In the midst of the Harvey Weinstein maelstrom, Alyssa Milano fired off a nighttime tweet. She thought, "Let's just try this."
Ten minutes of her attention, tops. Then she went to sleep beside her young daughter.
This was October 2017. You probably saw it. Everybody saw it.
She recalls thinking, "At least it puts the focus on the victims in a way that they didn't have to tell the story of their accusers."
Milano awoke to 53,000 replies. Within 24 hours, "#MeToo" appeared 12 million times across Twitter and Facebook. Within two days, the phrase was trending in 85 countries.
Milano, 46, has been bedroom-poster famous since she was a tween on Who's the Boss? yet felt "like I was in over my head," she says, sitting in a Manhattan hotel lounge over lunch last month. "But I realized that this collective pain could be transformed into a collective power." She also went back into therapy to deal with two assaults and the resulting panic attacks that she had endured for years.
She was named one of "The Silence Breakers," Time's collective Person of the Year. Outspoken and ubiquitous, Milano went into overdrive. She appeared on Capitol Hill during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and protested in front of the White House. She visited Parkland, the border and Flint, Mich., launched an activist collective challenging the NRA's political influence, and campaigned for Democratic candidates and against Georgia's abortion bill.
Of all people, it is a star of anodyne television who became one of #MeToo's leading voices, pushing it to the forefront more than a decade after Tarana Burke founded the movement. Milano gained enduring popularity from that comfort-food programming, and she has harnessed it — and her abundant social media skills — to become an A-list activist.
She's the Jane Fonda of the current era — if Fonda hosted Project Runway All Stars and appeared in a continuous loop of Charmed reruns.
Perhaps that's the point: the acting never detracts from the activism, which has assumed primacy in her work. In more than three decades of working on television, 77 credits, Milano has not once been nominated for an Emmy. She currently stars in Netflix's critically reviled Insatiable. Yet here she was in New York to accept another major philanthropic honour, possibly her 35th since that tweet — she has lost count.
"The past year and a half has been one sustained Alyssa "Freaking" Milano moment, which isn't about to stop.
Last week, and this being 2019, she launched a weekly podcast, Sorry Not Sorry, with guests such as Joe Biden and Burke. In October, Scholastic Books will publish the first volume of her Hope series about an African-American middle schooler, which is intended to empower children age 8 and older to forge social change.
For the 2020 election, Milano plans to raise $1 million, and another $1 million through matching funds, for grassroots voter turnout efforts in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.
As an actor, she's adored by fans — Samantha Micelli! Phoebe Halliwell! — who may loathe her politics. In Alabama, where she campaigned for Democrat Doug Jones, Republican voters mobbed her for selfies. She's relentless on social media to her 3.5 million Twitter followers — more than Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg combined. Milano's largely impervious to criticism and threats while receiving plenty of both. "I feel like they're screaming in the wind," she says of her trolls.
"Boots on the ground" is Milano's motto, pointing to her black Doc Martens (ever ready, stashed in the car). She has been a UNICEF ambassador since 2003. Being present and empathetic are key to her activism. She's become the sitcom confessor, the repository of #MeToo stories from strangers, whom she welcomes with hugs and her cell number, asking them to text and stay in touch. And she frequently disarms critics by being someone they don't expect her to be. "I'm not trying to take away your guns," she tells firearm owners while, on her website, threatening to "sue the pants off" the NRA. "We're actually a two-gun household."
Filming Insatiable in Atlanta became a political opportunity. "There's a lot of good trouble to get into in Georgia," says the actress, who has a professor come to the house monthly to teach her constitutional law. Milano is "a committed, passionate fighter and advocate for reproductive rights in Georgia and nationally," notes former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in an email.
After the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sex abuse in the Catholic Church, Milano contacted state attorney general Josh Shapiro via Twitter offering to help survivors. "Now we talk or text several times a week," says Shapiro, who enlisted the actress to campaign for Democratic legislative candidates. "She understands the power of storytelling to affect change."
None of this is new, Milano says. Though activism "has been part of my life forever, having social media has sort of shifted and magnified the work that I do," she says. "And also made it so I could create the opportunity and not wait for it to come to me.""
Source: St Catharine Standard