By Susan Ades Stone and Barbara Ortiz Howard Everybody thought it was a great idea whose time certainly had come. Why hadn’t anyone thought of it before? Or gotten it…
Best-selling author, brand ambassador, lecturer, editor-in-chief, TEDx speaker, mentor, radio show and web series host. These are just a few of the impressive titles that Lauren Galley has already racked up for herself by age 19. And, as the Founder and President of Girls Above Society, she does it all in the name of defending girls everywhere, on a mission to protect and bolster their confidence and self-esteem.
Lauren was bullied so badly in middle school that, she told us, “I just wanted to quit school forever.” Known as the beloved, quiet girl who “listened a lot,” she says she was tortured over the My Space app by a fellow cheerleader. “She was jealous and decided that because her boyfriend talked to me once (about homework) I was an awful person… and then the bullying began.”
At first, Lauren didn’t know how to deal with it. She even kept it from her parents for a while. But they knew something wasn’t right and intervened. “They are just the best. They helped me see that it wasn’t me and that I had nothing to be afraid of.”
“It’s super tough being a tween and teen girl today. We live in media/celebrity driven society, and on top of that, girls, all too often, use their power to judge and tear each other down.”
Having lived through her own soul-crushing pain, while watching so many of her friends and peers struggle with a variety of similar self-esteem issues, Lauren was very aware that the pressures on girls can sometimes be more than they really know how to handle.
“It’s super tough being a tween and teen girl today. We live in media/celebrity driven society, and on top of that, girls, all too often, use their power to judge and tear each other down.” To make matters even worse, many girls don’t have the familial support that Lauren had. This was particularly heartbreaking to her.
Wanting to spare other girls from experiencing what she had, Lauren, just 15 at the time, sprang into action. She came up with the idea of creating a positive outlet for girls where the daily pressures they face could be discussed out in the open, peer-to-peer. She wanted other girls to see how life’s difficult moments could be more easily navigated, and was determined to help them gain the confidence they needed to be their best selves.
Her idea became a reality the following year, in 2011, when Lauren founded Girls Above Society, a non-profit dedicated to giving young girls what she describes as “enough Girl Power to rule the world.”
Based on the principles of confidence, self-esteem, and empowerment, Girls Above Society is more than an organization; it is an all encompassing movement fueled by a website, an online magazine, a monthly newsletter, a book, cross country speaking engagements, a “Girl Talk” peer-to-peer program, a radio show, a web series, etc. And Lauren, now a college student working towards her masters in psychology, is the one-woman driving force behind every single aspect of it.
She is the face and the voice of the mission. She is the advice giving best friend and mentoring big sister that every girl should have. She runs the entire operation and all of its moving parts.
Aside from the massive volume of empowering digital content she’s writing and producing, Lauren dedicates several weeks a year to traveling throughout the U.S. to speak with teen and tween girls. She also spends a few weeks each summer in Maine bringing her “Girl Talk” program to life at Camp Susan Curtis. And just this past year, Lauren got to check two HUGE items off of her bucket list: she gave her very first TEDx talk, and took Girls Above Society global. “I worked with a group of girls in Ghana, Africa this past year. We did a new fashion of pen pals via email, photos and video. It was an amazing experience.”
In her spare time, Lauren is currently working with the Texas Education Agency on a curriculum based program that would give girls the tools to be confident leaders and bring mandatory cyber skills classes to schools. She’s also a brand ambassador for Secret’s “Mean Stinks,” a campaign to end girl-to-girl bullying.
Dizzy and exhausted by this young woman’s schedule, we had to ask, “How do you do it all, Lauren?” She replied with a laugh, “Everyone asks me this question and sometimes I wonder myself. However, I’ve learned over the past couple of years to be VERY organized and use my time wisely.” Lauren finds semester breaks and summers are a good time for her and her dedicated team, which includes her mom, to try to cram in the bulk of her Girls Above Society work. She added, “I always have too many ideas and I feel very lucky to have a board of directors that helps me keep focused and grounded.”
But the time and effort Lauren puts in to what she does pale in comparison to the invaluable benefits reaped by everyone involved. “It’s always rewarding when girls tell me that they feel more confident and I’ve made a difference. It means the world!”
Reprinted with permission from the fine people at Women You Should Know.
Our good friends at Women You Should Know put together this nice little interview with political cartoonist/illustrator David Trumble who partnered with Dr. Rebecca Hains, the author of the book The Princess Problem.
“I figured if I could sum up what was wrong with the face of girls’ marketing today in one succinctly satirized image, it might make it easier for us to admit how we fail. And sometimes the best way to reveal something is to provide a fresh look at what’s already right in front of our eyes.
The Princess Problem is certainly a complex issue, but thankfully we don’t have to look too far to see it; It’s right in front of us on every shelf, emblazoned in sparkly, hermetically sealed, perfect pink packaging. A litany of stereotypes defining the standards of how girls are supposed to look and behave, with a startling lack of racial diversity to boot. And we can’t look away, because it’s the whole aisle.
Mixing illustration, photography and ideas, Trumble created a striking image that manages to convey The Princess Problem in a single glance.
Read all of Women You Should Know’s exclusive interview with Trumble here.
From September 4, 1995 until June 18, 2001, viewers around the world were captivated by Xena: Warrior Princess, a TV series about Xena (played by Lucy Lawless), a once infamous warrior turned formidable defender of the innocent and champion of the greater good. NIA, a now 18 year old graphic designer by trade and talented artist by nature, was – and still is – one of Xena’s biggest fans. In lamenting the current lack of well-rounded female characters in movies and on TV for girls to admire today, NIA decided to draw her childhood hero… and lots of people took notice, including us.
When NIA’s drawing first hit WYSK’s radar, it was positioned as a Disney-fied Xena. We didn’t know the full back story, but were intrigued. If Xena was the kind of “princess” (i.e. multi-dimensional and kick ass) that could be added to the Magic Kingdom’s high court, then we were all for it. But as it turns out there was way more to NIA’s drawing than its subtle Disney-esque style. Here’s what we learned when we caught up with the talented woman behind the art yesterday.
“Characters like Buffy, Dana Scully and Xena just aren’t around these days, and girls need female heroes that kick ass.”
“I’m a huge fan of Xena and her story! I think she’s a timeless character and huge inspiration to women everywhere,” NIA told Women You Should Know. “She was my hero when I was a little girl and I think if she were to be revived she could be that for girls today.” She added, “Characters like Buffy, Dana Scully and Xena just aren’t around these days, and girls need female heroes that kick ass. If you asked a child to name male heroes they’d give you a whole list, but if you asked them to name a female, could they name anyone offhand besides Wonder Woman?”
As for the presumed connection to Disney that started circulating around her drawing, NIA clarified things for us. “When I first drew Xena, I simply said she was ‘Disney-fied’ because I based the animation style off of Disney’s Hercules. Quite a few people have taken issue with the idea of Xena being revamped by Disney – and trust me, I wouldn’t want Disney owning Xena either.”
She went on to explain, “If an animated Xena were to be done, I’d rather have it be by an independent studio that would keep to her story, keep to her culture, and have her be the first canonically LGBT ‘princess’. There are so many girls watching animated movies and wondering why there isn’t another option besides Prince Charming.”
So in addition to Xena, NIA also drew Gabrielle, the Warrior Princess’s trusty companion and favorite battling bard. For some context on their relationship and the latter part of what NIA shared with us, consider this factoid from Neatorama, “The [show’s] writers intentionally teased viewers with a the possibility of a lesbian relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, never affirming nor denying the homoerotic subtext. Executive producer Steven L. Sears said that ‘(Xena and Gabrielle) have love for each other. It’s up to the audience to determine what that love is.’”
Reprinted with permission from the fine people at Women You Should Know.