HUMANS WE HEART: ELYSE FOX, FOUNDER OF SAD GIRLS CLUB
Mental health can be a touchy topic, but thankfully, people like Elyse Fox don’t shy away. Her nonprofit, Sad Girls Club, is a haven for BIPOC women that encourages speaking freely about tough issues, offers real-world tips for feeling better and creates community between its followers. We chatted with Elyse about all of the above, plus her own personal self-care journey.
Hi Elyse! Mind if we start with a few getting-to-know-you questions? COFFEE ORDER:
I actually just ordered a matcha latte with oat milk and a little bit of agave.
Loving sweatsuits in really bright colors right now.
BOOKS ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND:
I’ve been reading to my son a lot and getting him into the Montessori lifestyle these days, so mostly children’s books!
Music/podcasts in your earbuds:
I listen to this podcast called Morbid. I love crime shows and movies. I notice that I get in my head a lot, especially when I'm in the car, so it's like a getaway for me, even though that sounds very creepy [laughs].
We’re so happy to talk with you for Mental Health Awareness month. Your nonprofit, Sad Girls Club, has grown so much since it was founded in 2017. Could you speak a bit about how it first began and has evolved over time?
Sad Girls Club derived from a film I created after I got out of a five-year-long abusive relationship. I was
living in Los Angeles at the time and moved back to New York City. I was so depressed. Everything had changed.
Gentrification had transformed my neighborhood. I filmed everything around me. At the end of the year, I
released a film to show my friends and family, "see, I'm doing all of these cool things, and my Instagram might
look super lit, but I'm struggling internally and you need to check up on me.”
Almost immediately, girls from around the world as young as nine were saying, "I see myself in your story. My family never lets me speak about mental health. How can I be more open?" Many young women needed a space that was cool and inviting. I was like, I can either complain or create this, so I created it.
Sad Girls Club started as an Instagram page where I was sharing tips, tools and definitions of what we're experiencing. After about a month, I noticed the majority of members were in New York. Even though I was broke as hell and didn’t know what I was doing, I decided to have an event. The topic of mental health is so daunting and feels heavy, but I wanted to make this a lighthearted thing.
We had our first event in February 2017, and a 16-year-old girl who attended told me, "Please don't let this be a one-and-done thing. My generation needs this." I promised that we’d continue Sad Girls Club and have meetings as often as we could. We had them every month until COVID. Our Instagram platform is now over a quarter million followers, and we have almost 300,000 followers across all social media platforms.
We prioritize the mental health of Black women in the BIPOC community because we’re the most traumatized people in this country, but we receive the least amount of specific care. I want to make sure that what I put out into the world for us is intentional, beautiful and engaging, and creates a thread of communication, not just at the events, but in other aspects of life. I want to teach people how to speak in the workplace or at home about mental health by providing easy tips and tools. I think that's what attracts our audience the most because the attention span of Gen Z is probably 30 seconds. We try to meet them where they are instead of the other way around.
Wow, it really is such a beautiful story, and amazing how it grew and became so impactful so quickly. 2020 was a particularly tough year for most people, mentally and physically. What has the Sad Girls community dynamic been like through it all?
It's been really interesting. We took a step back for the first few months of COVID. I didn’t know what to do, so I surveyed our community to find out what they actually wanted to learn about. At first, we were putting up too much toxic positivity and our community was like, "Hell no. We want to focus on a real act of healing.” I was like, okay, we won't do any more of that.
I felt a theme of loneliness throughout our community. They really wanted other people to talk to outside of the four walls of their apartment. And they wanted the space to get away without leaving their space. So, we launched a really cool program called Soul Sessions, which connected people from around the world with a therapist to talk about anything. I think we were really missing that community feeling, but we made up for it in a digital space. It was beautiful to know that someone in Canada was connecting with someone in Zimbabwe about their issues. It's kind of like, "We're all going through this, and it really sucks. It's not just you, you're not weird, you're not different, but here's what helps me. Here's what makes my day a little bit better."
Yes, that’s so great that you all were able to adapt and find a new way to connect. And on a personal level, you must be busy running all of this and being a mom. How are you taking care of yourself these days?
I'm trying a bit more now. I experienced a massive amount of burnout over the holiday season. I had to mentally and physically check out for two months, and then I was like, I really don’t want to feel this way again. How can I prevent it? I started incorporating little restful moments within my workday so I have something to look forward to.
For instance, after this call, the matcha I ordered will be here and I can savor it. I blocked out 15 minutes to enjoy my drink uninterrupted. It’s already in my schedule, it's built out, I've made time for it and I've planned for it, so when it happens, it's not an interruption.
Love, love, love that idea. And finally, since this is our Humans We Heart series, is there someone you admire that you’d like to shout out here?
I want to heart a woman named Brianne Patrice. She just launched a space that is healing women through their sexual trauma and turning it into their own sexuality—not owning the trauma, but working through it and not making it a part of their identity. She has been so helpful to me as a mom who’s finding her way back to being more sexy. She's just so confident in that world and I'm completely not [laughs].
Another woman I heart is Deja Foxx, a young activist. She’s a Columbia student who worked with Kamala Harris's campaigns. I wish I was that bold when I was 20 years old. I like to give Deja her flowers while she’s still young and finding her path into activism. She's doing the damn thing.
We could say the same about you, Elyse. Thanks so much for the interview. Get to know Sad Girls Club right here.