The Father Of The Year Awards celebrate both influencers and unsung heroes who have made a major contribution to fatherhood, kids, and communities.
At 34, Justin Baldoni seems to have it all. The actor, director and documentarian best known as the dreamily handsome Rafael Solano on CW’s hit show Jane the Virgin, but he also heads his own production company, Wayfarer Entertainment, leads a foundation, Wayfarer Foundation, and has produced and starred in the most watched Youtube web-series of all time, a chronicle of young people with terminal illness called My Last Days. As if that weren’t enough, he also recently welcomed his second child with his wife, the Swedish actress Emily Baldoni. So, yeah, you might think Baldoni has the perfect life, but that idea — the notion that men should have wives and children and money and power — is exactly what Baldoni rebels against.
For many years, Baldoni struggled with his own identity as man. Growing up in Oregon, the son of a gentle Ba’hai father among tobacco-chewing gun-firing stoics, he was a natural target for bullies. Partially as a result of that and partially due to a broader societal proscription against struggling openly with one’s own insecurities, he explains, he kept his problems bottled up . The consequences were troubling. “As I moved through my twenties, dating and learning who I was, I felt I was in conflict with who I was in my core and who the world was telling me I was supposed to be,” he says The world told him that admitting to weakness was weakness. The world told him he had to be invulnerable. He didn’t buy it.
Since having a daughter, Maiya Grace Baldoni, in 2015, Baldoni has devoted himself largely to examining where exactly those ideas of manhood come from and how to undo them. “Having a daughter accelerated my work significantly,” he says, “Becoming a dad is a very sobering thing. I was actively working on getting through my crap but when I became a dad, it became a priority” According to Baldoni, “In the Bahai faith we are taught that it’s about your deeds not your words. That is what being a father is about.” Baldoni knew that if he could not find a way to be vulnerable and open, he could not be the father he wanted to be.
To help foster those conversations, Baldoni is launching a show called Man Enough. a much needed addition to the national conversation about masculinity. The weekly show is half dinner party, half therapy session with a rotating cast of guests including men like the actor Matt McGorry, MMA fighter Anderson Silva, comedian Bassem Youssef, and actor Javier Munoz bro out while discussing topics like body image issues, marriage, the meaning of happiness and, of course, fatherhood. It’s full of moments of real vulnerability and the kind of emotional truth that Baldoni felt was lacking in his life.
“There was a moment we were talking how important it is not to allow shame to fester,” Baldoni recalls, “and Matt McGorry, sitting at a table with five other dudes, admitted experimenting with boys when he was younger. He said he had a lot of shame. And I thought that guy’s a vulnerability superhuman. It takes true strength and true bravery to be vulnerable.”
It’s a full circle for Baldoni. “I remember when I was a kid, I’d get mad at my father for being so soft,” he says, “Now I realize he taught me so much about how to be a good man, a good human being and a wonderful father.”