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People of a certain generation may struggle with the information that Soleil Moon Frye — yes, Punky Brewster — is not only now a mother of four, but that the oldest of those four, daughter Poet, is 16 years old. (Speaking to Yahoo Life, Frye herself admits being in a "state of shock.")
Recently seen in Peacock's Punky Brewster revival, the actress and director of the award-winning documentary Kid 90 is now sharing how Poet's milestone birthday has prompted her to join forces with GSK's Ask2BSure public health campaign emphasizing the importance of teens and young adults aged 16 to 23 being vaccinated against meningitis B due to their increased risk of contracting the disease.
It's a cause that's particularly meaningful for Frye, who shares two daughters and two sons with ex-husband Jason Goldberg, given the health challenges her family has already endured this year; the Proud Family: Louder and Prouder star shared last month that three of her kids tested positive for COVID-19.
Ahead, the actress opens up about prioritizing her family's health, empowering her kids and finding her groove at 45.
You now have a 16-year-old! Tell us how Poet's birthday led to you becoming involved with Ask2BSure.
I literally cannot believe it. I'm still in a state of shock, because she's the age of one of our favorite teen movies [Sixteen Candles], which is just crazy to me. I actually didn't know much about meningitis B — I really didn't, I'm just being totally honest — and a really dear friend of mine spoke to me about it. We had this heart to heart and she told me about it and I realized there was so much I didn't know, and I think there are so many people that are unaware of it. I think so many people think that they've gotten the meningitis vaccination when the kids were younger and don't realize that meningitis B is completely different. So I learned about it and spoke to my pediatrician, and then we decided to have Poet scheduled to get her meningitis B vaccination. I felt like if I didn't know about it, then there were probably so many other people that weren't aware of it, too. I think the last few years has just really illuminated so much for me in wanting to learn more and to better educate myself and to ask more questions.
You recently shared that three of your kids tested positive for COVID-19, which must've been very stressful. How have you coped during this time?
It has been a real journey during the pandemic. I'm so grateful for my incredible kids, who have been so strong. And I'm so proud of the work that I've been able to do during the pandemic with Core, which is our disaster relief organization that I'm so proud to be on the board of, and to be able to work with the incredible Sean Penn and Ann Lee across the globe on this. We've been able to vaccinate over one and a half million people and test over five million people. And I think this is a perfect example where I really felt like I had knowledge around this, and then three of my four kids caught COVID and I wasn't able to trace it. We don't know where they got it from. And so it's one of those things where I certainly didn't see it happening to me and yet it did. I'm so grateful that they're healthy now and that they're thriving. It was definitely illuminating.
How would you describe your parenting style?
I'm definitely Mom, for sure. I'm great friends with my kids, but I'm definitely Mom first and foremost. So a mom that at times can be really fun. Like on my birthday, when it turned midnight my daughters and I jumped into the ocean, which was so fun and we had the best time and it was so beautiful; it was so magical and incredible. And yesterday my boys and I were out digging for rocks and just having so much fun together.
And then there's other moments where I can get pretty hardcore strict about things. I think there's a balance there and I do my best. I'm also not afraid to admit that I'm a work in progress and I'm learning, too. I think that a lot of times young people think that once you're grown up, that you have it all figured out. And I'm definitely a perfect example of knowing that there's a whole lot that I don't know [laughs] and that I just try my best.
You spoke about the significance of your daughter turning 16. You yourself are going through your own new chapter. How are you embracing this phase of your life, not just as a mom, but as Soleil?
I really do feel like I'm coming of age again, and I feel like so much of that came through the process of the documentary and making Kid 90 and really feeling like my teen and adult self were both coming of age at the same time. Something that I'm really working on embracing is being in the moment of this time, being in the now. For so long, I would hear people say, "If I only knew in my 20s what I know now, things would have been so different." And I'm like, why can't we embrace being in our 40s and our 50s and our 60s and our 70s and our 80s as an opportunity to continue coming of age and embracing the expansion of that?
There's certainly moments when I look in the mirror and I'm like, "Wait, what are these lines over here? I didn't even know that my eyes did that [laughs]." Or, "What's this over here?" Or, "When I used to exercise it was so easy..." I completely sympathize and understand that [feeling about aging]. For me, I want to work on really reprogramming my brain to constantly feel like the best version of me, and to continue expanding and growing. I think that if we were able to talk about it more and embrace it more, which I'm really trying to do, then there would be more rejoicing in growing up.
To be honest, I do feel sexier and more fun and all of these things now, than I did maybe with some of my insecurities when I was younger, which is interesting. And so I'm really trying to embrace that. There are moments where I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I gotta go on a health kick or something." But at the same time, I know that it's not about all that.
I have to ask a "Punky Power" question. Looking back, that was really Punky's way of empowering herself. As a mom, do you have practices for empowering your kids or helping them harness their own "Punky Power"?
Yeah. I think [it's by] continuing to validate and talk to them. My kids have incredible stories and they've struggled with insecurities at different times. And one of the things that I'm most proud of is that some of the things that they were most insecure about, by continuing to advocate for them and continuing to push them to advocate for themselves, those qualities are now some of their favorite qualities about themselves. That has been so beautiful to see, so inspiring to see.
I think that's really about being conscientious. It used to probably drive [my kids] crazy and now I think they've actually come to love it. I used to have them stand in front of a mirror with me and just say, "You are beautiful. I love you." And it's really hard to do sometimes, and I would do it with them over and over again. I'm like, "I love you. You're beautiful." It makes me emotional even thinking about it, because why should that be hard for us, to look in the mirror and say, "you're beautiful" and really mean it? But that's a process. And I think a lot of what our kids pick up on is what we put out there, so we have to lead by example.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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