If you ever speak with Traci Fields or Tosha Mobley, you will discover that these two ladies certainly have a unique way of reflecting their inspiring candlelight from within, right into the hearts of young girls. They are the energetic duo in charge of BeDazzle-Do, a movement designed to inspire all through a tri-fold of empowerment activities for “tween” and young girls. They provide hair & art design for young girls, educational or “edutainment” enrichment programs, and even a weekly talk radio show each Tuesday entitled The d.i.v.a. Download, where Cindy Brown from Girlsguidetoswagger has been a featured guest.
If you haven’t heard, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reinstated and signed into law on March 7th, just in time for International Women’s Day. To find out more about the significance of this law, please click here.
So in celebration, we’d like to introduce you to a wonderful organization called Divas In Defense Inc., The company teaches a self-defense system to women and girls across the nation in order to empower them. Divas in Defense is unique in its own right however, because two of its main officers who started the program are actually men! A pair of brothers named Christopher Britto, the President and CEO of the company and Cole Parker, the Vice President and COO, decided to create this inspiring organization three years ago after a female pastor asked Britto to set up some self-defense classes for women enlisted in her church. After discussing the idea with his brother, Britto decided to take the idea a little further.
“In fully accepting your creative power, you honor and respect your soul and remind others to do the same.” ~Sonia Choquette
Creative drive, empowerment and advocacy is clearly emanated through the souls of many women. But in recent years, we’ve seen a decline in these attributes among today’s youth and The Girl’s Guide to Swagger is on a mission to make sure we don’t continue down this path. When those strengths are not drawn upon, women as a whole lose out. Fortunately, we all can nurture each other so that this doesn’t happen. Ashley Marinaccio shows us how we can as she works to cultivate these important attributes through the girls and women involved in Girl Be Heard, a theater collective that uses acting to empower young women ages 12 through 21 to become brave, confident, socially conscious leaders while exploring their own lives.
Girl Be Heard was founded four years ago by Marinaccio, who is the now Artistic Director. She is an activist and artist and her work has been seen in many venues across the country such as global TED conferences, The White House, United Nations, and on tour across the United States. She holds a M.A. in Performance Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a Bachelor’s of the Arts in theatre directing and sociology/anthropology with minors in women/gender and Middle Eastern from Pace University.Marinaccio’s enjoys utilizing theatre for peace building, healing, and empowerment and her vast background led her to be the most suitable person to begin this organization back at the Estrogenius Theatre Festival in 2008, where she was asked to write a play for teenage girls performing at the festival. But instead, she changed things up a bit by having the girls write and act out the plays themselves.“It was apparent that I should not be writing this for them (the plays girls were performing). They needed to be empowered to write it themselves. So we had each of the girls get into discussions.
When you are financially empowered, you are more able to control many aspects of your life. It’s an essential building block that many people unfortunately don’t seem to receive in their upbringing. This is reflected in the current state of America’s economy, as well as within the rest of the world.
Fortunately, there are brilliant people like Sheena Williams in the world who are working to change things. She is the founder of SheWill, Inc., an organization geared toward improving financial literacy in girls ages eight to 17 and families.
“I teach how to be responsible with money management. I also teach career empowerment and entrepreneurship,” said Williams. “Basically what I do is try to prepare girls for life skills before they graduate high school and go off to college, so they’ll have fundamental financial and career skills before leaving their parents house.”
When Williams graduated from high school, all her dad ever told her was to be responsible with money. And as an 18- year- old living on her own, she didn’t know what that meant. “I made mistakes and I just don’t want the future generation to have to go through those obstacles that I did,” Williams said.
Williams has since earned an MBA in Public Administration and is the President of SheWill, Inc. During one of the company’s seminars or events, girls learn about savings, budgeting, and philanthropy. They are taught the difference between a credit card, debit card and checking account. Classes also learn what credit is, how to establish credit and different forms of credit such as store credit. They are able to review a credit card statement and learn about interest rates.
“We do simple interest for them and a little bit of compounding interest for savings but mostly interest rates for credit cards,” said Williams.
Sheena hosts classes and seminars throughout her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia and recently has been able to start working with school districts and organizations across the country. Read more…
Just what is a Frockstar? Take a look at the series of interviews with women by Karina Chronicles. The current issue features Swagger founder Cindy Brown.
If you could give your 16 year old self advice, what would you say?
It’s OK to be yourself and let your light shine. Don’t worry about what other people say.
Forget the drummer.
Confidence to Greatness is effective because women (and a man) tell the stories of their own struggles and failures with courage and candor. This collection of essays also focuses on how girls overcame obstacles to achieve their dreams. So often, young women find themselves in unsupportive or abusive homes or facing a teen pregnancy. The message of Confidence to Greatness is that none of these problems condemn a girl to failure. Although teenage girls are the intended audience for this book – I think the message that having self-confidence and dreaming big can create real success is important one for all of us.
The book includes a definition of self-worth by Barb Steinberg:
Self-worth is having confidence, believing in yourself, and liking yourself. Self-worth is knowing that it is because of WHO you are and not what you do that you are worthy. You are worthy of being alive; you are worthy of being liked/loved; and you are worthy of good things happening in your life.
We all need the reassurance that we are lovable and deserving of good relationships. When you feel this way, the pressure of your girlfriends to smoke or drink means less. If you have high self-esteem, you don’t cave in to your boyfriend’s insistence on having sex when you are not ready.
In addition to the essays, the book has a quiz to help you determine your current self-worth and also a series of priceless actions to take including healing, acknowledging your own value, appreciating failure, locating your riches, pushing, volunteering and cheering for yourself.
Know a teenage girl who could use a self-worth guide? Go to www.confidencetogreatness.org or order the book here: http://www.payloadz.com/go/jump?id=1598623&aff_id=3441474.
Do you feel frustrated when you see the young women you know struggle with body image? You might have the same struggle – given the constant bombardment of media messages about how you are supposed to look. You may already know that the pictures of women you see in magazines and on TV are often not real. The images are often enhanced, air brushed, and photo-shopped. So the ideal that we may be striving for is not even real.
Deida Massey decide to do something with her frustrations – she lives by Gandhi’s famous words – “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Deida is the founder of the Chicago non-profit Reel Beauty. Here is Deida’s story:
Prior to pursuing her dream of being a makeup artist in the beauty, fashion, music and entertainment industry, Deida obtained a Master’s of Jurisprudence from Loyola School of Law in Child and Family Law. While in school, Deida worked as a paralegal for the Cook County Public Guardian’s Office in Chicago, Illinois.During the day she advocated for abused and neglected children as a paralegal, but her love for makeup led her to moonlight as a makeup artist at night and on the weekends. In fact, it didn’t take her long to trade in her cushy, nine-to-five job for a more creative and rewarding career in makeup artistry. She took a courageous leap of faith, left the Windy City and moved to Los Angeles, CA in 2002. In 2004, Deida’s vision to create Reel Beauty manifested while living in LA. She then decided to bridge the gap between her love and passion for makeup artistry and helping young women. Today Deida Massey is the Founder and Executive Director of Reel Beauty, Inc – an organization that assists at risk urban girls. “We teach them to value themselves and empower them with self worth, self-esteem and self confidence so they will be productive citizens within their environment. We do that by offering 10 activity-based workshops designed to help these young women resolve the problems they struggle with day to day.” Deida realized how detrimental the messages in today’s music, culture and media portrayal were. “I wanted to do something to combat all the negativity.”
Reel Beauty has mentored more than 500 girls offering workshops that help build positive self-image and supporting young women as they combat negativity in their lives and work toward their dreams. Reel Beauty is working on expanding its program to Tanzania.
The Girl’s Guide to Swagger welcomes our newest partner Deida Massey and Reel Beauty. We salute you for the good work you are doing supporting swagger for girls and for “being the change!”
Reel Beauty, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) non profit that teaches teen girls ages 11-18 the importance of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth. We achieve our mission by offering proven self-esteem workshops that help develop young girls to become productive citizens within their environment. Our ultimate goal is to become an international force of change. Web site: www.reelbeautyinc.com
What’s Wrong with Me, a new book by Daree Allen for girls and young women has just been released. Daree is on a blog book tour to let everyone know about the book. The Girl’s Guide to Swagger interviewed Daree on topics like confidence, clothing, and life purpose. Take a look at Daree’s inspirational thoughts on how to get more confidence and swagger in your life!
1. Can you tell me about what inspired you to write What’s Wrong with Me?
My life coach encouraged me to get started on the book a few years ago, but the deep need for me to write it came from the lost girl I used to be. I felt so misunderstood, sometimes unloved (although I was loved), I didn’t like myself or the way I looked, and I didn’t get attention I wanted from boys at school or my own father. I didn’t have a mentor to guide me and rely on, and although I became a Christian at age 10, I didn’t fully accept everything about what comes with a relationship with God. So all of these elements had a hand in motivating me to produce What’s Wrong with Me?
2. What part of the book are you most excited about?
I love bringing up the things that are supposedly taboo, or that people know is present but don’t want to admit (e.g., the proverbial “elephant in the room.” Don’t you know that once you expose something negative, it starts to lose its power?
Specifically, although it’s not exactly “exciting,” one of things I am proud of in this book is the battle I won with depression, as it relates to my daughter and her father. The African American community in particular likes to keep mental health issues on the hush, but I like to tell my story so that others won’t feel ashamed to admit when they’re deeply hurt, nor be afraid to work through their issues.
3. Who is the target audience for the book? Have you had any initial responses from your readers?
I wrote the book with teen girls in mind, and I have heard from teen girls that read it quickly (couldn’t put it down), and enjoyed it. I’m also hearing a great response from women in their 20s-40s (both mothers and childless women), who also strongly relate and identify with the concepts in the book, especially regarding relationships and self-esteem. I firmly believe that the issues I discuss in the book that are not resolved when you’re young follow you and often cause bigger issues into adulthood.
4. The Girl’s Guide to Swagger is focused on promoting confidence for girls and women – how does What’s Wrong with Me? deal with confidence?
As an extension of my answer in question 1, I talk about my insecurities as a girl/teen and give advice for how to handle that. For example, I didn’t care for my flat chest and big butt– according to what I saw on TV, my shape was not “in.” An hourglass shape (think Beyonce-Kim Kardashian-Nikki Minaj) was coveted. My hair was very thick and coarse– it wouldn’t stay straight for long even with a perm (relaxer). I talk about acceptance and how to turn those feelings around to consider not what is wrong with you (and who says, anyway?) but rather, what’s RIGHT with you.
5. How do you think confidence impacts the life experience for girls?
Confidence tells you that you can or can’t do something. Are you sure you can do that? Maybe not, but if you have confidence you’re willing to try, and you don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make it the first time. Make it a practice to affirm yourself no matter what your circumstances look like. Encourage yourself and if you’re not 100% confident about something, it’s ok to “fake it ’til you make it.”
6. How does the book fit in with your life purpose?
My life purpose–at least in this phase of my life–is to uplift and motivate girls and young women to be their best, to learn from their mistakes, and be empowered. I’ve spoken on motivational and empowerment topics for a long time, but I wanted to add a part of me–the book is partly a memoir–to offer at my speeches or workshops.
7. You wrote a guest blog for the swagger website called – “If you got it, flaunt it! Not so fast” How do you think clothing reflects a girl’s self-image?
Our clothes say a lot about us. It’s a form of expression even if you don’t mean for it to be. Your personality is not always reflected in the way you dress, but initially people judge you by your appearance–like it or not.
Most of have at least one piece of clothing or jewelry that we feel good wearing, and that’s ok. But you have to recognize whether you NEED to have it to feel good about yourself. This can even be extended to something like wigs. Even though technically they’re not clothing, you do put it on before going outside. Are you trying to impress someone else with what you have on, or do you wear it because YOU like it?
Some girls wear tight clothes to get attention from boys. Some get trendy clothes they see at the mall even if it doesn’t fit or flatter them, just because they like them or “that’s what’s in.” Some wear fashion based on the styles of their favorite celebrities. But everything isn’t for everybody. Whether you shop at K-Mart, Nordstrom’s or somewhere in between, you can keep it classy and not be trashy.
8. Any advice for the community of women who make up The Girl’s Guide to Swagger?
Females in our society have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. Girls need to see A) that other females in the world and their community are happy and successful with their lives, and B) feel that they too can accomplish anything. Women need to be those examples, but girls need to know that even if they don’t physically see anything like THEIR VISION, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
When you believe you can do something, nothing can stop you except you. But first you’ve got to believe it, then you create a plan, and you have to act on it. Every step of the way may not be smooth, but you will learn and grow because of it. And when you look back, you’ll see your progress. You may get tired, you may want to take a break (I certainly did both with this book!), but once you have your goal in mind, don’t stop until you get there!
Daree Allen is an authorpreneur, young adult esteem advocate, speaker, and goal-getter in Atlanta, GA. She has published articles on a variety of topics as a freelance writer and blogger, and is the author of the new teen mentoring book entitled, “What’s Wrong With Me?” in which she discusses her own childhood dealing with self-esteem, premarital sex, family and personal relationships. Find out more about her work at www.dareesinsights.wordpress.com and www.DareeAllen.com.
Have you ever taken a deep breath and said the hard thing that needed to be said? Perhaps it was “no.” No to working at a job that was killing your spirit. No to a relationship that was making you shrink and squirm. No to a family role that was never you.
Any of these acts take tremendous personal courage. In situations where you fear being hurt verbally or physically or where you don’t want to hurt people you care about – taking action can be particularly difficult.
Recently I had to set boundaries in a personal relationship. Although I liked the way the relationship began, it had become difficult and scary for me. I had to say – “this is what I am willing to do” and “this is what I am NOT willing to do.” I was nervous – my knees were shaking when I was talking, but I was able to clearly state my boundaries. What I had to say was not popular or immediately accepted. But when I was done I felt so proud that I had the courage to say what I needed.
Eventually, I could see that the person I set the boundaries with had a new respect for me. I was no longer at his mercy, playing by his rules. He seemed to hear what I had been trying to say – nicely – for the first time and realized he had been taking so many good things for granted.
When you are facing the need to set boundaries – here are some ways to get prepared:
1. Center yourself in your strength: take a deep breath, imagine someone who inspires you with her strength.
2. Prepare: think about what you will say – write it down. You may want to review your notes several times before you need to actually convey your thoughts, so that you can better remember what you want to say in a stressful situation.
3. Say it out loud: to yourself or a trusted friend. Get used to what you sound like being calm and firm. Eliminate any softening words or phrases – such as – “if it is OK with you” or “if you don’t mind” or “kinda/sort of/a little bit.”
4. Find a place you are comfortable for the conversation.
5. Square your shoulders, take a breath, feel your power and go for it!
I wish you great personal courage and new self-respect and swagger.
NOTE: if you fear for your safety, please reach out to your local women’s anti-violence organization. Not sure? Read here about healthy and abusive relationships – http://www.girlsguidetoswagger.com/?p=1596.
One of the popular sayings of our culture is, “If you got it, flaunt it!” I often hear that statement when I point out the way a female is dressed and question it aloud (sometimes a celebrity, sometimes a woman I see when out and about). One of the specific fashion trends that I think we as females should be careful about is writing across our private body parts. Have you ever thought about what message this sends to
Girls, you develop faster in the 21st century than ever before. Older boys and grown men may look at you as grown women, even though your mind has not fully matured to that of a grown woman. Men are stimulated visually, so if you come around them wearing tight jeans that make your butt stick out, or tight t-shirts or thin blouses that accentuate your breasts, where do you think they are going to concentrate their gaze? They won’t be focused on your face, and certainly not on whatever you’re saying to them.
Ladies– those of you who are mothers, mother-figures, aunties, and mentors– we need to show the girls how it’s done. We must model modesty because there are so many girls–and even other women–that are looking up to us. If we go about our daily lives (to church, work, etc.) wearing clothes that are too tight, skirts way above our thighs, and cleavage showing, how can we expect the girls we love and care for be any different? If you can instill dignity and assertiveness in another female by the way you carry yourself, which includes your mode of dress in flattering, age-appropriate clothing, you can inspire your community and your entire sphere of influence.
I heard of a book entitled, “Girls Gone Mild,” and that’s what we need to be. Don’t use the excuse that all the latest fashions are cut and designed that way, because they’re not. You may just have to look elsewhere and spend your money in stores where the fashion will not objectify the girls they market to. Show your daughters, nieces, cousins, goddaughters, mentees, and neighbors that it’s cool–it’s good!–to dress modestly. It’s one of the first signs of self-respect, and you can do it without saying a word. You get your swag on without showing all your stuff.
Daree Allen is an authorpreneur, young adult esteem advocate, speaker, and goal-getter in Atlanta, GA. Find out more about her work at www.dareesinsights.wordpress.com and www.DareeAllen.com. Kharacter Distinction Books and author Daree Allen will release their first mentoring book for teen girls titled “What’s Wrong With Me?: A Girl’s Book of Lessons Learned, Inspiration and Advice” this February. In the book, Allen details various stories from her life and guides girls with lessons and advice for similar situations from family, relationships, friendships and sex–all from a godly perspective.