By Donna Bulseco
On a recent rainy Saturday in New York City, Mary Alice Stephenson was honoring and empowering a group of foster children by providing them with new wardrobes, eye exams and a “family portrait,” a photo taken of them with their new families, to celebrate the auspicious moment. With GLAM4GOOD (G4G), her nonprofit organization, she’s done the same kind of soul-restoring work for survivors of national disasters, breast cancer, gun violence, and domestic violence and substance abuse, as well as veterans and underserved school children.
With every initiative that Stephenson plans and attends as founder and CEO of G4G, she hears stories—stories of pain, stories of overcoming, and stories of hope. These narratives may seem like a far cry from the glamorous ones she heard as a fashion director, editor and stylist for Vogue, Allure, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire and O, but in truth, it’s her ability to use style and beauty to engender change that has a real-life social impact in the worlds GLAM4GOOD serves.
“I think there’s a spiritual magic that happens when you connect heart-to-heart with people,” says Stephenson, who started G4G in 2012 (it became a full nonprofit in 2016). “When you’re in the trenches with women and their families, you are fueled on every level. You can be physically exhausted but spiritually fueled. Miracles happen every day when you are connected to your truth, and people see that.”
Stephenson also understands you can get lost in these stories; burnout seems inevitable. But she was lucky enough to learn an incredible centering exercise from a well-known advisor: “When I first started, Deepak Chopra told me, ‘Imagine yourself leaning back when you feel these waves of emotion; feel it, then lean back from it. When you’re caught up in the emotion of things, even though that can be beautiful, it can take you away from your center, and above all, you must stay grounded when doing this kind of work.’”
Being centered has allowed Stephenson to continue being a witness to moving stories—and there are always more to hear. GLAM4GOOD has become a powerful nonprofit, having partnered with Michelle Obama for its first international event in 2015, providing baby showers for military families stationed in Italy. In all, Stephenson says her group has helped over 28,000 women and their families, welcoming each one of them at every event, big or small, in a unique way: “As people arrive, we ask them to join in a circle. We encircle them, so they feel a circle of love.” It’s important, she says, to create a safe environment for people who are going through a tough time. “We give people permission to share—and also let them know that it’s OK to have fun,” emphasizes Stephenson. “We give permission to reveal truths.” glam4good.com