Building A Better Body Image – 5 Things Every Late Teen Should Know

Body image is a priority for all, but carries an even greater significance for young adults. Not only does looking good make us feel good. It additionally has a huge impact on the way others view us, which further influences self-confidence and other features.

There’s no better time to start your positive body transformation. After all, it’s easier to make those changes while you’re still young. But before you do, it’s imperative that you equip yourself with the necessary knowledge to gain great results. Here’s everything you need to know.

Negative influences will take their toll. This is the stage of your life where you may be more likely to fall into the traps of alcohol consumption. There’s nothing wrong with a night out on the town, however, trading some of those beverages for mocktails can bring huge rewards. They are still fun in social settings but don’t come with the consequences of alcohol.

Your body can use a boost during those early stages. If you want to gain a better body, there’s a strong chance that you have made past mistakes. An organic detox tea can aid your general well being to leave you feeling healthier than ever. This is the perfect foundation for building a successful workout and healthy eating plan too. Apart from anything else, those two breaks for a cuppa give you a great chance to reflect and plan things.

Motivation is everything. If working out feels like a chore, you will not keep it up for the long haul. Therefore, finding ways to stay motivated throughout your workouts is key. Whether it’s in the gym or on the track, this will have a telling impact on the efficiency of those activities. Most importantly, though, you need to ensure that skipped sessions don’t become a regular feature. When this happens, progress will be slowed. Consequently, that will send the likelihood of giving up through the roof.

The human body changes with age. Puberty affects everyone differently. Therefore, you may just need to accept that the body you had during your early teens simply isn’t possible. Learn to love the skin you’re in by focusing on achieving the best possible version of you. Ultimately, if you can achieve this goal, then the opinions of anybody else become redundant. If that doesn’t allow you to become the happy and healthy person, what will?

It’s not all about your body. In truth, your facial features will always be the key to feeling your best. While girls will want to perfect their makeup rituals, boys just need to focus on good grooming. Clothing is an equally important element as your fashion choices are what bring the style and look to life. Whether you create your own personal appearance or borrow ideas from celebs doesn’t matter. Whatever you do, though, ensuring that those outfits fit is crucial.

Meet Dutch Fashion Designer Lecy Lau

My name is Lecy Lau, I am 19 years young, and I live in the Netherlands. For four years straight now I been running my own brand called LECY LAU. I hope other young girls get inspired by reading my story.

My whole life I have always been into fashion, but to actually start my own fashion brand…I never thought about that. It just happened! Even when I was young, I always liked to design my own clothes and turn a basic piece into something unique. When I was 15 years old, I designed a pair of denim jeans by myself. I received many compliments on the jeans and people really wanted to buy them from me, so I asked myself, why not? I made the jeans for a couple of people and sold them. Then even more people wanted to buy them, and before I knew it I had so many orders that even my mother needed to help me to make them because it was just too much to do it all by myself! Then I received the question from different people, asking if I had more clothes to sell. I really liked the feeling of seeing other people happy with something I made for them. From that moment I knew what I wanted to do. I was fifteen years old when I made my brand official and started spreading my clothes all over social media.

Even after four years, every day I’m learning new things and getting so much joy out of designing. There have been ups and down, both personally and professionally, but every difficult situation makes me a stronger person. I challenge myself to be the best version of me. There is one thing I really don’t like to do, and that is competing and judging others, because we all try to do our best and I just don’t think you will get any better by making conclusions about somebody because of what you see from the outside. I know a lot of people do this to each other, and most of the time it makes them bitter, jealous, and unfocused. I just like to mind my own business, really, and do what feels and is best for me. I just want to tell all girls, as long as you work hard and don’t give up, you will get where you want to be.

“You learn as you live, you only lose when you give up everything.’’ That is the quote that keeps me focused. I love to see and read motivational quotes and stories from other people; I learn from them and get inspired. I just think you can’t have enough of them!

I am thankful for getting up every single morning, and going to my own office to work on something that I love to do. I enjoy my work every day, and I hope that every single girl will one day get her dream job, too. It doesn’t matter if it is for yourself or for a CEO, the only thing that matters is that you have fun with what you do, something that is really your passion. Stay true to yourself and don’t settle for anything less. No matter what you have been through, or what you are going through right now, you deserve the best.

 

Lots of love,

Lecy Lau

 

Check out her clothing line at http://lecylau.com/

Meet 25-year-old Award Winning Actress, Writer, and Director Castille Landon

“Diversify your interests, study anything and everything, and most importantly, never compare yourself to anyone else. There will always be someone more intelligent, more talented, more beautiful, more connected, etc., but that doesn’t mean there’s not a place for you at the table. You are enough; it’s a matter of working hard for yourself, striving to become the best version of yourself, and believing that you have something that is worthy of contributing.”

25-year-old actress, screenwriter, and film director Castille Landon is making history and paving the way for young women who are pursuing their dreams and careers. Born in Florida, she moved to Los Angeles when she was fifteen to pursue a career in acting. She graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. in English, and is currently a student at Oxford, working on her creative writing major as the only screenwriter accepted into the class. “I think it helps as a filmmaker to be exposed to as many subjects as possible so as to create work that more broadly reflects humanity. I’d rather tell the stories of humans (especially women) throughout time, or be inspired by big ideas in science and medicine or great minds than become insular and just tell stories I relate to personally, or make films about filmmakers or writers,” said Landon, when asked why she decided to pursue a college education instead of only going straight to a career in the film industry.

She has appeared in numerous television shows and films such as Criminal Minds, Wind Walkers, Land of Leopold, and Among Ravens, and played a major supporting role in the comedy Sex Ed opposite Haley Joel Osment and Glen Powell. Now she writes, produces, and directs films such as Apple of My Eye, starring Burt Reynolds and Amy Smart, and I Believe in Unicorns, which premiered at SXSW and was screened in more than 40 film festivals worldwide. Her latest film, Albion: The Enchanted Stallion, was just released on Pay Per View on April 2, and will be available on DVD at Walmart on May 2.

The story follows a thirteen-year-old girl, tasked with the responsibility of caring for her disabled father, who is transported by a magical black stallion to the mystical world of Albion, where she discovers that she is the key to saving an entire race of people. It stars Oscar-nominee John Cleese (Monty Python), Jennifer Morrison (Once Upon A Time), and Debra Messing (Will and Grace). “The film was a blast to direct,” said Landon. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of actors. Everyone really nailed their characters, and [the cast] and I became very close during the whole shooting process.” The film earned a 93% audience approval rating when it was previewed at the Bentonville Film Festival, and received both the IFP Director’s Lab Selection award and Grand Jury Award for Best Feature Film at the Equus Film Festival in New York.

In her free time, Castille enjoys hot power yoga, horseback riding, and reading. She is also a very strong supporter of women in film, gender equality, inclusion of girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields, and de-stigmatizing mental illness. This is what she had to say on the subject:

“Gender equality is something that needs to happen, and that I’m constantly shocked to see is not even close to our present conditions. As far as STEM fields, I think it’s important to empower girls through school and teach them that their contributions in those fields can be great. I personally really struggle with understanding detailed science and math, but I’m obsessed with learning about them in the general sense. I love learning about neurology, epigenetics, and cognitive and behavioral psychology— how the brain works, why we do what we do, etc. Perhaps my brain really doesn’t grasp on to the intricacies of it, but it could also be that if I had been encouraged to study those subjects as a younger person, I might have been able to train my brain to function in those fields. Too often, young girls are told that they are meant to be studying subjects in the humanities, that we’re the ‘emotional’ gender, and so we turn the logical, mathematical sides of our brains off. Do we really lack those talents, or are they muscles that we weren’t encouraged to strengthen and have atrophied without use? Geena Davis’s Institute is doing great work and putting forth the idea that young people need to see themselves reflected on screen, so we, as creatives, need to show women doing these things to inspire the younger generation to pursue them.

“All of that being said, de-stigmatizing mental illness and promoting mental wellness is one of my greatest passions in life. There’s a long history of mental illness in my family, particularly in the women, up the maternal line for several generations. I was raised to understand that and so it didn’t even occur to me that discussing one’s struggles in that area was taboo until fairly recently. It dawned on me that many people turned to suicide not only because they were struggling with mental illness, but because they felt too ashamed of their condition to speak up and get help. That’s unacceptable. No one would be ashamed to say they had asthma so they needed to take a break from exercise. Society doesn’t judge those who get cancer. Why do we not regard mental illness in the same manner? It’s really nonsensical to me. And furthermore, positive psychology should be taught alongside any other subject. We should promote positive thinking instead of perpetuating the culture of fear and anger that the media seems intent on spreading.”

You can learn more about Geena Davis’s Institute here: https://seejane.org/
Also, check out the trailer for Albion: The Enchanted Stallion, like the Facebook page, and go follow Castille on Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date on her upcoming projects!
By Anna Tallarico

How I Turned My Passion into a Thriving Business

One of the darling dresses that can be found at daintyjewells.com

You’ve probably been told at some point, “Follow your passion and don’t give up.” It may not sound like revolutionary advice, but it’s truly some of the most important advice I’ve been given. It was my mom who first said these words to me, and if I hadn’t taken them to heart, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

At sixteen years old, I was passionate about upcycling tops, skirts, dresses, and even custom-embellished headbands. My intention wasn’t originally to start my own company; designing was a creative outlet for me. But my friends and acquaintances showed so much interest in owning one of my unique creations that starting my own business seemed to be the next logical step. Dainty Jewell’s was born, a company rooted in pursuing my passions that, after years of hard work, a few setbacks, and many successes, has become a provider of more than 80,000 pieces of clothing. It’s so exciting to watch my dream come to life! If you have a dream you’re passionate about, here is my advice to you:

Turn your passion into profit. In attempt to make extra money, I began designing headbands, shoe clips, and small accessories. Because my father was a traveling minister, I was able to sell my pieces all across the country. It wasn’t until people began encouraging me and complimenting my work, however, that I toyed with the idea of launching a full-fledged business. I was frequently asked about doing retail, so I finally decided to introduce a new clothing line on Facebook. I started my business with ten pieces, and it grew from there. Whenever you’re passionate about something or you just want to make a little extra money, try combining your passion with business savvy. It’s scientifically proven that following your passion brings deep satisfaction.  

What matters to you now many times won’t matter years from now. As I was starting my business at the age of sixteen, most people my age were totally engrossed in school activities, sports, dating, college applications, popularity, and adolescent drama. These things are huge when you’re a teenager, but they’re only a blip on the radar when you look at life on a large scale. While my peers were obsessed with matters of short-term significance, I was bootstrapping a business and learning how to manage my finances. I made sacrifices, such as choosing work over hanging out with friends, and I often chose to focus on my business when other things were calling for my attention. In the end, all the sacrifices were worth it. It’s the best feeling in the world waking up each day knowing I’m exactly where God wants me to be, doing what makes me happy.

Go against the grain. Dainty Jewell’s offers fashionably modest clothing for women and girls. The pieces have a classic elegance and vintage look (think Jackie Kennedy) with sleeves to the elbow and skirts to the knee. In a culture where dressing modestly isn’t celebrated, Dainty Jewell’s has still managed to be wildly successful. My pieces have been featured in USA Today, People StyleWatch, and BuzzFeed, and they’ve been worn by dozens of well-known fashion bloggers. I chose from the beginning to emphasize modesty, not so that Dainty Jewell’s would stand out or be unique—although those things became positive consequences of my decision—but so that I could be true to my belief that women and girls can and should be able to dress modestly and still look fabulous. Going against the grain and what society deems as normal has served my business and me well.  

Rely heavily on your support system. I can’t preach this last piece of advice enough! Surround yourself with positive, influential people who encourage, support, and love you. Your support system will be there when times are good and when times get tough: you need them for both. I would be nowhere without the encouragement and support of my parents, close family, and friends; without moral guidance from my pastor; and without the love and business advice of my husband. I’ve relied heavily on these people throughout the years. They’ve given wise counsel, lent an ear when I needed it, encouraged me, celebrated with me, and even rolled up their sleeves and helped me at times. My support system has been instrumental in the growth of my business and an asset to me personally.

Do you have a dream? A passion? A burning sense of purpose that sometimes keeps you up at night and energizes you in the day? Embrace that passion. Use it for good. Follow your passion, and never, ever give up.

 

About Charity Walter & Dainty Jewell’s: Charity Walter, a modern southern belle who grew up in North Carolina, began designing at the age of sixteen with the intent of upcycling and creating unique pieces featuring custom embellishments, dainty details, and decorative confections. After inspiring friends and acquaintances with her unique creations, the idea of creating her own company was born. Dainty Jewell’s remains dedicated to providing affordable and fashionably modest clothing to women of all ages because Charity believes dressing with ladylike class is a privilege all women should have access to. Combined with her intuitive business sense, Charity’s ability and passion to design clothing for every body type and age group is a gift that has enabled Dainty Jewell’s to soar in excellence for quality, customer service, and integrity. For more information, go to daintyjewells.com.

 

Chatting with Author Laila Jackson

R: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

L: My name is Laila Lee Jackson and I’m a total dork. I couldn’t survive without my family and, in my opinion, animals are better than people. I am sixteen years old and I started writing back when I was ten. I am very passionate about reading, which I have enjoyed since about third grade when I discovered the Harry Potter series. After finding Harry Potter I started reading more and more. I eventually stumbled across Percy Jackson and the Olympians and fell in love. With books and the stories that came to life with just a few words, I decided that I wanted to share my own stories with the world, so I started writing. It didn’t start off well. I was a decent writer, but I couldn’t give my stories any real substance. Finally, after basically moving across the state, I found not only my incredible friends, but an idea that came to life and after four years, I finally had the story I’d always dreamed of.

R: What is your book about?

L: I’ve never been good at summarizing a story, but I’ll give it my best shot. My story is about a girl who discovers she isn’t quite normal. Her soul is not her own, but rather shared with that of an ancient Greek goddess. One day, alongside Dakota Greene, Whitney Clarkson (the girl) stumbles across a magical clearing and awakens the goddess, as well as the souls of eleven other ancient deities from several different cultures. Whitney and eleven others are whisked away from the mortal world and sent on an outrageous quest that they can’t expect to survive. Between running from monsters of myth and magical beings that deceive the eye, as well as trying to keep her friends alive, (even at the expense of her own life) she discovers that everyone wears a mask and the difficulty of seeing through it. While that is the basic plot, there is much, much more to the story. Hopefully everyone can discover the world of Whitney Clarkson as she attempts to beat the gods.

R: Who are your biggest inspirations?

L: When it comes to my writing, my greatest inspirations are Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowling. Rowling managed to give me an unquenchable thirst for reading. Riordan turned that thirst into a fiery passion and a craving to make my own own mark on the literary world. His works made me push myself and developed my dreams of sharing my own stories with the world some day. In life, some of my greatest inspirations and influences are my parents. My mom, whose mantra in life is probably “walk it off,” is one of the strongest people I know. My dad, tough on the outside, but softer than your favorite blanket on the inside, pushes me to always be the best I can be. I love them and honestly, I probably wouldn’t survive without them. My influences would also include my teachers and coaches. They are literally there everyday. They know when to praise and when to give constructive criticism. They help me to grow as a student and an athlete, but also as a person.

R: I heard that you are also into sports. What sports do you play?

L: I run cross country and play basketball, but my heart belongs to softball. Cross country constantly challenges my mental strength. I used to despise running. It was the absolute worst. However, my freshman year I succumbed to peer pressure and joined the cross country team, where my coach taught me how to love running. Basketball challenges my physical strength and sometimes leaves me worse for wear. I mean, a girl my age who is as athletic and healthy as I am shouldn’t already have aches and pains that make her hobble around like an old lady. I played basketball for a few years when I was younger, but then stopped until my freshman year when I joined the high school team. I worked incredibly hard and pushed myself and I finally made split team, where I had the privilege to play with varsity. I have played softball for as long as I can remember. It was a game I fell head-over-heels in love with. Eventually, my family moved to a small town in northern Nevada at the end of my fifth grade year. I continued to play and then at the end of my eighth grade year, one of the other softball player’s dad put together a travel team, the Wells Rage. Now, before that summer I was an average player. I wasn’t incredibly good, but I wasn’t the absolute worst. I understood the game better than most others, but my ability was lacking. After that summer I grew and I turned from average to above average. I had talent, but with good coaching and hard work I developed skill. Now I’m hoping to continue my softball through high school and at the next level.

R: Do you have an official website or any social media?

L: I do not have an official website or Facebook page, though we are looking into getting one. The Kingdom of Fire is available on Lulu, which is a self-publishing site. It is also available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

R: What advice would you give to other young writers?

L: All I can tell them is to just keep writing. Find a topic you’re really passionate about and just write. I never brainstormed anything. I did research, but once I pulled up my book I just typed. I lost myself in the story and let myself become a part of it because I cared about it so much. The most important part is to not give up. I have given up on a lot of stories because I couldn’t figure out how to start them or end them or transition to the next chapter. But I finally found a topic that I was so passionate about I couldn’t ever imagine giving up on it. I would also advise that you don’t look at any past work with regret that you didn’t finish. Don’t look at it and only see the mistakes. The more you write the better you get. Without my own failures in the past, I never would have grown into a writer. I never would have dreamed that one day I would have a published book. But because of perseverance and dedication, I do.

 

Hard Work and Faith Can Make Dreams of Helping Others Come True

 

untitledFaith is sometimes hard to come by, but luckily for me I was blessed with an amazing family who has always encouraged me to trust in the Lord and do what I am called to do. For me, one of those times of calling came four, almost five years ago, whenever I saw disabled children not being able to play on a playground like I could. I knew that something needed to be done, that something needed to change. So that Monday evening at my first city council meeting, I took a deep breath and proposed the Rachel’s Fun For Everyone Project. This project would soon grow to reach over 5,000 people all over the world, taking down barriers and leveling playing standards for everyone of all abilities. The Rachel’s Fun For Everyone Playground is to be built in the spring of 2017. My dream will come true. Kids’ lives will be changed. Of course, no victory comes without trials and tribulations. Throughout this project, there have been times when I didn’t know if I could push further, if I could keep pounding the pavement towards the end goal. There have also been times when I didn’t believe that it was possible that a kid could make such a change in my community, or that I could affect as many lives as I’ve been fortunate to. But like I mentioned before, I have an amazing support system that has helped me make this possible and keep me centered through all of the playground planning craziness. As excited as I am to be prepping the final details for our community build, it’s definitely been hectic and it isn’t going to slow down any time soon. That’s part of the fun. I’ve learned to enjoy it, because it’s a new phase of the process that I haven’t faced, a new adventure to tackle. I’m overjoyed that I’ve been able to share my experiences with you, and I hope that I’ve encouraged you to trust in the Lord and follow what you feel you are called to do. The Bible says, “God helped you begin and he will help you until it is finished.” (Phil. 1:6)

 

Rachel Ritchie, age 12, has been named a national winner of the 2016 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Each year, the Barron Prize celebrates twenty-five inspiring, public-spirited young people from across North America who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. The top fifteen winners each receive a $5,000 cash award to support their service, work, or higher education. For more information please visit www.barronprize.org

Maize, the Girl Wrestler

by Rick Huff

wrestler“Water!” cried Maizie, as she tore the chinstrap of her headgear from its snap. Her stomach always revolted just before a match, its way of saying, “What the heck are you doing?” She tried ignoring it, but the spiritual bile rising in her guts would build and build until it could not be ignored. Her eyes went wide as she cough-gagged. She had never actually vomited at a meet, but she wasn’t about to push the envelope of her acute nervousness. At last she found the water bottle and squeezed a stream of the fear dissolving solution into her mouth. It didn’t really dissolve her fear, but the action of swallowing assured her that her body wasn’t going to refuse her commands right there on the spot. She snapped her headgear chinstrap tight and resumed her warm-up, bouncing on her toes and wrestling a phantom opponent.

“You’re up Maizie! Go get ‘em!”

She wasn’t ready. She panicked for a moment, the butterflies made a final push at her throat. A little groan escaped and she cleared her throat to mask it. She marched up to Coach Koops for his final instructions. He took her wrists and shook her arms as he looked into her eyes.

“Relax.”

She realized her eyes were stretched wide and forced them to some semblance of normality. Relax, she thought, as if anyone saying relax ever actually helped someone relax.

“Head up, elbows in, attack” he said. “Go get ‘em.”

This was the worst part, like a tiny ship leaving the safety of the dock she turned and faced the ocean of the open mat. Here there was nowhere to hide, no one to console, no one to help. Standing in a skin-tight bodysuit in the middle of a gym, about to wrestle a boy who may have years of experience, was not most 14-year-old girls idea of fun. She silently cursed her older brother for talking her into joining the wrestling team, it was always so much fun wrestling with him on the living room floor, now, not so much. She withdrew her curse, even jokingly she couldn’t put that out there; she loved her brother Michael like no one. She knelt and attached the Velcro of the green anklet, hoping the distance of the ocean would hide her trembling.

As she stood, she scanned the patchwork crowd looking for her father. It was hit or miss as to if he would be there at all, and he was hard to spot. A lone figure in dirty Carharts, usually looking down at his phone. She saw her mom, wrangling her baby brother, and Michael, smiling wide with a clenched fist held at his shoulder, a gesture of togetherness and strength. She saw the tiny cluster of her girlfriends, half-supportive, half-embarrassed that Maizie would expose herself in so many ways, they cheered her on earnestly, but wouldn’t be caught dead in that singlet. Her eyes found him, leaning against the balcony rail at the top of the bleachers. He put his hands together in front of his mouth and bellowed something, the words lost to the cacophonous acoustics of the gym, but she could hear his voice, and that was enough.

She stepped on the little white starting line, ready to begin the match, when the referee stepped over to the opposing team’s side of the mat. After a few words he returned and gently grasped Maizie’s wrist, lifting it high, announcing she was the winner by forfeit.

“Noooo!” screamed Maizie in her head. “They have a wrestler in this class, I know it! He’s afraid to wrestle a girl.” It wouldn’t be the first time, and it burned that she would never know if it was some misplaced sense of honor, or the fear of being bested by a girl. She only knew it wasn’t fair. Her eyes snapped back to see her father push off the railing and shake his head. Angry, embarrassed, molten tears flooded her eyes, threatening to pool together and scorch trails down her cheeks. Somehow, probably largely due to the fact she felt a thousand sets of eyes on her, she swallowed the deluge of emotion, at least enough to hold it together until she could escape the eyes.

Coach Koops scooped her toward him with his clipboard of a thousand angles of paper peeking over the edges. “Wrestling is a team sport,” and tapped her on the head with clipboard.

“Nice match, Maizie”, the 167 pounder Murphy said. It sounded sincere, but she knew he was mocking her. She squinted a death-curse at him, careful not to squeeze the simmering tears from their precarious hold. Then, after the next match was underway, she drew her oversized hood low over her face and wept.

After the team dual-meet, Maizie helped put away the mats and scanned the now mausoleum-quiet gymnasium.

“You guys did great!” her mother said.

“Wrestling is a team sport,” said Maizie, hugging her tight.

Her mother smiled, half-bemused, not getting another joke from her inexplicable teenaged daughter. She squeezed her tight.

“I’m going to say goodnight to dad,” said Maizie, and reluctantly broke free from the embrace.

Her father stood next to the giant double-doors of the gym like a tired gargoyle, head stooped down. Maizie ran up and wrapped her arms around the tan leather jacket, stained with oil and grease, and smelling of gasoline.

“Hi Daddy!”

“Hey Babygirl!” he replied. For that one moment, a span of time that was just Dad and daughter without the complications of life, she knew he was genuinely happy to see her. The moment had deteriorated over the years, and now it burned up in a flash at the latest squabble between her mother and father, or another must-have expense she would ask of him, or a misspoken word.

“You almost made me drop my phone,” he said.

“Poof.” Maizie thought, and stood back a bit to avoid the flash.

“No matches tonight, eh?” he said.

“So good of you to notice, and point out,” she thought of saying, but could only utter, “Yeah. Guess they’re scared of me.”

“How would anyone know?” he said.

Maizie stared at him, at first disbelieving, then unable to disguise her hurt. Images flashed in her mind of how proud he was when she told him she was a wrestler. How he beamed, how he openly showed his pride in her. Was she enduring the hardship of wrestling for him? The question drew thick, hot tears to the back of her eyes.

“I mean, it’s not your fault the coach can’t get you matches,” he said.

“Yeah, well, I gotta go, mom’s waiting. Goodnight.”

She managed to hold the tears until she was halfway across the shiny gym floor. Her mother looked up, saw the glossy eyes of her daughter and opened her free arm without question, shielding her baby from whatever hurt.

***

A couple days later, Maizie stood in the high school hallway between classes, spinning the combination to her locker as torrents of voices and cheap colognes snaked down the hall around her. A group of boys approached; they were talking about tonight’s big wrestling meet.

“Are you ready for tonight, Maizie?” said her 145lb class teammate.

“Yeah! Can’t wait!” she almost believed herself.

Another boy spoke up, “I didn’t know you were a wrestler, Maizie! Are you any good?” She blushed a bit and smiled.

“How would anyone know?” spewed Murphy, the 167 lber, forcing his fat head into the circle.

Maizie paused for a second, frozen in the thousand lands of what if. The phrase echoed, this time in the voice of her dad. The frustration with her dad, with Murphy, with herself at putting herself through this embarrassment surged into anger. As quick as a snake-strike, she let her tiny fist land on Murphy’s nose. He clutched his face, the blood already flowing. Maizie turned in a whirl, her rich, brown hair and flowered skirt making parallel circles. The cheers of delight, and gasps of shock were enough distraction to allow her to escape the immediate scene, but soon tears flowed as heavy as the drops of blood pooling at Murphy’s feet.

That evening, Maizie’s school hosted the conference championship. Eight teams in a tournament style bracket would face off to determine the top team. During weigh-ins, the coaches agreed to a rarely used rule that allowed a random starting weight-class. This was an effort to change things up so that it wasn’t always the same weight class ending the meet. The weight classes only shifted one, and this meant Maizie wouldn’t be the first person out on the mat, but the last. This worked out wonderfully for the first two team matches, by the time Maizie was up, her team was ahead by so many points they couldn’t lose. She didn’t even mind capping off each team win collecting forfeit wins.

Now, it was the championship team meeting, Maizie sat, knees to her chest, staring at the scoreboard, calculating every permutation of team score. The butterflies in her gut churned; this was going to be close. The sickening scent of unwashed teenage boys clouded by a fog of cheap cologne made her gag. She hopped from her perch in search of a water bottle. The warm, dark hand that had been asleep in her throat awoke. Gently massaging her throat at first, but then clawing at tongue, teeth, and tonsils. A quick spurt of water sent the fiend cowering, melting into only a general malaise in her chest. Her eyes bored holes into the team scoreboard again.

“This isn’t happening,” she whispered aloud. The meet was nearing the end, and depending on the match before, the team winning or losing could be decided by Maizie’s match. “I could run,” she thought. Get the hell out of here. A wave of air belched from what must have been the locker room, old dirty sweat socks, and much, much worse. Nausea followed by a clamp-fist squeeze of her throat forced another blast from the water bottle. Above the darkened corner of the rear doors of the gym, the little exit sign flickered, winking at Maizie enticingly. She indulged the fantasy for a microsecond more before banishing it. She was committed now.

A roll of energy crashed across every corner of the gym. The referee snorted a sharp blast of his whistle and slapped the mat. Maizie’s teammates erupted into a volcano of cheers. They pulled ahead in the team score by five.

“Oh no,” Maizie spat to herself. This couldn’t be any worse. The meet was hers to lose. She shook visibly as she drew the oversized warmup top over her head. The material bunched around her wrists, and for a moment she felt like a bobcat clawing wildly at a trap until the hoodie flew across the warmup area. The hand in her throat was a full arm, elbow squishing butterflies as it churned round and round, fist closed and pushing through her throat. She was definitely going to vomit. Coach Koops approached.

“Oh, God, no.” she thought, as frightened of his words of comfort as the impending match.

“This is it Maizie, you have to fight. He’s more a technical wrestler than you—”

“Code for, you’re in for an ass-kicking,” she thought.

“But that isn’t what it’s about,” Coach continued, the intensity in his voice rising. “Wrestling is about determination, toughness, will.” He held her head in his hands, eyes locked together. She had never seen him so intense. “No matter what, you get out there and give everything you got!”

Murphy stepped up to Maizie as she made her way to the mat, “If you don’t get pinned, we win, just don’t get pinned!”

“Great advice genius,” she thought, hoping her eyes reflected the sentiment.

Here it was again, that long lonely walk from sideline to center mat. She groaned and coughed at the unbearable tension in her gut.

“Don’t throw up. Don’t throw up. Don’t get pinned. Don’t throw up.”

Time turned to fog, before she knew it she was standing on the starting mark, shaking hands with her opponent, and waiting for the whistle. It blew. Before she could react her legs were tied up together and she was toppling over.

“Man, he’s fast!” she thought. She was already losing, but every single butterfly had flitted off to better pasture. She tried to escape, move forward, up, back, anything to try and get away, but every move she made was countered by her opponent. Her arm twisted over her head as she felt him prying her shoulder up, turning her to her back. The surf of the crowd crashed on the shore as the potential end of the match drew nigh. “No!” Maizie screamed in her head. She propped her little elbow under her body, refusing to let her shoulder touch. For nearly a minute of the first two-minute period she fought from being pinned. As the whistle blew she gathered herself to her feet, involuntary tears streaming down her cheeks.

As the second of three rounds began, her opponent began a strange tactic. He would vie for position, make a move, get two points for a takedown, and then immediately release her, giving her one point for an escape. Maizie realized he was going for a technical pin, a sort of mercy rule when one wrestler was fifteen points ahead of the other. It would team score as good as a pin. As hard as she tried, she just couldn’t fend off his attacks. By the end of the second period, she was down by fourteen points.

Tears were gone now, Maizie was mad. Hurt, embarrassed, humiliated, but mad. From the whistle to start the third round she attacked, throwing herself over and over at her opponent’s legs.

“You son of a bitch!” she thought with each strike.

Her attacks were so unorthodox, so disrespectful, they threw him off guard. She would make a clumsy but willful attack, nearly get taken down herself, but break free on brute strength and will. Again and again she dove at his legs until the time she only feigned her attack. Her opponent reacted, hips forward, legs back, arms out in front, but this time Maizie didn’t lunge for his legs. This time she fired her left arm in an uppercut motion, locking his right shoulder close. Simultaneously, her right arm came down like a lumberjack ax swing and gathered up his left.

“Please, God.”

With a mournful groan from deep in her soul, she twisted and pulled the leaning wrestler toward her. As they fell, she twisted his shoulders like turning the wheel on the giant door of a safe. She raised and twisted her hips as high and hard as she could and somehow she was looking down on the mat. She had thrown him to his back. The crowd exploded, a wave of pure spiritual energy rode an acoustic wave of vocal-chord-straining screams. It washed over Maizie, healed every hurt, strengthened every muscle. She twisted his arms tight, dropping every bit of weight on his chest, until the ref slapped the mat and blew his whistle. She pinned him.

The thunder of the crowd rolled on. She scanned the smiling, screaming faces; her mother weeping, hand over her mouth; her dad at the top of the bleachers, jumping up and down while a throng of neighbors slapped his back. Coach Koops, standing silently, tears rolling down his cheeks. Finally, the rush of her teammates, as Murphy lifted her on his shoulder, amidst a sea of arms raised in victorious salute. Something became clear in that moment, though she couldn’t deny it was satisfying to have the approval of these people, the nervousness, the pain, the embarrassment, the glorious victory were all hers alone. She was elated, the flood of admiration still lifting her, but in the back of her head she knew this was her victory, and also knew this was her last match. She had learned what she needed from wrestling, that though it is indeed a team sport, it is also intensely personal, and Maizie had grown into the next level of herself.

Bullied Blogger

ElissaWe interviewed Elissa Menaker, an 18 year old girl with a successful blog called Ask Lyss (www.asklyss.com). She used to be a bully, then she was bullied and now she helps teens who are being bullied, depressed, suicidal or simply need relationship advice or anything in between.

Relate: What inspired you to start your own advice blog?

Elissa: To be completely honest, though I’ve always liked helping people and giving advice, what inspired me to actually start a blog was a Rugrats All Grown Up episode.  It was one of my favorite shows when I was younger and I saw the episode where Angelica had ‘Ask Angelica’ and people would ask for advice.  When I got to high school I had a great bunch of friends who I could tell anything to, but I realized there was (and still is) a lot of teenagers who go through things and feel like they can’t confide in anyone. I opened up a formspring called ‘Advicenow123’ and the questions began pouring in. However, I wasn’t reaching out to enough people. Once the obsession with Formspring died down, the obsession with Tumblr was at its peak so, with the help of a friend who actually knew how to work Tumblr, I turned Advice Now into Ask Lyss. With a Tumblr I began to not only reach out to teens around my area, but began reaching out to teenagers across the world!

R: Tell me a bit about your experiences with bullying…

E: In year 8 I was scouted by Bettina Modelling Agency, the word spread around the school. From then on I was bullied by a few people who thought that I was not good enough to be a model. They made some jokes about me and this spread throughout my year. They thought I looked like a ‘Dugong’ and that nickname seemed to stick. Thinking back on it now, I think that ‘nickname’ is hilarious but as a young teenager, I definitely did not find it amusing. I would say the majority of my year were either picking on me or talking badly about me behind my back. I began to hate my looks for the first time in my life. I felt attacked and inedequate. To take my mind off my own insecurities, I retaliated. When someone would call me something I didn’t like, I picked on them back. I thought if they called me something, that meant it wasn’t as bad if I said something hurtful back. I didn’t realise that I should’ve just ignored them and not let them get to me. I pretty much loved to fight fire with fire and definitely got burnt. There are still some girls who consider me a bad person for the words I called them 4 years ago, and I don’t blame them because once you say something, it may affect that person for the rest of their lives. But, as weird as it sounds I am very glad this happened because my haters broke me down so much that I had to search for my beauty and confidence and when I found it, I came back with more self-esteem then I’ve ever had. I attribute my self-esteem to being bullied and attribute my empathy and compassion to realising that being a bully is just a reflection of how you feel about yourself.

R: Did you have anyone to turn to?

E: Yes, though I didn’t realize it at the time.  My parents and family have always been behind me 100%. My parents especially had great advice for how to deal with being bullied, but I didn’t listen to them and let the hate get to me. I also had a great group of friends who always remained loyal and supportive, but instead of focusing on these people, I focused on the people who picked on me and channeled all my energy into trying to out-bully them!

R: What do you hope to achieve with your blog?

E: I hope to use my blog as a world-wide symbol for a place where teenagers can get advice. I want teenagers to know that I am here for them and whether they have a small issue, a big issue or just want to talk, I am here to listen. I also hope that I can boost the self-esteem of many teenagers because I feel like I’m a living example of how low-self esteem results in the person becoming a bully, or becoming severely affected if they are the target of bullies. I hope that people who visit my blog really feel like there’s someone who genuinely cares and wants to listen to them.  In the future, I hope my blog becomes a way for teenagers to release their emotions instead of self-harming, suicide or other drastic measures. Now that I’ve placed a ‘Country Tracker’ on my blog I have realised that many of my hits are also coming from overseas countries which is a sign that my website has gone from just reaching acquaintances, to followers across the globe, and I hope this expansion continues.

R: What has been everyones response to your blog?

E: Overwhelmingly positive. My friends and family are extremely proud of me and my visitors always leave me positive feedback. I’ve gotten pieces of hate mail on there but, since I tracked the source of the message, I found out it was only someone I went to school with who was just trying to make me look bad. It doesn’t affect me because the people who send me heartfelt thank-yous and supportive messages remind me of the reason I do what I do.

R: What are your aspirations for the future?

E: Right now I’m in the middle of my HSC so first and foremost, my goal is to get into university and complete a psychology degree. My aspirations include gelling my love for presenting and my love for giving advice into one by possibly creating a television show. I have a few television producers wishing to meet with me so hopefully that leads to something. When I think about my aspirations, it sounds a lot like Dr Phil’s life. I want to have my own television show, I want to be known for being a psychologist, I want to study many different forms of psychology, I want to touch and help thousands of people’s lives and I want to be an inspiration. So I guess you could say my aspiration is to be the female Dr Phil of my generation.

PROTECTING THE EARTH, ONE BAG AT A TIME

By Abby Goldberg

Abby with a sea lion in the Galapagos Islands

Abby with a sea lion in the Galapagos Islands

My name is Abby Goldberg and I am a sophomore in high school in Illinois. My plastic bag campaign started in 7th grade when my environmentally focused school asked all the students to come up with a project that helped out the community and the environment.  7th grade was already challenging enough with an increased work load, more responsibilities, and teenage drama.

One day I was flipping through a magazine and there was a picture of a bird entangled in a plastic bag. Seeing that picture is when I realized that’s what I wanted my project to be about, trying to help animals like the bird. I was going to try and convince Grayslake to ban plastic bags.

At first I felt helpless. I was only 12 and I had no idea how a little kid could do all this work. A lot of the kids in school made fun of me for my passion and told me that I would never be able to accomplish my goal.  After months of research and frustration I got in touch with a film maker from California. Together, we decided that we I should make a film with kids to try and convince the Village of Grayslake to ban plastic shopping bags. Just as we were getting started, Senate Bill 3442 was introduced and found its way to the Governor’s desk. This bill, in basic terms, was a ban on plastic bag bans and instead promoted recycling as a solution to the problem. As I learned through all my research, plastic bags are not recycled into new bags so we keep using more.

I was just about to give up until the film maker suggested I start a petition on change.org. The petition asked the Governor of Illinois to veto the bill. With the help of social media and interviews I was able to get 174,000 signatures on my petition. I was able to hand deliver my petition to the governor himself.  And a few weeks later he personally called my house to tell me he was going to veto the bill, we had won. Now any town in Illinois can ban the bag if they so choose. I listened to all the positives around me and not all the negative people who were trying to bring me down. You are all capable of changing the world. If you see something you are interested in, ask for help and get your ideas out there. If you change nothing, nothing will change. As long as you stay true to yourself, anything is possible.

About Abby: Abby Goldberg, 15, has been named a national winner of the 2014 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.  Each year, the Barron Prize celebrates twenty-five inspiring, public-spirited young people from all across America who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. The top fifteen winners each receive a $5,000 cash award to support their service work or higher education.  For more information please visit www.barronprize.org

 

How I Became a Successful Designer at 18

by Francesca Aiello

Francesca modeling her Spring Collection

Francesca modeling her Spring Collection

Growing up in Malibu, California, I’ve been in the surf scene ever since I can remember. So I was always running around in a swimsuit; it just comes with the lifestyle. When you are wearing suits more often than clothes, you need a lot of options! And as a girl who loves fashion and also can’t resist catching a wave, I felt there weren’t enough choices for swimsuits that were cute and could support my active lifestyle.

So as I got older, I started coming up with my own ideas for cute suits. My mom had always told me I should start my own swimwear line. At first I thought it was crazy, but then I began researching and making the first steps. It was a trial and error process for a while. Since I jumped into the industry with no prior experience and no idea where to start, I had to literally teach myself everything—and that meant taking the bad with the good. There were speed bumps like finding the right fabric or simply finding the motivation, but I had to stick with it.

I was still in high school when I decided to make the commitment to creating my first collection. After a while, it became difficult to focus because of the comments my peers made at school. I even thought about giving up at times. And that’s when I really put my heart and soul into Frankie’s Bikinis, because I had to concentrate on making my dream successful, and that meant finishing high school online in order to continue to work hard. I couldn’t be brought down by people who were petty just because I had a swimsuit line. I quickly realized you have to make important decisions to make your dreams come true, and sometimes they’re not easy.

I am very lucky to have parents who are so supportive of me. My mom, Mimi, is the behind-the-scenes superstar of Frankie’s Bikinis. Not only did she encourage me to start designing, but she’s been there every step of the way. She is also the co-owner.

Frankie’s Bikinis really took off when I posted my suits on Instagram—they got a huge wave of positive feedback! From that point on, people began to take notice. I’ve had celebrities like Candice Swanepoel, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, and Emma Roberts wearing my suits. This past summer, I had the privilege to be the youngest designer ever invited to show in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim in Miami! It was absolutely crazy and hectic, but I loved every single second of the madness. Frankie’s Bikinis has been a total dream come true, but I remember all the hard work it’s taken me to get this far and how much work it will take to continue growing and succeeding.

It’s all worth it when you can physically feel and see your success. When I get awesome feedback from my customers, I’m always reminded why I do what I do. I wanted to create beautiful, sexy suits that support the active girl’s lifestyle. Now at 19 years old and with my second swimsuit collection on the market, it feels amazing to be succeeding in what I set out to do.

With that said, I think it’s really important that girls acknowledge their dreams and go after them. You have to believe that what you want to accomplish can happen. One thing a lot of people seem to disregard is that you have to work towards your aspirations. Just because you dream it, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It takes a lot of hard work and effort to be successful, but if you keep working, trust in yourself and don’t give up, then your aspirations can be fulfilled.