As rabid consumers of media we’re used to seeing the same images of women over and over again. Often times the media celebrates women for their external beauty. However, we here at MEDIAGIRLS believe it’s time that the media shines the spotlight on more than just physical appearances. Participants in our after-school program are encouraged to explore inner qualities in women they find inspiring and to talk about what characteristics they believe should be highlighted in the media. We recently asked the girls in our program at Orchard Gardens (one of our partner sites through Citizens Schools) what women they believe should get more media attention. It was made crystal clear that the media needs to highlight more women of color.
Lauryn Hill is an African-American singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer, and actress. I admire Lauryn because she is different from other celebrities. She’s not all about looks, or what’s in style. She focuses on her music. She has a beautiful voice and I also love to sing just like her. I enjoy her music because I can relate to her music. Most of Lauren’s music is chill, when i listen to it, i feel calm and it makes me think about life. She inspires me to be unique, to have my own style, and to follow my heart. She inspires me to be unique because she dresses different from other celebrities. Her style is mix of urban city, hip hop, funky, tomboy type, and I like how she owns it. She’s the type of girl who wears her hair in an afro, locs or natural. I like to be different from everyone just like Lauryn. She seems like a really chill person to vibe with, she doesn’t seem stuck up or disrespectful. Lauren also inspires me to feel comfortable in my own skin and to love myself and to be proud of my culture and my history. Her songs are for everyone that struggles in their youth. That inspires me try my hardest in everything and no matter what happens I have to keep my head up through every challenge that I go through. She influences young African men and women to love themselves and to rise above. — Mya, 14The woman I chose who inspires me the most is Taraji Henson. She’s a confident actor that never gives up and always keeps going. I chose her because the way she puts all her work into acting makes me amazed, and it’s so fun watching her act on the original show “Empire.” Taraji also shows me that she is smart because she went to Howard University and graduated from there. Because of her ambition and intelligence I look up to her. This world would be full of smart and respectful people if everyone just followed her steps and looked up to her. Things would very different if we all looked up to her. — MEDIAGIRLS Participant, 13What woman do you admire, and what for? Is it because of their personality, humor, actions? We admire woman because of the different ways they inspire us. For me, I admire Zendaya because she is a successful young woman of color. People often put down people of color for many reasons. Reasons like stereotypes often cause people to mistreat people of color. Knowing that a young woman with dark skin has become successful has a big impact on those stereotypes. She’s not only a good influence on me, but most younger girls as well. Zendaya inspires younger girls to chase their dreams no matter where they are from or where they started. Not only that, but she started off small and kept growing from where she was. Usually kids from Disney Channel just become remembered as “that kid from Disney channel.” However, she has grown from that. If you’re someone of color, you know a lot about stereotypes. You know about them maybe because you witnessed something being said, you heard something being said, or something has been said to you. There is plenty of successful colored woman, but Zendaya is one that stands out to me and many others. Many young colored people are told things like, “You can’t do that because you’re African” or “You can’t do this because you’re Hispanic”. But they can do it because many celebrities have done it. WOMEN have dreams and WOMEN OF COLOR are still women. Zendaya really enhances her beauty over social media. Some people lighten the color of their skin because it is shown as ugly to some people. However, zendaya posts pictures of her perfect, natural skin color, without minding judgement. Personally, I wasn’t confident with my culture or my skin color because all my friends around me were much lighter than me and didn’t know what Capeverde was. But now, looking at Zendaya or other colored celebrities I feel much more confident. They make me want to work twice as harder, so I can become someone like them. — Kayla, 13
Shakira is the woman that I admire most because she knows an impressive five languages– Spanish, English, Arabic, Italian, and Portuguese. A second reason that I admire her is because she perseveres through any problem that gets in her way. She became the first artist in the history of the Billboard charts to earn the coveted number one spots on both the Top 40 Mainstream and Latin Chart in the SAME WEEK. A third reason that I admire her is because she advocates for education and youth. According to Shakira, “Education is a birthright and a quality education is the only tool that a child has to turn dreams into reality. Since I was a girl I have been aware of the tough reality faced by many children.” Shakira makes me want to be my best self by speaking encouraging words. She tells us that if you have a challenge just don’t think about it and keep persevering. She just thinks of moving forward and never turns or looks back. — Anyi, 13