Sarah Michelle Gellar rose to fame fighting blood-sucking evil some 20 years ago and she’s stayed on the side of good since. Today, her battle is not with creatures of the night in Sunnydale — it’s far more insidious. Her fight, one she is reticent to explicitly call out, is with Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vaxx, anti-science ilk in Hollywood. As a celebrity standing up and as a spokesperson for laudable non-profit campaigns for good science, Gellar is something of a standout. That’s not to say she’s not also your typical Hollywood actress. After all, Gellar is married to once co-star Freddie Prince Jr; she owns a twee baking brand that makes sure the ingredients in your kid’s unicorn treat pop kits are non-GMO and USDA Organic; she has a $6 million home in Bel Air that likely takes a small army of maids to keep immaculate; and her Instagram account is a wall of up-close, perfectly-curated, flattering-as-hell selfies.
But Gellar reaches well outside of the Hollywood echo-chambers and chooses good bedfellows. She has notably partnered with March of Dimes and aided in their campaign for universal Pertussis vaccines (i.e. whooping cough), fighting a misinformation campaign that has been threatening the health of all American children. Most recently, she partnered with Lysol in a not-for-profit campaign surrounding illness prevention in schools. She’s a helluva spokesperson — as fast-talking and quick-witted as the Joss Whedon-penned vampire hunter she so famously embodied — and clearly passionate about kids health
The motivation at least is clear: Gellar has two kids, now 8 and 10, who are the center of her world. She has dialed back her acting roles and is just now getting back to it with two TV shows, Sometimes I Lie and Other People’s Houses. And she’s been explicit that this is purposeful.
“I took a break because my kids were young, and I wanted to be home and have those moments. Now, they are at a place where they don’t need me in that same, you know, day to day, and I have the time” she recently told LifestyleMag.com. In another interview during her Pertussis campaign she said, “Once you become a parent, your main job is to protect your children in any way possible.” This about captures it.
Fatherly spoke with Gellar over the phone about her partnership with Lysol who is investing $1.5 million to send smart thermometers to 1,300 schools across the country and drawing awareness to the 60 million school days missed by students every year due to illnesses. She was, as ever, cordial, quick-to-answer, and wholly on message.
I feel a little funny about this, but thank you for being pro kids’ health!
I mean, thanks! As adults, we’re responsible to pave the way for kids’ health and education. That’s our obligation.
We here at Fatherly get upset that so many celebrities use their star power more often to promote adult self-interest than the safety and well-being of kids. What led you to put your efforts behind, well, science?
Preventing the spread of illness is an important goal. When you look at the statistics about germs and health and you look at the missed days every year, it’s something we need to do something about. When kids miss a few days, they really get behind. You have kids missing out and you can put great arts plans in jeopardy.
So other than vaccinate your kids, what can you do?
I know that my kids get tired of me telling them over and over what to do so I lead by example. Instead of telling my kids every day to wash their hands, as soon as I get home I go and wash my hands. I also let them help me and be part of the process of cleaning the table.
When we were getting the flu shot, the nurse gave my son a disgusting lollipop full of chemicals and sugar — we live a pretty healthy lifestyle, so I give him a horrified look and he says, “I’m going to brush my teeth as soon as I get home.” And he went home and brushed his. This is the example that we set.
You’re here for Lysol’s Healthy Schools initiative. What healthy habits are you promoting?
I have partnered with Lysol because I have a lot of respect for a company that takes their platform and leads by example. They’re helping to prevent sickness with these amazing thermometers they’re offering (Lysol has paired with thermometer manufacturer Kinsa to give TK# thermometers to schools around the country). I wish we had those when I was growing up.
The thing is, you can prevent getting others sick. You know that based on aggregated data that parents need to teach kids to be healthy. As a community it’s our responsibility to be able to shepherd people healthfully through a community. If your kid is sick from something, we need to keep them home. Otherwise you’re exposing others. And for some kids, school is essential, a safe space. Lunch is their main meal of the day and if they’re there at risk of getting sick, you’re doing them even more harm.
I have two typically gross kids — seven and two — and cleaning after them can be a nightmare. You’ve put a lot of thought into germs and communicable diseases — how do you stay sane?
I hesitate to call kids “gross.” We all get sick and we all pick up germs.
We talk a lot about coughing into your chicken wing. Those common sense techniques work. Cleaning your hands, cleaning surfaces. If you know a sneeze is coming, put tissues in your bag. I had a wipe on the escalator the other day. I know it seems much, but the amount of people touching that escalator is just… a lot.
There are times when you say, no really that’s gross, don’t touch that. Kids get dirty. They play in the dirt. Of course, dirt is building immunity too, so there’s a balance there.
Then again, my friend told me about their kid who found gum in a taxi cab and ate it…
That’s a prime example of why I feel I’m allowed to call kids “gross.”
Yeah, I’d lose it if my kids ever did that.
What healthy habits can we have for babies?
I’m that creepy person on an airplane who wants to hold your baby. Even so, as I taught my kids at a young age, for babies, you should look at socks and only then touch feet. Babies get touched in places not exposed.
And what about in-laws who have a different idea of germs and other things.
I think every generation does things differently and you have to be respectful that you know. That said, be polite and ask nicely. It’s not something I ever experienced, but just be kind about it. The first thing that they should do is wash their hands, especially in cold and flu season, before they hold the baby. Whatever those things are.