Some people skydive for fun, some for the rush, and some to get over fears. So why can’t you skydive for a cause? This weekend ,AnnaLynne McCord is going to skydive from 18,000 feet to benefit the Somaly Mam Foundation and fight human trafficking!
This is all part of the annual 18for18 campaign, which is being put on by Serinda Swan’s Friends to Mankind foundation. All money earned (and you can still donate!) goes to SMF, which is headed by Cambodian survivor of sex trafficking Somaly Mam. This is the second time AnnaLynne will be taking part in the 18for18 campaign, and the cause is so important to her that she also visits Cambodia to meet with the rescued girls. I caught up with AnnaLynne to talk about her involvement with the Somaly Mam Foundation, how her adopted cat Beach is doing, and why she chose to support the St. Bernard Project for her birthday.
Photo: AnnaLynne McCord with a pal in Cambodia
ACT: You’ve been part of the 18for18 campaign before! What’s skydiving like?
ANNALYNNE: [laughing] Well, I’ll preface it by saying I had gone skydiving once before in my life, but it was a leisure trip and I had only jumped from 10,000 feet. 18for18, as the title suggests, is 18,000 feet. I was like, “Oh, no big deal.” I’m a kind of fly-by-night girl. If someone wants me to run a 5K, I don’t exercise, and I’ll just go run the 5K because it’s for charity.
My favorite part about skydiving, I have to say, is after you’ve pulled the parachute and you’re settled in and you’re floating down. You can pull the strings very tight and it brings the chute like it’s going to wrap itself around you. And what happens is, it’s the most silent thing I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s an interesting paradox: the intensity of throwing yourself out of a plane to, two and a half minutes later, the most tranquil moment of your life.
ACT: Can you tell us about the campaign, too?
ANNALYNNE: Serinda Swan, who is also an actress, had this idea ... I think it was 2011. I was invited to join in the second jump, which was last year. Her idea was, “What are we fighting for?” We’re fighting for young girls who are subjected to the most dangerous situations, and they somehow survive. They go back and face their psychological fear, reliving those experiences in therapy. So she came up with the idea of, “Why don’t we do a fund-raiser where we have to face a fear?” Some people love it, but there’s a legitimate rush to jumping out of a plane.
Last year, I think they raised about $70,000. It was supposed to be 18,000 feet for $18,000 ... that was the goal. Now they have a $100,000 goal, and I think we’re over $50,000. The jump is on Saturday, and we have an event on Sunday to do the final collecting and announce the amount of money we raised.
Photo: AnnaLynne McCord and her skydiving team
ACT: How can people join you in getting involved with the Somaly Mam Foundation?
ANNALYNNE: Awareness is the number-one thing. That is as simple as telling your friends. This is a global issue in every country in the world. You can follow me on Twitter and follow Somaly Mam on Twitter and re-Tweet the information. You can go to Somaly.org and learn the statistics and facts. I have a very special way I like to raise awareness. I want people to want to learn the information, as opposed to being preachy about it. So I like to buy the products my girls [the trafficking survivors saved by SMF] make. I wear necklaces, for example, which get a lot of attention. Every time someone tells me how beautiful they are and asks how I got them, I can tell the story. Every time I go to Cambodia I basically clear out the store, buying all the dresses and tunics and little things the girls are learning to make. But you can also buy those online.
Donating and fund-raising help. You can raise awareness at churches, schools and homes, and do fund-raising projects within those communities. At the website, somaly.org/donate, it gives a list of where this money goes, what it’s doing, who it’s going to help.
You can become a volunteer with the girls, which requires background checks and international travel. That takes more effort and investment and time, but it’s very rewarding. I’ve had groups go with me every year.
ACT: For your birthday, you asked people to donate to the St. Bernard Project. Why did you choose this cause?
ANNALYNNE: I got involved with SBP around the same time I got into anti-trafficking work. They were for two totally different reasons. With SBP, I made a trip to New Orleans after the storm and I wanted to see the rebuilding. It in no way occurred to me the damage would still be so catastrophic. We’re coming up on eight years [since Katrina] and we still have over 1,000 families who have never been able to go home. I took a cab down to the most affected areas and the cab driver was like, “Are you meeting someone?”
I was like, “No, just seeing the area.”
He was very hesitant. He said, “I don’t want to take you down there.”
I said, “No, no, I want to go.”
He said, “I don’t want to leave you.” There was a lot of concern, and I was kind of dismissive of it until I arrived. When I got out of the cab, I was not in America. That’s all I could think. This was how a developing country looked. I felt the desolation; it was really heavy. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it, thinking, How did I not know? How did we not know? I understand about people not knowing about issues in Haiti, or Cambodia. I understand how Americans tend to talk about America. But this was America. Why weren’t we talking about this?
After the first season of 90210 wrapped, I went down and helped build houses. The founders of St. Bernard Project are now my good friends, and my 18-year-old cousin, instead of going to college this year, is working with Americorps. It’s kind of a family thing for me.
Photo: AnnaLynne McCord and a friend in Cambodia
ACT: When we last interviewed you, you told us about your cat Beach, whom you’d just adopted. Can you tell us how she’s doing?
ANNALYNNE: She’s very well! She’s the crazier of my two cats. The first day I got her home, there was no need for initiation. She took over the house and told my other cat, Bunny, to bug off, because this was her place now. They’re so playful now, they’re hilarious. Whatever I’m doing, my baby follows me. She’s like a little dog, though I don’t have to take her out and walk her. I have millions and millions of mommy pictures with her. The wonderful thing about Friends of Animals in Utah, the place I adopted her from, is that they have an open-cage policy. All the cats are free to roam about instead of being limited and caged.
ACT: What do you wish you knew as a teenager that you know now?
ANNALYNNE: That’s interesting. I actually have a backward philosophy with that. Sometimes I wish I had what I had as a teenager that I don’t have now, which is that fearless naïveté. I went to New York at 15 and thought I was going to take over the world, and at 26 I know there are a lot of bad things that could have happened to that 15-year-old girl. I’m still that person, believing that fear is the only thing you should fear, but I’m quicker to second-guess things now. At 15, I was ready to take it all on.
ACT: If you could pick any fellow celebrity to volunteer with, who would you pick and why?
ANNALYNNE: That’s an easy one for me. It would be Angelina Jolie. There are so many amazing things celebrities can do just by lending their face, but she does more than that. She did it when the cameras weren’t there and when the cameras are there because she knows what it brings to the cause. She’s a very high-profile actress who already has the admiration of her peers and her fans, but it wasn’t about that.