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Minka Kelly’s healthy secret has nothing to do with fitness or food

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You probably first noticed Minka Kelly from her role as super fit Dillon Panthers cheerleader Lyla Garrity when Friday Night Lights won your heart (and major real estate in your Netflix queue). But off camera, Kelly’s healthy lifestyle centers around eating clean, kicking butt in the boxing ring, doing yoga… and giving back in a big way.

It all started when Kelly lost her mom to cancer in 2008, and threw herself into charity work to help her grieve. “I discovered that being of service was the only way I could fill any sort of hole in my heart,” she explains.

So Kelly teamed up with FashionAble, which creates new economic opportunities for female sex workers in Africa, helping them make and sell fair-wage fashion items, like handmade leather bags and scarves. Since then, Kelly’s taken trips to Ethiopia to support the women involved, bring attention to their work, and recently, even designed a clutch.

We chatted with Kelly to learn more about the powerful relationship of helping others to living a healthy life.

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Minka Kelly with one of the clutches she designed for FashionAble.

Out of all of the charities and organizations you could get involved with, why did you decide on FashionAble? The founder, Barrett, invited me to Africa six years ago, and I got to see firsthand how they get women off the street. They teach them to make things to generate income for themselves. These women don’t just join the sex industry because they’ve made bad choices [which people mistakenly believe], sometimes it’s the only option they have to make money.

What’s beautiful about FashionAble is that it enables women to create income with a dignified light, even after we leave. There are so few job options for women in Africa, but this creates opportunity that lasts.

A lot of people in Hollywood just write a check to help a cause. Why did you want to really get involved? I didn’t want to just to attach my name to something. I think part of having a platform is a responsibility to use it for good—if I waste that, I’m just being selfish. To be of service means a lot to me, and it fills my heart. When you lose your mother, in order to stay healthy and thriving, it’s a good idea to find something that fills your heart back up. —Molly Gallagher

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(Photos: FashionAble)