Rebel Wilson has a smile on her face, despite being seriously jetlagged and exhausted. She just returned to the States, having vacationed in the Caribbean with her fiancée, Ramona Agruma, and their daughter, the 5-month-old Royce. “I’m also a new mom,” Rebel tells HollywoodLife when speaking about her partnership with Abbott and the Brain Injury Association of America for the Concussion Awareness Now campaign, “so sometimes, I think I get a foggy brain or something, because there are so many things to think about now that I never had to think about before.”
The new world Rebel lives in is one with many potential dangers, hazards, and threats to her young baby’s melon. “Do you know how protective I am of my daughter?” asks the actress and comedy superstar. “She’s just learned how to roll over — and we’re so protective, somebody has to watch her at all times. I’m paranoid. Mothers tell stories about their babies falling off the changing table, falling off a bed or something, and hitting their heads. And literally, we’re like, ‘Oh my God, her precious little brain!'”
These concerns echo those that Rebel raises with her Concussion Awareness Now PSA and how every bump and bonk might be something more serious. But, like every new mom realizes, Rebel knows she can’t baby-proof the world. “I know invariably an accident might happen, but Ramona and I are being very [cautious],” she tells HL. “One of us literally has to be within arm’s length of her at any moment. I guess when it’s your first child, you’re probably more like that.”
“I’m somebody who I never prioritized my health or mental health probably until a few years ago,” she adds. “And then now, being a mother, I’m like, ‘oh my God, I should have treated myself more of how I treat my little newborn baby.’ But it’s all a learning experience. But yeah, gosh — we are so protective of her and her little head, her little growing head. We’re probably too protective.”
Rebels’ involvement with Concussion Awareness Now – a coalition of nearly 20 advocacy groups founded by Abbott and the Brain Injury Association of America – came almost five years after she suffered a concussion while filming Isn’t It Romantic? “I slipped down a grassy hill,” she says. “It wasn’t even that steep; it had dew on it. And I was walking to the set, and I slipped, and I was just like, ‘That’s so common.’ My poor mom had a garage door fall on her head and got a concussion, which is a bit more dramatic, but simple things like little slips and falls can cause concussions, and then you don’t know the damage you’ve done. And I wish I’d known.
“At least I did go to the hospital. An ambulance took me because I lost consciousness. And I thought, ‘Oh God, that’s serious.’ But then I felt pressure to get back to work. So, I went back and worked a 16-hour day. If I’d known, from partnering with Abbott and the Brain Injury Association on this, what I know now, I should have rested instead,” Rebel explains. “I had these terrible headaches and neck and shoulder pain and stuff, but because I looked fine on the surface, I just went back to work, and I worked a 16-hour day and worked the next few days.
“And I should have rested and taken it easy. But what I’m shocked about is that most people don’t even get it checked out, which is crazy when the brain is such an important part of your body.”
“[Concussions are] so common,” remarks Rebel. “And then over half of concussions don’t actually ever get checked at all, which is insane because to me! I think your brain is kind of your most important asset, really. And the fact that if you hit it and then you never got it checked out, it’s crazy. And then my concussion story — I always used to associate concussions with elite athletes like NFL players, or you’d see soccer players headbutting [the ball] and that kind of thing. But the most common concussions come from everyday things.”
Concussion Awareness Now unveiled its first PSA featuring Rebel in February, two months after they published a conversation between the Senior Year star and Dr. Beth McQuiston, a neurologist and medical director at Abbott. Soon afterward, the campaign unveiled The Melons, a CGI family of melon-headed characters, as a way to demonstrate how easy it is to damage your brain. From falling down, bumping your head on furniture, or even colliding with another person, the new line of PSA aims to raise awareness of how easy it is to get a concussion.
Rebel had shared her concussion story before on talk shows, so Abbott and the Brain Injury Association of America approached her to be the spokesperson for the Concussion Awareness Now campaign.
“It’s been such a cool partnership,” Rebel tells HL. We shot my first PSA for the campaign in a Universal Studios back lot. It was so much fun. You always think, ‘Oh, it’s like a sketch or something,’ rather than a public service announcement because it was really fun to do. And then talking to Dr. Beth that day –she’s such an expert in brain health and concussions and just learning about it? I’ve had a blast working with them.”
“I thought it was a really good public service announcement, and I really like what they’re doing with The Melons in explaining [concussion],” added Rebel. “I just think it works on all levels. And I have such a young fan base as well. So that, in particular, I thought would just work well.”
Arguably, Rebel’s youngest fan is her five-month-old daughter, who has brought a huge change in her life. When asked if she’s changed her lifestyle since working with Concussion Awareness Now, Rebel said she isn’t one to do much “crazy stuff,” especially since undergoing a significant change in 2020. “I kind of overhauled my life,” she tells HL, “and focused on my health and mental health. Because my mental health went into my physical health– really, it’s all connected.”
Back in 2017, on the set of Isn’t It Romantic, I kind of didn’t have the courage to say, ‘Oh no, hang on, something is wrong with me, and therefore I should have the day off,'” she continues. “But now, and part of doing this campaign, if I did hit my head, I would have the courage to be like, ‘No guys, this is actually serious. I know if I don’t have a big welt on my head or something, but if I’ve hit my brain, even though it’s an invisible injury, you can’t see it.’ I would have the courage to be like, ‘No, I’m going to prioritize me.'”
“Whereas I really wouldn’t have done that a few years ago,” she concludes. “I’d be like, ‘Oh, shoot me up with some steroids, and let’s go to work.’ Now, I know nothing’s worth that. Your physical and mental well-being is more important than shooting another day on a movie. And I think that’s a good lesson for me. I’d feel guilty or something prioritizing myself before, and then now, I’m just like, ‘no, okay, I need rest, or I need to take care of myself.'”
Visit concussionawarenessnow.org for more information, including what exactly a concussion is, the symptoms, and how to take action.