The goal of That Girl Rocks is to compel 1,000 people to submit a video about a girl who rocks their world. Why? Because we at I AM THAT GIRL are passionate about using media as a platform to build girls up instead of breaking them down. If we can get 1,000 girls to do this, we (along with our celebrity supporters) will hand-deliver a package to The Ellen DeGeneres Show with a copy of each video and a request to highlight our movement on her show.
I've spent years working in the entertainment industry. From red-carpet interviews to sport shows to a hard-fought battle on the reality TV show Survivor, I've been in the thick of it -- as a host, a professional storyteller, a media personality and a content creator. But it wasn't until I performed in a progressive women's play called The Vagina Monologues, written by Eve Ensler, that a passion deep in my soul was ignited and I was instantaneously thrust into a completely different trajectory. I realized -- through this play that simultaneously entertained and educated its audience -- that storytelling could ignite change; it could create awareness, inspire, challenge and engage. I also realized that the entertainment industry was a tool and a vehicle to reach that audience.
You see, the entertainment industry doesn't necessarily tell us what to think, but it certainly tells us what to think about. The mere fact that youth are consuming over 10 hours of media a day, second only to school and sleeping, describes its power and influence. My fear is that the conditioning our girls are receiving from the 3,000 brand images they see daily -- and the $400 billion beauty industry highlighting their flaws (while providing expensive solutions) -- are reinforcing the lie that our girls are not good enough.
They see messaging, images and depictions of girls that are hyper-sexualized, catty, simplistic and airbrushed to an unfathomable, "perfect-driven" expectation. For me this problem is very personal, because I'm not above the insecurities that accompany staring at Victoria Secret supermodels, the ideals set by unrealistic romantic comedies or the struggle for "thin" at the expense of "healthy." These messages promote competition amongst girls instead of collaboration and our sense of community is unfamiliar in a world where we desperately need it.
But rather than complain about the current state of the media, I'd rather spend my time creating solutions. I founded I AM THAT GIRL, an organization building an online and offline community devoted to inspiring and empowering girls to discover their innate worth and purpose. In October of last year, we had the great privilege to present to the White House what we described as a "global health crisis for girls." In response to the negative repercussions that media can have on girls and their confidence, we presented a campaign concept called That Girl Rocks as a solution (#ThatGirlRocks). We asked Tina Tchen, chief of staff to the First Lady and head of the White House Council on Women and Girls, "What if we could create media that was lifting girls up instead of breaking them down? What if we showed girls what was possible if we collaborated instead of competed, and if we encouraged contribution over mere consumption? What if we had the audacity to redefine what it means to be a rock star and inspire girls to think for themselves, to speak their truth and to discover their purpose? What does our country look like when we manufacture smart, compassionate, confident and passion-driven girls -- as opposed to comatose Barbies?"
Having spent the last four years on the road speaking to over 100,000 girls (in person) and to over a million via technology and social media, we believe we understand this generation better than most -- their struggles, fears, temptations, insecurities, hopes and dreams. That being said, healthy media is our solution to this epidemic of insecurity among girls, and That Girl Rocks is our first campaign. It gives people the opportunity to give a shout-out to a girl or woman in their life whom they love and respect -- and who they think rocks. We believe that it's possible to overcome the one-dimensional idea that people only want to watch train wrecks, sex and low-level reality TV portraying catty girls or rich princesses. That Girl Rocks is designed to prove that what girls want and deserve is rich, intelligent, savvy, entertaining and thought-provoking content.
We recently launched our interactive Facebook campaign during SXSW in Austin, and the reaction was incredible. The response videos came pouring in -- from influential people like Kate Bosworth (who tweeted to Ellen that she should get involved), Sophia Bush, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jenna Ushkowitz, Matt Leinart, Doug Ulman (the CEO of LIVESTRONG) and self-made billionaire and philanthropist John Paul DeJoria. Wonderfully inspiring was that if you build it, they really do come. People sincerely understand and believe that girl empowerment through savvy media is not only possible, but necessary. At the end of the day, this is not a strategic, celebrity-driven campaign in hopes of raising a few dollars for our nonprofit; we are on a mission to ignite a movement that reminds girls everywhere (and the wonderful guys who support them) of their intrinsic and unparalleled worth, in the hopes of creating a community that can be the solution to some of our world's greatest problems.
We at I AM THAT GIRL believe there's a responsibility in the caliber of content that girls and young women consume, because it has such a profound impact on the way they define themselves. I may be a hopeless optimist, a trailblazing passionista on a mission to leave the world better, but I do believe that change is possible, I do believe that media can transform the vicious "mean girl" paradigm and I do believe that I AM THAT GIRL can ignite a movement of confident, thoughtful, compassion and contribution-driven girls leading our country and our world to a better place.
In short, I think it's time we stopped trying to give our girls makeovers when it is really the media that needs one the most. To learn more about our movement and our audacious healthy-media initiative, please visit our website at www.iamthatgirl.com.