An era is defined as a significant amount of time.
About one year ago, I was unknowingly introduced to the beginning of something that would significantly shape the next and last chapter of my teen-hood.
It has been a year since I wrote what turned out to be a life-changing post about Brandy Melville. Looking back on it, I didn't think many people would take an interest in it. It started as a school project -- write a letter to a company. Striking a deeper chord, it quickly evolved into wanting to speak up for myself and millions of other girls around the globe, that feel societal pressures about their bodies. The blog generated likes on Facebook, another HuffPost article written on the same topic, a feature on TheGloss.com and on a personal life level, I can say that I've been able to do some pretty cool things because of it:
Never did I think I would appear on national television to talk about it.
Nor did I imagine Good Morning America would want to feature me on a segment.
Yet that is exactly what happened.
It was all a surreal and a truly incredible opportunity for me but it taught me a few things about the real value of the article:
1. Teens have a voice and it is important for us to use it, no matter how small or big the issue.
Why? Because voice is our catalyst: real change comes when we work together and create discourse on topics people feel strongly about or realities that they are experiencing deeply. I have always been a person that spoke up for what I believed in and I think it's imperative to stick to that faith, no matter what people say. The issue is too important.
2. Just because an issue doesn't exist for one person, doesn't mean it doesn't for others.
The responses went both ways. I was called "unhappy" and "fat" from people online who felt that my argument was incorrect and other responses dismissed me as "just a hater", but it is important to make it clear again that I don't hate Brandy. I never did. I simply saw things from a perspective not all people shared or were comfortable to explore -- their advertising was misleading, false and potentially damaging to teen girls who are forming their body identities. When I saw that nothing was being done about it, I decided to use my voice and at least widen the conversation.
Do I want to be labeled as the Brandy girl forever? No, but its given me a level of credibility for which I am forever grateful. Do I want to be taken seriously? Yes. I want to be known as myself, as an activist, a blogger and a speaker of my truth. I don't want Brandy Melville to label me or set expectations for my journalism, I want to grow from it. It has opened many doors but it's ultimately up to myself to keep those doors open through continuing to open the portals of discourse on what matters to us.
At this one year anniversary of the article, I'm reminded that even the smallest of things can be changed. Did Brandy Melville change their sizing? No, but more people have realized and spoken up about image empowerment, embracing your shape and challenging the unhealthy expectations some clothing lines put on young teenagers.
At the end of this era, my lesson is one to be shared: Speak up! Small changes can have big effects -- you never know whose life you will touch.