By: Leena Abdelmoity
As a Teen Advisor, I was invited to cover the 2018 Teen Vogue Summit this past weekend in Los Angeles. I was blown away by all the powerful speakers, including Serena Williams, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Terry Crews, Storm Reid, Lana Condor, Deja Foxx, Naomi Wadler, and Girl Up Champion: Cara Delevigne. Each speaker brought a unique perspective to help attendees and viewers create change. Here are the top five tips I learned while attending the summit:
1. If something is not going your way…change it!
Progress only occurs when people take initiative and change the injustices they see. The fastest way for you to change what you see as unacceptable is to do something about it yourself. Do not wait for others to act. I really enjoyed how speaker Morgan DeBaun, the founder of Blavity, asserted that, “if you don’t like the rules, make your own. If you’re not at the table, make your own.” A law or policy should never stop you from breaking the glass ceiling and achieving justice. Do what you want to be seen done.
2. Self-care is just as important as helping others
Frequently, advocates focus so hard on improving the lives of others that they can forget to focus on caring for themselves. This unhealthy practice can lead to burnout. However, self-care is all about the mindset that you have. Singer Lauren Jauregui explained that whenever negative thoughts pop into her head, she tells herself encouraging statements to uplift herself. While simple, this tactic is so important because if we treat ourselves with respect and encouragement, we will be in a better state to uplift others. I also want to try Deja Foxx’s spin on a traditional “to do list.” The activist said that instead of calling a list of tasks a “to do list,” she prefers to call it a “get to do list.” Foxx feels that having to do homework, work, or other tedious tasks means that she is privileged to have an education and an able body. I challenge all of you to try these easy exercises because caring for yourself must be a priority.
3. Do not let your background define you
Something that almost instantly caught my eye at the Summit was how people from diverse backgrounds are changing the world. It was inspiring to see that the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, Lindsay Wagner, is an African American woman from Wisconsin. Naomi Wadler, gun control reform activist, is only 12 years old. Ibtihaj Muhammad, an African American Muslim who grew up in a small town in New Jersey, became the first hijab-wearing U.S. Olympian to win a medal. I could go on and on about the amazing speakers who decided that they wanted to be more than average, more than a stereotype. It reminds me, and I hope you as well, that someone’s background does not matter; it is what he or she chooses to do with his or her life that is significant.
4. Stay true to yourself even when criticized
It takes a commitment to a cause to ensure that progress can be made and injustices can transform into justice. What we do as activists can face criticism, but it is important to fight through and believe that we are doing good. Fashion designer Prabal Gurung talked about his emphasis on inclusivity in fashion. Gurung is keen on organizing fashion shows that reflect a wide range of sizes and ethnicities. Because of this, the fashion designer faced much backlash from other designers because of his untraditional approach. However, Gurung continued to include diverse models in his shows because that is what he believed. In doing so, Gurung has received more attention and has gained clients such as Oprah, Michelle Obama, and The Duchess of Cambridge. If Gurung had given in to all of the criticism he encountered, he would just be another fashion designer. However, Gurung chose to stay true to his beliefs and is now famous and highly respected for it. I want you all to face criticizers like Gurung did because the best revenge to your haters is your success.
5. Failure is the best catalyst
Panelists were candid that they had faced downfalls to get to where they are today. Girl Up champion and celebrity, Cara Delevigne, believes that she fails every day and that is what makes her get better. We are all human and we all will fail at least once in our lives, but learning from our mistakes and actively trying to improve is what can catalyze real change. I wanted to say that it might seem that there are some people who just do not fail, but that is not the case. As Arlan Hamilton, founder of Backstage Capital, stated, “the grass looks greener on the other side because of the manure.” Everyone faces their downfalls, but those who succeed in their advocating or leadership endeavors learn from those downfalls to come out stronger than ever.
I hope that these tips inspire you to make change in your communities and beyond. Keep advocating and shattering glass ceilings whenever possible!