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Last year, Sia's manager did something really brave. It inspired her new video.

On June 8, Sia released the video for "Feel Me," an emotional new song with a powerful message in support of a great cause.

Last year, Sia's manager did something really brave. It inspired her new video.

Sia is known for unique, visually captivating music videos. Her latest, for a new song called "Feel Me" is all that and important too.

Starring Zoe Saldana with narration by Julianne Moore, the video follows the impassioned journey of a mother-to-be who's just found out that she's HIV-positive.

The video — which was choreographed by Ryan Heffington (who also choreographed videos for "Chandelier," "Cheap Thrills," and "The Greatest") — is the stunning work of art the world has come to expect from Sia. But "Feel Me," and the cause it was made to support, has an important backstory.


The song was inspired by Sia's manager, David Russell, who came out publicly as HIV-positive in a 2016 interview.

Russell's diagnosis in 2002 inspired Sia to become more engaged in HIV-related activism. Over the course of the past 12 years, the two have worked together as manager and client — both watching the other grow in their own ways.

"I've been thrilled to witness Sia's reach grow further and further, all the while using her status as a person of influence for good," Russell writes in an email. "'Feel Me' is a gorgeous record and I'm so happy and proud to work with an artist as generous and open hearted as she is. She makes a difference."

Sia wrote in Billboard that Russell's "transformation of his shame into self acceptance has been magic to watch."

Photo courtesy of David Russell.

A lot has changed for the better since Russell first got his HIV-positive diagnosis.

That's due, in part, to efforts designed to fight HIV stigma — and messages like the one in Sia's "Feel Me" video.

GIF from "Feel Me" by Sia/YouTube.

"When I was diagnosed, it was only five or six years after the first round of anti-retrovirals were introduced so concepts like 'undetectable = non-transmission' or regimens like PrEP were either unavailable or not common knowledge," Russel writes. "I’d say the first five years of my living with HIV were at the tail end of the 'panic' years, and as a result I experienced a lot of negativity about my positive status."

Over the past five years or so, preventative treatments like PrEP and a fuller understanding of how and when the virus can be transmitted began making their way into common knowledge. As a result, HIV stigma has started to decline.

Sia during a 2016 concert. Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images.

Proceeds from "Feel Me" sales and streams will go toward the #endHIV Campaign's efforts to develop an HIV vaccine.

While HIV isn't anywhere near the death sentence it was in the '80s and '90s, it's still a serious issue without a cure. Nearly 40,000 Americans were diagnosed with HIV in 2015, adding to the more than 1.1 million living with it in the U.S.

"While this is a diagnosis nobody looks forward to it can also be a blessing in disguise," Russell writes when asked what advice he'd offer someone newly diagnosed with the virus. And that's really what the video is about — the scary moment of diagnosis and the flood of emotions that come after.

"Finding out I’m positive led me to look closer at my relationships, my health — both physically and mentally — and challenged me to live my life in the present.  We’ve made such enormous advances medically that anyone diagnosed in 2017 can expect to live a normal life with regular check-ups and adherence to medication."

"Feel Me" is now available on all major streaming and digital platforms. For more information about the #endHIV Campaign, visit the group's website.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via Anthony Crider / Flickr

Dozens of "White Lives Matter" rallies were scheduled to take place across America on Sunday. The events were scheduled in semi-private, encrypted chats on the Telegram app between Nazis, Proud Boys, and other right-wing extremists.

The organizers said the rallies would make "the whole world tremble."

However, the good news is that hardly any white supremacists showed up. In fact, the vast majority of people who did show up were counter-protesters.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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