One For The Boys: An Interview With Samuel L Jackson
One For The Boys founder Sofia Davis and the charity’s ambassador actor Samuel L Jackson answer our questions for Off The Cuff
T&A: You’re Chairman for OFTB - why did you decide to support it?
Samuel L Jackson: When I was asked to chair the One For The Boys Campaign, it was an honour - an opportunity to use my profile with a campaign that has not only saved a friend’s life since it was launched, but has made me think a lot more about my health and most importantly, I now know a lot more about cancer in men. Though the subject may be a little taboo for a lot of men, we are on a mission to find a way to reach each man in the world through their interests. One For The Boys presents an opportunity for myself and other high profile personalities to come together in a fun way to highlight the importance of male cancer awareness.
T&A: What have you learned since joining the team?
SLJ: I now know a lot more about my own body and how important it is to get a problem checked sooner rather than later; most cancers are treatable if caught early enough. I’m the one now getting guys bringing up health when I’m talking with male friends, to show that it doesn’t make us any less ‘manly’ to talk health and possible problems.
T&A: What has the charity done so far to raise awareness?
SLJ: One For The Boys is still a relatively new charity, but it’s already achieved so much in a short period of time. We’ve had lots of guys get in touch with us to tell their story of how it encouraged them to get checked and they caught something early, so can now get treated and recover. We’ve been working closely with Public Health England and NHS Choices to really drive the campaign messages home, particularly through videos and social media where a lot of people nowadays get their information from. We’re also holding our first pop-up clinic this June in Canary Wharf, London, this will be the world’s best waiting room, and guys can come down and learn about their health while also checking out the fun activities.
Nobody knows your body better than you, so you know when something isn’t quite right. Don’t sit back and wait for it to sort itself out – go get it checked!
T&A: OFTB definitely puts the ‘fun’ in fundraising by opting for alternative charity events such as fashion shows, masquerade raves and karaoke, rather than more traditional options such as races or raffles. How did you come up with such unique ideas?
SLJ: Our aim has always been to get guys talking and paying attention to their health. But us guys are never going to sit there and seek out information or read a block of text, so we know we have to engage them through their interests. Races and raffles are cool and all, but those things aren’t part of men’s everyday lives. Music, sports, pubs, TV, etc. is where guys are at. So by holding events like these, it encourages guys to come down and experience them, and then while they’re there they can be exposed to some health-related info at the same time – which helps also normalise talking about men’s health openly.
T&A: What one big change can men make in their day-to-day lives to help the cause?
SLJ: We’re trying to remove stigmas around men talking about their health, so it’s all about talking. Talking with your friends, with your family members, with your colleagues – hell, why not even strangers in the street? Stop talking about the weather and talk about your health instead! But also it’s about paying attention to your body. Nobody knows your body better than you, so you know when something isn’t quite right. Don’t sit back and wait for it to sort itself out – go get it checked!
T&A: What have you got planned next for OFTB?
SLJ: This year we have our Fashion Ball and Pop-Up Clinic taking place in June, and we’ll be holding another Masquerave towards the end of the year in London too. Next year we’ll be launching One For The Boys in LA, and celebrating our five year anniversary with an awesome concert in London. So watch this space!
T&A: Sofia, what inspired you to start OFTB – was the catalyst one specific personal experience?
Sofia Davis: It is a very long story but in a nutshell, after spending hours and hours speaking to my dear friend Simon about his brother Ali and his dad and how Ali's diagnosis and death affected the family, I was committed to doing something to a: lift Simon up, b: pay tribute to Ali and c: find a way to help other men and families so they wouldn’t go through what Simon and his family did.
Having worked with Samuel L for years, I went to him for advice and he suggested that I should do some research on what was being done about male cancers - 6 months later, it was clear to see that we live in a very pink world, and for boys, it was mainly Testicular and Prostate Cancer that were being highlighted, leaving the rest of the cancers without much attention. With that, I set out to create a campaign that will highlight all cancers in men, educate and also raise awareness. I naively did not realise how hard it would be but our reasons for doing it far outweigh anything. We are still very young and learning but slowly we are building a strong support network and starting to see our activations go live. It is very humbling to get the letters, emails and messages from those going through cancer, those that have lost, saying we are doing a good job. With more support, we can really make a difference.
No matter who you are – male, female, rich, poor, young, old – in the eyes of cancer everyone is equal and can be at risk.
T&A: Have you had a good reception to the cause so far?
SD: One For The Boys is still very new, we officially launched in 2013 and have found that the cause has really resonated with people. No matter who you are – male, female, rich, poor, young, old – in the eyes of cancer everyone is equal and can be at risk. While more women do get cancer, more men die from it. This is often due to men leaving getting problems checked until it’s too late – whereas in contrast women are encouraged through campaigns and regular health checks to pay more attention to their health and be more proactive with visiting a doctor. Since launching One For The Boys, we’ve seen so many stories pouring in from people we meet, across social media, and from those who want to support us, as they all recognise how needed and urgent it is to change male attitudes towards their health and prevent unnecessary deaths from cancer from happening.
T&A: Which notable names have shown support?
SD: We’ve been lucky enough to have support from a number of people from a range of entertainment fields. Cancer affects everyone, so all of our supporters have their own personal reasons for supporting One For The Boys. Some notable supporters include (among many others), Dylan Jones, Stanley Tucci, Richard Roundtree, Haley Joel Osment, Luke Wilson, Alice Cooper, Mark Ronson, John Newman, Kylie Minogue, Nicole Scherzinger, DJ Fresh, Paloma Faith, Jillionaire, Craig David, Faithless, Lewis Hamilton, Chris Robshaw, Daisy Lowe, David Gandy, David Walliams, John Bishop and Simon Pegg.
T&A: OFTB focusses on male cancer, but what advice would you give to women – wives, girlfriends, sisters, mothers, daughters and simply friends – about helping someone who may be at risk?
SD: All of us women can help make a difference to the men in our own lives. We can lead by example by starting conversations with the men we know about health, and talking about when we’ve gotten things checked ourselves – to show that spending a few minutes at the doctors is worth it for your health.