Democracy for ALZ: Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns’ Jean Journey
The holiday season is a special time for sharing stories, passing down traditions and the opportunity for making memories that last a lifetime. That’s the dream. And yet, for millions around the world, Alzheimer’s disease can disrupt the simplest joy of family reunions. But did you know that women are more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than men? And that women make up more than two-thirds of all caregivers for those living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia?
For Democracy Clothing founder, Caren Lettiere, these statistics are personal. She lost her own grandfather to Alzheimer’s and recognizes that this disease could further affect her family as well as many others in the Democracy customer community. Democracy has been devoted to helping women feel vital and empowered in their skin. But how can you feel vital if you can’t remember who you are?
When we decided we must do something to change the course of Alzheimer’s, Caren turned to her college friend Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns, who lost her own grandmother and mother to Alzheimer’s. Elizabeth serves as Chair of The Judy Fund, a philanthropy named in honor of her mother, which has raised more than $9 million in donations in support of Alzheimer’s research. The Judy Fund is the largest and fastest-growing family fund at the Alzheimer’s Association®, leading the way in Alzheimer’s research for women.
Are you ready to make a difference in the fight against Alzheimer’s?
As proud supporters of @The Judy Fund, a movement dedicated to eliminating Alzheimer’s disease, we want to ensure that we help preserve precious memories and celebrate the women who provide love and care to those affected this holiday season. In that giving spirit and in conjunction with #GivingTuesday on November 30, 2021, Democracy is making a $10,000 donation to The Judy Fund.
We’re pleased to introduce you to Elizabeth and share her Jean Journey. Read on to learn more about Elizabeth’s change-making advocacy work as Chair of The Judy Fund, visit the Judy Fund website and then join Democracy by making a contribution to raise money that can end the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s on women.
Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns’ Jean Journey
Where do you call home?
Santa Monica, California
Tell us some things about you!
I’ll start my Jean Journey by saying I wear many hats! I’m a wife of 38 years, extremely proud mom of three, independent film producer, foundation director, gardener, traveler, jean lover, women’s advocate, UCLA alum, storyteller, daughter, friend.
After 25 years working at Paramount and Universal Pictures, I struck out on my own as an independent film producer. My advocacy work in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease brought me to Lisa Genova, the award-winning author of “Still Alice,” a New York Times bestselling novel, which changed the way people think about the disease. We went on to produce a feature film starring Julianne Moore that centered around a 50-year-old woman’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. I coproduced the project, not just because it was an important story that we’d get to tell in a really engaging way; I picked it because I lost both my mother’s and my grandmother’s brains to Alzheimer’s disease. I was very motivated to make a film about what it must feel like to have that disease.
In addition to producing projects for film and television, I also serve as the Chair of The Judy Fund, a philanthropic foundation my father named in memory of my mother in 2003. Through The Judy Fund, we raise and grant money in support of Alzheimer’s disease research in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association.
At Democracy Clothing, we’re all about looking good and feeling good while doing good. What’s the “good” you’re doing in the world?
As the Chair of The Judy Fund, we raise and grant funding for Alzheimer's disease research with a focus on women's brain research. Our goal is to change the trajectory of Alzheimer's disease by supporting research that leads to disease modifying drugs that will usher in the era of Alzheimer's survivorship.
Our focus is on women's brains and Alzheimer's, as the disease has a disproportionate impact on women — two-thirds of people over 65 years of age who have Alzheimer’s disease are women. But we do not know why. That is what drives us to build a pipeline for women’s brain research — the same thread that drove me to help bring “Still Alice” to movie theaters worldwide.
What pearls of wisdom do you have for other change-making women?
Find your thread and keep pulling it along. Don’t be afraid to step out and find the thing you love to do, and put a lot of time and energy into making that thing happen.
What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to finding clothes that look good and feel good?
Finding the sweet spot between clothing and styles that I like to wear and what looks good on me (or at least what I think looks good!). My life can take me in different directions, so I need clothing that works with a fast-paced, flexible, layered lifestyle. For me, that means classic casuals in high quality fabrics, clean neutral colors (love my reds and blues, too), and soft, comfortable styles. Comfort is everything!
How has finding Democracy Clothing empowered you?
I’m so glad that Caren and I found each other all those years ago at UCLA. I am so lucky to team up with Democracy Clothing to shine a light on women's brain health — raising awareness and funds to support women's brain research and Alzheimer's disease. This work continues to allow me to pull at that thread, great storytelling/meaningful work/women’s brains….and looking and feeling good in my Democracy clothes!
What’s your favorite Democracy jean? What do you love about it?
I love my caper-colored Democracy "Ab"solution utility cargo jeans —
great fit, comfort and style!
What advice do you have for becoming more comfortable and confident with who you are? How have you embraced who you are at this stage of your life?
For me, embracing maturity was all about self-awareness: the ability to look inward and be reflective about myself and the impact that I have on others. I admit, it’s a path that took aging and time for me to comfortably walk down. Now I try to make the journey about joy and appreciation, even when — especially when — things are truly difficult.
I learned many valuable lessons from my mother, Judy, including the ability to look at life every day with a sense of joy and appreciation for the things around me. I try to share that appreciation with my family.
What are you most proud of?
Truly, I am most proud of our three remarkable children (and their partners). Richard and I have been married for 38 years, and are parents to Greg (married to Gabriella), Jackie (engaged to Spencer), and Ella. Throughout their lives, they have taught me great lessons and have made me a better mom. I am proud of my professional accomplishments, particularly The Judy Fund, for sure. But the real treasure to me is the family Richard and I have built, and the community of family and friends that we are a part of.
Where do you hope your jean journey will take you next?
I can hardly believe I just turned 60. Every day, I charge full steam ahead into the third chapter of my life. Aging can be fearful, but I have chosen to try to approach each new hurdle as it comes. I want to continue to grow, surrounding myself with family and friends I love, bringing them along with me as much as possible. And my fave comfortable jeans are certainly a part of the journey!
Learn More And Join Us
To learn more about Elizabeth’s advocacy work, visit The Judy Fund website and follow The Judy Fund on Instagram. To join us in making a tax-deductible contribution to support the Judy Fund’s change-making research click here. During this holiday season, a time for making lasting memories, let’s rally our Democracy community together in support of brain research to ensure that we preserve those memories. #Democracyinaction #ENDALZ