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A new men’s talk show in the works will challenge gender norms. Hell yes.

Justin Baldoni, of The CW's 'Jane the Virgin,' is on a mission to change masculinity.

A new men’s talk show in the works will challenge gender norms. Hell yes.
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images.

The reflection staring back at Justin Baldoni in the mirror looks, to him, quite a bit different from the svelte leading man his fans see on television every week.

He sees a version of himself that's about two decades younger.


That person is gangly, awkward, and pimply, Baldoni says, complete with crooked teeth hiding behind rows of braces and a large nose that draws taunts from bullies from near and far.

"I didn't have a date for homecoming because nobody wanted to go with me," Baldoni recalls of his teen years. "That's who I still struggle with when I look in the mirror."

"I struggle with massive insecurities about my body," says Baldoni, who plays Rafael on The CW's "Jane the Virgin." "And I'm a guy who takes my shirt off on TV every week."

Baldoni believes he has a form of body dysmorphia. And he's certainly not alone.

"As a man I can tell you right now that I struggle with my own body image & there are infinite layers that contribute to why," Baldoni writes in his caption on Facebook. Photo courtesy of Justin Baldoni.

Forms of mental illness in men stemming from body image have become an increasingly concerning issue.

It's a topic the actor thinks people aren't talking about enough, and research suggests he's right. Studies show that men with body image issues are far more likely to go undiagnosed and untreated than their female counterparts, because men are more likely to suffer in silence and hold off on accessing help out of shame.

Even though it may be scary, Baldoni knows he's only able to take his shirt off for his day job because of the various forms of privilege he's benefitted from (namely, that his current body conforms to society's standards of male attractiveness). So he's certainly not asking for a pity party in honor of his insecurities.

He is asking, however, for change on behalf of men everywhere.

That's why Baldoni is launching a new talk show focused on exploring what it means to be a man in 2017.

"I believe we need to adjust and change the way we see masculinity," Baldoni notes. "Who says masculinity has to be forceful and powerful and strong? What if it looks different? What if it looks different for every single man?"

[rebelmouse-image 19528283 dam="1" original_size="750x938" caption=""[Men] need to be able to not judge each other," Baldoni wrote on Facebook. "To hold whatever is happening in our lives, to cry together, and listen to each other." Photo courtesy of Justin Baldoni." expand=1]"[Men] need to be able to not judge each other," Baldoni wrote on Facebook. "To hold whatever is happening in our lives, to cry together, and listen to each other." Photo courtesy of Justin Baldoni.

The first two episodes of the series (the title has yet to be determined) are in production this summer by Baldoni's media company, Wayfarer, and will live on an online platform that will also provide viewers with helpful resources on a number of issues affecting men.

Experts and celebrity guests — including actor and activist Matt McGorry ("How to Get Away with Murder") — will help Baldoni parse through a wide variety of topics that affect men of all colors, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and identities, Baldoni explains.

Actor Matt McGorry will be in the first two episodes of Baldoni's new talk show. Photo by Catrina Maxwell/Getty Images for SCAD.

The second episode of the show will be dedicated to body image.

"I'm absolutely nervous," Baldoni admits of the deeply personal endeavor. "I'm also terrified. I'm insecure. I feel very vulnerable and exposed at the same time."

Baldoni began thinking about creating a talk show for men after his marriage proposal video went viral in 2013.

The video, which has amassed a whopping 11 million views to date, was originally meant to be shared with only wedding guests, the actor says. But he and his wife, Emily, reluctantly posted it to YouTube after being egged on by family and friends.

The 27-minute long proposal shows Emily reacting to an epic video pre-recorded by Baldoni — one involving boy band performances and a car chase — as she waits, shocked, in the restaurant where the couple went on their first date. In the video's conclusion, Baldoni appears in the restaurant to ask for Emily's hand in marriage.

Reactions to the proposal online were ... mixed.

Baldoni with his wife and daughter. "My personal truth is that I get pretty damn sad when my girls leave," he wrote on Facebook. "Even if it's just for a week and a half." Photo courtesy of Justin Baldoni.

Women, overall, seemed to appreciate it, Baldoni recalls. They shared it with friends and excitedly congratulated the couple. Men, on the other hand, tended to either attack or mock Baldoni for the dramatic gesture. At least, that's what they did publicly.

Privately, men complimented Baldoni, emailing him their thoughts and asking for advice in proposing to their own partners. Baldoni remembers an intimidatingly buff stranger at the gym who quietly approached him, admitting the video made him cry.

"I realized we have an issue," Baldoni says. "Men are embarrassed to share their feelings.”

That embarrassment — along with a lengthy list of other negative effects sprouting from traditionally held gender roles — has far-reaching ramifications.

“There are too many signs that our world is overrun by the wrong kind of masculinity," Baldoni says.

Suicidal men are literally dying for somebody to talk to. Substance abuse is silently affecting the lives of men refusing to reach out for help.

In Washington, bravado seems to trump substance.

"Trump and other men like him exist everywhere," Baldoni says. "And they’ve always existed." Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

More men need to know it's OK to be open, to be vulnerable, to be flawed.

"Maybe you're someone who's struggling with depression, or maybe your career isn't going as well as you want it to ... maybe you're addicted to porn and you're so embarrassed about it that you've never talked to anybody," Baldoni says. "Reach out and start to build strong male relationships that don't focus on what game is on or what NBA player is killing it."

"At some point we have to learn how to open up because we need each other," Baldoni notes. "Masculinity doesn't have to be as lonely as it is."

To keep tabs on Baldoni's new talk show, which is slated to premiere in late fall 2017, follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."