Meet Mariah Idrissi, the 23 year old West Londoner that sent waves through the fashion world when she starred in global fashion retailer H&M’s culturally diverse ad ‘Close the Loop’, wearing a hijab. We caught up with her just before she went on stage at TedxTeen.
“Me in a short video being myself….shocked the world”, she said in the 2016 TedxTeen talk. “Something so small can have such a major impact.” Yes, it can. It has been said that Mariah broke many carriers and stereotypes by appearing in H&M’s short video, opening the wider world up to the idea that women in hijab’s are not ‘oppressed’ as some may think and can “look chic” as the voice over states when Idrissi is on screen.
She has been wearing a hijab since she was 17 and clearly states that it was her choice to do so. “Hijab isn’t a representation of oppression” she says. In fact, it seems to have given her freedom – a way to honour her faith, express herself and ‘look chic’ all at the same time.
In person she’s down to earth, positive and has a great sense of humour (watch her TedxTeen talk and her interview with us above and you’ll see what we mean). She’s an advocate for believing in and being yourself, mentioning that girls’ can do great things just by simply being themselves. “We don’t need the validation or consent from social media or whoever to validate ourselves”. At Incredible Brilliant Youth we believe this is true for boys as well.
“The most important thing is to not look at other people for validation, it comes from you.
Watch H&Ms 'Close the Loop' ad here, and Mariah's TedxTeen talk 'Changing the Face of Fashion' here.
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Interested in music? Ever wanted to hear about your favourite stars' journey to fame? Well this is for you!
We had the pleasure of speaking to Piers and Amir from Rudimental at TedXTeen. Watch and learn about their journey through music and hear their advice for aspiring musicians.
Did you like this video? Please write your comments and feedback in the section below!
Don’t you find it frustrating to see how the youth are portrayed by the media, with the youth not speaking up to defend themselves? I do, so instead of just thinking it and complaining about it behind closed doors, I decided that it was time to do something.
As a writer, I wanted to use writing as a positive entity to make a change, as I believe that writing is a powerful tool. Writing gave me a voice, as I expressed the words that struggled to come out of my mouth and gained the strength to tell my stories. It also allows me to pursue what I truly love, but I’ll tell you more about my journey to become a writer on another post.
Last year, I set up a blog centred on young people, highlighting some of the issues affecting us and how we could address them, while also sharing stories from and on other young people, with the purpose of inspiring the youth and giving the older generation a better idea of who we are. However, I wanted to take this further and also engage in face-to-face conversations.
I knew that this was going to be a difficult process and further support would be necessary; then as if by chance I stumbled upon the charity, Fixers, on Twitter. I was immediately drawn to what they do and I knew that this was what I needed to move forward in my journey, so I wasted no time in contacting them and I was ecstatic when I got a response about setting up a meeting to discuss my ‘fix’.
Following a number of meetings, a focus group and ideas development, we came up with the concept of a spoken word piece, which would encourage young people to use their voice and also touch on some of the major issues, in order to develop conversation. The process was fun, stressful and great to be a part of, and I couldn’t be happier with the end result.
Creating this film was of high importance to me, because I believe that youth voice is extremely important – I cannot stress that enough. Young people need to speak up on what is affecting them, but more than that, they need to feel able to speak up. They need to feel that their voices are being heard. It is so easy for the voices of the youth to get suppressed in a world that wants to shut us up, but we must not back down, and this film emphasises that.
I also hope that speaking out and telling their stories will give young people a greater sense of self.
There is not a great sense of self amongst many of the youth and self-esteem seems to be something that is lacking. I see self-esteem as how you perceive yourself, how much you believe in yourself, how much you love yourself.
I have struggled with low self-esteem over the years (in fact, I’m still slightly struggling with it), so I know that increasing it is difficult. However, I would say try to stop looking for validation from others and start to believe in what you can do. Counteract those negative thoughts with a positive about yourself and don’t call yourself stupid. I guarantee, you are more amazing then you think.
Rise above the labels, believe in yourself and make sure your voice is heard. Oh, and watch my short film, ‘What would you say?’ on YouTube now.
Amber Schreiner is an amazing woman. She is a writer, runs her own social strategy company, is Chief Social Strategist for the We Are Family Foundation and curates the audience for TedxTeen – and if that isn’t enough, she’s super inspiring too.
After the hustle and bustle of TedxTeen 2015 had settled down we got in touch with Amber to ask her a few questions about her life and career.
We discovered she’s a determined and courageous woman who has worked hard for her success. She’s made the most of her opportunities and hasn’t given up in the face of adversity. She’s taken huge risks, like moving to New York to work for TedxTeen and showed tremendous resilience when applying for jobs early on in her career, applying for more than 10 jobs at one company, a reminder that you have to be persistent with your dreams.
Citing her mother as her biggest influence, she recalls her mum having a spirit of entrepreneurship – offering to clean the studios of Amber’s pottery and music classes after the sessions had finished, as she couldn’t afford to pay for them. “With hardly two pennies in her pocket, she managed to send me to multiple private schools – she always says, “where there is a will, there is a way!”
We agree, and clearly Amber has this entrepreneurial spirit too. Keep reading for her answers to our questions.
What has your career journey been like?
Speaking of school, Amber said “I thoroughly enjoyed school but struggled to keep up in STEM classes. I graduated with no chance of attending my dream university and so I took a chance in enrolling in the junior college a town away. [Junior college is the equivalent of the first and second year of university in the UK] I felt like if I could visibly see my goal every day, I might have a better chance of getting there. After two years, I was able to transfer!” Amber left Gainsville State College and enrolled at the University of Georgia where she completed her studies in Philosophy.
“For the remainder of college, I was immersed in an incredible philosophy program that focused extensively on feminist and environmental issues. I felt so lucky to study beyond the classics!
Determined to not end my creative enthusiasm post college, I applied 12 times to different divisions within Turner Broadcasting and my 11th application landed me a role in Cartoon Network Digital. It was thrilling to work around people who LOVED their jobs! I can’t imagine where I’d be if that wasn’t my first job.
How did you get involved with TedxTeen and can you tell us about your role?
After falling in love with New York City while on vacation, I connected over the phone with the TEDxTeen Curator (Jess Teutonico). We hit it off great and she said if I could move to NYC and start out unpaid, I had a job!
Crazy enough, I took the bait! Three years later, I run the social media for We Are Family Foundation and it’s two organizations – TEDxTeen and Three Dot Dash. In addition to being the voice behind the brands, I have the incredible opportunity to curate the TEDxTeen audience. It is a fabulously rewarding position where I get to interact with the brightest youth across the globe!
Soon, people began to ask what my company was called. I realized I had grown out of freelancing and had the ability to start my own social strategy company. Last July, I started Juniperus. Our clients vary in industries but our mission stays the same: we amplify the voices of those that are making the world a better place.
I read every application that comes in to attend TEDxTeen and decide who should attend based around numerous factors (the year’s conference theme, having as many young people as possible, having the most diverse audience as possible, etc). Aside from the audience applications, I make sure that all of our partners have tickets and that our staff is registered.
Is there someone that as had a big influence on your career and what have they done?
My mother. Being a single mother, every day brought a new level of entrepreneurism. When she couldn’t afford my pottery or music classes, she would offer to clean the studios after class. With hardly two pennies in her pocket, she managed to send me to multiple private schools – she always says, “where there is a will, there is a way!”
My mom instilled in me that the worst thing failure can do is land you back where you started … I took this advice when I started my own company and I think about it often when I’m facing adversity.
What advice would you give to someone that is interested in events and social media?
As Nike says, “Just Do It!”
Can you describe a turning point in your career?
When I realized what you do for money and what you do to make the world a better place can be the same thing.
What is one of the kindest things someone has done for you?
True story: my entire life is a series of strangers exhibiting unusual kindness.
When I was 8 years old, my mom didn’t have money to celebrate Christmas. The entire Vermont town we lived in got together without us knowing and planned to surprise me on Christmas morning with a gift from every store in the town! I remember that all of the presents were in one giant stocking that was bigger than me! It had lots of LEGO sets, a big stuffed bear, and lots of other toys.
If you could pass on one piece of advice or 'word of wisdom' to a young person, what would it be?
Like my mother always says, “where there is a will, there’s a way.”
If you would like to find out more about Amber's work just click on the links below!
We Are Family Foundation
Three Dot Dash
Follow Amber on Twitter here @gracefulamber
Over to you!
What's the best piece of advice you've been given? Do you have any words of wisdom you would like to share?
Please write them in the comments section below!
“What would you do if you saw a 13 year old girl walking up and down the street?” The opening line of 19 year old Rebecca Dharmapalan’s TedxTeen talk is a shocker. What exactly would you do?
Well, here’s what she did. With the support of an Oakland Police Captain, Rebecca began filming the plight of young female prostitutes on one of the most dangerous streets in America. The award winning documentary, International Boulevard, captures the stories of these girls. The fact that children were being sold for sex and trafficked so close to home was more than disturbing to her. Even more so, as she discovered, one of her friends was one of these children being “pimped out” (sold for sex), by her ‘boyfriend’ at parties so he could use the money to pay bills. She says in her speech, “One weekend she refused, and he beat her so badly that we never saw her again”. This motivated her to make a stand and take action through the power of her camera lens.
We caught up with Rebecca after her talk, ‘In Our Back Yard’, at TedxTeen to find out more.
Child trafficking varies in its content. Dharmapalan shows young women being sold for sexual gratification, but child trafficking sadly includes more. According to the NSPCC, children are forced into marriage, domestic service (cleaning, cooking etc) and criminal activity such as selling drugs and pickpocketing. They can also be forced into drug transportation, carrying drugs for whoever ‘owns’ them. Dharmapalan realised that the unfortunate situation of her friend was not exclusive to just her: “It could happen to me or my sisters, it could happen to any one of us so I think that was my real driving force in everything that I do”. And it’s true, this could be happening anywhere in the world, and it is. Trafficking can be conducted by an individual, group or large criminal network, who are usually well organised. It can happen locally or internationally and it is extremely difficult to track children or anyone else who is taken. Some people are kidnapped, some sold by their families because they are so poor, others manipulated and sold a dream of love and a better life.
We were completely inspired by her work and wanted to find out what her aspirations were when she was younger. She said, “I’ve always kind of had a passion for people and community change basically, coz you know growing up in Oakland, you see this stuff everywhere around you - it was just this moment of understanding that I had, when I realised that it was happening to a class mate, it wasn’t just some girl on the street, it was so much more personal. So I think that moment of understanding happened in my sophomore year in high school, when I actually heard what happened to her and then I found the words to kind of describe that, and I realised she is not a prostitute, she’s a victim of exploitation.”
Rebecca spoke about the importance of education and self-worth in combating the effects of trafficking in her talk. Conversations about this need to be open and honest, they can’t be hidden away. Her drive and hunger for change were clearly evident – she wants trafficking and sexual exploitation to end. We at Incredible Brilliant Youth believe boosting the self-esteem of young people is priceless, and wanted to hear how she defined the concept in relation to her work, and how she would encourage others to follow their passion. “I think it’s really about empowerment. And having you know young folks, especially young women of colour understanding that they are powerful just being who they are, because there are all these other things coming at you from every angle, you know the media, always putting down women of colour and so finding that power is extremely important. And I think that once you find that thing that you really like, that little ‘nidge’ and you find your own power you can really make a lot of change, and embodying that and turning that into change-making is, like, really cool and that needs to happen.”
We asked everyone that we spoke to whilst we were in New York for a word of wisdom, something we could share with you. Staying with the topic of young women, Aimee asked Rebecca for her's: “You’re beautiful ……like I mentioned your body doesn’t have to be a sexual object, you are powerful because of who you are, not just your body and your body’s characteristics. You’re powerful because of your mind and your experience as a woman and I guess my word of advice is just really that, you know, anybody can be a change maker, you just have to find that empathy and really work in your own community to do that.”
So let’s set a challenge – what have you noticed in your community that you would like to change? Let us know in the comments section below.
If you would like to find out more about Rebecca and her work or watch her talk, In Our Own Back Yard, at TedxTeen, you can find all the info you need below.
If you, or anyone you know has been affected by or are involved with any of the issues mentioned in this article, please tell your teacher, youth worker or an adult you trust. Call the police immediately on 999 and alert them to the situation. You can also call the NSPCC for free on 0800 1111.
My first year at university has been an exciting learning experience. Although I didn’t make it into my first choice, I was accepted by my second and through experiencing my time there, I’m so glad that I was. I attend university in the vibrant and diverse city of Brighton. Similar to London in many ways, Brighton has an autonomous culture that attracts many and offers something for everyone.
My first few weeks at university confirmed that my choice to study English Language & Linguistics was the right decision for me. Answers to questions I had always wondered about language, were being taught and I found the Linguistics aspect particularly intriguing, as I hadn’t previously studied it. Furthermore, due to the mix of content that my course contains, it attracts an array of students. This made my studying experience more interesting, as it allowed me to learn and connect with others from different backgrounds and cultures. There are also a number of societies where you can meet people from different courses. These include The Feminist Society, The Christian Union, Student Media and many more. I’m a contributor of my University Newspaper, which means I write articles, features, reviews etc. that are published on their site. Through contributing to this online publication, I’m able to have access to press passes for a variety of events e.g. music gigs, comedy gigs etc. and review/preview them. This opens the door to experience Brighton’s lively events and the opportunity to meet even more people.
Living in a house off campus, with four other students, as oppose to living in uni accommodation was a good way to live in first year. It taught me about the process of signing contracts for private rent properties and how landlords can sometimes take advantage of students they let to. Furthermore, it allowed me to get familiar with travelling around Brighton, which will make it easier for me to navigate around the town in the next two years.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time at university thus far and look forward to what the coming years have in store. Advice I would give to those starting university this coming September/October is to make sure you choose a course that you enjoy, as you will be spending at least 3 years studying it. Also, try to explore the area where your university is and make the most of your uni experience!
By: Maxine Harrison
Twitter handle: @blessedism
Interested in working in TV?
Have a look at this: http://www.roundhouse.org.uk/young-creatives/summer-2015/bloomberg-broadcast-programme/
Our good friend Robert Galinsky takes to the stage to introduce #TedXTeen...over 400 people in the audience today...so excited and privileged to be here! He's getting us energised - there is soooo much positive energy in the room. Next up...
None other than Monique Coleman of High School Musical! She's the TedXTeen host for the day, not only is she big in Disney, but incredibly has also been appointed the first ever UN Youth Champion for International Year of Youth!
She starts us off with..."What if the way to power humanity forward is to take a step back? Simple ideas, simple solutions"
We are the first generation that is older than the internet - she say's: "you have unprecedented possibilities" - so much global reach has positioned young people today to be the ones to solve today's most pressing issues and move us forward on this planet.
Coleman took a global tour last year to see what young people are doing and saying on global change. She came across the same common themes across the globe- young people wanted their voices heard, to know they mattered and that their ideas are being implemented to move us forward.
The ideas that are going to grace this stage are at the very forefront of changing the WORLD! So bring it on...let's hear it, be inspired and change it!
It's going to be a great day,
Keep up with whats happening on our Twitter and Instagram: @_ibyouth_
IBY is in New York for TedxTeen!!
We will be live blogging from the Scholastic Centre so make sure you keep up to date with everything that's happening on our blog and on our social media accounts!!
Facebook: Incredible Brilliant Youth
Twitter and Instagram: @_ibyouth_
Our founder will be speaking about empowerment, self esteem and overcoming violence in relationships this Saturday, 2pm, at Fredrick Bremer School, Walthamstow.