Jessi Cruickshank on shaping the next generation of activists
How to achieve balance in life? It’s a question Jessi Cruickshank has been asking herself for years. It wasn’t until she became a working mom that she realized balance was, in fact, “bullshit,” to quote the mother of three.
Cruickshank, Canadian TV presenter and media personality, has a lot going on. In addition to hosting its iconic New mom, who is it? Facebook Watch Series, a way for women to share their honest experiences around motherhood with unparalleled candor and humor, she is also a passionate activist who devotes her free time to volunteering and raising awareness on a range of issues.
So it was only natural that Cruickshank would end up being part of the Global Citizen’s Champions of Change program, advocating for sexual health and reproductive rights, climate action and gender equality. Speaking to Global Citizen from her home in Los Angeles, she says joining the program made her reflect on her commitment to social justice – something that dates back to her childhood in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Her first attempt to rally people behind a cause was in third grade, when she put up signs all over her school reminding people not to litter. The irony of using paper to convey an environmental message does not escape him; she gladly laughs at the memory, dazed by her determination at that age.
“I took it upon myself to talk about something important to me and get the whole school involved,” she recalls. “I’m just amazed that I had the urge to do this. Looking back on it, you know, I have kids. I wasn’t much older than them. I marvel at how I was young when I started.”
A few years later, she showed the same commitment to supporting children with special needs who were not allowed in the theater program she was part of. A competitive gymnast who became a committed theater student at the time, the injustice of children being excluded from an activity she loved resonated with her.
“I went to see the principal. He told me it wouldn’t be a good choice, so I took it upon myself to start my program for people at my school. I gave an acting class at the lunchtime on top of everything else in school.”
Cruickshank’s resolve grew as she began to see the impact of her efforts on the community, with parents approaching her with tears in their eyes, thanking her for being there for their children.
This first course was the first in a long series for the actor, who then taught a similar program for people with special needs in Toronto, always with the belief that change happens on a small scale.
“I wasn’t there to change the world, but I was changing the world for one person, and I think that had an equal impact on me because it pushed me to keep doing that in every way. facets of my life,” she recalls. .
So she continued to follow this path, devoting her time to non-profit organizations and documentaries in developing countries, such as India and Ecuador, and continuing her practice of theater for special needs after. having moved to the United States while volunteering in his community of Los Angeles. .
Becoming a mother only reinforced her belief in the importance of activism.
Giving birth to her twins, in particular, increased her appetite for change. Far from its near-perfect portrayal on social media, the experience turned out to be a hilarious exercise in patience, chaos, and hope.
“On the internet there are so many poems and inspirational quotes and women running in the fields, breastfeeding…I wanted this for myself because that’s all I knew,” she said. declared. “When my twins were born premature and were taken off my arm and put in incubators, I was like, ‘Wait a minute. I got my nails done, got my lashes done, and I’m not even going to have the nice picture in the hospital.’ This whole myth of flawless motherhood came crashing down the moment my children were born, and I had to build my version of it, and I continue to build that version every day.
The version of motherhood that Cruickshank strives to build is based on authenticity. For her, the world is a messy place – and that’s what makes it fascinating. Ultimately, she wants her children to reflect on the world they live in, encouraging them to show care and empathy to others by leading by example, without imposing judgment or subscribing to a set of rules. unjust. She’ll pick up trash on the street hoping her kids will follow her lead, or bring it with her as she volunteers at Born to act gamers — a theater program for people with autism and Down syndrome — on Saturday mornings, always with the intention of showing motherhood in all its forms to its audience.
“I think being an influencer mom who comes off as perfect should be a criminal offence,” Cruickshank joked. “I see my role as being the antithesis of that, to show how difficult and fun it is to be a parent.”
More than raising her own family, it’s the desire to inspire the next generation of activists that drives her forward — and, as you’d expect, humor is paramount in that effort. For Cruickshank, it’s the “number one currency on planet Earth” and, besides giving back, the key to happiness, but she’ll happily give it up when the need for serious conversation arises.
This was the case during the pandemic and at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. Shortly after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, Cruickshank toned down the comedy to strike up an honest conversation with three black women — a mother, a child development specialist and an activist — as part of an episode of his show. The purpose of the episode, she says, was to step out of the limelight to focus on black voices and experiences, while acknowledging the relative power imbalance and privilege at stake.
His Platform also provides a way for women suffering from postpartum depression, baby loss, etc., to share their views in a safe space, without injunctions or judgments.
She intends to continue using her voice to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
“I’m not here to say I’m changing the world by putting reels on the internet, but if I can impact someone who might be struggling, then I’ve done something,” she said. declared. “I really want to help use my platform as a woman who isn’t afraid to use my voice and speak out, and I want to shout from the rooftops that building an equitable future must start with us.”
The equitable future that Cruickshank dreams of is one where everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic background or ability, has a fair chance to succeed. It’s an end goal she believes is possible and one she plans to continue to pursue through her involvement with Global Citizen.
The comedian is particularly passionate about reconciliation with Indigenous communities in Canada and addressing climate change and the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls around the world.
Some of these challenges can seem daunting, but she believes change doesn’t have to be as difficult as we make it out to be.
“A lot of my work as an activist has been to tell people, especially young people, that whatever their age, [they] have the power to make a difference in someone’s life. Don’t be afraid to start small,” she says. “It starts with that neighbor down the street. It travels to your school and to your college campus, your community, your social media network, and your country. When you break it down like that, it feels a little less overwhelming and more achievable.”