Lady Gaga's mother Cynthia Germanotta: 'Why it's cool to be kind'
'Kindness is not a nice-to-have, it's a must-have'
Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta are on a mission to make kindness cool. It's one of the core values of their joint organisation, Born This Way Foundation, which they co-founded, in part, as a result of Lady Gaga's experience with bullying at a young age.
In an exclusive column for HELLO!'s Kindness Digital Issue, Cynthia praises her daughter for being so honest about her mental health struggles and shares her hope to make World Kindness Day something that is celebrated every day. Crucially, Cynthia, president of the foundation, reminds us why it really is cool to be kind.
Read her column below.
Maya Smith, Lady Gaga and Cynthia Germanotta © Jeff Lorch
"Throughout my life, I've learned more and more about the incredible power and value of kindness – from growing up in West Virginia where my mother instilled in me the value of treating all people with love and respect, to raising two daughters who taught me even more about acceptance and inclusivity, to the young people I encounter every day who help prove that kindness is directly linked to mental health.
"Ahead of World Kindness Day tomorrow (which I hope one day is declared 365 days a year!) I'd like to share a little bit of what I've learned with you and why at Born This Way Foundation, we know it's not only cool – but crucial – to be kind.
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"My oldest daughter Stefani (who you may know as Lady Gaga) began struggling with mental health challenges, including depression and anxiety, at a young age. These issues – that she still admits are part of her journey – were largely a result of the unkindness and bullying she faced from her peers because of her uniqueness.
"In reflecting back on this time, she speaks about noticing an absence of kindness and sense of understanding, things which she now understands would have helped her during the very important development period of middle school.
"As painful as this time was for her, she has always been open and honest about her experiences. When she began bravely sharing her stories on stage early in her career, she connected with young fans who were experiencing the same things she did. These conversations ultimately prompted us to co-found Born This Way Foundation.
See the full Kind List here
"It was her hope setting out that we would better equip young people to deal with their struggles than she felt she was. We'd work preventatively to instill the importance of leading with kindness at an early age and provide the knowledge and resources to help them lean into healthy conversations about mental health. I'm so proud of her for channeling her pain and trauma into helping other people, and I'm honored to do this work with her.
Lady Gaga embraces Shadille Estepan © Born This Way Foundation
"Every day at Born This Way Foundation, we work to support the mental health of young people by working with them to create a kinder and braver world. Through our research and talking to young people, we know there is an inextricable link between kindness and mental health, and we recognize the potential and immediate impact that acts of kindness can have on a larger scale.
"Earlier this year, we conducted a survey of over 2,000 young people, ages 13 to 24, that revealed the undeniable ways kindness contributes to many aspects of mental wellness, from helping young people feel safe, confident, and less alone to impacting their desire to stay alive. The majority (73%) of young people say receiving kindness improves their mental wellness, and an even larger majority (93%) say kindness is the way forward – which shows that even in the face of a challenging couple of years, kindness is becoming even more cool!
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"As we celebrate World Kindness Day tomorrow, I encourage everyone to remember that even small acts of kindness can have a huge impact. In the same research report, the kind acts young people told us would have the biggest impact on their mental wellbeing are things we each have the power to do; they include: listening to someone when they have a problem, showing you believe in someone and encouraging them to do their best, and checking in to ask if they're doing ok.
"For me, I always like to be on the lookout for small ways to be there for someone – saying hello to a neighbor and asking honestly how their day is going, calling my mom in West Virginia to check in, or treating a stranger in the cafe line behind me to a cup of coffee. Though these acts may seem small, they have the power to change the trajectory of someone's day.
Channel Kindness authors Josh Greenblatt, Perri Easley and Josh Hollin © Shadille Estepan
"If you're in need of a little inspiration on where to start, that's okay! I often need some too. Which is why every morning, I check out ChannelKindness.org, Born This Way Foundation's online storytelling platform. On this site, we invite folks to check out stories of kindness, resilience, and bravery from around the world and encourage them to learn how to share their own.
"Each story calls on readers to perform acts of kindness in their own communities and provides helpful resources for them to do so. Each day, I'm inspired by the young people who are bravely sharing their mental health journeys, starting nonprofits, supporting their peers, cultivating kind communities, and more.
"As the world continues to grapple with overlapping, ongoing crises and work toward building more just systems, redefining care and community, and addressing the overwhelming needs that have emerged for so many, young people agree kindness is a key part of the equation that will help move us forward.
"We know kindness alone won't solve the world's problems, but we do know it can impact a person's ability to get through their day. Kindness is not a nice-to-have, it's a must-have – for ourselves and for others. On World Kindness Day and every day, I first hope you start by showing some kindness to yourself. If you're having trouble knowing where to start, I encourage you to check out Born This Way Foundation's Get Help Now Page for evidence-based self-care tips and resources to support your mental wellness.
"Our mission to create the kinder, braver world we envision may seem like a lofty goal, but we'll continue to follow the lead of this aspirational generation who is already proving it is possible."
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