Elyse Fox Started a Club for Sad Girls and Now She Works With Selena Gomez

The filmmaker and storyteller opens up about her own mental health journey, advocacy work, and finally being seen.

Everybody's In: Elyse Fox

Courtesy of Elyse Fox

From the outside looking in, Elyse Fox was thriving. She had moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of becoming a filmmaker — and was actually succeeding. But her professional achievements were no match for an inner turmoil she was secretly braving.

“I had my dream job, I was making enough money to survive, and I was around a good crowd of people,” she explains. “But I was very unhappy. It was a shock because I thought I could just obtain or cross off all of these things on my manifestation list and that will equal success and happiness. I had to really look at myself and say, ‘If it's not everything else around you, then it might be something else going on with you.’”

Fox now realizes that she was suffering from depression, and after a suicide attempt, she decided to return home to New York City to seek help. At first, though, she was afraid to admit to her friends why she had left LA. That is, until she realized that the life she was portraying on social media and in her work wasn’t authentic to what she was really dealing with under the surface. 

So Fox decided to use her art to capture her battle with depression in the form of a short film called Conversations With Friends, which she released in 2016 on Vimeo. While the documentary was initially meant to serve as a release for herself (“Storytelling is the oldest form of healing,” she says) and a way to thank her friends and family for their support, the resounding impact was much bigger than she could have ever imagined. 

This is Everybody’s In, a celebration of people making the world a better place for everyone in 2023. You’re ‘in’ if you’re making an impact. Read on to see who’s with you.

“I received a lot of feedback from young women around the world who saw themselves in my story and wanted to tell their stories in a way that felt as authentic as the film,” she says. “I was really nervous to even just talk about these things, and a lot of the young girls and women reaching out to me were [also] ashamed.”

After witnessing how many others shared her experience but were afraid to voice their feelings, Fox created an Instagram account in 2017 to develop a safe space for women struggling with their mental health. But the small page soon blew up, and the popularity prompted her to officially start her nonprofit Sad Girls Club (aka SGC) with the mission to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, provide resources and mental health services to women in need, and build a place (online and in-person) for women to find solace and support. Now, the club has over 200,000 Instagram followers and has provided a total of 250 hours of therapy to members without access to these services.

“It's important to make [mental healthcare] accessible to everyone because it's non-negotiable for your overall health,” Fox says. “When you neglect your mental health, inevitably other parts of your life will start to decline. It's just as important as your physical health.”

As a woman of color, she originally put an emphasis on the mental health of Black girls to ensure everyone — no matter their skin color, ethnicity, or background — had access to help. “I prioritized women of color initially, because when I was looking for platforms with communities that resonated with me and with spokespeople who look like me, I couldn't find any before I created my own,” she explains. “I think there's this whole self-care aesthetic where girls who take care of their mental health look a certain type of way. No, whether you're from Colonial Heights or the projects, it's important for all of us to have that representation.”

Over the years, Fox has continued to make films spotlighting other artists and their internal struggles. Fox even founded a brand called Produced By Girls to lift up other women in the film industry, born out of the need to tell more stories centered around women. “I always feel like men get the spotlight more,” she tells InStyle. “It was back in the day when Odd Future, Frank Ocean, and a lot of male artists were getting so much attention. And I was like, ‘Look at all of these amazing artists, like SZA. All these painters and beautiful people who are doing great work,’ but [their] stories weren't being told.” Her dream is to one day fully shift her focus to Produced By Girls, but in the meantime, Fox’s mental health advocacy keeps her busy. 

When you neglect your mental health, inevitably other parts of your life will start to decline. It's just as important as your physical health.

In fact, Fox’s incredible work has even touched one champion who has famously been candid about her own battle with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Several years ago, Fox and SGC were approached by Selena Gomez to join the Rare Impact Fund as partners of her beauty brand. It had only been two years since the inception of SGC so Fox was shocked that they were already on Gomez’s radar. “I was like, ‘Oh, snap!’” Fox laughs. “It was really cool to know that we had that reach and she saw the potential and the value to also partner and work with us as a consultant.”

The fund was created by the actress and singer to spread awareness, destigmatize mental illness, and raise money for more accessible mental health services and education for young people (all on par with SGC’s mission). It’s their goal to raise $100 million in the next 10 years with the help of Gomez’s beauty company, Rare Beauty, which donates 1% of all sales to the Rare Impact Fund. Fox and her nonprofit serve on the board to consult for the brand, raise money, and highlight other smaller organizations similar to SGC.

Fox started her journey to express her own truth, but her bravery has ignited a movement that strives to make mental health a priority and offer support to every single person living with a mental illness or disorder. The filmmaker is a living embodiment of “Everybody’s In.”

“I feel sometimes we get so looked at, but don't feel seen or understood,” Fox says. “‘Everybody's in’ means a space for people to grow, to glow up, to show up, and to just feel seen, a place where you can be your true, authentic self without repercussion and without shame.”

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

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