How I AM THAT GIRL and Alessia Cara are Changing the World

10/07/2016 11:52 pm ET
Wyatt Toll

In a world where 7 in 10 girls feel they are not good enough, something must be done to destroy the societal adversities that hold young women back.

I AM THAT GIRL is doing just that. The non-profit’s recent partnership with Alessia Cara provides a unique and intriguing way to encourage honesty and vulnerability in young women.

“It couldn’t be a more perfect combination. It was such a perfect, magic match,” says Kim Jacobs, director of I AM THAT GIRL’s powerful new video.

Kim and IATG Co-founder and CEO, Emily Greener, had actually already completely finished the video except for the narration before they got in contact with Alessia. They were in search of a narrator who could adequately represent the young women in the video, preferably a young woman herself because, as Emily says, it’s essential that young women are at the forefront of what IATG puts out into the world.

In the midst of their search, someone encouraged Emily to check out Alessia Cara’s new song “Scars to Your Beautiful.”

When Emily first heard the song, she was moved to tears. She thought, “this girl, she speaks our language.” She felt Alessia’s song sent the same message that I AM THAT GIRL aimed to send with the video, and she immediately knew that Alessia was the perfect girl to do the narration. “It really all came together kind of beautifully,” she says.

The immensely powerful video (aptly titled I Am You: Alessia Cara & I AM THAT GIRL) features the faces of diverse young women quickly moving and changing while speaking together, as if they are one despite their differences. Kim says this pointing out of the intrinsic similarities in all young women was precisely her goal. “[It’s] the idea of all of these diverse girls relating on that core, humanistic level. We may look different, but we have those same emotional needs.”

She says she developed this technique painstakingly, fine-tuning every little part of the frame so that every single girl would appear as one. “We are one,” she says.

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The video itself very clearly sends this message. As the narrator, Alessia says “Hi, I am a girl. I have emotions. I have a lot of them. I don’t always feel like I’m good enough.” Emily describes how significantly powerful this message is to young girls. “If you watch this as a girl and see that they’re scared too, they’re all speaking their truths, it makes them [viewers] feel less alone.” Then, she says, they are inspired to take action.

That action is what IATG is all about.

IATG took this partnership with Alessia to an even higher level by creating a curriculum surrounded around “Scars to Your Beautiful” and emphasizing the main mission of IATG: to inspire girls to be vulnerable and speak up about their insecurities. Emily says the curriculum based on Alessia’s song is a “transformative experience,” which will allow young girls to talk about their own scars. It creates a community, and that community of girls can ultimately transform the entire world.

Alessia’s participation has already had a significant impact. In just the first few days following the launch of the video, they received seventy applications for local chapters. To put that in perspective, they typically get 3-5 a week. “That’s the level of significance,” Emily says. “It means everything.”

Both Emily and Kim think there is much society can do to help share the message of IATG.

First, the media can be more aware of the messages they send to young girls.

Kim says, “I think there just needs to be a consciousness and real respect for the messages and images that we’re making. As [filmmakers], it is our responsibility to be conscious of what we’re putting into the world.”

Second, adults can set a strong example by embracing their own struggles.

Emily says a lot of adults are afraid to talk to young people about their scars and struggles because they think success is about “having it all together,” and they view being vulnerable and being a good leader as exact opposites. She thinks it is extremely important for young girls to have honest and vulnerable adult female role models. If more adult women would speak honestly about their issues and struggles, she says, it would encourage young women to do the same.

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Finally, according to Emily and Kim, we must support and elevate the voices of young women, as they’re already making real, significant change in the world. I AM THAT GIRL is doing what it can to help them through an emotionally supportive and beneficial community.

To continue that work, Emily encourages young women to start or join a local chapter of I AM THAT GIRL, which offers the highest level of empowerment and support. She also wants girls to “wake up every morning committed to figuring out how they can say, ‘I am enough’ and mean it.”

She says that, when girls start learning that they’re “enough,” that’s what’s going to change society. Moreover, when they can have a support system and a community, amazing things can happen.

Kim agrees. “I wanna live to see that world. What a beautiful place.”

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