Though beloved by many, Allison Williams isn't exactly known for portraying crowd-pleasing roles. Perhaps you know her as the notoriously self-centered Marnie from HBO's Girls or the downright evil villain in Jordan Peele's Get Out. But off-screen, Williams couldn't be more genuinely amiable and thoughtful (which is a testament to her talent as an actor). After juggling a crazy-busy work schedule for over six years, she's currently using her celebrity to raise money and awareness in an effort to bridge the education gap. Specifically, she's leading an initiative with Horizons National that gives children in low-income areas access to summer enrichment programs.
It's called 10 Days of Giving, and if you donate to Horizons, she will send you her curated products as a thank you. If you'd like to know more, then you're in the right place. We spoke with Williams to learn more about the program and how those patterns of inequality become relevant on-screen too. To find out more about which brands she partnered with and what kind of work Horizons does, read through Williams's explanation below. And since we're also always on the lookout for career advice and insight from stylish, intelligent, and successful women here at MyDomaine, we couldn't help but ask Williams for her best stress-management techniques and the most pivotal learning moments of her acting career. Get ready to take notes.
Unpacking Health and Nutrition Inequality
While the emphasis of Williams's campaign with Horizons is on bridging the education gap, she also spoke about the multitude of ways in which these issues arise in health and nutrition. When she asked if she had any affordable cooking tips or recipes to share for anyone wants to prioritize healthy eating on a budget, she joked, "I'm not a parent, and I cannot cook anything at all, healthy or otherwise." She did, however, have some insight into the systemic issues facing low-income households.
"But I do think one of the biggest problems that a lot of kids don't have access to healthy food year-round because it can be so expensive, and some of them live in these so-called food deserts," she shared. If you're not familiar with the term, food deserts are areas with a lack of healthy food options like farmers markets and grocery stores. These areas are almost always found in impoverished areas, putting inhabitants at higher risks for heart disease and diabetes.
A lot of kids don't have access to healthy food year-round because it can be so expensive.
"It's a big problem in cities, too. Especially with the kids who we cater to, a lot of times it's a single parent or two working parents, and there just isn't a lot of time for anything, let alone driving a long distance to shop for perishable organic vegetables and fruits, which are expensive … It becomes a balance of priorities that we shouldn't be asking anyone to make." That's why one of Horizon's main goals is to give kids access to healthier eating options throughout the day.
As Williams explains, "it helps to be able to have a full belly and be ready to learn during the day and provide kids with the energy they need. And sometimes they come from an environment where that isn't a given." We also spoke about the potential of community gardens as a way to make healthy fruits and veggies accessible in urban spaces. "I think doing things like gardening with your kids … is such a great activity," she says. "It can teach kids about nutrition, but it also is just such a meditative, calming, nice collaborative thing to do with your child. And it takes patience, tending, nurturing, and understanding biology."
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Stylish Footwear That Gives Back
Part of Williams's campaign with Horizons is about giving away awesome products to donors, and characteristic of Williams, she put a lot of thought into crafting meaningful brand partnerships. The first product to launch is Keds. "I worked with Keds company because I love its slogan, 'ladies first,'" said Williams.
Unpacking that idea further, she goes on to explain why sneakers, and Keds more specifically, send the right message to young girls. "I think, especially as girls are growing up, it's nice to have an inexpensive way to feel expressive and unique as they're trying to find out what their vibe is."
She's also including a wide range of products to make sure that a broad spectrum of people on different budgets can give as much as they're able to. "It's important to me that we offer a range of prices because I know that not everyone can afford to make a big donation to Horizons," she says.
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Her Mindfulness Approach
Though she's never taken a Myers-Briggs personality test, Williams thinks of herself as an extroverted introvert, meaning that her traits stretch across the spectrum. Over the years, she's realized that to recharge her batteries, "alone time is super important." Since she has a hectic work schedule, getting a ton of downtime isn't always possible, but sometimes a short calming routine is all it takes. "I've tried to … just collect my thoughts and breathe and be alone on busier days."
Most of the podcasts I listen to are about things that have nothing to do with me, so it's the perfect way to get out of my head.
Her go-to activities while she's alone? She likes to listen to podcasts while playing solitaire. "I find it soothing since most of the podcasts I listen to are about things that have nothing to do with me, so it's the perfect way to get out of my head and into someone else's reality and experience. And the solitaire is kind of mindless and mindful in the same way. For some reason, that seems to be a magical combination for me," Williams shares.
Surprising Lessons Learned From a Villian
While we had Williams, we had to ask her about her role in the highly successful film, Get Out. First of all, it was the first movie character she took after finishing Season 7 of Girls. "Marnie has been called a lot of things, but evil isn't one of them, [while] Rose is completely evil." She explained that the most fascinating and difficult aspect of playing Rose was that she wasn't meant to have any redeeming qualities, though many audience members may try to find some.
"I think people go a long way to try to look for white victimhood in that situation. In some cases, when a woman has been victimized in a certain way, that's totally legitimate, but I think that response is also applied in interracial situations and is really dangerous." So rather than trying to empathize with Rose, she felt that her "job was to give no excuses to people to not hate Rose. And I can tell you, as one of the authorities on Rose, she has no redeeming qualities, and she is evil to her core."
So how did she do it? "Just being alone somewhere in a dark room listening to dark music and not interacting with anyone. Total isolation was important," she explained. Williams also employed another clever technique: colored contacts. "It helped to be able to look in the mirror and see different eyes, for reasons I can't quite articulate. It just helped to kind of defamiliarize myself with the face I'm used to seeing in the mirror. But it was definitely unpleasant and difficult."
It helped to be able to look in the mirror and see different eyes, for reasons I can't quite articulate.
Despite dreading the shoot days when she had to film the scenes in which Rose was particularly sinister, racist, and violent, Williams found the challenging role worth it when she saw the end result. "I felt good about the job I did, and I felt like I had done right by Jordan Peele [the director] … hopefully making all the points he wanted to make along the way."
To make a donation right now, head over to the Horizons to contribute, and get a new pair of Keds sent to your home.