Standing on the red carpet at any event can be a blur of celebrity faces. The challenge is how to connect in the short time available. But the Ok!TV pre-Emmy party at Sofitel Thursday night had a direct line to the heart of with it's a charity-oriented event. As each performer took a moment to discuss their often extraordinary personal moments in their lives that deepened their compassion they also revealed a now personal charity.
Mark Ballas, coming off his 15th season of Dancing With the Stars, talked about losing a very close family member to suicide 10 years ago. "It left a huge impact on my life, my family's life, so I'm all about bringing awareness," he said. That's why he's involved with "American Foundation for Suicide Prevention" afsp.org as well as "The Ballas Foundation." It's particularly timely and moving as we discussed the loss of Robin Williams. "It was the exact same story with my uncle 10 years ago. It's a topic that gets swept under the rug. But it's okay to talk about these things." We discussed the isolated loneliness of the suffering and how to help them reach out and ask for help.
Emmy Nominee for Veep, Gary Cole, a first time nominee after acting for over 30 years, discussed his "surprise" at the nomination, and his long association with The Help Group, a charity that helps children, teens and young adults with learning disabilities of many kinds. He and his wife have navigated the challenging diagnosis of autism with their teenage daughter.
Nichole Galicia who played Sheba in Django Unchained is more beautiful in person than on screen, which doesn't seem scientifically possible. She tells a terrific story of dressing head to toe in 1850s period costume for her casting call with Quentin Tarantino. As the other actresses wearing flip flops and shorts stared in surprise, she got the part. She works with the Alzheimer's Foundation of America as a dear departed grandmother suffered from the disease.
Heather McComb, whose recent stint on Ray Donovan has gotten raves, bubbles effusively about the show, "they are so supportive, what an amazing creative environment," and sounds less like a cast member and more like a fan. Having just wrapped the feature "Another Stateside," she's bringing awareness to the charity "Wounded Warrior Project" which she learned about on her shoot. "We often forget our veterans and soldiers and this charity is out there taking care of them."
Another stunner, Alyshia Ochse from True Detective and The Other Woman, was so radiant one had to remind oneself she was the drug-dealing hooker in the Showtime series. "Young Story Tellers Foundation" is her charity, which promotes literacy through story telling.
Co-owner of OK!TV Michael Kelly says giving back is one of the great things celebrities get to do with their prominence. "It's not just personal for them, but can set a role model for their fan base."
The reception at the Sofitel was lavish and the three song set by Mark Ballas in the center of the bar lounge later that night where he sang his new single Miss Incredible made the evening electric.
Co-sponsor of the evening, Founder Deborah Alessi of Face Forward spoke about how the charity specializes in pro bono plastic surgery for women and children victims permanently scarred by domestic violence. After only five years the national reach out is more present than ever. With one in four women affected by domestic violence in the United States she's hoping to help break through the culture of secrecy and shame that surrounds it.
Designer Sue Wong, who has dressed Taylor Swift, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Biel discussed her $1 million donation to the nature conservancy, a global environmental charity. She made her gift to the east Maui habitat she's trying hard to preserve, the small Kipahulu community on Kauai, a sustainable farm community where she lives.
OK!TV, first out of the Gate with the pre-Emmy parties, brings some emotional weight and charitable awareness with the service that any of us can do, not just the celebrities who have found their calling. The evening reminded that under the glam we all just want to improve the troubled lives of loved ones whatever side of the carpet we're on.
PHOTO CREDIT: Media Extreme Team, Ryan Castro