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May was Mental Health Awareness month and two bakers utilized their Instagram platforms to launch a campaign aimed to amplify the importance of mental health in their fellow online baking communities.
As a result, bakers with online shops from across North America and beyond participated, using the hashtag "Behind the Bake Collab" to connect the posts, which shared an image of something designed or chosen for the campaign, followed by a caption that expressed personal stories and struggles surrounding the bake.
After posts went live on May 28, the success of #BehindTheBakeCollab was evident as over 100 bakers participated, even outside North America, with contributions from online shops based in Germany, Dubai, England and Malaysia. Even after the campaign wrapped up, the dialogue resumed with bakers still continuing to share their stories and photos of beautifully designed desserts, with heartfelt captions.
The two bakers who brought this campaign to life are Julia McKee, who commonly goes by Jules, of Petite Meringue based in Toronto and Salinda Ngo of MacaNomNom based in South Florida, who connected through their shops online.
They're self-taught bakers specializing in the art of character macarons, who started their online baking businesses as a creative outlet, with the underlying drive to eventually bring their own feelings towards personal mental health struggles to the surface, in a way that would build connections and comfortability amongst those they reached.
"We met over Instagram through the amazing baking community and felt instantly understood by one another," McKee said. "Our mutual experiences with mental health struggles was one of the things that brought us together. We had both been dealt a heavy deck of cards in life and we both felt that it was part of our path to open up about that to make others feel less alone."
"I wanted people to know that there is a real person behind the bakes with real feelings and struggles," Ngo added.
A serious topic hidden behind the colourful and delicious treats you often see flooding your Instagram feed, there's undoubtedly a lot of stress and pressure involved in every cake decorated and pastry filled, which as consumers, we often neglect.
"We were both just feeling so fed up with how Instagram makes everything look perfect," said McKee.
McKee discusses how being openly vulnerable on social media in general isn't as highly-regarded. The need to showcase flawlessness and achievements are placed on a pedestal in comparison to sharing aspects of one's life that are far from fitting in a perfect box and the baking community doesn't stray from that expectation. You only see part of the whole story online, often times there's a lot more behind an image than perceived to be.
"You see small businesses post new beautiful creations everyday," she said. "You don’t see the stress, the mental toil, that is behind those creations. In reality, there are so many bakers that are feeling overwhelmed and anxious. There are so many of us that don’t feel good enough. And there are so many of us that are dealing with different mental health issues."
Knowing that there was a lot going on behind the scenes of businesses like theirs, they wanted to encourage the community around them to share parts of their stories in a way comfortable for them explored through their posts, to further strengthen the conversation around mental health in their field and highlight the fact that you are never as alone as you feel.
"Salinda and I wanted this collab to act as an opportunity for everyone to share a piece of themselves that Instagram doesn’t normally see," said McKee. "We were quite adamant about keeping this collab as free of pressure as possible; bakers could share their mental health life story if they wanted to, but they could also share only a tiny piece of their story if that’s what they felt comfortable doing. It was so important to us that this collab acted as a safe and open space where we all listened and uplifted."
Jules notes how through the posts users can see how vulnerability equates to courage, with real and raw portrayals of mental health struggles amplified through the art of baking.
The duo are overwhelmed by the growing number of people who've joined the collaboration and cherish the love and support shared amongst the baking community, so much so that the numerous group chats arranged to organize the campaign filled with participants still spreading support of one another will remain open, to keep the dialogue moving amongst one another.
"They’ve been helping so many people feel less alone," McKee said.
Continue to keep the dialogue surrounding mental health in the online baking community moving yourself by taking the time to check out #BehindTheBakeCollab on Instagram, to see beautiful baked creations paired with important captions discussing what was going on off-screen, what you often wouldn't see.
In addition, those looking to order some sweet treats from the duo via Instagram should know Ngo at MacaNomNom ships across the United States and McKee at Petite Meringue caters to customers across the Greater Toronto Area.