have to teach and embody empowerment and learning as their brains develop, rather than fear failure. Now add art into the mix — art makes you see the world more clearly. It shares the wisdom of our inner truths with us, showing us that we have more in common than we think; most of us want to express ourselves creatively and peacefully. Artistic spaces have no labels — unique expression is just an exploration and experimentation of self. We are unable to fully experience this freedom if there is fear of having a negative reaction to what we share, so we must create safe spaces with no-judgment and a means to care about individuality. Not only do entertainment and art open up a multitude of synapses in our brain, but they encourage a world where people work together towards a common goal and creative desire. This world requires radical acceptance, compassion, giving, kindness, cooperation, exchange of ideas, patience, and collaboration.

I work with youth as a life coach and leader, which I don’t take lightly or for granted. Young people should have agency over their own future, yet they are constantly told to “do something about the world” in a very stressful present-day reality. The expectations put upon little humans who haven’t had enough life experience or wisdom to know how to “change something,” mixed with the pressures and mental health components that come with accepting today’s world, are overwhelming, frustrating, and debilitating. We’ve all been there with a pimple on our face, a fight with our partner or crush, or a headache, so we had no interest in “manifesting our dreams” that day because we’re human. We’re feeling the weight of the world in ways that we maybe don’t necessarily want to, always staying mindful of the levels of privilege that may be present depending on the situation, and so the inspiration to write a song or even a journal entry feels practically impossible. How are we supposed to say to a kid or teen, “hey… so what are you gonna do about climate change today?” when they’re dealing with how they perceive themselves so that all their followers, who they may not have ever even spoken to in their lives, do not cyberbully them towards a path of destructing their self-confidence and self-worth.

Young people need to be taught Why and How the possibility of re-writing the narrative can exist if they decide to believe it. It would be wonderful to see adults asking kids and teens questions like: How can we support you? Do you feel loved? What do you dream about? What would you like to explore today? What are you learning about yourself during this project? What is your gut response to this? When people talk about climate change, how does it make you feel? Now, if you could do something about it, what would you do? If you are unsure, that is okay! Let’s think about solutions together!

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Making a positive impact will make you feel good, confident, and valuable. It will give you that rush of serotonin and dopamine that candy and social media convince us are the only ways to experience true internal happiness sustainably. Long-term and fundamental happiness comes from making choices from within that serve others, and as my mom always taught me — serving others is serving yourself.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

The artist in me says Judy Garland, but as much as I believe anything is possible, I’m not sure that’s going to happen until my next life. Not as a second choice by any means, I choose Jay Shetty — I’ve shared this sentiment with him directly, as mentorship has been an interesting journey for me. I feel like a multi-faceted individual, passionate about a LOT of things depending on the day. Jay’s vision is to “make wisdom go viral” — and when I heard him say that while on a panel with my mom at the Tribeca Barnes & Noble in 2017, I darted to him so fast it was as if I had no control over my legs. I texted him twice a month for a couple of months, messaged him on LinkedIn — it’s interesting to find the healthy balance between passion and ambition and “being annoying.” However, the inspired feeling and gut-reaction I had to how deeply I resonated with his purpose was way more important than my ego of being seen a certain way. I finally felt like I found my mentor, even if it was me observing from afar. And then, one day months later, he answered via Instagram, asking for my support on producing and acting in a video. I did so for two videos and have been in touch with him ever since. I’ve listened to every single “On Purpose” episode, have read his book “Think Like a Monk,” gone “LIVE” with him on Instagram under my nonprofit for which he so graciously shared his time, and am currently becoming a certified life coach via his “Jay Shetty Coaching Certification School.” I am forever grateful for the impact he has made on my life and continues to do so.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The way to make the most impact is through scalability, collaboration, and sustainable action. We don’t seek recognition for ego purposes. However, we strive to be the Susan G. Komen of artistic activism. We aspire to be a nonprofit for arts education, making this community as accessible and impactful as walking in a race to fund cancer research.

If you are reading this and want to write about us or connect us to mentors, supporters, or collaborators, please get in touch! We are happy to do any exclusive interviews and offer support. We have so many exciting initiatives taking place, and we fundamentally believe impact is ageless.

Impact Artist identification, certification, and community is the overall vision of Entertainment for Change. Why do we do this? We fundamentally believe that art provides a safe and healthy space to listen to and internalize thoughts, feelings, and subsequently externalize impact. How do we do this? We are currently creating a curriculum to share the tools, strategies, awareness of the United Nations’ SDGs, and literal safe spaces to be an Impact Artist. Our program will be launching June 2021 at French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts, one of the largest arts sleep away camps in the world — which will also evolve into worldwide chapters led by young Impact Artists.

Get involved with us NOW!

  • We are sharing FREE arts education launching this January 2021. Go to entertainmentforchange.com/activation to sign up!
  • Be an Impact Artist Ambassador or YOUTH Impact Artist Ambassador with us!
  • We are also offering Impact Artist private coachings (ages 12–17) via Zoom with our Founder, Jade Zaroff.
  • Learn the #SDGGROOVE!

Follow us & join our Impact Artist family @entertainmentforchange or email us with any questions at [email protected].

@jadezaroff / JadeZaroff.com

@entertainmentforchange / EntertainmentforChange.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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