"I love to see my girls say, 'I know who I am.' And they're kind, so to have that come together is lovely," says Melissa McCarthy in PEOPLE's latest cover story

By Melody Chiu
February 26, 2020 08:00 AM

Melissa McCarthy is talented, hilarious, down-to-earth — and not looking to fit into any kind of mold.

“How boring would it be if we were all the same? We’re drawn to each other because of all our weird, unexplainable character quirks,” the host and co-executive producer of NBC’s latest season of Little Big Shots tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “Life is short. Just be yourself!”

Raising two girls — she’s mom to 12-year-old Vivian and 10-year-old Georgette with her actor-director husband Ben Falcone, 46 — McCarthy’s mission to spread positivity and self-confidence is one that’s incredibly close to her heart.

Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy
| Credit: Joshua Blanchard/Getty

“My oldest has a really good head on her shoulders, but kids that age are always thinking, ‘Does someone think I look silly?’ I tell them it’s all silly and we’re all idiots!” says the Oscar nominee. “The second you embrace that and have real friends, you realize that’s the fun part. Who is the dumbest and the goofiest? Those are the friends you’ll have all your life.”

  • For all the details on how Melissa McCarthy is embracing positivity and raising strong, confident daughters, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Credit: Jeff Lipsky/foureleven.agenecy

Luckily for McCarthy, 49, the star says her daughters have remained incredibly “level-headed” as they navigate their pre-teen years.

“At that age, I was eating dirt and running around a farm like a dingbat, but they have a much bigger view of the world,” she says. “I love to see my two girls just truly say, ‘I know who I am and I know what I like and what I don’t like.’ And they’re kind, so to have all of that come together is lovely.”

While shooting Little Big Shots, McCarthy often found herself in tears on set because of the inspiring kids, like 11-year-old crocheting prodigy Jonah Larson, who donates his proceeds and goods to the Ethiopian orphanage from which he was adopted.

Melissa McCarthy
| Credit: Jeff Lipsky/foureleven.agenecy

“These amazing kids are activists, they’re trying to save the planet or they’re doing anti-bullying rallies,” she says. “Or they’re just an eccentric kid who’s like, ‘I’m okay with being who I am!’ They’re wonderfully uncomplicated.”

Melissa McCarthy on Little Big Shots

At the end of the day, McCarthy says she also walked away inspired by the children she met.

“These kids in particular are just so strong in their self and their concept of who they are and what they stand for,” she says. “If you think you’re doing something now — boy, you spend a couple months with kids that are just full-throttle helping people, and you’re like, ‘I’ve got more energy. I can do more!’ ”

Little Big Shots airs Sundays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.