Melissa Gerstein: “Everything is Figure-outable”

What gives me hope is people. I believe that people will be forever shaped by this time and that we will all want to make a difference. I am hopeful that this unprecedented and challenging time will propel us to unite and strive for better. I am hopeful that people will lead from compassion and […]

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What gives me hope is people. I believe that people will be forever shaped by this time and that we will all want to make a difference. I am hopeful that this unprecedented and challenging time will propel us to unite and strive for better. I am hopeful that people will lead from compassion and kindness. All we can do is turn the page and move forward.

As a part of our series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Gerstein.

Melissa is the Co-Founder of the media company, The MOMS Network. Prior to The Moms, Gerstein along with NBC co-created, hosted and produced the television series Moms & The City and a Dad Named David. The show ran in the top ten markets across the country from 2010–2012.

As Co-Founder of The MOMS Network, Melissa created the first ever mom-focused town hall series called Mamarazzi. The ever-popular Mamarazzi® events provide influential moms and media with access to celebrities in a town-hall discussion while partnering with top consumer brands. Mamarazzi guests have included Emmy and Oscar winners such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Will Smith, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Garner, Kevin James, Tina Fey, and Hugh Jackman.

With The MOMS Network, Gerstein created marketing programs and a portfolio of contacts producing corporate sponsorships alongside top consumer brands that generated millions of dollars for the company. She directed major brand partnering initiatives within the company that drives conversation, generating media while building a community and audience.

In addition, Gerstein has produced and created numerous broadcast television shows for networks including ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNBC and CNN. She has produced for Anderson Cooper’s Show and The Big Idea at CNBC. She toured the country with President Bush during the 2000 election with MSNBC and also worked on many breaking news stories. During her network news years, Gerstein booked and interviewed everyone from President Bush to Steven Spielberg both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

Gerstein attended New York University where she graduated with honors from The Gallatin School. She sits on the board of Ballet and Beyond, developing and implementing fundraising goals and creating special events. Gerstein is widely recognized as an innovative industry and philanthropic leader, coach and mentor. In 2020 she produced Ballet above Lincoln Center with the Dancers of New York City Ballet which was featured in The New York Times.

Gerstein has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox News, CNN, HLN and many other national programs.

Gerstein resides in New York City with her husband Anthony and three children Elias, Lily and Sydney Rose.

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

I grew up in St. Louis Missouri and left when I went to College in 1991. You do the Math. Ha!

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

The Giving Tree. The simple message of giving to others. Giving from love. Give everything you have to those who don’t. Give Give Give

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I live my life by the words “Everything is Figure-outable” On the heels of this, I recently produced an in person ballet performance that was covered by The New York Times! Lincoln Center and Broadway shut down and we don’t know when they will re-open. As a former dancer and performer, my heart broke for dancers and everyone in the performing arts. I have to figure it out. I did.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

I am helping the Dancers of NYCB in their fundraising efforts. As the owner of an events company ( I have produced and hosted over 300 celebrity events to date. I work with many venues that lend themselves to intimate in person performances that abide by all the CDC Guidelines. I am trying to help the Dancers of NYCB raise awareness and funds for their organization.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

A Hero is a person who makes a significant contribution and impact on others.

In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.

A Hero makes a difference –

A Hero leads from a place of love

A Hero helps

A Hero asks for nothing in return

A Hero is brave

A Hero champions others

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

I believe a Hero has an abundance of confidence and is a doer in their DNA. I believe everyone has the ability to be a Hero, but might not have the example right in front of them. A hero is shaped early on and it is a force that propels them constantly to want more and to do more for others.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

Here’s the back story:

I am a former ballet dancer.

I am also the Co-Founder of an events company that markets to moms called The Moms Network and I have produced and hosted over 300 celebrity events to date. Prior to that I worked in breaking news for years. I also sit on the Board of an organization called Ballet and Beyond. I would do anything for Ballet Dancers to support them.

Throughout my career I have never really taken the word No for an answer and I live my life by the words “figure-outable” I do believe that anything is possible.

After learning in late June that Lincoln Center would close for their Fall Season and that there would be no Nutcracker I was hopeful that they would figure something out for their dancers. I saw how awful life was becoming for all performing artists and dancers. My heart was breaking for them.

The NYCB dancers then took matters into their own hands and created their Dancers of NYCB Relief Fund but there was still no performing.

I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to figure it out. It was eating at me. I had to see live ballet performances. I had to be involved. I had to see movement. I had to get them dancing. I had to find a way to have them perform.

I came up with a concept that would allow them to perform with safety measures and guidelines. I created this scenario of performances on the hour every hour while keeping audience numbers low. I found a venue on a rooftop overlooking Lincoln Center. We got the dancers into rehearsals and they had a few weeks to prepare.

Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?

My Heroes are my Mother and Father. They both have believed in me hard and because of them I don’t take No for an answer. They have love and respect for each other and have been married for over 50 Years! To grow up surrounded by that love and security also shapes you. My other Hero is Rosa Parks. She said No.

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

I am terrified of what Covid has done to the economy. The small mom and pop shops are going under. Live Events ( my own business) is suffering. Broadway and all performing arts are drowning. The economic impact is catastrophic!

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?

What gives me hope is people. I believe that people will be forever shaped by this time and that we will all want to make a difference. I am hopeful that this unprecedented and challenging time will propel us to unite and strive for better. I am hopeful that people will lead from compassion and kindness. All we can do is turn the page and move forward.

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?

I am inspired by my fellow New Yorkers. They are all masked up. Respect for each other here in NYC! I am sick to my stomach for those who can’t feel what it is like to live in New York with everyone wearing a mask. On that note…the most disappointing are those who don’t wear a mask. Shame on you!

What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?

I would like to see society love thy neighbor more. I believe they are.

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?

I would tell every young person to always speak up on issues and knock on every door with your ideas for change. Make a difference. Don’t take no for an answer. You matter. Your vote counts. Get involved. Stay focused. Be passionate and see it through. Don’t give up. Work hard.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would ask the Government to look at Canada’s Health Care System and figure this OUT!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, 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. 🙂

I would like to have breakfast with Mikhail Baryshnikov but only if he dances with me after. DREAM!

How can our readers follow you online?

Melissa Gerstein on Instagram

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

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