In a world that can feel so bleak and overwhelming, it can be hard to find hope or inspiration for the future. More and more youth are dealing with issues like climate anxiety and the pressures of social media. Here is where singer, actor, producer, educator, and entrepreneur Jade Zaroff steps in to not only inspire but offer tangible tools to a new generation of artists. Nectar News had the privilege of sitting down with Jade to discuss her work:
NN: I’m so excited to get to talk to you about your work as a performer and a social activist with your nonprofit Entertainment for Change. Can you just start by telling us about what Entertainment for Change is?
JADE ZAROFF: Yes, absolutely. Entertainment for Change is a nonprofit that I founded in 2016, that educates, empowers, and co-creates with the next generation of what we call ‘impact artists’. An impact artist is just a human being who intentionally uses their creativity and artistic expression to advocate for what they believe in using the 17 sustainable development goals with the United Nations as the framework for what we’re trying to change.
NN: Amazing. What inspired you to create this nonprofit?
JZ: When I was growing up, my mom trademarked eco-fashion in the ’90s and started the largest health institute in the country. So she’s been in the trenches of sustainable fashion and health and wellness since I was little. As a result, I’ve had social and environmental awareness since I was a kid. The theater was also the first love of my life, so it came naturally to merge the two. In college, I worked on an event that I created and produced called the Emerson Green Gala, which was a celebration of Earth Day. There were various forms of artistic expression. It was wonderful. I was also an entrepreneurship minor at the time and doing the event made me realize that I wanted to continue doing environmental activism like this after college. So that inspired the creation of the nonprofit. Our original intention was simply let’s change the world through art. But people were often saying to me, that’s so cute, good luck with that. And so, I just found that the United Nations SDGs were a really great framework for exemplifying what we wanted to really look at as our global issues.
NN: Beautiful. What are some of the programs that you run currently and how does that framework manifest itself in the work?
JZ: The “how” has evolved so much since 2016 when we began. It started as an extension of the Green Gala where I was going to put this competition into colleges nationwide. Then it kind of morphed into an entertainment production company that advocated for the UN goals. Then during the COVID pandemic, a new idea hit. I’m a summer camp kid. I went to French woods for nine years and I just felt bad for all the kids that just couldn’t go to camp. So, in March when COVID first hit, I was like, I don’t really know where to focus my energy, but I’m just going to do different initiatives online. There was no filming going on, nothing was happening. And then on top of that, my aunt was like, I don’t know what to do with my kid this summer, camp is closed. So, those two things made me go, okay, well, why don’t I do an online summer camp. And so, I did an Entertainment for Change summer series and then trademarked the term impact artist.
Originally, the target audience was my age, millennial, but I’ve always been really passionate about kids. I’ve been nannying my whole life and I’m an older sister and I just love kids and teens. So the summer series was the first time I really was going, okay, why don’t we teach kids how to be impact artists? And then it morphed into what it is now, which is me at French Woods, where I went for nine years, teaching future impact artists. It’s been amazing to have this opportunity at a place that gave me so much and to be able to say to the leadership let’s integrate activism into the programming because nothing like that exists right now.
I’m kind of working from scratch, creating this impact artist program, where kids come in and I have a 100-page curriculum that I’m unable to really dive into in the three weeks, but I pull from it and I work with the kids on what being an impact artist means to them. Together we question what that means for them to step into that, and with intention. From there they create these projects that are aligned to one or more of the SDGs. So, some of them are creating visual art projects. For example, there is a turtle in the classroom a student made out of all recycled materials. There are some films they have made on what quality education looks like to them. There’s a lot of gender equality activism and LGBTQ+ rights work.
So basically, what I’m saying to them is I want you to think big. I want you to use your imagination and use a creative medium to communicate what matters to you. And that’s what they’re doing. And all of their work will culminate in a showcase that we’re doing.
NN: You said you have this curriculum that you have created. What are some of the inspirations that you’ve pulled from when you put it together?
JZ: I integrated a lot of what I wish I learned about as a kid. It’s broken into three sections: educate, empower and create. The first three chapters are, what is an impact artist? What are the sustainable development goals? And then what matters to you? Empower is where the students are able to step into what that looks like. For example, we look at emotions and how they can connect you to other people versus bring you down so that you can use your emotions as a superpower. Another chapter is “gratitude is the attitude and kindness is key”. Internalizing power, and then externalizing that through being nice to people and treating them the way you want to be treated. And then it moves into the create section. What is your story? What is collaboration? What is effective and useful collaboration? And then the last one is about bringing your vision of the future to life.
NN: That’s awesome. I love this. What are some of the challenges that the students you teach might face in doing this work and what do you offer them as a way to overcome those challenges?
JZ: A lot of the time it’s students coming in saying “I don’t know what I care about”. There are also some kids that come in and they’re like “I know exactly what I care about I just don’t know how or where to start.” They come in because they want to have a platform to amplify their worth. Some of them, though, don’t know where to start. They know that they care, but they don’t know what to focus on. And for them, I ask what intention means. I ask them what authenticity means. A nine-year-old today said, “I’ve never heard of the word authenticity”. It was cute. So it’s getting them to start to open their minds up to what is real for them. And there are two, nine-year-olds right now, but I’m actually working with emojis and having them write a song about their feelings using emojis.
NN: Wow. That’s so real and so beautiful that you’re offering this community as an alternative space where a lot of kids wouldn’t have that. I mean, camp is sort of that in a lot of ways, but I feel like you’re taking that camp community, utilizing it, and taking it to the next level. You mentioned emotions as a superpower. And I thought that’d be a great way to transition into you just had a song come out titled
“Supergirl”. Talk to me a bit about, about your work as an artist and songwriter.
JZ: For me, my soul and my heart, I just love singing. It’s part of who I am. And so I say, I am an artist and then everything from that, intention and not why is how I create. I don’t go, I need to sing in order to get the next hit single, it’s like, I need to sing… I obviously think and hold myself accountable for how do I sustain myself as an artist in some way? But the more I do it with pure intention and the more I do it because I love it, the more things come to me and opportunities present. So, specifically with Supergirl, because I produced a web series because I was nannying and I was seeing this girl obsessed with blogs and I was like, I don’t want to blog my life, but my life is quite literally sustainability, meditation, and mindfulness.
And so, I created the web series from that intention. Things will come to me where I’m like, okay, I love producing and I love acting. So, I’m just going to produce an act and in web series. And because I’m an artist and because I was a musical theater major for my first few years, I have the training to go, I’m going to create my own work, which more often than not, artists are told to do that anyway. So, I do that organically because I love to create projects. Supergirl came about because my uncle has the largest extreme sports company, I think in the world. And there is an event he runs that specifically is the largest women’s surfing competition in the world. So, women from all over the world come to San Diego and they compete and they surf and it’s so freaking cool.
I went to this event for two years and then my uncle was saying to me, I think that I’m going to need a song to market the event. And I was just like, can I pitch you a song? And he just said, if it gets stuck in my head, I’ll use it for our marketing materials. And I said, okay. It was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done because I’m a woman entrepreneur, I’m a woman artist, I’ve experienced the life of a woman being a woman. And so, empowering girls, and working one-on-one with so many young girls, it was just such a privilege for me to be able to create a song about stepping into a woman’s world and being an empowered woman.
NN: Well it has been a true pleasure and inspiration speaking with you. Thank you so much and we look forward to seeing all of the new generations of impact artists that benefit from your work.
JZ: Thank you so much. This was so much fun!
LINKS TO LEARN MORE ABOUT JADE:
LISTEN TO SUPERGIRL HERE: