Actress Bailee Madison shares her passion for charity and takes us inside her latest collaboration with ME to WE + Call It Spring.
BY STAFF| PHOTOGRAPHY BY Ted Belton
“With opportunity comes dreams, possibilities and life.” Not yet 20, Bailee Madison is wise beyond her years.
She grew up on screen, starting out in films like Bridge to Terabithia, opposite actor Josh Hutcherson of The Hunger Games trilogy, and guest appearances on shows, including Unfabulous, the Nickelodeon series that launched Emma Roberts. While accustomed to the limelight, Bailee isn’t a young Hollywood cliché. Her perspective stretches beyond the bright lights, as does her work.
Most recently, global-mindedness has this multi-hyphenate—she’s an actress, producer and advocate—focusing on communities all the way over in rural Kenya. As for how this Florida native ended up dedicated to unfurling new opportunities for women in the Maasai Mara, that’s a story that begins with WE.
Followers of Bailee will be familiar with WE by way of WE Day, an event she has been a part of as both a host and a guest speaker. Through Bailee’s social feed, fans would have seen thousands of youth come together at WE Day events across North America to celebrate their impact as change-makers. (That’s advocate speak for people who go out and make a difference in their local and global community.) “WE Day [says] you’re not too young to make a difference” Bailee declares when explaining her involvement with WE. “I’m so attracted to that because I ask myself: How can I make a difference? Am I old enough? Am I capable? And the answer is yes.”
Already representing the WE community on the domestic front, Bailee widened her involvement to the international sphere after learning more about the charity’s woman-centric projects in Africa through WE Villages. Then came along a Call It Spring fashion collaboration with ME to WE (WE’s social enterprise and the brand behind those stylish Rafikis Bailee keeps wrapped around her wrists) and the actress found herself attached to the campaign and hosting a beading party at her family home in Florida, alongside a ME to WE artisan direct from Kenya. “I believe in what they’re doing, she says of the collaboration. “I believe in this cause and I’m grateful to be a small part of something huge that they’re inspiring people to do.”
Affectionately known as “Mamas,” artisans, such as Bailee’s guest Mama Pasiyo, are the women behind ME to WE’s beautiful accessories from Kenya. They handcraft each product, then, when consumers like you purchase the item, the sale goes towards a trackable impact in these artisans’ communities, like increasing opportunity for women or providing community members with a clean water system (a cause championed by Bailee’s fellow campaign ambassador, Jordan Fisher of Dancing with the Stars). Outside of this, the artisans themselves are empowered to transform their own lives and that of their families with the revenue earned from beading.
In Florida, Mama Pasiyo did more than teach Bailee and friends the secret to a traditional Maasai craft, she revealed to them the power of opportunity. “She had a totally different story than mine, but we both have hearts and we both want to do good and in that we are connected,” the actress says. In Mama Pasiyo, Bailee found a role model, a memory she plans on keeping close as a source of motivation. “I know how important it is for me to find someone that inspires me and makes me want to thrive to do better and give back. So the concept of me, hopefully, being that voice for even just one person is so amazing.”
Already a role model in our books, hear what Bailee has to say about the importance of giving back and advocating for women’s opportunity.
Beading on the beach with Mama Pasiyo, your friends and family must have been such a special experience. Is there one moment from that day that sticks out?
Being able to hear Mama Pasiyo’s story, and how much her mother impacted her life. I think just getting to hear her story and also experiencing the magic of making a Rafiki—[an accessory] I have worn and shared with my family—getting to understand what it is like to make one, made it that much more special.
Was beading harder than you expected?
So much harder… but so enjoyable; it’s soothing. I love that the women in the village are able to have that moment and that time together—it’s a bonding experience.
On the topic of bonding, what women in your life inspire you as a person?
My mom and my sister. My mom because she’s genuinely sacrificed so much… she doesn’t call it “sacrificing,” which is such an inspiration itself. She has lived and learned for her kids, and she has done it with the biggest smile on her face. Then my sister, I have watched my sister graduate high school, go to college, fall in love, get married and have a baby. It’s been the most beautiful experience for me to see. I can only hope that I am as gracious and giving of a sister as she is.
Tell us about the Opportunity Rafiki for ME to WE + Call It Spring. What impact will its sales have on WE’s partner communities in Kenya?
For those able to [make a] purchase, they are contributing firsthand [to] women in the village. They are saying “yes” to education, and they are saying ”yes” to a safe place for them to have income and provide for their families.
To be the face of a campaign is a big deal; how does it feel to be an ambassador for the ME to WE + Call It Spring collaboration?
I feel really grateful and honored. I don’t take it lightly.
What about the impact working on this project has had on you; how has meeting Mama Pasiyo and hearing her story changed you?
I think the impact that Mama Pasiyo has had on me and my friends [is] to appreciate each others’ lives. I think that it’s important to educate ourselves and to remind each other how blessed we are. Mama Pasiyo was able to put so many things into perspective; she taught us so much.