Celebrity Activism Series: A Beacon of Hope – Lana Parrilla Shows Us The Power Of Never Giving Up

Written by Stephanie Lapointe

“If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going”

 

When it seemed hopeless for Britain during World War II as Germany was continually gaining ground, Winston Churchill delivered a speech to inspire a military and public losing hope. His key message was simple: when it feels like we can’t keep going, that’s the time to fight harder. There is some debate whether he said the above quote, but it perfectly summarized the message he sent to Britain because giving up couldn’t be an option when so much was at stake. And if darkness had won and hope was lost in that instance, we’d be living in a much different world right now.

Bullies Keep Out supporter, activist, humanitarian and philanthropist, Lana Parrilla, echoed similar words at the 2017 College Signing Day with Michelle Obama’s organization, Better Make Room when talking to students who were getting ready to start their next chapter. Lana experienced one of life’s toughest tragedies during college when she lost her dad. Her own personal grief led her to drop out when it all got to be too much: a decision that Lana regrets to this day. When looking back, she wishes she fought through her own personal hell and finished what she started. What’s important in the message she shared with students, however, is that even though Lana dropped out of college, she didn’t give up on her own personal education and ultimately, herself.

All of the work that Lana has done, the stories she’s shared, and the messages of hope she sends to her fans are all in the spirit of the message that Winston Churchill shared: no matter how dark and hopeless life seems to be, we need to keep fighting. There’s too much at stake to give up. And, most importantly, we’re in this together. And it’s this consistent message that has inspired a group of fans, primarily young women, to find strength and hope in sharing their stories and finding community.

But how? These words are powerful on their own; however, it takes more than the right message to truly inspire action among people. So how has Lana accomplished becoming such a beacon of hope for so many people? I believe there are a few key reasons:

  • Lana chooses to support organizations from a very personal and genuine place. If it’s a message that she can relate to, she will do everything she can share it, gather support from her community and be part of the solution.
  • She understands the power of her platform as an actress, is thankful for it and takes being a role model very seriously.
  • She played a character for seven years whose story showed that a second chance at happiness is within our reach when we never stop fighting our darkness.

The combination of these factors, in my opinion, contribute to Lana’s current vision and role as an activist. She truly encompasses the message that we can reach our potential if we keep fighting and never give up. Below are only some of the ways we’ve seen her play an important role in inspiring change among individuals

Better Make Room

In 2017, along with being part of a College Signing Day event, Lana visited the White House for the first time on behalf of Better Make Room with Michelle Obama and other public figures. She met with members of the Student Advisory Board who were working on ways to inspire more high school students to go to college. Education is so vital for youth to build a future for both themselves and their communities. Lana has worked hard to support an organization that strives to find ways for all youth to have the opportunities required to reach their potential and claim their space.

Face Forward LA

Lana is the Global Ambassador for Face Forward LA, an organization that provides emotional and physical support to women, children and men who have been victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and/or cruel and criminal acts. In 2017, she won the organization’s Beacon of Hope award for all the work she’s done to raise money with her t-shirt campaigns and generate awareness about this incredible organization’s mission. In her acceptance speech, she summarized the work Face Forward LA does as giving these survivors choices again by restoring their sense of self-worth and hope to reclaim their space in the world.

Lana has such a positive influence over so many of her young fans with her support of this organization’s mission that many, who saw her acceptance speech where she talked about the stories our scars told, were inspired to share their own experiences with the hashtag #EveryScarHasAStory and even created a video to show their resiliency. With Face Forward LA’s vision, programs and a promise of hope, it’s no surprise that Lana wanted to be their global ambassador. And the benefit of this role can be seen among Face Forward LA’s community of survivors and her own community of fans.

FINCA Canada

Lana is also an ambassador of FINCA Canada, an organization that has pioneered microfinance and other financial solutions to help “alleviate poverty through lasting solutions that help people – women in particular – build assets, create jobs, and raise their standard of living.” Lana’s decision to be part of this organization comes from a personal place because she has had to persevere through many obstacles to reach her current level of success. She’s driven, hard-working and willing to fight for what she wants which makes her the ideal voice to empower women who are resilient and strong yet are held back because of geography, gender, and poverty. It’s been proven in many development projects that women’s prosperous success in struggling communities directly contributes to its growth.

We’re looking forward to a couple of new programs soon to be launched that Lana will be part of to help women living in poverty in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo get the resources and support they need to be agents of change.

LGBTQ+ Organizations

Lana is also a long-time advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and supports a few organizations with the mission to help end discrimination and strive for equality and fairness for all. In 2012, Lana gave a speech at a Human Rights Campaign gala where she talked about her personal reasons for caring so much about the LGBTQ+ community. She believes that love is genderless and wishes everyone had that child-like acceptance of people regardless of their sexuality. She has family and friends who she’s seen struggle with discrimination and overcome adversity to find happiness in their lives. She believes this is possible for everyone and will do what she can to support those who are struggling with their sexuality and identity.

Along with her messages of support, love, and hope, she has recently gotten more involved with The Trevor Project, a not-for-profit that offers programs and services to teens who need a safe space to talk over the phone, online and text. The mission of these programs is to help save lives by offering support and hope for youth who feel lost and alone.

Bullies Keep Out

Lana has also been supportive of our organization, Bullies Keep Out, for years because she, like many of us, has been bullied. The current message she sends on this issue is to fight back by finding the strength to not let it impact us. She encourages people who are bullied, whether in person or online, to find strength and love in friends, family and themselves to minimize the detrimental impact bullying can have on their self-worth. Essentially, she’s saying that the only way someone can diminish our light is if we let them. And the more we show that strength, the less leverage a bully has to hurt us.

It’s a really strong message about taking back power in these situations because we’re worth it. We’re here, we’re special and we all have something to contribute. We’re very lucky to have someone as strong as Lana be such an advocate for bullying with us.

Bullies Keep Out Founder: “Lana Parrilla has had such an amazing and inspirational impact on my organization Bullies Keep Out, and her support she has shown myself for what I do as well. I am constantly inspired by her and all she does. You find great motivation in that when someone has the same mindset as you. You can relate to them on different levels, not just as someone you find incredibly talented in their work as an artist/actor. I find one of the most attractive things about people is their heart and who they are as a person. How humble they are in everything they do and how they give back. That is what Lana exudes consistently. You can’t help but love her for that. I have made connections and partnerships because of Lana that has been extremely personal and important to me, such as being partners in advocacy with Face Forward LA. That cause is not only very personal and close to me but BKO as well and what we do here. Lana has one of those personalities that is all love, kindness, and respect. She wants to help and give back more than anything. Even in her work as an actor, she wants to inspire any way she can. I admire that about her. I am the same way in all I do. And it’s amazing when people like that come together. Her activism and impact she makes is something one aspires to achieve. I am grateful to all she does and honored to have met her and gotten to know more about her over the years. She truly gives her entire heart and soul to everything single thing she does. This includes her friends and family. The dedication to others is just something beautiful. And when you meet people like that, it makes your heart smile to know such people exist. In a world where there can be so much negativity & bad things that happen, there is so much beauty in people like Lana that overrides all of that. She doesn’t hold back. This woman a true humanitarian in every sense of the word. BKO and myself are honored to have her support and be able to highlight some of why I absolutely adore this woman. Lana will always have our support, and my personal support. She truly has a huge heart and is a beautiful person inside and out.”

“There is a certain way people can present themselves when speaking, and in having the pleasure to interview Lana and witness her speeches, it brought me to learn things about myself personally, and also to publicly start speaking about my own trauma and struggles as she has, which I have done very little of over the years. I’ve been helping so many most of my life, giving back, and telling others stories so much I forgot about myself. She helped me finally be able to tell mine even if just a bit, and if it helps just one person, it was worth it. I am forever grateful for that.”- Dana Jacoviello

 

And this isn’t everything Lana’s involved in! Along with these important issues, she’s also shown her support for many other organizations that strive to end animal cruelty, tackle the growing concern of climate change, fights for women’s rights, end gun violence, support Puerto Rico and the list goes on.

Lana has said that it’s part of her DNA to help people because she’s grown up in an environment of volunteering where she and her family would help feed people and keep them off the streets. Because of her upbringing, life experiences, struggles, and successes, she learned the valuable lesson that when she kept fighting, even in the most seemingly hopeless moments, she could discover the knowledge and find the strength to meet her own goals of success. Her role as an activist, humanitarian and philanthropist show all of us that it’s possible to fight for ourselves and our communities. It’s within our reach to achieve our goals. Because, if we can get through what seems like hell, we have the power to succeed and claim our space.

We’ve been so lucky to see Lana’s talent on-screen and the hard work she puts into perfecting her craft as an actress and storyteller. But what’s even more inspiring is that she puts the same hard work and effort into using her platform to help people by showing the power of resiliency, hope, and love. We’re all so lucky to have her as a role model because many of us have benefited from her messages of strength and her big heart. Thank you for being our beacon of hope, Lana.

 

 

 

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