Project Heal is a not-for-profit national organization which provides funds for people suffering from eating disorders to get treatment. Their mission statement reads:
We provide grant funding for people with eating disorders
who cannot afford treatment, promote healthy body image
and self-esteem, and serve as a testament that
full recovery from an eating disorder is possible.
Jenna Rose Simon is an artist who has made news with her drawings of verbal abuse and low self-esteem, among other things. She has teamed with Lilly Ketchman of Dance Moms fame and her mother, Stacey, to create a dance bag; the profits from those sales will be donated to Project Heal. Jenna, Lilly and Stacey were kind enough to answer our questions about the charity dance bag as well as their involvement with Project Heal for this article.
How did you meet Lilly and her mom, Stacey?
I met Stacey and Lilly via Instagram, though we have just met formally face-to-face in the last week! I had drawn Lilly a bunch of times, and Stacey reached out to me to see if we could collaborate on something to support the eating disorder population.
When/how did you discover that there was an opportunity to bring awareness to Project Heal, while also generating donations to their cause?
Stacey and I were trying to figure out a way to raise money for eating disorders, and my therapist told me that Project Heal is one of the best charities out there. I did an interview with them earlier this year about my art, so I asked Stacey if we could create a product and donate the sales to Project Heal. We tried to come up with something uplifting and also something that Lilly’s followers might enjoy. A bag that they could keep their dance stuff in seemed to be a good fit.
What about Project Heal’s mission do each of you identify with the most?
Project Heal is the only organization that puts donation money directly into the hands of those struggling with eating disorders. Insurance only covers so much and many patients don’t get the care or duration of care they need for this reason. Project Heal allows patients to apply for money towards their treatment costs if they cannot afford it. To me, this is a huge thing. It aids in helping those that want help but simply can’t afford it.
How long did it take you to create the artwork (which is gorgeous) for the bag? Am I correct in assuming that the figure on the bag is Lilly?
Yes! The figure on the bag is little miss Lilly herself. It took me about 2 hours to do the drawing, and an hour or so to add the writing and format the bag properly in my store.
What percentage of the profit of each bag sold will be donated to the organization?
My store sets the pricing for all products created, since I work with the artist network at society6. The company keeps the upfront costs to make the products sold on that website, and I typically get 1/5 or so of the sale price in return. I am donating 100% of what society6 gives me in profits from the sales of this bag to Project Heal.
Do you have other ideas/promotions planned to continue your support of Project Heal?
We do have at least one more product in the works 🙂
What do you personally hope to achieve by helping Project Heal meet their goals?
It’s just important to me as an eating disorder survivor to help those who need help. I was lucky that I had good insurance and a family that could help cover my treatment costs, but not every patient is as lucky. Treatment truly is hard enough by itself… I don’t believe it’s fair for money to ever be an obstacle!
How long have you studied dance? What is your favorite discipline?
I have been dancing since I was 2 years old, so it’s already been 7 years! I really love all types of dance and my favorite seems to always be changing. I love ballet and it teaches me proper technique which I use in all dance genres. I also love hip hop, which is the exact opposite. It’s so fun! I love that it is edgy, fierce, and that it shows confidence!
What made you want to team up with Jenna in order to do something to help Project Heal raise funds?
My mom came up with the idea when she saw Jenna’s amazing art. Jenna has experience with trauma and eating disorders and my mom is a psychologist and used to work with patients with eating disorders. I am a dancer and eating disorders are pretty common in dancers so it seemed like we were a good team for this cause. We have been trying to think of a way to use my Instagram to help others and teaming up with Jenna seemed like the perfect way to do that.
What do you think of the drawing Jenna did for the dance bag?
Jenna’s art is always amazing! I am in love with that drawing…especially because I can barely draw a stick figure! Her talent is unbelievable.
Have you/do you know (no names please) any girls – dancers or not – who may be struggling with an eating problem? Is it difficult for you to see? How does your mom help you? Is there anything you’d like to say to people who have an eating disorder?
I don’t know if anyone I know has an actual eating disorder, but I do notice that a lot of girls talk about being “fat” or “hating” their bodies. It makes me really sad because my mom has told me about how a lot of dancers’ struggle with body image. Sometimes I catch myself thinking the same thing, especially when you are comparing yourself to others in dance class. My mom helps by reminding me to eat healthy, but not to focus too much on what I look like. Dancers have all different body types now. I would like to tell everyone that everyone is different and there isn’t one perfect way to be. Try not to compare your body to others because what is healthy for one person might be different than for someone else. No matter what you look like, you can be an amazing dancer.
What do you think is the most important or most immediate thing Project Heal needs help to accomplish?
We are trying to raise money for people with eating disorders who can’t afford treatment, but even if we don’t raise a ton of money, we hope to raise awareness especially with dancers. I want to get the message out that there are all different body types for dancers, and they are all amazing!
Stacey Ketchman (Lilly’s mom and a psychologist):
I understand that you are a psychologist who has worked with patients who have eating disorders. How long have you worked in that area? Is there a segment of our population that is more vulnerable to developing these issues?
While I was in graduate school, I had specialized training in eating disorders. As a result of this training, I was able to take on patients with eating disordered behaviors or thoughts throughout my career. As a former dancer, I have a special interest in the area, as dancers are more prone to eating disorders than the overall population. Research on incidence varies, but on average, the incidence of eating disorders in the white middle-class population is about one in a hundred. However, the incidence in ballet dancers is one in five…a dramatically higher number. When you think about it, it makes sense. In dance, especially ballet, you wear tight fitting clothing and spend countless hours staring at yourself in a full-length mirror. This, along with the presumption that a ballet dancer should be extremely thin, places these dancers at a much higher risk of developing an eating disorder.
How much does our society’s views on women and femininity feed into disordered eating issues?
Think of it this way. If we, or worse, our children, get information about what the ideal female body form is from TV, magazines, or movies we may mistakenly believe that the 5’10” and 120lbs. fashion model is “perfect.” In reality, this would be considered underweight by medical professionals. Despite this, many young girls and women may strive for this unrealistic and unhealthy goal, even resorting to restricting their diet, over-exercising, inappropriate use of laxatives, and/or purging, placing them at high risk for dangerous eating disorders.
What can parents do to help mitigate the mixed signals that young people receive regarding appearance? Additionally, what (if any) are the signs that could alert a parent(s) to the start of an eating disorder?
It is the responsibility of the parent to ensure that their children understand that images on magazine covers, for example, are not realistic. In fact, even high-end fashion models with professional hair, make-up, and styling are often highly manipulated and augmented in the photo editing process. You can’t trust what you are seeing these days! I think that it’s important for parents to be on the lookout for warning signs of eating disordered behaviors. These include such things as skipping meals, repeatedly saying they “already ate,” visiting the bathroom following meals (possible purging), excessive weight loss, preoccupation with weight, calories, or fat grams, frequent comments about being “fat,” development of food rituals (e.g. chewing a specific number of times, eating food in certain order, etc.), wearing baggy clothes to hide weight loss, and social withdrawal. If you are unsure, it is always best to consult a medical professional.
How can a parent initiate a conversation about disordered eating with their children? Are there any key words or phrases that they should avoid?
There is no perfect way to approach a child about eating disordered behaviors. In general, it is best to be open, honest, and specific when talking to your child about a possible eating disorder. While speaking to them, remember that eating disorders are less about “food” and more about emotional well-being and control. Be prepared for your child to engage in denial, silence, emotional outbursts, all of which are possible reactions. Avoid being accusatory or asking them “to just stop,” and instead, show understanding. Lastly, don’t forget that listening is as important as speaking.
As her mom, how are you helping Lilly to stay self-confident?
I do my best to model a healthy body image. Children listen to what parents say about their own bodies. However, we all fall victim to negative comments about ourselves. I use this as an opportunity to teach her that we all struggle with body image at times and that it is okay, as long as it doesn’t take over or dictate our lives. Sometimes Lilly makes negative comments about her body, such as “I can never be a dancer, I’m too short and not skinny enough.” I respond by empathizing with her and pointing out that we all have thoughts like this sometimes, while at the same time, I convey to her that these thoughts have never gotten in the way of who I wanted to be or what I wanted to do. Leading by example is always the best way to positively influence your child.
What are you hoping to help Project Heal achieve?
We are hoping to raise money for individuals diagnosed with eating disorders who are unable to afford treatment. Additionally, by utilizing Lilly’s platform on social media, we are also hoping to raise awareness to a targeted audience susceptible to eating disorders.
Thank you all very much for your time. It is clear that these women are as passionate about helping others heal as they are about their art. Please take a minute or two to click on the link to the dance bag in Jenna’s store. As she stated 100% of the profit from the sales of this bag will go to Project Heal. This is your opportunity to reach out to women and girls everywhere who have been afflicted with eating disorders.
For updates and additional information, you can follow Jenna and Project Heal on Twitter at:
Jenna Rose Simon