Former “Dance Moms” Star Nia Sioux Highlights Mental Health with “Seize the Awkward” in Directorial Debut

 Kenzie Ziegler, GAYLE among stars also featured in new digital content series for Mental Health Awareness Month

NEW YORK, NY (April 25, 2024) — The national “Seize the Awkward” campaign premiered a new digital content series today starring and directed by actress, activist, and creator Nia Sioux. The “Capture the Convo” series marks the former “Dance Moms” star and executive producer’s debut as creative director. By featuring intimate conversations between friends, the series inspires teens and young adults to normalize talking about mental health with their peers. 

In the seven-part “Capture the Convo” video series, Sioux joins her friends to model safe conversations about mental health and discuss their real experiences checking in with peers. The series encourages young adults to visit SeizeTheAwkward.org for tips to start their own conversations and spot the signs that a friend may be struggling.  

Research suggests that peer support promotes effective coping and improved mental health, a finding that inspires the mission of the award-winning “Seize the Awkward” campaign by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and The Jed Foundation (JED) in collaboration with the Ad Council. The campaign aims to equip young adults ages 16-24, especially Black and Hispanic youth, with resources to regularly check in with their friends about mental health. 

“Mental health is so close to my heart and joining ‘Seize the Awkward’ to create this new series was the perfect opportunity for my first directing role to contribute to a cause I’m passionate about,” said Sioux. “Bringing this vision to life with leading organizations in the mental health space has been empowering, both as a director and as a young adult myself. I hope this series serves as a reminder that we all have the power to start these conversations with our own circles.” 

The first “Capture the Convo” video launched today on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok highlighting excerpts from conversations with friends of Sioux’s who will be featured throughout the series. All videos feature the song “Lose Me Too,” which was provided pro bono by musical artist and mental health advocate, ROSIE.  

Six additional videos will premiere throughout May for Mental Health Awareness Month on social and digital channels belonging to the participating talent and “Seize the Awkward.” The participants, who donated their time to take part in the series, have a collective following of more than 58.8 million across social platforms:

  • Kenzie Ziegler, singer, songwriter and actress 
  • GAYLE, Grammy-nominated artist and songwriter
  • Brooklinn Khoury, skateboarder and content creator
  • Paul Russell, platinum recording artist 
  • Zach Hood, musical artist and content creator

“We know that when youth struggle with their mental health, they are likely to turn to a friend for help. Our ‘Seize the Awkward’ campaign ensures that friends know what to do when this occurs, and the campaign uses storytelling to convey these lifesaving messages,” said AFSP CEO Bob Gebbia. “As a young director, Nia has been able to create ‘Capture the Convo’ through this lens and show in a very relatable way what it means to listen, support and make mental health conversations acceptable and impactful for youth.”  

In each video, the participants answer questions like, “When your friends check in on you, what is the best way for them to do that?” and “How would you bring up a conversation if you knew a friend was going through something?” with the goal of modeling open conversations around mental health for young adults to apply in their own social circles.

“When young people see individuals they admire embrace vulnerability, engage in help-giving and help-seeking behaviors, and advocate for mental health, it not only helps them relate but also opens up new lines of healthy communication in their own lives and within their friend groups,” says John MacPhee, CEO of JED. “Nia Sioux’s directorial debut for the digital ‘Capture the Convo’ series with ‘Seize the Awkward’ shows her generation’s ambition to mainstream conversations around emotional health. This is a mission that has been at the forefront of JED for the past 25 years and continues today with our partners AFSP and the Ad Council. Together, we can make a difference in how youth mental health is talked about, understood, and cared for.”

Production company RUOKAY supported the development of the content series and the shoot featured an all-female and LGBTQIA+ production crew. Additional behind the scenes content from the production was captured pro bono by photographer Krissy Saleh and videographer Cameron McLeod. As an extension of the video series, shareable GIFs from “Capture the Convo” videos will be available on the “Seize the Awkward” GIPHY page, which can be used by young adults to start the conversation with friends.

“It’s so important for young adults to see examples of safe, open conversations around mental health, and we are confident ‘Capture the Convo’ will inspire viewers to start these critical conversations with their own friends,” said Heidi Arthur, chief campaign development officer at the Ad Council. “Nia’s authenticity as a young adult navigating mental health with her friends shines through in her work on both sides of the camera, and we are honored she chose to bring her talent to this important new series.”

Since launching in January 2018, “Seize the Awkward” has been a trusted source of information for young adults across the country, driving over 5.7 million visits to SeizeTheAwkward.org and more than 83.9 million video views. In the campaign’s effort to reflect a diverse range of young adult experiences with mental health, “Seize the Awkward” recently released public service

advertisements (PSAs) including “Check In On Your Friends” with Grammy award-winning artist and philanthropist Megan Thee Stallion, “We Can Talk About It” produced pro bono by long-time partner Droga5, and a student-produced video featuring Heisman-winning quarterback Caleb Williams.

For tools and resources to start a conversation with friends about mental health, visit SeizeTheAwkward.org and @SeizeTheAwkward on Instagram. 

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope  to those affected by suicide, including those who have experienced a loss. AFSP creates a  culture that’s smart about mental health through public education and community programs,  develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those  affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, with a public  policy office in Washington, DC, AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico,  with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report and  join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,  YouTube, LinkedIn and TikTok. 

The Jed Foundation (JED) 

The Jed Foundation is a leading nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide  for our nation’s teens and young adults. We’re partnering with high schools and colleges to  strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs and  systems. We’re equipping teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help  themselves and each other. We’re encouraging community awareness, understanding, and  action for young adult mental health. 

Connect with JED: Email | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | LinkedIn | SnapchatPinterest 

The Ad Council 

The Ad Council convenes creative storytellers to educate, unite and uplift audiences by opening  hearts, inspiring action and accelerating change around the most pressing issues in America.  Since the non-profit’s founding, the organization and its partners in advertising, media,  marketing and tech have been behind some of the country’s most iconic social impact  campaigns – Smokey Bear, A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste, Love Has No Labels, Tear the  Paper Ceiling and many more. With a current focus on mental health, gun safety, the opioid  epidemic, skill-based hiring and other critical issues, the Ad Council’s national campaigns  encompass advertising and media content, ground game and community efforts, trusted  messenger and influencer engagement, and employer programs, among other innovative  strategies to move the needle on the most important issues of the day. 

In November 2022, the Ad Council announced a new Mental Health Initiative, uniting brands,  marketers, media companies and nonprofits to address the mental health crisis throughout the 

U.S. at scale. With a founding investment from the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, the  multi-year initiative aims to change social norms and create a society that is more open,  accepting and proactive when it comes to mental health. 

To learn more or get involved, visit AdCouncil.org, join the Ad Council’s communities on  Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and X, and view campaign creative on YouTube


The Ad Council 
Nina Trach 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) 
Maria de los Angeles Corral 

The Jed Foundation (JED) 
Justin Barbo 

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.