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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.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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