Changing A MINDSET
By Jen Forsyth
Sometimes , the best way to succeed is to have humble circumstances and people telling you a dream isn ’ t attainable . It makes the journey and final result all that much sweeter , and the look back on how you changed lives , hearts , and the mindset of so many people , all the more rewarding .
Producer , director , and activist Jacquelyn Aluotto set out to make her impact on the world from a very young age , influenced by her mother . “ My mom always encouraged us to volunteer ,” she said of her upbringing in Edgewater , NJ , “ and if she had two dollars in her pocket , she gave it to someone in need .”
Those lessons stayed with Aluotto as she grew and pursued her dreams in film . After high school she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York City . After spending some time in front of the camera , she realized she would rather spend her time behind it , and using that time for good making her very first movie . So in 2000 , she headed back to Edgewater and to a job at a beloved place in her hometown , Rusty Kale ’ s Restaurant and Pub .
Aluotto ’ s determination was unlike many filmmakers . She read everything she could about documentaries . She studied the craft . As she worked at Rusty Kale ’ s , she began to save quarters from her earnings in large Poland Springs water jugs from the restaurant . By the end , she saved enough quarters in enough water jugs to equal $ 20,000 . Once that total was achieved , Aluotto hired her crew and began her journey .
Her first contact for her film was Sandra Ramos , who ran Shelter Our Sisters ( S . O . S .). It was then Aluotto learned how vital domestic shelters were to women and children trying to escape violent situations , as these places not only provided shelter , but computer classes , self esteem courses , GED classes , and other vital programs . “ You can provide them a bed , but if you don ’ t provide them progress , it ’ s going to be a revolving door .”
Aluotto set out to make Not In My Backyard , a documentary about abused and homeless women and children . In 2012 , the film screened in Washington , DC and received a standing ovation at The World ’ s Women ’ s Conference of Shelters .
Despite the accolades the film received , shelters for abused women and children were closing down . Their funding was still getting cut . Human trafficking was a problem . Aluotto , determined as ever to keep her message in the forefront and to change the mindset , set about a way to make the message “ sexy ” and get celebrities involved so people paid attention as well . Aluotto created Real Beauty Real Women ( RBRW ) and her idea of the “ Socially Conscious Fashionista ” was born .
“ Our war on poverty . It ’ s the working poor . It ’ s human trafficking . It ’ s a $ 32 billion industry . And no one is talking about it !” Aluotto exclaims . Through RBRW , Aluotto and her team work with celebrities on a web series , they make over shelters , they endorse fashion and products with the proceeds going to several charities . There is even an upcoming national campaign to combat human trafficking . Celebrities that have worked with Aluotto have included Russell Simmons , Sofia Vegara , and Jordin Sparks , and actor Luis Guzman even lives as a homeless person and appears in her latest documentary .
“ Funding is either getting cut or staying the same ,” Aluotto explains the problem . “ It ’ s so frustrating . You don ’ t want to turn anyone away , and we need solutions !”
The answer is in your famous people , Aluotto says with relief . “ Once you get celebrities involved , you
14 INSPIRING LIVES WINTER 2017