The other day, as I was scrolling through Twitter, I realized that I follow so many amazing people. Some are famous and some are not, but they are all people who have done interesting things and have even more interesting things to say. I also realized that the people I’m most impressed by are women my age or younger.
Younger generations tend to be labeled as vapid, narcissistic complainers, who are unwilling to work hard at anything besides taking a great selfie. This stereotype is proven wrong everyday, in real life and online. The #coolteens of today aren’t just beautiful and charming, they are intelligent and passionate about their interests. I’m not a teen anymore (no complaints) but if I could go back in time, I would be like these girls.
Most of you will recognize Amandla from her role as Rue in The Hunger Games, but she’s been keeping busy since then. She’s had a number of tv show cameos and stars in As You Are, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The seventeen year old uses social media to address representation and inequality inside and outside of Hollywood. Her class assignment entitled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows” added to and in some ways sparked the current conversation on cultural appropriation. Later, Amandla’s criticism of Kylie Jenner’s cornrows brought a wave of internet hate, which Amandla handled with grace.
On top of acting, social activism, comic book writing and charity work, Amandla will be attending NYU in the fall. She will be studying film, in the hopes of becoming a director. She wants to create roles for underrepresented groups, and increase the diversity Hollywood so desperately needs.
Rowan stars as Riley on the Disney Channel series Girl Meets World. She has also spoken at the UN Women’s Conference on feminism and gender inequality. By the way, she’s fourteen.
Like her friend Amandla, Rowan uses social media and her power as a celebrity to discuss these topics. The actress’s essay on intersectional feminism was the first thing I ever heard about her, and I was blown away by the intelligence of a young woman that isn’t even old enough to drive. I look forward to hearing more about the amazing things Rowan does in the future.
Another Disney star, Zendaya gained popularity as Rocky on the Disney Channel original Shake It Up. Currently, she’s still a Disney actress on the show KC Undercover, but has also ventured into music.
However, Zendaya became known by adults and tweens alike when Giuliana Rancic made rude and ignorant comments about her hairstyle at the Academy Awards. Zendaya responded firmly but respectfully, and hey, she even got her own Barbie doll out of this controversy. Now, nineteen year old Zendaya and her fans (including myself) have moved on from this, focusing on her upcoming album and incredible fashion sense. Like Rowan and Amandla, Zendaya wants to be a role model for young girls, and uses her social media presence to teach and inspire.
This Oak Park, Illinois native created the fashion blog Style Rookie at the age of 11, which was perused by fashion icons such as Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld. Since then, Tavi has been invited to New York and Paris Fashion Week, penned articles for Barneys.com and Harper’s Bazaar and served as the model/muse for Rodarte.
At fifteen, Tavi turned Style Rookie into Rookie, an online magazine directed towards teen girls. The subject matter has also expanded to include not only fashion, but pop culture and social issues, as well. Tavi has given talks at TED and TEDxTeen conferences about marketing and representation, respectively. Forbes included her in its 30 Under 30 in Media list, and Tavi has even had roles in film and theater.
Her success is not without criticism. Many believed that there was no way Tavi could run a popular blog at such a young age, stating that her parents helped or wrote her posts for her. Some fashion bloggers and icons didn’t approve of her appearances at events, suggesting that someone her age should be at school and not runway shows. Tavi has heard the negative comments, but has not allowed that to cloud her vision. She continues to shatter expectations and achieve goals, and I know she will continue to do so.