The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “follow up with your government officials to make sure that the House continues to support bills that give relief to communities in need.”with Carolyn Paine and Candice Georgiadis

As individuals, we need to continue to stay informed through media coverage. Maybe even more importantly, reach out to friends, colleagues, and neighbors and make personal connections to really learn what is going on in Puerto Rico and what you can do whether it be donating goods and supplies or donating money to relief efforts. The important thing to realize is that recovery in Puerto Rico is still ongoing. While major threats such as lack of water and electricity may not be the issue, there are still so many ripple effects on a human level for those who live there. Day to day lives for many people are still not back to “normal.” But this goes beyond just Puerto Rico, there are many communities all over effected by natural disasters needing relief and help to return to normalcy. You can reach out and connect. And you should follow up with your government officials to make sure that the House continues to support bills that give relief to communities in need. Helping these communities is not a waste of time, taxpayer money, or personal resources.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Paine, an actress, dancer, choreographer and comedian. She has been featured in national commercials and tv shows/webseries. She is the director and founder of CONNetic Dance -best known for her quirky and funny contemporary “Nutcracker Suite & Spicy.” Carolyn’s choreography and dancing have been critically acclaimed and featured in national dance magazines. Additionally, her comedy shorts have been recognized at the Women in Comedy Festival and at the International Comedy Festival in California.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up loving to perform-needing to perform actually. I trained at Boston Ballet intensively from a young age and after graduating high school continued with that professional training in Europe before going to college to study theatre at University of Hartford. For me, the biggest challenges have been finding ways to get to do everything I love-from dancing to comedy to acting. And that’s one of the reasons I love creating projects of my own, because I get to combine everything and really use my unique voice and talents.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

The experiences and opportunities I have had are so incredible. Definitely one of the most interesting stories I love to tell is about the time I got flown to China for one weekend to perform as a back up dancer for American pop star impersonators. It was a wild weekend. We left New York City on a Thursday night, performed in two cities in these huge venues to screaming crowds, squeezed in some whirlwind tourism, and then flew back on Sunday. That Sunday we actually had breakfast in Hong Kong and dinner that night in New York City. It was the closest I ever have gotten to understanding what it would feel like to be a glam rockstar and it was certainly an adrenaline rush.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

HA! Probably my first headshots. I think every performer will relate. You look back on those and think how hilarious they are and how hopelessly clueless you were awkwardly stumbling into your first auditions. But that’s the best part of this industry, you are always getting to grow, always learning, and evolving.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

When you are at all in the public eye-which pretty much everyone is nowadays with social media-I believe you have a responsibility to not just use that power and visibility to promote yourself, but to promote what you believe in and to make others think. We all have the power to call others into action and to make change. We are living in a world where everyday the news brings stress. And rather than sit back and be stressed, I want to use my voice as a performer and comedian to effect change, but in a way that also makes people laugh. With this motivation I have created several political comedy shorts/web videos. I also feel that it is so important to follow what is happening in the world and keep our eyes and hearts open to those needing support. There are so many ways you can get involved and make a difference. Even small efforts can make huge differences in another person’s life. Acting on this principal and inspiring others to do the same is why I feel so lucky to be able to use my platform to make an impact.

Earlier this year, I was inspired to use my platform and connections to help out young dancers in Puerto Rico who are still struggling following Hurricane Maria in fall of 2017. The news of the hurricane’s devastating effects on the island of Puerto Rico moved many people and helped ignite a lot of generous fundraising directly following the storm, even though the support from the US Government was not generous. But the lasting effects of a storm of that nature run deep. In fall of 2018, I read articles about how some places were still without power, and many buildings, including schools, were still damaged beyond use. I also read that the arts communities, while being strong and vibrant, were suffering to keep afloat. As all artists know, money for the arts is tight in the best of times. This made me think about young dancers in Puerto Rico and how this all must affect them. I reached out to contacts I had and connected with a public school in San Juan that is famous for ballet training, Escuela de Ballet Julian Blanco. I learned that the school, like many others, had suffered damage, some studios even having holes in the floors that the students danced around. And many students lost their homes and belongings, and dance supplies were in short order. Through my social media reach and connections in the dance and theatre world, I collected thousands of dollars worth of new and very gently used dance supplies from fellow dancers, dance educators, dance schools, and dance stores. I then worked with JetBlue airlines to have them help me bring the 8 giant boxes of donations to the students in San Juan. I got to spend time with these amazing young dancers and their teachers in the studio. I documented my whole effort and trip on social media to inspire others. And to show how beautiful Puerto Rico is. Even if you just want to go visit. Which you should!

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

Before I left for Puerto Rico, one of my ballet students who is on scholarship came up to me and donated some of her gently used leotards. This beautiful act of generosity from this young girl who gets the opportunity to study dance thanks to the generosity of others was so moving. I was very proud of her and so touched that she wanted to be part of this community of giving back.

When I met the young dancers in San Juan, I was struck by how unbelievably talented they were and in awe of how they persevered through the storm and its daunting aftermath to continue to pursue their passions. I got to spend time with them and teach dance class and it was so much fun to laugh and dance together. And then to see their faces as they opened the boxes with all the dance supplies-including ballet shoes, jazz shoes, pointe shoes, leotards, legwarmers-everything they could need. Every student was touched by this. And I also loved getting to know the teachers at the school and hearing their stories about life during and after the hurricane. They told me about having to take water home from the school when their own home had none. And talked about having to teach in the damaged studios. But their spirits were never broken. These dancers and teachers were all so strong and inspiring. I feel not only did my efforts impact them, but they impacted me. I saw shining examples of how art can bond us together and keep us going, even through the darkest of times. And I made some great new friends.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

Reading about the hurricane and the lasting struggles and lack of support and funding was really hard. And, personally, I was inspired by my mother, who, in late 2017, led an impressive fundraiser for Puerto Rico in Boston, where she lives. She did this simply because she couldn’t stand to just sit back and watch people in such need. I saw how passionate my mom was and heard first hand from the organizations she connected with about what a difference she had made and I felt I wanted and needed to do something too.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

As individuals, we need to continue to stay informed through media coverage. Maybe even more importantly, reach out to friends, colleagues, and neighbors and make personal connections to really learn what is going on in Puerto Rico and what you can do whether it be donating goods and supplies or donating money to relief efforts. The important thing to realize is that recovery in Puerto Rico is still ongoing. While major threats such as lack of water and electricity may not be the issue, there are still so many ripple effects on a human level for those who live there. Day to day lives for many people are still not back to “normal.” But this goes beyond just Puerto Rico, there are many communities all over effected by natural disasters needing relief and help to return to normalcy. You can reach out and connect. And you should follow up with your government officials to make sure that the House continues to support bills that give relief to communities in need. Helping these communities is not a waste of time, taxpayer money, or personal resources.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I used social media to collect donations from contacts near and far. It was so heartwarming to get so many responses of people wanting to donate, mail their donations from all over to me, and help. With just one post. And that’s all anyone would have to do. People are so stressed with what is going on in the world, that many people are eager for ways to jump in and be part of the good, be one of the helpers in the world. If you are willing to do the work, and start the heavy lifting, you will find many people will come out to support your efforts and help lift. So don’t be afraid to take initiative and do something you are inspired to do to help others. Social media really makes our world so much smaller and accessible which makes it possible for anyone to do something for good using it. Trust me, you’ll feel better about those posts for social good than even your best selfie.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Lately I have been feeling that the thing we need the most is to have the strength to continue to feel empowered. Despite things that happen politically that try to take that from us. Especially for women and young girls. It would be amazing to inspire a movement in which we all get to be reminded of how powerful we can be as individuals as well as when we come together. Like the Women’s March in 2017 which was so freaking awesome. I was at the one in NYC and it was one of the most beautiful and breathtaking sights to behold. I would love to see more unifying movements like that happen and to be on the front line of it. I would especially love for art-theatre-dance-music to be a driving force or product of it as well.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There is a quote of life advice Teddy Roosevelt once relayed saying “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” I first heard it in college in a Political Science class and it stuck with me. I am an ambitious person who generally suffers from wanderlust, bordering even on FOMO. But that quote sunk in and has served as a constant reminder that I am where I am for a reason. And even if it isn’t where I ultimately want to be, there is a lot I can accomplish and enjoy here and now. So whenever I feel frustrated about where I am at with something-professionally or personally, I just remember that I can do a lot with what I have and where I am. And in doing that, I’ll get somewhere else! Or at least be less whiny!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Can I please have a boozy brunch with Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Samantha Bee, Sarah Silverman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Michelle Obama to talk about girl power, comedy, politics, activism, and the best kind of champagne cocktails.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

On instagram: @c__paine

On twitter: @carolynpaine

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “follow up with your government officials to make sure… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.