From Menswear Model to Mental Health Advocate

Mental illness is complicated, but not talking about it doesn’t make it less so. Part of our mission is to help people feel better, both physically and mentally, and while CBD can help, there are many tools you can lean on for support. Mental Health Memos is a series that delves into the importance of destigmatizing mental illness and shines a light on those who are using their voice to bring these conversations to front and center. 

Throughout his career in the fashion world, John Pearson always made time to look inward. “My personal story has many layers and tributaries, but I’ve always been very interested in psychology, and the working of the mind and the brain,” he says. “I’ve read hundreds of self-help books, medical papers, and participated in various therapeutic processes myself.”

This summer, the father of three children (with wife Alison Edmond, Executive Creative & Fashion Director for C Magazine) utilized the support of family and friends to launch Mr Feelgood, a new digital magazine geared towards mens’ wellbeing, which he co-founded with friend and journalist Pete Samson. “It wasn’t just about creating content but rather about producing the right kind of content,” says Pearson. “It’s clear that people are searching for advice online now more than ever.”

So, let's start from the beginning, how did the idea for Mr Feelgood come about?

I received a call from an old journalist friend, Pete Samson, asking me for a chat. Pete had come up with the name, had been working on the site, and wanted to show me what he’d done so far. I was immediately taken by the idea of developing an online magazine that focused as much on the discussion of mental health as it did on physical wellness, style, literature, culture, etc. What truly impressed me was Pete’s honesty and openness – something I value highly myself — which is something that is reflected in Mr Feelgood.

What is it about this moment in time that felt ripe to launch a content website?

We began working on Mr Feelgood just before lockdown, but when lockdown happened, it seemed especially vital. I think we’ve all found ourselves in an unprecedented situation — as humans on this planet, we haven’t experienced a pandemic to this degree since 1918. I couldn’t travel with my modeling work, other TV projects had ground to a halt because productions had stopped and aside from my family, I needed to find somewhere else to place my energy and focus. Mr Feelgood is born of a lifetime of experiences, relationships, personal questions, and issues I’ve always longed to ask, discuss, and understand.

Image - John Pearson - MrFeelGood Website
What’s the one thing about starting a business that no one told you?

Ha! Only one!? That it takes a ginormous amount of imagination, faith, energy, resourcefulness, fortitude, and tenacity. We are a core team of two, with a little help from our brilliant wives when they finish their day jobs (!). We both have kids. Pete has twins, not yet five years old; ours are older but still at home and dealing with the upheaval in their lives. What’s emerged during this experience is the realization of just how resilient and self-motivated we all have to be. Thankfully, both Pete and I are not afraid of hard graft and are blessed with very supportive families and friends — all of whom have enthusiastically offered guidance, once again affirming that we’re onto something.

"What’s emerged during this experience is the realization of just how resilient and self-motivated we all have to be."
A lot of Mr Feelgood’s content has to do with prioritizing wellness and mental health. How has your own mental health journey evolved?

Given Mr Feelgood launched during this time, my own wellbeing, like many I’m sure, was affected by the anxiety and uncertainty of it all. Since launching the site, it’s clear how important all I’ve learned has come into play, but also it’s exciting to have to focus on something I’m passionate about. There’s so much to learn and never enough hours in the day. So right now, though exhausted — having existed on-air, adrenaline, and not enough sleep — I feel that this has propelled me onto an extremely positive trajectory.

How do your children inspire you in your work?

My family has always been everything to me. Our unit and home is my greatest achievement and one that deserves constant effort and care. Our children are all remarkable individuals, truly our pride and joy. I’m very conscious of my role as their father and as a husband to my wife. No matter what words are spoken, children learn by observing; they are highly sensitive to the atmosphere of their home and thus to behavior. Amongst other things, our kids happen to be into psychology, motivation, and learning. This being so, they regularly turn me onto great lectures and talks. They’re simply awesome. They also possess far superior social media skills to me, which is much-needed!

"My family has always been everything to me. Our unit and home is my greatest achievement and one that deserves constant effort and care."
What was it like to launch a new venture amidst Covid-19?

Launching when we did was not noticeably different from launching during so-called "normal times," but then perhaps I’m already conditioned to work within the limitations of this present era? The interesting thing is, I’m not sure I would have had the bandwidth nor the discipline to have focused so intensely because of too many other work commitments and distractions. Pete and I live close to one another, and since we’re both WFH, so we call or FaceTime each other about 50 times a day. It would have been preferable to be in an office together, of course.

What does the future of publishing look like to you?

Having grown up in the heyday of brilliant print magazines, I can’t help but have a deep fondness for them. However, I think launching Mr Feelgood online made much more sense, given the present situation and the challenges of producing and distributing printed issues. Instagram is a publicity machine for so many industries, and people are spending so much more time on their phones and laptops right now that taking the digital path made more sense for us. We’re also working on podcasts to further our conversations, and because, I like to talk!

Any daily rituals to share that have improved your overall outlook?

I’m usually up around 5:30 a.m. and work has us going until around 10 p.m. It’s bonkers, relentless at the moment with just the two of us, but we’re in it together, we have a clear vision and it’s exciting. I try and walk and run around our canyon in the very early morning before it gets too hot, and in the evening as a family (with our trusty dog Baxter), we either walk or take a drive to watch the sunset. Other than that, I give thanks in the morning for all my/our blessings and have the same ritual as the last thing I do at night.

Which Instagram accounts are you following right now to stay positive?

@mrfeelgoodhq of course! Along with @goodnews_movement.

And I’m a fan of @_nitch@cwbayly@trevornoah@dailystoic@lalah.shakur, and @celestebarber.

Photo of John Pearson by Kurt Iswarienko. For more Mr Feelgood click here.

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