The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “To truly live a clean and connected life, it is crucial…

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “To truly live a clean and connected life, it is crucial to learn how to feel and process our pain” with Brendan Burns and Candice Georgiadis

To truly live a clean and connected life, it is crucial to learn how to feel and process our pain, rather than stay distracted and use substances or possessions to cope. Some good first steps are to journal regularly and begin meditation, both great ways to face and move through your pain directly, rather than soothe the pain in unhealthy ways such as addiction.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brendan Burns. Burns holds his Law Degree and M.B.A. from Cornell University, yet his story and upbringing began in a far more desperate place. On the outside, it would seem he had it all in his 20s — a career in Investment Banking and as a Hedge Fund investor on Wall Street. Now an Entrepreneur, Speaker, and High-Performance Coach, Brendan is on a mission to help others, save lives, and give back. His Business, Life, and Relationship Coaching Programs as well as his live events and destination retreats are for anyone. They have particularly helped people who have suffered abuse, trauma, or drug addiction and want to escape that nightmare and start living their best life. For example, he successfully helped a young woman end an addiction to heroin in just two sessions. Brendan has worked with professional athletes, including former NFL and MLB players, as well as C-level executives and clients from over 60 countries on 6 continents. Brendan manages the @brendanhburns account on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/brendanhburns/), which has more than 100,000 followers, and he hosts The Brendan Burns Show, which is featured on iTunes and Spotify.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

While working as an Investment Banker, there was an analyst in my group named Ronen. One night around 11:00 P.M, Ronen and I received an email from our Vice President commanding us to meet in the conference room immediately and to prepare for a, “long night ahead.” At the time, I was actually hiding in an empty room on the 64th Floor of our Manhattan skyscraper editing my resume and planning my exit from this job. The email I’d received, like many before, implied that I wasn’t going home until 4:00 A.M….if I was lucky. I headed towards the conference room prepared for a long night filled with Excel spreadsheets and subtle emotional abuse.

When I came downstairs, I found Ronen having a stress-induced seizure triggered by many consecutive late nights and all-nighters. Someone from the group had called 9–1–1, and soon paramedics carrying a stretcher and medical equipment showed up to cart this recent Ivy League graduate to the nearest Manhattan hospital. I sat in my chair in bewilderment and stared at the mayhem. I was in shock.

For the first time in my life I asked myself, “What is life all about? At what point does sacrificing my health, my relationships, and my sanity become too great a price to pay for financial gain or being able to say that I am an Investment Banker on Wall Street?”

As they carried Ronen off to the nearest emergency room, I realized it was time for me to make changes in my career and in my life. That incident, coupled with a blindsided breakup from my then girlfriend and additional family drama, led me to the Self Help section at my local Barnes & Noble. There, I found powerful books and tools which ignited my own personal growth journey. As I learned and grew from my own personal transformation, I then began sharing these tools in person and on Instagram account, which grew from 0 to 100K+ followers in a year, and this journey evolved into a new career.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

After leaving the Investment Banking job, I joined a Hedge Fund where I worked for approximately 3 years while doing deep inner work on myself. I realized that my passion was become an Influencer, Speaker, and High-Performance Life & Business Coach. This was motivated by the influence that mentors like Tony Robbins and Jack Canfield had on me through their home study programs. As I grew my business and launched an online course, I found out that a former professional NFL athlete purchased one of my online courses, and he and his girlfriend listened to my entire program while a road trip to the Grand Canyon.

We built a relationship and I invited him onto my podcast, The Brendan Burns Show, which is available on iTunes and Spotify (https://www.brendanhburns.com/podcast). Then, later that year, he invited me to attend the Super Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia with him. A few days before the game, I was attending a player networking event in Atlanta when out of the corner of my eye I saw Jack Canfield, who is one of my biggest mentors and the person who completely changed my life with his personal growth program that I took.

Even though the room was filled with former NFL athletes and even “Dr. J,” Julius Erving, one of the best basketball players in the history of the NBA, the only person I wanted to talk to at that was Jack Canfield. Just as I realized who he was, Jack left the room. I felt disappointed, thinking I had just lost my chance to meet my hero. Luckily, he came back into the room and I was able to tell Jack my story and explain how he changed my life. He was incredibly kind and generous with his time, and we were able to talk more about our lives and careers. I left the conversation elated and so excited to continue growing both personally and professionally. It was a powerful life experience.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The first time I met Tony Robbins was after one of his events in the New York City area. Like Jack Canfield, Tony has had an enormous influence on my personal development, and I had the opportunity to come on stage and speak with him one-on-one.

His programs and advice deeply impacted my life, so I was naturally excited to meet him. I also happened to be wearing a name tag that I received at the beginning on his event. He came up to me and gave me a big hug (he is 6-foot-7) and said to me, “What’s your name?” I froze in that moment and forgot my own name, so I looked down at my name tag and read off it and said, “Oh, it’s Brendan.” And he and I both laughed about it.

What I learned from that experience is to always be yourself and practice inner presence no matter who you are interacting with or what the external situation happens to be. After meeting Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, pro athletes, and other notable people, I’ve learned that we are all people. I also learned not to play myself down. We’re all special, we all have a purpose, we all have great talents, and there is no need to be nervous when interacting with a very accomplished or notable person. The majority that I’ve met with are very kind, gracious, open and warm. I’ve learned to be myself with whoever I’m meeting with.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

My Instagram account first took off when I began sharing my travel and food photos. I love traveling and that allowed me to obtain my first 15,000–20,000 followers on Instagram. However, I then began to share content related to my personal development journey of overcoming abuse, trauma, addiction and depression and my account took off from 20,000 to well over 100,000 followers. Now, my Instagram is primarily focused on sharing inspirational and motivational messages with my audience.

It’s also a great place to connect with people — I’ve had many people reach out to me about coaching or my programs such as Mastery Academy through Instagram and other social media platforms. We have a fantastic private group coaching program and community called Mastery Academy (https://courses.brendanhburns.com/p/mastery-academy),and I see people impacted by my mission every day. My mission is to share my best business and self-development tools to help people achieve high levels of success, fulfillment, and most importantly, happiness.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

I have a client who saw my content and got in touch with me regarding her daughter’s heroin addiction. After working with her for just a few sessions, we were able to get her daughter off of heroin and into an outpatient rehab program using my coaching strategies. It’s not easy to set boundaries with loved ones and we often enable their addictive behaviors without realizing it. I helped my client break the pattern and it was an extremely powerful experience. To this day I receive messages and see social media posts of her celebrating her newfound life.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

When I began my own journey of personal development, I did a lot of deep inner work. As I healed my past and reclaimed my true self, I began to move away from the Wall Street culture of money, drugs, and dysfunction. Yet I was afraid of letting go of this identity and life that I had known for so long, and I couldn’t give myself the final push to get sober and healthy.

I received my final wake-up call when my hedge fund coworker and best work friend, Jessie, lost his life to a drug addiction. I knew the job was taking an emotional toll on him, but I had no idea that he was using drugs. He continued to show more and more unhappiness with his work and life, but I had no idea how severe it was. His passing left me angry and devastated. And as I mourned his loss, I couldn’t believe I was allowing myself to stay in a situation that could lead to such tragedy. I quit it all in a heartbeat — the money, the drugs, the dysfunction.

Leaving my steady paycheck was scary. Yet two months after Jessie’s passing I never felt so alive as the day I walked out of those office building doors and said goodbye to Wall Street forever. I immediately bought a one-way ticket to Hanoi, Vietnam and began traveling and growing my Instagram account as a fun pet project, assuming I would come back to New York in 6 months or so and find a more quality-of-life finance job such as working at a Mutual Fund or in the Finance Department of a company with a good culture.

However, during my trip, I started posting a lot of travel content as well as personal growth tools that I had been implementing in my own life. When my Instagram account @brendanhburns blew up to more than 100,000 followers, I realized there was an opportunity to monetize it and use the platform to share my passion, personal development information, and use it as the foundation to start my own coaching and speaking business (https://www.brendanhburns.com). It became abundantly clear to me how much I enjoyed helping people, and I knew that was the life I wanted to pursue.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

1. More awareness on Mental Health

There have been great strides made in Mental Health awareness in recent years, yet as long as there are negative stigmas around getting support, we can do more.

2. Treating mental health holistically — instead of defaulting to medication

A big part of my coaching approach is focusing on the root of the problem instead of trying to cover it up. While medication can help in certain instances, our first attempt should be to treat mental health holistically.

3. Funding programs and people in the personal development and self-improvement space

I’m a firm believer that the best investment you can make is in yourself, and one of the best ways to do that is get a coach or therapist. However, these resources can be expensive and I would love to see that space open and accessible to everyone in the world.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I operate with a “Freemium” model where I share a lot of video and audio content on my social media accounts and podcast to help people for free. It gets my content into the hands of more people and it’s easier to support people through video versus a written post. Ultimately you want to connect with people the best you can, so exploring different ways to share your message is a good way to start.

My podcast, The Brendan Burns Show (https://brendanhburns.com/podcast), has been integral in advancing my cause. Hearing stories from people around the world with similar missions is very inspiring and has created a lot of valuable connections. You have to connect with people to advance any cause.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. You have permission to do whatever you want and are most passionate about

You have one life and you should live it in a way that makes you the most happy and fulfilled.

2. Be vulnerable and put yourself out there

Vulnerability is the only way we can truly grow and succeed.

3. Trust that everything will work out 100% if you put in the work with the right strategy

As long as you are trying your best and constantly striving to improve, things will fall into place how they’re meant to.

4. Have fun and take care of yourself

You can’t pour from an empty cup. What’s the point of working hard if you never get to enjoy your life?

5. Focus on human connection, especially when a solopreneur

Don’t get into the mindset that you have to do everything on your own — no one accomplishes anything great by themselves. There’s a reason that Oscar speeches always go overtime…there are a lot of people to thank.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement I want to inspire is Using our mobile devices and social media for personal development. It would be great to see more people following accounts similar to mine that are focused on positivity, optimism, personal development and self-improvement for the greater good.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain.”

-Eckhart Tolle

During my first few years working on Wall Street in New York City, I used a lot of externalities to avoid my pain. Expensive restaurants, excessive alcohol consumption, international travel and shopping were some of the main ways I avoided my true emotions and pain. I very fortunately picked up a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s, The Power of Now, which is one of the most influential and life-changing books I have ever read.

In Tolle’s guide to enlightenment, he discusses how addiction doesn’t actually have anything to do with the substance, product or distraction that is weighing you down. He writes:

“Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to — alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person — you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain.”

Many of us are taught from an early age that feeling or expressing emotion is a sign of weakness. Women are “allowed” to feel sadness, and men anger, but what about shame, fear, guilt, insecurity, loneliness, and pain?

To truly live a clean and connected life, it is crucial to learn how to feel and process our pain, rather than stay distracted and use substances or possessions to cope. Some good first steps are to journal regularly and begin meditation, both great ways to face and move through your pain directly, rather than soothe the pain in unhealthy ways such as addiction.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Eckhart Tolle. His spiritual writings, such as The Power of Now and A New Earth, were extremely powerful and impactful on my growth on a deep level, I would want to ask him more detailed questions about his teachings, what his daily practice looks like today, and build a relationship with someone I perceive to be living a peaceful, purpose-driven, and impactful life. His philosophy and view on life seems extremely spiritually mature to me, and it’s a powerful lens that if humanity looked through could change the world in a way that could impact billions or people. Incorporating his practice into my life has been extremely powerful with working through emotional pain and breaking my addiction to my mind.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brendanhburns/

Podcast: https://www.brendanhburns.com/podcast (The Brendan Burns Show on iTunes and Spotify)

Website: https://www.brendanhburns.com

Publicist: Carolyn Barth of https://digitalcontentstrategy.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “To truly live a clean and connected life, it is crucial… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Reading individual books is like a life hack course.”

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Reading individual books is like a life hack course.” with Devon Devon Horace and Candice Georgiadis

I never used to read. I always thought there was a video for everything. Once I started reading, I felt like a whole new world opened up for me. I learned from others experience and reading helped me by providing tips and tools found in the passage to help me in my life. Reading individual books is like a life hack course. A lot of the things I read help me learn from others journey. If it’s somewhere, I want to be, and I implemented it in my life. I’ve learned that fear prevents people from doing a lot of things. It’s natural for people to close off when they aren’t comfortable with changes. That’s where I was making a mistake. Change is going to happen. I love learned to be open-minded and embrace change.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Devon Horace, investor, personal finance, and business strategist, and founder of Horace Consulting, LLC. From $47,238.38 in debt to millionaire, Devon now helps other young professionals achieve their personal finance and business goals through Horace Consulting, LLC. His goal is to increase financial and business literacy in his community.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I graduated college in 2015, I had a large amount of student loan debt $ 37,238.38 to be exact. I was always engaged in social media, and I thought, maybe I can document this journey to get out debt to add to my content and find others out there like me. Through posting on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, I found there was a whole community out there of people paying off their student loan and consumer debts (credit cards, car loan, etc.) I knew this was something I can jump on board with and provide value.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

The most interesting thing that happen to me so far has been people coming up to me calling me “The Pasta Guy.” During my debt freedom journey, one way I was able to save money was cutting my grocery expenses down. I did that by eating pasta for a year straight. About $1.53 for the pasta and about $5.00 for the pasta sauce.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Well, I wouldn’t say it’s the funniest, but one major mistake I made when I first started was not engaging with people who were leaving comments. I used to think, oh that’s cool, people like my post and I would just like their comments. I’ve learned that you MUST reply to ALL comments on your post. Not only does it help you build your brand and community, but it helps people know that you are real, and you appreciate their support.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

I use my platform to teach others about business and finance for the everyday person. You always see memes and advertisements about “Get rich with these five steps” or things about passive income and cash flow for entrepreneurs. Yes, some of the material is good content, but it’s not for the everyday person. Some people want to know how to save a little more money each paycheck and how to write a business plan and file for an LLC. I’ve kept all my content through my journey of business and finance for people to look back at and refer too when they need help. If I can help just one person learn new things about business and finance, I hope they spread the message which will help others around them.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

Yes, this particular client asked to remain private, but I can share their story. One of my clients had $11,239 worth of credit card debt. I ask them, before hiring me as a consultant, to check out my profile and see if I may be a good fit for them. Once we got through that phase, I was able to partner with the client to come up with a plan to get rid of their debt. They did not like what they had to do to achieve their goal of being debt free, but I kept telling them to remember the bigger picture. It is just temporary. Through our engagement, I was able to teach the client about interest rates, loans, credit card factors and much more. It took my client 15 months to get rid of their debt, but thanks to their cooperation and trust they paid their debt off.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

The tipping point was seeing how many people didn’t know how to achieve financial stability and common business goals. Student loan debt is about 1.5 trillion dollars. Some people can’t even go to college due to their sibling or parent(s) owing money themselves. I’ve learned that, due to credit scores, some people can’t even get a job because the score is so low. At this moment, I knew there was something that I could do. I don’t come from much. I am thankful to have had a roof over my head and clothes on my back, but the area I lived in was rough. I had friends who didn’t have clothes and lived in rougher places to afford rent. I know everyone is different, but I hoped if people like me, where I am from, can see me succeed they will be motivated to do so as well.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I believe the community can offer more programs to teach about becoming a business owner and finances, teach children about finances in school and growing a business, and make data-driven decisions. We live in a capitalist country so it’s only so much you can ask from the government. But reparations for the black community would be a great start.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

Some strategies I have been using to promote my cause is offering free advice on my social media platforms, being a part of speaking panels in different cities to pass on the message and being someone, people can contact about their questions in the field.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

I wish someone told me to keep fighting, never quit, read more, be open-minded, and to represent myself and others with the utmost respect because you never know what that person is going through. There were times I would feel like a particular goal was too hard. I would try, but I didn’t give it my all. And the moment I give up, I miss out on opportunities. I’ve now learned that things will be tough, things won’t go as planned as you thought it would, but never give up. Keep fighting. Know that this moment is just temporary. I never use to read. I always thought there was a video for everything. Once I started reading, I felt like a whole new world opened up for me. I learned from others experience and reading helped me by providing tips and tools found in the passage to help me in my life. Reading individual books is like a life hack course. A lot of the things I read help me learn from others journey. If it’s somewhere, I want to be, and I implemented it in my life. I’ve learned that fear prevents people from doing a lot of things. It’s natural for people to close off when they aren’t comfortable with changes. That’s where I was making a mistake. Change is going to happen. I love learned to be open-minded and embrace change. Once I started doing that, I took my personal growth to another level. You know the story where people tell you to be on your best behavior because you never know who’ll be your boss? Well, I have an account similar to that. I was interested in investing in this small business and on my way to meet the CEO at their office. On my way there I saw two women standing on the bus. One of the women was older, and I offered my seat. The younger lady refused for, the older women said they were ok, but I couldn’t accept that offer. I was taught to respect my elders and help open the door and or offer my seat to women. A bit old fashioned, but it’s a matter of respect. So, I told the younger lady, please take my place. If my mom would see me seated with two women standing in front of me, she would give me a whooping of a lifetime. She laughed and finally accepted my offer. We got off at the same stop, and I let them walk out ahead of me. We walked up to the same building, and I held the door open for them. And yes, you may have guessed it. The younger lady out of the two was the business owner. Since I showed her and her mother so much respect, she was willing to be open-minded about negotiations and accept me as a new partner. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a huge difference. Respect can be that difference.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Wow! It would be the be somewhere in economic for the ADOS black community. I would want to be a part of decisions for the cost of living, wages, and wealth building opportunities in ADOS black communities around the country.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” — Maya Angelou, this is relevant to my life because I grew up in a rough neighborhood, in a single parent household, and 1 of 8 children. My older siblings didn’t graduate school before me, and I didn’t have a blueprint to go further in life. I didn’t let that stop me. I knew if I wanted to change myself, I had to change the energy and environment around me. People, places, and things. I created my path to become motivation and hope for others.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Another big question! Well, if there were anyone, it would be Mark Cuban. I love his story, love his energy, and the man is smart. I feel like he can teach me so much and sit down with him having a real conversation may spark something in me. I hear him talk about money, business and being at the top of your game. It just gets me fired up and ready to take on the world. I never met him, but he’s my mentor.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Please follow me on Instagram at @D.Horace Twitter at @D__Horace and LinkedIn at Devon Horace.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Reading individual books is like a life hack course.” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “It will take a long time to be taken seriously.”

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “It will take a long time to be taken seriously.” with Lauren Mims and Candice Georgiadis

It will take a long time to be taken seriously. You need to accept that right away. Especially if you’ve decided to tailor your social media to supporting a cause and away from the more vain things in life: travel, beauty, lifestyle, etc. I still struggle to this day to be taken seriously by my own community in Denver. But there will always be people encouraging you, too. Those people are YOUR people and you should hold them close.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Mims, founder of Currently Colorado and non-profit Bad Bettie Project. Lauren graduated with a degree in PR, which allowed her to effectively pursue social media in the travel space via her brand Currently Colorado. That work led her to discover a serious need for sisterhood in the Denver area, thus Bad Bettie Project was born in 2016.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It wasn’t until my “junior” year of college that I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. Previous to that I tried majoring in acting, then music business and even flirted with the idea of political science. With a creative background and a passion for working with people, it’s honestly not a surprise to most that I fell in love with public relations. I switched majors after a PR 101 class that had me buzzing as I left, knowing in my heart, “this is what I was meant to do.” All this came after nearly dropping out, my boyfriend at the time having passed away in a motorcycle accident. I was ready to just work retail forever (no shame.) Public relations pulled me out of a dark hole that I wasn’t sure I’d get out of, but here I am!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

Honestly, in the world of PR — a lot of really interesting things happen every week! It’s kind of hard to keep up. I’d say in the past year, the most interesting thing to have happened to me was my invitation to the 2019 Facebook Communities Summit from Facebook HQ themselves. Me and a friend were flown out and put up in a nice hotel for two days and spent our time immersed in Facebook culture. The level of detail they go to in all they execute during these in-person events is always incredible to watch, let alone be a part of. We heard from the COO, CMO and Mark Zuckerberg before breaking out into workshops and lectures. It was such an incredible experience.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Easily, the funniest and most embarrassing mistake I’ve made (ashamedly, several times) is not recognizing someone. Public relations might as well be personal relations, really. There’s nothing more awkward than reaching out to a fellow influencer to collaborate and not realizing they’re like, a person you know in REAL LIFE. I’m over here, slipping into her DM’s like “Hi, my name is Lauren!” No sh*t. We’ve had coffee. Honestly, I’m human and I have a LOT going on. If your Instagram bio name is different from the name you use IRL, I might fumble. I’ve since learned to slow down, do a bit more digging if I’m unsure and if all else fails, “Hey there!” will always work.

Ok Super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

I’ve been building up the Currently Colorado brand for years now and other than encouraging people to be great towards the environment, I never had any social good goal there. It wasn’t until I moved to Denver from Dallas and noticed a serious lack of sisterhood that I knew I could use my platform to nudge a little change in that arena. A friend of mine that had been living in Denver about 6–9 months previous to me started a small Facebook group called “Denver Sad Girls Club.” I quickly signed up to get involved, was eventually handed the keys and started really pushing my community to get into that space. We re-branded and formally registered as a non-profit in early 2018, giving birth to Bad Bettie Project: a women’s social club focused on the personal development and success of millennial women.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

Girl gangs are an amazing thing, y’all. I’d say weekly, maybe even daily for periods of time we see active positive impact in our online community that is entirely member driven. What I mean by that is we’ll have women asking for advice — sometimes asking for physical help — and our members rise to the occasion. I’ve seen more women talked off a ledge than I can count and more families fed during storms than we’d ever like to see. Earlier this year, we had a member who’s partner passed away unexpectedly. She decided the best choice for her mental health was to move back home (85% of our members are transplants). The apartment they shared was under lease and the company refused to let her break it without adding on insane fees. As someone who’s lost their partner, I could not understand how anyone would be callous enough to treat another human that way. So, I put up a call to arms of sorts and asked the 1400 members of our group to contribute whatever they could so we could get her home. Within 30 minutes we had received all the funds we needed. I commented a hundred thanks and that they could stop, but more kept pouring in. For days, we had women contributing with notes encouraging us to use the money for anyone else that may need help. That night, the Emergency Bettie Fund was established and we use it to this day to put food on tables, transport women to appointments, cover medical bills and more.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

When my boyfriend passed away I developed an incredible amount of anxiety. I fell into an abusive relationship that only fed into that even more. Sometime near the last 6 months of our relationship I was added to a “girl gang” on Facebook titled, “DFW Sad Girls Club.” It was basically a group of badass alternative women and a space you could vent in and what not. Like most good things, it grew too quickly and drama bombs went off. Ultimately, it dissipated but several sub-groups survived. Since joining in 2015 I’ve made so many amazing connections with the brightest women, but there was a void for that in Denver. With so many transplants, no one knew each other. Add in a heaping dosage of millennial anxiety and no one is meeting anyone. With my skills in PR and my audience, I felt pretty confident that I could grow a community that fostered sisterhood, personal development and culture. We’ve hit our fair share of bumps, but I’m only human. My tipping point really wasn’t a negative one. The community existed and after being given a dozen or more testimonies from women in our online group about how it changed their life for the better, I knew I had something special here. I knew I had to take it more seriously and that’s when I registered us a non-profit.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

We don’t have one specific problem, in a lot of ways we’re more of a community trying to create a lot of change in civil human rights. Our organization has a heavy focus in helping members find housing, jobs and medical help in Colorado. Supporting us is directly supporting young women in Colorado trying to succeed in life, and since the majority of our membership is women that want to help the community as well, it becomes a circle of never-ending giving. You don’t have to just support us, any girl gang will do. Here’s my top three ways:

● Support your local girl gang! If you’re not part of one and want to be, chances are there’s one in your area — a Facebook search for “women [your city name]” might bring up some leads

● Support Bad Bettie Project: if you’re a local business or ecommerce we have a dozen different sponsorship opportunities that will expose you directly to our 1500+ members as a business we trust. We also have merch, all proceeds go to the Emergency Bettie Fund — bit.ly/ShopBBP

● Support SISTERHOOD! If you haven’t noticed, lately it seems the world is at war with women. If joining a local community for women isn’t your thing, simply being a voice of empowerment and encouragement to the women in your life is an incredible thing!

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

As a community, our main focuses are on providing resources for women and supporting them in their goals for personal development. To promote this messaging, we rely heavily on social media and events. In addition to my personal brand, Bad Bettie Project has its own social channels where we have more tailored messaging and promotion of our events. Our events are where the real magic happens. These experiential, girl power focused events bring local businesses and the community together. A big thing I encourage all people with a cause to pursue is grassroots efforts. Sure, social media is a super powerful tool for getting your message out to the masses, but in-person events is what really creates engaged participants in your cause. See how you, as an influencer or voice online, can get involved in local efforts. If there’s a non-profit already fighting for what you care about, be their spokesperson! If there isn’t an organization already in action, host a fundraiser yourself! You don’t have to make it complicated, simply encouraging your followers to care about something you’re passionate about can cause lasting change.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. I wish someone had told me that working in a women-only environment can be just as toxic as it is empowering. Having stable boundaries and thick skin is a must. When you manage a women’s club, drama is bound to happen. I hate to back that stereotype, but it’s just true. The important part is to not let it affect you. As a leader, I often feel that the issues that crop up in our community are a direct reflection of me or my leadership. You have to accept that people’s poor choices of words or actions aren’t controlled by you, just keep doing good work.
  2. Don’t get caught up in the haters! When Bad Bettie Project started being more public-facing with our merchandise, I did a lot to hype it up and drive traffic to our pages. We had this badass t-shirt a member designed that said, “Dead Men Can’t Catcall.” The shirt was selling quite well and we were really thrilled with the donations coming in — until we got a message from a local influencer/brand with a huge following claiming we were feminists trying to kill men. There’s a ton of things wrong with that claim, but I won’t dive into it. Point is, I was wrecked for days over this message. I tried to open up a dialogue about it, but they refused and I was met with hostility, so I let my emotions get the best of me and I responded out of emotion, too. Questioning why a woman-owned operation would have any issue with a t-shirt calling out catcalling. As you can imagine, I didn’t get a response and the world moved on as usual. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t fed into it. People are going to have different opinions and criticize you, even if what you’re doing is for the greater good.
  3. It will take a long time to be taken seriously. You need to accept that right away. Especially if you’ve decided to tailor your social media to supporting a cause and away from the more vain things in life: travel, beauty, lifestyle, etc. I still struggle to this day to be taken seriously by my own community in Denver. But there will always be people encouraging you, too. Those people are YOUR people and you should hold them close.
  4. I wish someone had told me in the beginning to “ask for anything.” Working in public relations in general, I kind of adopted the mantra, “you never know what you’ll get if you don’t ask!” I worked with a lot of nonprofits in Dallas and the community was incredibly generous. You could ask just about anyone for anything and they’d do everything in their power to make it work. This really does apply to just about anything, though. As an influencer, you have much more pull in what you ask — it’s all about your approach. If you’re fighting for a cause, be sure to put that at the forefront of your ask so brands know you’re not only looking for a freebie.
  5. Be relentlessly bold. I was so incredibly bold out the gate after college, it really did land me whatever I wanted or needed. I lost that boldness when I moved to Denver and I wish someone had kicked me in the butt to bring it back sooner than I did. Being bold, you will rock the boat. You will shake things up and people will not like it. Refer to tips one and two to offset that. But you will go so much further if you boldly pursue your passions.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the world, I would want to teach every young person how important empathy is and how their actions directly affect the world . I focus a lot on women, that’s because a lot of women naturally surround me. But really, I think the only way we will see a positive change in the world is through our youth. Some say old dogs can’t learn new tricks, I think they’re just stubborn. If the generations above us refuse to take civil rights and environment seriously, we have to instill a standard of excellence and empathy in those we are raising. Empathy is such a key component to personal development and ultimately how we treat the world around us. I think if we all practiced empathy on a more regular basis and enriched our youth’s lives with this type of understanding, we’d see a dramatic shift in how our world operates.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I shared this earlier, but “You never know what you’ll get if you don’t ask,” is easily my favorite Life Lesson Quote. Asking for anything, whether it be goods or help is a very hard thing for most to do. It requires a bit of vulnerability, some trust and of course — the ability to accept rejection. In public relations, I ask for a lot of things every day. Some come through and some do not, you start to learn quickly who you want to continue working with based on that. Social media is the exact same way, just in an online bubble. It’s up to you if you want to use your influence in an altruistic way or for yourself. Or you can be like me and do a little bit of both. Who says you can’t treat yourself occasionally?

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Easily Nora McInerny. It took me an incredibly long time to feel strong enough to listen to her podcast after losing my boyfriend and my Dad. I felt it would be way to real, way too relatable to handle. I’m so glad I did eventually start listening to her podcast, “Terrible, Thanks for Asking,” because it made me feel a lot less bad about the dead boyfriend jokes I make. Those events really changed the course of my life, I think Nora can relate and is a shining example of making lemonade out of really sh*tty lemons.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow my travel/lifestyle & girl power focused brand Currently Colorado on Instagram and Facebook under @currentlycolorado! You can also follow Bad Bettie Project, @badbettieproject. If you’re a womxn living in the Colorado area, you can join the community here: www.facebook.com/groups/badbettieproject.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “It will take a long time to be taken seriously.” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “I wish that someone told me that perfection is a scam.”

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “I wish that someone told me that perfection is a scam.” with Gwen Lane and Candice Georgiadis

I wish that someone told me that perfection is a scam. Growing up, I was praised for good grades and being a high achiever so I tried to get perfect scores to continue getting that recognition. When I started my influencer journey, this was not a pro, but a con. Trying to get the perfect picture, using the perfect filter, and posting the perfect caption only led to one thing — procrastination. It kept me from putting myself out there because I was trying to be perfect. In reality, my audience could care less. They just wanted to see me, hear from me, and be inspired by me. And no photo or filter does that. It’s about the message and the story. I had to learn this lesson the hard way and I’m still a recovering perfectionist to this day.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gwen Lane, the founder of travel & lifestyle blog, The LA Girl. Since launching her blog in 2014, she’s partnered with brands like Disney, Facebook, American Airlines, Nike, Target and more. She’s passionate about helping other digital influencers make money and make an impact.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been an entrepreneur and my first business venture was selling Airheads on the school bus in third grade. After getting in trouble because I was secretly competing with the student store, I evolved to selling Pokemon cards on eBay and making as much as $200 for a holographic card. I’d always find ways to make money with babysitting, tutoring jobs, and selling random stuff. After college, I had to get one of those things called a job. I did a myriad of things from teaching at a trade school to being a nanny, I always had a side hustle to make extra money. Most of my corporate experience in the past 12 years was working in advertising and digital marketing in the entertainment industry. I gotta admit, it was fun with lots of cool perks, but not very fulfilling. I started The LA Girl in 2014 as a creative hobby and I didn’t know at the time that it was going to be a successful brand. Since then I’ve worked with some of the most amazing brands out there including Starbucks, United Airlines, Chase, Capital One, Nordstrom, and so much more. I am so grateful to be able to partner with brands that I love and recommend their products to my audience. It took about two and a half years for me to replace my six-figure salary as a Marketing Director with my income from brand sponsorships. I knew that I had to quit my job because I was limiting myself to my salary and I wanted the freedom to own my time and travel more. While I was working, I started teaching at YouTube workshops and helping content creators monetize their platform. I quickly realized that this was what I really wanted to do. I started Spark Society to teach other influencers how to build their brand, grow their following and make an impact. I’ve helped thousands of influencers through my free community and resources, as well as my coaching programs. I wake up every single day, grateful and excited to be doing what I love to do and most importantly, making a massive impact in the world.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

What I love about being an influencer is that so many random things can happen from getting invited to go to Vermont by Ben & Jerry’s to meeting Maria Sharapova at a dance class with a sunscreen brand. My favorite opportunity has been to go on a sponsored trip to the Philippines. As a Filipino-American, I’ve been to the Philippines before to visit family but have never experienced it as a tourist. I was able to visit the beautiful islands of Boracay and Palawan and see the country where I was born from a whole new perspective.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake that I made when I was first starting out was not having a media kit. A media kit is kind of like a resume for influencers that you send to brands when they are interested in working with you. It has your stats, follower count, channels, audience demographics, basically an overview of who you are and what your digital profile looks like. About six month into doing this, I was contacted by a fitness drink brand and they were wanting to partner with me. At the time, I had only gotten small deals with brands so I wasn’t sure if it was even paid. They asked for my media kit and I had to Google it and make one really quick so I didn’t have to tell them I didn’t have one! I used Canva, designed one really quickly and that resulted in my first $5,000 brand deal.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

I believe that as an influencer, my responsibility is to provide value to my audience and use my platform for good. Knowing my audience really well, they do care about social issues and they truly want to help. It was a natural fit to use my platform to build awareness for issues that I knew my audience cared about. I think that starting a conversation is the most powerful thing you can do. I’ve had conversations with my audience about mental health, being a sexual assault survivor, ways to volunteer in LA, and most recently I partnered with Clorox and The Laundry Truck LA to raise awareness about people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. The founder of The Laundry Truck LA, Jodie Dolan, first came to the idea through her volunteer work with Monday Night Mission and Shower of Hope. She said, “Seeing people have a beautiful and sometimes transformative shower experience, only to put their dirty clothes back on, gave me an ‘A-ha’ moment. Combining that need with our passion for clothing, I knew exactly how we could make a difference.” I am so grateful to be connected to Jodie and The Laundry Truck LA through Clorox’s What Comes Next Project.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

When I volunteered with The Laundry Truck LA in Highland Park, I was able to meet some people who used the free laundry service. I talked to a guy named Eric who relied on The Laundry Truck LA every single week to get his clothes washed. Every Saturday in Highland Park at the All Saints Episcopal Church, he would come to have a hot meal, a shower, and clean clothes. While it’s something we often take for granted, clean clothes can make a profound difference in securing employment or housing. It can boost self-esteem and give a renewed sense of hope and dignity. I saw the difference immediately from when Eric arrived to after he was able to have lunch, a shower and putting on freshly laundered clothes. We chatted about how he stays around the Pasadena area and frequents the public library. He looked happy and confident.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

I tend to focus on social issues that affect women in Los Angeles, because that is my audience. Although I was born in the Philippines, I came to live here in LA when I was 5 years old and it is my home. I’ve lived in Downtown LA and even now where I live in West LA close to the Veterans Hospital, you can see the growing population of people experiencing homelessness. I think that it’s something that affects all of us, not just the people who don’t have anywhere to live. And when I shared about The Laundry Truck LA on my blog and social channels, there was a huge response of wanting to get involved and help.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The three ways that people can help and get involved is to build awareness, donate or to start a fundraiser. The Laundry Truck LA started a challenge last month that asked participants to wear the same set of clothes for 3 days straight and to share it on social media to build awareness for the need for clean clothes when experiencing homelessness. Getting involved in challenges like these is a great way to bring awareness and spread the word. You can also donate directly to The Laundry Truck LA to help operational costs to provide the services. Another way to help is to start a Facebook fundraiser asking your community to donate whatever they can to the cause. This has become a trend for people celebrating birthdays, asking your friends to donate to a cause that you care about in lieu of giving you a gift.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I shared my experience with The Laundry Truck LA and Clorox on my blog and my social channels. I’ve been building my audience and connecting with them on a daily basis for the last 5 years now so most of them have been following me for a while. The posts got great engagement and inspired people to get involved. My top 3 tips for those who want to build an audience and use your platform would be to show up consistently every single day, put your audience first and deliver high value content that they care about, and lastly, be authentic and true to yourself, the right people will come, follow, and stay.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

I wish that someone told me that this was an “inside job.” And what I mean by this is that being an influencer and an entrepreneur is all about personal development. Yes, there are strategies and tactics but most of it is about taking action despite your fear and if you aren’t able to do that — the tactics don’t matter. You have to be okay with putting yourself out there, being judged, and knowing in your heart, mind and soul that there are people out there (not everybody) that need to hear what you have to say. I say not everybody because you have to be willing to not be liked by 100% of the people out there — that’s literally impossible. You have to trust that you will attract the right people and those are the people you show up for.

I wish that someone told me that perfection is a scam. Growing up, I was praised for good grades and being a high achiever so I tried to get perfect scores to continue getting that recognition. When I started my influencer journey, this was not a pro, but a con. Trying to get the perfect picture, using the perfect filter, and posting the perfect caption only led to one thing — procrastination. It kept me from putting myself out there because I was trying to be perfect. In reality, my audience could care less. They just wanted to see me, hear from me, and be inspired by me. And no photo or filter does that. It’s about the message and the story. I had to learn this lesson the hard way and I’m still a recovering perfectionist to this day.

I wish that I learned about meditation sooner. I didn’t start meditating daily until about a year ago and it has literally changed my life. It has helped me with fear, self-doubt, anxiety, all the stuff that you don’t wanna deal with when you want to make a massive impact in the world. I’ve learned about mindset a lot in the past few years and using meditation as a daily tool has helped me more than anything I’ve done. Whenever I am teaching and my students have questions about confidence and fear, I always revert back to meditation. And for those who say they don’t meditate — I always challenge them to try for one minute. I say “You can do anything for one minute, can’t you?” And then the one minute can become two, then three, then five then ten. I see a huge difference in my day when I don’t get to meditate (hey, I didn’t say I was perfect!) and it’s become my go-to thing every single morning.

I wish that someone told me that everything is just an experiment. I used to think that when something didn’t go the way I planned, it was a failure. But it was not a failure, my interpretation of the results is that it was a failure. I would beat myself up for not getting something that I wanted, but I didn’t realize that I had the wrong perspective all along. Things are simply as they are — they are not wrong or right. We interpret them as wrong or right. I’ve had students of mine that were scared of reaching out to brands asking to partner with them. So I asked, “What happens when they say no? It usually means not right now. It doesn’t mean your content sucks, or you suck as a person. You’re only making it mean that.” In reality, when a brand says “no” it’s because you don’t fit the criteria or they can’t afford you and that’s okay. I tell my students to trust that it means it wasn’t for them and something else is on its way.

I wish that someone told me that it was going to take longer than I think. I’m the kind of person that wants to see results right away and being an entrepreneur has taught me the hard lesson of patience. Growing an audience takes time. It takes time to build rapport and connection. It takes consistency and showing up every single day for people to realize that you’re not a scammer and you genuinely want to help them. I’ve had students of mine ask me over and over again, “how long is this gonna take?” and I always tell them that this is not something that you’re waiting for to end. This is a lifelong journey, you don’t just wait until you get X amount of followers then you’re done. This is about the long game and building a community for life that you want to serve and show up for because this is your life’s mission. It’s not just something you want to do for fun for a year or so, that’s a hobby. I believe that true influencers are those who are in it for good. Your passions can change, what you talk about can change, but truly, it’s about helping people while you’re still here.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe that you are influencer, whether you like it or not. We influence the people around us, our friends, family, coworkers, people we just meet. Maybe you don’t use the word “influencer” to define yourself but you do have the ability to make an impact, even on just one person. And that’s a powerful thing. You get to choose how to use that power, make it a good one.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is by one of my favorite authors, Cheryl Strayed who said “You don’t have a right to the cards you haven’t been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.” As someone who’s experienced trauma and abuse, I could sit here and hope my story was different. Or I could share my story and help others who are dealing with that too. And I choose to do the latter because I believe that am strong enough to do that despite the fear, guilt and shame. Not everyone is brave enough to share their story, and that’s why I’m here. Those who are able to pave the way for those who are not ready yet.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have brunch or afternoon tea with J.K. Rowling, she opened up the doors to a magical universe where anything is possible. When I read her books, I would find myself happily exploring the Wizarding World. I could relate to Harry Potter’s parental void and often hoped that my Hogwarts letter would arrive so that I could have magic and most of all, be with people who loved and understood me. As I grew up, I realized that I didn’t need to be a wizard or defeat the Dark Lord to deserve love and recognition. I’m doing just fine as a Muggle influencer, but Hogwarts will always be my second home.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’d love to connect with you on Instagram @thelagirl!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “I wish that someone told me that perfection is a scam.” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “follow up with your government officials to make sure…

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “follow up with your government officials to make sure that the House continues to support bills that give relief to communities in need.”with Carolyn Paine and Candice Georgiadis

As individuals, we need to continue to stay informed through media coverage. Maybe even more importantly, reach out to friends, colleagues, and neighbors and make personal connections to really learn what is going on in Puerto Rico and what you can do whether it be donating goods and supplies or donating money to relief efforts. The important thing to realize is that recovery in Puerto Rico is still ongoing. While major threats such as lack of water and electricity may not be the issue, there are still so many ripple effects on a human level for those who live there. Day to day lives for many people are still not back to “normal.” But this goes beyond just Puerto Rico, there are many communities all over effected by natural disasters needing relief and help to return to normalcy. You can reach out and connect. And you should follow up with your government officials to make sure that the House continues to support bills that give relief to communities in need. Helping these communities is not a waste of time, taxpayer money, or personal resources.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Paine, an actress, dancer, choreographer and comedian. She has been featured in national commercials and tv shows/webseries. She is the director and founder of CONNetic Dance -best known for her quirky and funny contemporary “Nutcracker Suite & Spicy.” Carolyn’s choreography and dancing have been critically acclaimed and featured in national dance magazines. Additionally, her comedy shorts have been recognized at the Women in Comedy Festival and at the International Comedy Festival in California.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up loving to perform-needing to perform actually. I trained at Boston Ballet intensively from a young age and after graduating high school continued with that professional training in Europe before going to college to study theatre at University of Hartford. For me, the biggest challenges have been finding ways to get to do everything I love-from dancing to comedy to acting. And that’s one of the reasons I love creating projects of my own, because I get to combine everything and really use my unique voice and talents.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

The experiences and opportunities I have had are so incredible. Definitely one of the most interesting stories I love to tell is about the time I got flown to China for one weekend to perform as a back up dancer for American pop star impersonators. It was a wild weekend. We left New York City on a Thursday night, performed in two cities in these huge venues to screaming crowds, squeezed in some whirlwind tourism, and then flew back on Sunday. That Sunday we actually had breakfast in Hong Kong and dinner that night in New York City. It was the closest I ever have gotten to understanding what it would feel like to be a glam rockstar and it was certainly an adrenaline rush.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

HA! Probably my first headshots. I think every performer will relate. You look back on those and think how hilarious they are and how hopelessly clueless you were awkwardly stumbling into your first auditions. But that’s the best part of this industry, you are always getting to grow, always learning, and evolving.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

When you are at all in the public eye-which pretty much everyone is nowadays with social media-I believe you have a responsibility to not just use that power and visibility to promote yourself, but to promote what you believe in and to make others think. We all have the power to call others into action and to make change. We are living in a world where everyday the news brings stress. And rather than sit back and be stressed, I want to use my voice as a performer and comedian to effect change, but in a way that also makes people laugh. With this motivation I have created several political comedy shorts/web videos. I also feel that it is so important to follow what is happening in the world and keep our eyes and hearts open to those needing support. There are so many ways you can get involved and make a difference. Even small efforts can make huge differences in another person’s life. Acting on this principal and inspiring others to do the same is why I feel so lucky to be able to use my platform to make an impact.

Earlier this year, I was inspired to use my platform and connections to help out young dancers in Puerto Rico who are still struggling following Hurricane Maria in fall of 2017. The news of the hurricane’s devastating effects on the island of Puerto Rico moved many people and helped ignite a lot of generous fundraising directly following the storm, even though the support from the US Government was not generous. But the lasting effects of a storm of that nature run deep. In fall of 2018, I read articles about how some places were still without power, and many buildings, including schools, were still damaged beyond use. I also read that the arts communities, while being strong and vibrant, were suffering to keep afloat. As all artists know, money for the arts is tight in the best of times. This made me think about young dancers in Puerto Rico and how this all must affect them. I reached out to contacts I had and connected with a public school in San Juan that is famous for ballet training, Escuela de Ballet Julian Blanco. I learned that the school, like many others, had suffered damage, some studios even having holes in the floors that the students danced around. And many students lost their homes and belongings, and dance supplies were in short order. Through my social media reach and connections in the dance and theatre world, I collected thousands of dollars worth of new and very gently used dance supplies from fellow dancers, dance educators, dance schools, and dance stores. I then worked with JetBlue airlines to have them help me bring the 8 giant boxes of donations to the students in San Juan. I got to spend time with these amazing young dancers and their teachers in the studio. I documented my whole effort and trip on social media to inspire others. And to show how beautiful Puerto Rico is. Even if you just want to go visit. Which you should!

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

Before I left for Puerto Rico, one of my ballet students who is on scholarship came up to me and donated some of her gently used leotards. This beautiful act of generosity from this young girl who gets the opportunity to study dance thanks to the generosity of others was so moving. I was very proud of her and so touched that she wanted to be part of this community of giving back.

When I met the young dancers in San Juan, I was struck by how unbelievably talented they were and in awe of how they persevered through the storm and its daunting aftermath to continue to pursue their passions. I got to spend time with them and teach dance class and it was so much fun to laugh and dance together. And then to see their faces as they opened the boxes with all the dance supplies-including ballet shoes, jazz shoes, pointe shoes, leotards, legwarmers-everything they could need. Every student was touched by this. And I also loved getting to know the teachers at the school and hearing their stories about life during and after the hurricane. They told me about having to take water home from the school when their own home had none. And talked about having to teach in the damaged studios. But their spirits were never broken. These dancers and teachers were all so strong and inspiring. I feel not only did my efforts impact them, but they impacted me. I saw shining examples of how art can bond us together and keep us going, even through the darkest of times. And I made some great new friends.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

Reading about the hurricane and the lasting struggles and lack of support and funding was really hard. And, personally, I was inspired by my mother, who, in late 2017, led an impressive fundraiser for Puerto Rico in Boston, where she lives. She did this simply because she couldn’t stand to just sit back and watch people in such need. I saw how passionate my mom was and heard first hand from the organizations she connected with about what a difference she had made and I felt I wanted and needed to do something too.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

As individuals, we need to continue to stay informed through media coverage. Maybe even more importantly, reach out to friends, colleagues, and neighbors and make personal connections to really learn what is going on in Puerto Rico and what you can do whether it be donating goods and supplies or donating money to relief efforts. The important thing to realize is that recovery in Puerto Rico is still ongoing. While major threats such as lack of water and electricity may not be the issue, there are still so many ripple effects on a human level for those who live there. Day to day lives for many people are still not back to “normal.” But this goes beyond just Puerto Rico, there are many communities all over effected by natural disasters needing relief and help to return to normalcy. You can reach out and connect. And you should follow up with your government officials to make sure that the House continues to support bills that give relief to communities in need. Helping these communities is not a waste of time, taxpayer money, or personal resources.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I used social media to collect donations from contacts near and far. It was so heartwarming to get so many responses of people wanting to donate, mail their donations from all over to me, and help. With just one post. And that’s all anyone would have to do. People are so stressed with what is going on in the world, that many people are eager for ways to jump in and be part of the good, be one of the helpers in the world. If you are willing to do the work, and start the heavy lifting, you will find many people will come out to support your efforts and help lift. So don’t be afraid to take initiative and do something you are inspired to do to help others. Social media really makes our world so much smaller and accessible which makes it possible for anyone to do something for good using it. Trust me, you’ll feel better about those posts for social good than even your best selfie.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Lately I have been feeling that the thing we need the most is to have the strength to continue to feel empowered. Despite things that happen politically that try to take that from us. Especially for women and young girls. It would be amazing to inspire a movement in which we all get to be reminded of how powerful we can be as individuals as well as when we come together. Like the Women’s March in 2017 which was so freaking awesome. I was at the one in NYC and it was one of the most beautiful and breathtaking sights to behold. I would love to see more unifying movements like that happen and to be on the front line of it. I would especially love for art-theatre-dance-music to be a driving force or product of it as well.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There is a quote of life advice Teddy Roosevelt once relayed saying “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” I first heard it in college in a Political Science class and it stuck with me. I am an ambitious person who generally suffers from wanderlust, bordering even on FOMO. But that quote sunk in and has served as a constant reminder that I am where I am for a reason. And even if it isn’t where I ultimately want to be, there is a lot I can accomplish and enjoy here and now. So whenever I feel frustrated about where I am at with something-professionally or personally, I just remember that I can do a lot with what I have and where I am. And in doing that, I’ll get somewhere else! Or at least be less whiny!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Can I please have a boozy brunch with Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Samantha Bee, Sarah Silverman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Michelle Obama to talk about girl power, comedy, politics, activism, and the best kind of champagne cocktails.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

On instagram: @c__paine

On twitter: @carolynpaine

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “follow up with your government officials to make sure… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Embrace the unknown.”

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Embrace the unknown.” with Outi Pietilanaho and Candice Georgiadis

Embrace the unknown. Building something big and truly meaningful is hard. When you embark on the journey, you have an idea about how the path will look, but most likely you are wrong. Especially if you are on a path that nobody has ever taken. You cannot possibly imagine what’s waiting ahead. Most likely, you’ll find obstacles you never thought could exist and you have to change the course of action more often than you could have imagined.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Outi Pietilanaho, CEO and Co-Founder of Vimma which is revolutionising the online advertisement industry. Vimma is a challenger ad-network that runs on people’s opinions. This ground-breaking new technology performs 11 times better than regular advertisement and gives the power to ordinary people to be the advertisers for products they use and love.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My name is Outi, I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of a marketing technology company called Vimma. I have worked for many years in the marketing industry. I have a very strange relation to my profession — I hate it and I love it!

Many people would agree with me if I said that the ads marketers so carefully prepare and distribute feels almost like a punishment to the people it is catered to. Frankly, nobody wants to see it. Think about the feeling you get when you are watching a video online and you get an ad that you can’t skip. Or when you are reading an article online and your entire screen is blocked with a full screen ad. It is really annoying and you don’t think very positively of a brand that does this to you.

On the other hand, ask any marketer if they actually want to cause you these negative emotions with their ads. Of course, they don’t! But almost every marketer still does this, and is willing to pay a lot of money for it. This is because the marketer really does not have a choice.

I think there should be a better way of doing marketing rather than pouring billions of dollars into ads that people really don’t want to see. We live in the era of highly developed technology and amazing ability to connect with each other online in meaningful ways. Why then are brands failing to use the technology in the same way we do so fluently in between people? I personally believe that there is a better way brands can connect to their target groups rather than bothering them with ads. This is why I started Vimma.

I think that the only way to make advertisement more meaningful, is to let the people themselves decide what ads they think are relevant. Even better, the people should be the ones creating the ads, telling us what they really like (or don’t like!) about the product. This way, there will be more ads that individuals can believe in, shared to their networks who find the ad relevant. And instead of pouring the marketing dollars into large corporations who massively capitalise on disturbing us, brands could give back to the people who actually use and love their products!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

There has been so many interesting things that have happened since I began this career. I moved to London from Finland as that’s the place to be if you want to work in marketing and advertisement. I knew that I needed a CTO or a technical co-founder who could build the software and AI around the vision I had. Coincidentally, I found out that an old friend of mine, Mykhailo, was also living in London at the time and was exiting from his previous venture. We started working together and instantly it felt like we were onto something.

We got some great initial signs that this is a great concept, people were really excited about what we do, and we got a few small companies on board as customers as well. But it was really tough, we had to spend quite a bit of money to get the concept moving, and London is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live.

I was 32, renting a room in a shared flat for the first time in my life. The first few months we worked from my co-founder’s living room, trying to be as cost efficient as possible but I was still drying up my savings account on business expenses and just the basic necessities of living in London. I also lived far away from my family and my partner, in a new country which did not make things any easier.

If it was not for the excitement of people who wanted to see this concept live, I would never have continued. Every time we emailed people asking them to join the platform, we got about 60% positive response. That’s mind-blowing, when on average less than 1% of cold emails get answered. I’m happy we did not give up. Today we’re working with some of the most amazing brands in the world and have more and more people joining the movement every single day!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes since the beginning of my career. Sadly, I cannot remember any of these mistakes being very funny but I have learned a lot.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

Vimma is a for-profit company. However, our vision is to harness the global $230 billion advertisement industry in order to benefit the regular consumer more. There are two aspects with Vimma that I think will benefit the society as a whole.

Firstly, the current marketing industry does not work well when it comes to product ethics. To put it bluntly, the advertiser that has most disposable budget will get the most visibility. The current ecosystem is blind to what people actually want or what products would actually be worth purchasing. I sincerely think the way advertising is done currently has come to the end of its road. We at Vimma propose instead that when people decide what they want to advertise, there will be an inevitable filter on what kind of products get the consumers attention. Instead of getting seen due to large marketing budgets, products are noticed when people genuinely like them. A bad product will not find enough people to advocate it. This works almost like democracy.

The second aspect is financial. Global online ad spend is over $230 billion every year. That is a massive amount of money. Did you know that for example L’Oreal used 8.14 billion euros in advertisement and promotion (online and offline) last year? Imagine, if some of that money would be distributed back to the people who actually use and love L’Oreal’s products? Even if we are not promising massive financial gains to people who are open to advocate their favourite brands, at least we can contribute to making the distribution more meaningful for both brands and consumers.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

We talk with the people who use our platform every week. Even if we are growing and making campaigns with more and more brands and people, we want to keep the habit of picking up the phone and just listening to what people have to say to us. For me, it is encouraging to hear how excited people are about what we are doing. The most inspiring calls are the ones where I can hear people echoing our vision: people who say they want to share what products they’re using for the good of the community. Some feel very passionate about supporting only cruelty free cosmetics or sustainably produced goods, others want to support small business owners, and many just want others to know what products are worth purchasing and why. People get a small compensation from the brands, but it is often so much more than just the money — it is about collectively changing towards a more democratic commerce where people’s opinions actually matter.

To share a story of someone in particular who has been part of our journey, I will tell you about Penny. She has been part of our platform now for a few months and I remember having a call with her when she joined. She is a young professional, uses quite a bit of her time on beauty, fashion and hair care, and appreciates good quality indie brands that deliver their value proposition. We connected Penny to a brand she uses, and she made a small post on Instagram about it. She liked the concept, as making an ad was really simple, and she got the freedom to say what she really thought about the product. After that we’ve connected her to a few more brands. She’s happy to advocate products she likes every now and then, and she gets a compensation for doing this. As an individual case this might not sound like anything particularly impressive, but the power of the concept will manifest when more and more of advertisement is done with people like Penny — as authentic product recommendations.

On the other side of the coin, there are the marketing managers representing the brands. I can see they are fascinated when they see what people have to say about their brand. But what is equally interesting is the moment when we present to them the reasons why people refuse to advertise them. It is also rewarding to sit on the other side of the table and see the brand representatives read a report on how many consumers say they don’t want to affiliate with a brand that cannot prove their cruelty free production chain. Those are the situations where I feel we’re doing something really tangible and getting people’s voices heard.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

Long story short, I started cooking this idea while I was building my own cosmetics brand some years back. I refused to use regular ads because I felt they were meaningless to my audience. I started engaging with people to talk about my products, and it also made sense on commercial perspective. I thought I would so much rather give my marketing dollars to people who use and love my product, instead of ad networks. Fast forward a few years, hundreds of conversations with other marketers later, and I figured out that I’m not alone with these thoughts. And that’s when we set to this path of building technology that enables regular consumers to advertise the products they use and love!

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

People are already receiving what we do really positively. Brands are also happy because the ads people are creating work a whole lot better than the regular display ads. One thing I would like to mention is that we hope to keep the conversation in the community very open to understand how people want the future of advertisement to look like! The fact is that companies do need to market their products, but we want to fight for a model where it is done beneficially for people and society, with better products winning on the market and people receiving a good cut of the advertisement dollars.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I’d like to encourage anyone to use their own personal influence for things that they feel are important. We all know that it is easier than ever to gain visibility to large groups of people these days through social media. However, my tip for anyone who wants to make a difference is to just simply share what you believe in and keep doing so consistently. You do not need to worry if you don’t have a large audience, and you do not need to be an influencer to get your voice heard.

Try to turn your focus off from the direct impact you are making as a person and think of the greater social canvas you are part of. Every time you speak about something online, whether it is a cause, or a brand, you are participating in a larger conversation. You do not necessarily see your individual impact but you should not be concerned about that. If you have a blog, and you get frustrated because you only have a handful of people reading it, do not stop. You are cultivating keywords and back links in the internet, and if there’s enough small people like you talking about a subject, it will be picked up as a trend. Even if your voice would not be heard directly, you contribute to the greater pool of data online. So, share what you believe in, and keep sharing, even if you think there’s not a lot of people who care!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

When I look back, I’d say there are 2 things that I wish I didn’t have to learn the hard way. Firstly, embrace the unknown. Building something big and truly meaningful is hard. When you embark on the journey, you have an idea about how the path will look, but most likely you are wrong. Especially if you are on a path that nobody has ever taken. You cannot possibly imagine what’s waiting ahead. Most likely, you’ll find obstacles you never thought could exist and you have to change the course of action more often than you could have imagined.

We are taught to make plans and follow them. Set objectives, key milestones and work hard to reach them. This is how you succeed in a conventional career. Once you decide to do something no-one has ever done before, you will have to accept the path that does not have many signposts. I wish I would have understood this earlier. I was always the good student and good employee — until I started building ambitious ventures where there’s much more volatility and very few signposts to know if you are going to the right direction. Much more often you will have to play it by ear, trust your gut and make your own metrics.

I also wish I knew to ask for help. This might sound very obvious but we actually don’t do this enough. When was the last time you reached out to someone in your network asking for help with something? Or, when did you expand your network and try reaching out to a total stranger for help? We often have the tendency of wanting to look like we know what we’re doing and appear as the expert. It takes a whole lot of courage to say, “I don’t know how to do this, can you please help me?” The truth is, even if we have all the information of the world available for us online, one of the most efficient things you can do in any area of life is to find out someone who is more experienced than you are and ask for their personal opinion for your specific situation.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I suppose the only correct answer to bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people would be to reduce our carbon footprint and stop the climate change. But we all know that already!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts”. (Winston Churchill). Or, the same thing with a bit more rock’n’roll: “Buy the ticket, take the ride” (Hunter S. Thompson).

When you are on a journey trying to change the way a huge, powerful industry works, you’ll find these words accurate for almost everything you do. Life in a start-up is volatile. For the past year or so, I feel like almost every single day in business is a rollercoaster ride, where one huge success is followed by a massive disappointment, and I’ve learned to live with that. My team and I know already that many things we build today might be tossed to the bin tomorrow, and something that feels like a major success today, can be a stumbling block tomorrow. The only thing that matters is that we believe in the vision, and that we keep moving, keep learning and keep improving.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to meet Brian Chesky, a founder of AirBnB. I’m particularly fascinated with the way he founded the company and how today the company is enabling so many people to make extra cash with their homes whilst also giving people opportunity to travel with much more flexible options rather than just hotels.

I also see so many similarities between their early struggles and what we do at Vimma. I once read that Chesky was meeting a potential investor who asked in disbelief “are people really staying in other people’s homes? Why would they do that?” We often get similar questioning from investors; “Do people really post about products they use on social media? Why would they do that?” I’d love to hear more about the journey they took and how they grew to be a meaningful part of so many people’s holidays.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m happy to connect with anyone who’s interested to follow, share and discuss the topics around marketing, advertisement and the power people have as a community! Here’s my LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/outipietilanaho/

If you’re interested, you can also join the movement and sign up to our platform as a consumer: https://app.vimma.co/

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Embrace the unknown.” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Don’t expect it to happen overnight.”

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Don’t expect it to happen overnight.” with Andrew Fitzsimons and Candice Georgiadis

Don’t expect it to happen overnight. It’s always going to be a slow crawl to getting your cause and contribution to where you see it going. You have to be persistent, unwavering, but also patient.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Fitzsimons, a celebrity hairstylist with more than fifteen years of experience known for his work with Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Kim, Khloe, Kris and Kourtney Kardashian, Joan Smalls, Janet Mock, Susan Sarandon, Ashley Graham and more. Born in Ireland, Andrew splits his time between Los Angeles and New York City for client work, and is a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I owe becoming a hairstylist initially to my mum. She got me a job at the local salon when I was 13. What she didn’t expect was for me to fall in love with it; I actually ended up leaving school to work at the salon and do my apprenticeship! Since then, it’s been a series of events, last-minute lucky chances, one-off celebrity bookings that have led me where I am today. In any career, you have to figure out how to take advantage of an opportunity and put yourself in situations to build strong relationships.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

The first time I met Kendall was actually completely by chance. I was shooting in a NY studio with a photographer friend and after the shoot he asked if I wanted to shoot a “new face” coming to town for her first season. I said “yes” and it happened to be Kendall’s first test shoot in NY as a model! We got on great and I knew she had something really special and would go really far. The rest is history!

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

To me, having a voice means also having a responsibility. If you have any kind of platform where people are listening to what you say, it’s very important to be careful and be responsible with your communication. My focus is always inclusivity, community and connection. So when I founded the Trans Cosmetic Donation Program, it was as important to me to highlight the trans community and incredible organizations that support them, as well as foster a sense of community within the beauty industry by enabling them to give back and help people who really need it.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

We’ve gotten hundreds of thousands of donations from beauty brands, influencers, makeup artists, celebrities and so on — this impacts the lives of countless individuals on a daily basis. So many of us take for granted the simple luxury of self-care, whether it’s taking a shower, basic skincare, haircare, even brushing our teeth — we don’t even realize we take this for granted. Every person that goes to the LALGBT Center or Trans Wellness Center is able to take advantage of our donated products and go out into the world a more confident version of themselves.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

It’s well-known that our trans siblings — especially trans women of colour — experience the highest levels of discrimination in the country, which actually puts their lives at risk. According to one survey, one in four transgender people have been assaulted because they are trans. The majority of deadly attacks against transgender people are against women of color. They also experience much higher rates of police harassment and assault. This is not even to mention the difficulties of discrimination in housing, employment and day-today life. I knew it was important to be aware of these facts and to commit to being an ally.

As a hair stylist with a platform, brands often send me products to try, which I’m very appreciative of. However, the influx of products got to a point where it was overwhelming — there wasn’t enough time to unpack all the boxes, let alone test everything. I spoke with my colleagues in the industry who felt the same, so I knew something could be done with these products that would benefit people in need. I love that the donation program allows for anyone — not just those of us in the beauty industry — to education themselves on the needs of the trans & nonbinary community, and also to make a physical contribution that will have a real impact on someone’s day — we see them and we care.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Get out and vote. We need to rally around the democratic presidential candidate, whoever that ends up being. The current administration is stripping away LGBTQ+ rights seemingly on a weekly basis. The power is in our vote, so let’s use it to move back in the direction of love.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I’m very lucky to have very supportive peers in the industry and clients who have been very self-motivated to help with the donation program. I think the most important thing is to talk about your cause and how it impacts people as much as possible, so it becomes part of peoples’ consciousness. For me, discrimination isn’t something that people have the luxury of being able to avoid, so I don’t give my followers the luxury of avoiding the truth, so if you’re following me, you’re going to hear what I have to say!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Don’t expect it to happen overnight. It’s always going to be a slow crawl to getting your cause and contribution to where you see it going. You have to be persistent, unwavering, but also patient.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I’m not someone who calls in favors or asks for help very often, but when it comes to a worthy cause, I do believe it’s a good reason to reach out and ask friends, family, peers, colleagues — humans want to connect to other humans. The more you talk about it and reach out, the more impact you will have and the easier the process will be.

Show people the humanity in whatever you’re doing. Sometimes with charities and special causes, the reality can be very heavy, but your communication doesn’t have to be. Try to get across your message in the most positive way you can so people will be able to see the hope and empowered to make change.

Utilize social media. Particularly if the cause is something very close to your heart, talk about it! Go Live on Instagram or Facebook, record a discussion on the topic, start a conversation online, post about your experience with your cause. Chances are if you’re passionate about your cause, someone else out there is, as well.

Learn about the needs of existing organizations. There are so many organizations (both local & national) that are set up and don’t receive government funding. Research every organization you can and find out what their needs are. A lot of the times, organizations don’t just financial help, they need donations of time, awareness, etc. Instead of just adding a link to a website or a GoFundMe, think about reaching out to organizations to see how you can help in a creative way.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love for people to get behind improved legislation in order to protect the trans and other marginalized communities — especially in terms of housing, employment, healthcare and physical safety. We should all be seen as equals in the eyes of the law and protected equally. I think that’s the first step in order for us to set a strong foundation to build upon.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Feel the fear and do it anyway” — sometimes it can be overwhelming to put yourself out there and march with a mission, but one thing that I’ve learned through my life and career is if you feel passionately about something and feel any anxiety or resistance: acknowledge it, push it aside and move forward. A lot of the time, we’re only limited by ourselves. Be strong and do what you have to do — you will never regret it.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to be able to sit down with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Not only is she such an inspiration by using her intelligence & strength, but also restraint, to move us forward, but it would be a great opportunity to talk about the needs of the LGBTQ+ community and to hear her vision as an ally for the future of our community in this country.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Instagram at @AndrewFitzsimons

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Don’t expect it to happen overnight.” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: Rhonda Vetere is using her platform to inspire women to…

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: Rhonda Vetere is using her platform to inspire women to pursue STEM opportunities

Learn to play golf early. You’ll find as you grow that so many of your best business conversations will happen on the golf course. Golf brings business to a space that feels friendlier. You have the ability to network with colleagues, senior leaders of management, and clients. Give yourself the opportunity to grow by learning new hobbies and pushing yourself as far as you can. Furthermore, know your elevator pitch. You will at some point be caught in an elevator with the CEO of your company. Be prepared to tell them who you are and what you’re working on. The goal is for them to leave, knowing who you are. And while you’re at it, dress for the job you want. You truly never know when an opportunity might present itself, so you better be dressed to impress at all times.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rhonda Vetere. Rhonda is a Global C-Suite technology icon, two-time author, mentor, speaker, and corporate athlete. A passionate leader in technology across industries, Rhonda has lived and worked all over the world– in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Mumbai, and across India — and managed teams of more than 20,000 people and managed teams in over 162 countries. Rhonda is a change agent for digital transformation who has led the way for growth with more than 23 mergers and acquisitions at companies. She has worked in global executive positions at Estée Lauder Companies, AIG, HP Enterprise Services, Barclays / Lehman, Bank One / JPMorgan Chase, CompuServe, UUNET, MCI, and Worldcom. As an industry expert and influencer, Vetere has been a keynote speaker and panelist at many conferences and events, including the World Economic Forum in Davos, WIT (Women in Technology) Connect, Microsoft Global CIO Summit, Dell EMC World, and the U.S. Vice Presidential Candidate Debate. Rhonda has been recognized for her leadership and influence, notably with the 2019 Human Forward Award, in 2018 being the first female to run 55 miles through the Serengeti, and as a multi-year Top 100 CIO/CTO Executive Leader in STEM by STEMconnector. Rhonda was recently named “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology,” “Top 50 Tech Visionaries” and nominated “CIO of the Year” Award. Rhonda has recently joined the Advisory Board of ITPeopleNetwork and is helping organizations by adding value through consultations on transformation and how to manage change. Grit & Grind is Vetere’s second book — she is also the co-author of an HP special edition book, Enterprise Service Management for Dummies. An avid sports fan and real-world corporate athlete, Rhonda stays focused and sharp by competing in marathons and triathlons on a regular basis — over 70 events thus far, including triathlons, half-marathons, marathons, and IRONMAN 70.3 mile triathlons. She recently ran 55 miles in the Serengeti as part of a girls and women’s empowerment fundraiser: the first women-only run of its kind.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Rhonda! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I stumbled into technology accidentally. A manager, who ended up being a mentor saw certain skills that I possessed in change management and moved me into a technical role. This was an amazing opportunity and I always now look for folks who show potential across lines of business or even levels down and move them into roles that fit them.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My funniest mistake was not packing the right temperature clothes for where I was going early on in my career overseas. I learned, and now implement, one of my 10 guiding principles listed in my book, Grit & Grind: always be prepared. Know where you are going and prepare accordingly for the background, weather, politics, etc. Being prepared not only lines you up for success, but makes every aspect of travel, meetings, or anything in between easier.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

I use my platform to inspire others. I am a female technology executive, but I want to show others how important balancing health is as well. I showcase my training and races that I compete in. I have 10 Guiding Principles that I live by. I recently was featured on Fox Business News and talked briefly about the concept of “leaning out.” It is all about no excuses, getting it done, and being metrics driven. I have been the only woman in the room for most of my technology career, but I never thought of it this way and I want to inspire others to as well.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

Many of my mentees have said this approach has been extremely impactful for them. It’s a mindshift and believing in yourself. You need to have bone-deep confidence and trust yourselves, be metrics driven, and showcase your skills.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

I saw many people entering the workforce and not having the skills that they needed to be successful. There are so many conflicting methodologies out there and many do overlap. I was frankly frustrated with always being asking questions about being “the only woman in the room” when I did not feel that way. At the end of the day it is metrics and that is what people care about. I was at a tipping point when I wanted to impact others early in the career and let them know that they can take charge of their career path.

Are there things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Keep promoting STEM opportunities. These are very viable careers and it is important to show the next generation the types of opportunities that are out there.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I wrote my book, Grit & Grind and I was able to share my methodology in leadership style and what has worked for me throughout my career. I am speaking around the world and trying to instill confidence to others.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Start being mobile. Move outside of where you’re most comfortable and leave the United States. Starting living in multiple countries and experiencing as much of the world as possible. There is no line on the globe other than the equator, don’t allow any borders within your mind to keep you from seeing the world.
  2. When you’re traveling, don’t just stay in the boardroom, you have the rest of your life to climb your way to the top. I wish I could rewind and spend the time I devoted entirely to working, to actually experiencing what was just outside my hotel room. Get outside and actually see the world. Take weekend trips to neighboring places and soak it in. I wish I could rewind and make myself spend more time doing just that. Learn and live in the different places that make up the world, and truly embrace the culture. You’ll discover that those cultures, while different from your own, will begin to directly shape the woman you’re becoming.
  3. Learn to play golf early. You’ll find as you grow that so many of your best business conversations will happen on the golf course. Golf brings business to a space that feels friendlier. You have the ability to network with colleagues, senior leaders of management, and clients. Give yourself the opportunity to grow by learning new hobbies and pushing yourself as far as you can. Furthermore, know your elevator pitch. You will at some point be caught in an elevator with the CEO of your company. Be prepared to tell them who you are and what you’re working on. The goal is for them to leave, knowing who you are. And while you’re at it, dress for the job you want. You truly never know when an opportunity might present itself, so you better be dressed to impress at all times.
  4. While you’re in what will be one of the busiest times of your life, don’t forget to slow down and enjoy where you’re at. It’s easy to throw yourself completely into work and forget to take care of yourself as a person. Take time separate from work to grow your mental and physical health as well. You won’t be of any use to anyone if you’re not mentally healthy. Pour time into developing those aspects of yourself as well.
  5. Continue to be confident in everything you do. Believing in yourself and demanding that same level of respect from others, will take you far. Your success can only go as far as you believe you’re capable of. Push through to your dreams and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it along the way. You’ll witness so many others being afraid to pick up the phone and call to ask for help. Be unafraid and courageous.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You can’t take care of your team if you are not taking care of yourself.” I am very passionate and make sure that my team takes care of themselves and maintains a healthy lifestyle. For me, training is so important and helps me with decision making.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Since I am a sports fanatic, I would love to stand on the sidelines with the head coach and of the Washington Redskins, Jay Gruden, during a game and watch him in action and help coach the game!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter — RhondaVetereH

Instagram — rhondamvetere

LinkedIN — https://www.linkedin.com/in/rhondavetere

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: Rhonda Vetere is using her platform to inspire women to… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: Lena Späth is using design and architecture to show the…

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: Lena Späth is using design and architecture to show the world a new face of the Iranian people

With Candice Georgiadis

The prime game changer I see is media in the West. Consumers are open for new topics, for reports from different regions of the world, and especially for positive but also interesting stories. Journalists should get out and go for the exciting stories which are there. We are living in an era of ‘too much’, so people want high-quality curated content. Media has to actually take on that responsibility of how much they frame the perception of countries, regions, and people. They must want to create a better world by not neglecting reality but by balancing their reporting. Iran is just one of the countries suffering from lousy media coverage.

I had the pleasure to interview Lena Späth. Lena is a German author, traveling between Iran and Munich, Germany. Her self-published book ‘Behind Closed Curtains: Interior Design’ was endorsed by journalists from The Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller, Design*Sponge, AD Magazine and many more. Lena has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies and worked for consulting and internet companies before returning her focus to Iran.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I am a big fan of interior design and handmade things. Since I was a child, I re-decorated my space every year. I was reading decor magazines and coffee table books on design in India, Bali, or Buenos Aires. When I started traveling to far away places, I was drawn to the workshops, bazaars, and magnificent architectural sights. The same happened when I came to Iran the first time in 2008.

So I knew about the treasures you could find in Iran, and when in 2016 I left a job with some savings I decided to try an own project; something related to Iran as the sanctions had been lifted recently. A coffee table book showcasing design and architecture but also introducing the country, in general, seemed suitable, and I knew no similar book existed. A book on beautiful private places would draw attention away from politics and onto design and architecture; it would illustrate a positive and uniquely human face of Iran. It was vital for me to tell the stories of Iranians, the people behind these houses, and explain Iranian culture along with design elements. On another note, I felt a book like this would wake up Iranians and especially the younger generation to appreciate their heritage and try to keep and restore older buildings and Iranian traditions and crafts. There is still more innovation needed, but for this to happen, you need to know your own history and identity.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

A friend of mine is friends with the son of Iran’s current president Hassan Rouhani. He told me to sign a copy for him so he could forward it to the president. To make it more impressive, I was supposed to write in Farsi. We included a little message, but I ruined three of my books until the writing was looking fine and without any mistakes.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I can’t recall how many times Iranian men tried to approach me or even proposed to me on Instagram. I am really touchy warm-hearted German, so people often got it wrong. One time at a book signing event, one man started stroking my back when we took a picture together. He said it was his best day in the life. Since then, I am way more serious about coming across self-confident, and a bit distanced.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

My platform developed mostly on Instagram. On my feed, I am showing examples of good Persian design which I came across in Iran or found online. This could be a traditional metal door or a nicely decorated cafe. In the past, especially young Iranians haven’t been attracted by their own heritage like handicrafts or architecture. When I started my research, I first showed the traditional elements attractive to a foreigner’s eye like mine. There are a lot! I am a big fan of craftsmanship, so I posted pictures of clay pots, village carpets, or the famous glass-stained window makers. Later I highlighted works which combine classical elements with new innovative ideas. Nowadays, you can find some good designs from young artists at galleries in Tehran or in some tourist shops. Since finishing my book, I often share pictures from homes featured in the book.

Through these efforts for the first time could not only foreigners see what great design there is in Iran but also Iranians. Many of the places I went to were private or unknown, so I literally opened the curtains hiding these spaces and people. I do believe that Iranians themselves and foreigners could understand through these images of beauty what the country has to offer in terms of stories, history, and culture.

An essential factor for informing Non-Iranians are also media and events. I often give interviews and was featured on TV and radio. During book readings and lectures, the relationship with the reader or listener is more intimate, and so the story has a stronger effect. I experienced this a lot when being a guest at the University of Irvine, a Persian center in LA, the CANOPY coworking space in San Francisco or the Persian Heritage Foundation in London. Many US-Americans are really interested in Persian culture. Being a German woman, they believe me easier than their Iranian-American friends. They are more likely to even subconsciously change the narrative on Iran to a more positive version.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

There is a renown architect in Tehran who is currently shortlisted for the Agha Khan award 2019. He has an excellent connection to the Organization of Cultural Heritage and Tourism in Iran. After reading my book, he started an initiative, which is called the Iranian House. It is an open space filled with furniture and decor by Iranian designers, artists, craftsmen, and fabricants. This temporary Persian home pops up all over the country. The architect is carrying my book always with him, ready to show some real examples. Iranians, in general, have re-discovered their heritage and identity. Cafe, restaurants, and boutique hotels are sprawling up, and many have told me that they got inspired by my images.

But more often, I have seen the effect outside of Iran. Many people in Europe told me that after seeing the images from my book, they decided to finally travel to Iran. The thought had been there, but after immersing into the beauty of the country on paper, they wanted to explore it on their own.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

I was always following the news on Iran even if I didn’t work in that field. I remember reading one article in a row of many similar ones which marked the tipping point. It was published in The Guardian and highlighted Tehran as a party town. The author drew the conclusion that as people would drink and dance as we do in the West, they are actually similar to us. Why the hell would an established media outlet as The Guardian jump on the bandwagon of creating fake closeness? While of course, it is true that some parts of young Iranians do drink and dance, Iranian culture is sometimes different and sometimes similar to ‘ours’. Let alone what ‘ours’ means. In the end, Iranians are human beings and deserve to be seen from different angles than the political or the religious one. Unfortunately, media coverage on Iran rarely moves outside these areas. When reading the article by The Guardian, I realized that one day, I needed to start changing the perception on my own.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The prime game changer I see is media in the West. Consumers are open for new topics, for reports from different regions of the world, and especially for positive but also interesting stories. Journalists should get out and go for the exciting stories which are there. We are living in an era of ‘too much’, so people want high-quality curated content. Media has to actually take on that responsibility of how much they frame the perception of countries, regions, and people. They must want to create a better world by not neglecting reality but by balancing their reporting. Iran is just one of the countries suffering from lousy media coverage.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

The topic is crucial. Way too often people go for areas others cover already. There are many extraordinary stories yet to be told. People should find these also in the Middle East.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Get someone on board!

I recall sitting on a bench at Barcelona airport and just hysterically crying on the phone with everyone I talked to. This was only the climax of my weekly panic attacks, which were triggered by the fear of losing all my money and overall my face in front of everyone. Looking back, I should have either started the book with a friend or partner or should have looked for a mentor. Friends and family are great, but you don’t want to overboard them, and in the end, they also don’t have the professional knowledge.

Don’t be shy to ask for help!

One copy of my book weights 3 pounds and I had to carry them in boxes of 7 up to 21 all over the world. Often, I didn’t ask for help, which made my arms rival those of Popeye, but it was more tiring.

Get professional advice on stock management!

I have a hell of respect for people deciding when to start another production run. As my book was printed offset, the minimum order was 500, but it made more sense to print 1000. That is a lot of cash, and you still have to figure out which market demands how many books if you sell like me internationally. That said, I made a lot of mistakes and even have books in multiple locations.

Pay for a PR campaign (even if it is your last money)!

When I was finalizing the book, I spent the least time on preparing the launch. I just thought I would drop it, and my leads from Instagram plus some PR I generated myself would be enough. I could have made more sales with a proper marketing campaign, hiring some agency. Time is crucial in the media business, so for most, the story was not any longer interesting after some time had passed.

Don’t rush things!

One of my weaknesses is impatience. Publishing a photo book by myself was a huge financial risk, so I wanted to reach the end as quickly as I could. But with some more time, the project would have been more successful, especially from the marketing and logistics angle.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My lifetime dream was and is to build up a venture fund supporting people and companies which challenge big companies with their ideas and inventions. We need more human and greener products to create a good world. Too often they get shut off in an early stage or don’t receive the necessary funding.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Learning about the 80–20 rule or Pareto Principle in my late 20s was an eye-opener. It states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. So to be happier but also more efficient, I focus on the 20%, no matter if in private or business life. In today’s fast-paced world, perfectionism drives you into a burn-out. I believe we are here on this planet to do good and enjoy what we have.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Haha! Currently, of course, Mr. Trump. I would like to hear more about his plan for Iran and the Middle East, and his 12 months, 3 years and 5 years (financial or security?) projection. Perhaps I can convince him that a war with Iran will help no one. Maybe I can invite him for a secret dinner at one of the magical homes in Iran. We have to change his look for that, but it could work to change his mind.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram @lena_spath or Facebook @spath.lena or my blog on www.LenaSpath.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: Lena Späth is using design and architecture to show the… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: Simone Aptekman is using her platform to support models…

The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: Simone Aptekman is using her platform to support models undergoing financial duress while providing them the Model’s Bill of Rights

…One scenario I documented was truly appalling. A model did many hours of work, mind you overtime work, for a large automotive brand. The job was lucrative. Months went by…no payment from her agency. Upon reaching out to her agency, they purported that the client had not paid. The model contacted the automotive company and they had sent her a photo of a check that was sent 4 months prior and it been redacted immediately by the agency. Last time I checked, this is blatant fraud. The model was then paid a smaller portion of what was due to her because the agency fabricated expenses. Worst thing about this scenario was that the agency threatened to deport the model if she took action. She filed a claim in a small claims court to receive her money and had to spend thousands of dollars on a lawyer which etched away at her payment for the job which was rightfully hers! As someone who concentrated in Contract Law in college, I was beside myself that models are falling prey to predatory contracts, myself included. This is when I began to draft the Model’s Bill of Rights.

As a part of my series about social media stars making a social impact, I had the pleasure to interview Simone Aptekman. Simone is a Model, Artist, Writer, Business Owner and co-founder of the Model’s Bill of Rights Movement. In 2016, Simone was the youngest female to attain her master’s degree from The F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business and was Valedictorian of her graduating class. Shortly thereafter, Simone relocated to New York, and her journey as a multifaceted entrepreneur, model, activist, writer, and artist began.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you for taking an interest in my ambitions and my work! Let’s start from the beginning. While I was studying at Babson College, I was simultaneously modeling for a small but lovely agency in Boston called Maggie, Inc. I remember speeding down the highway with exam study guides sprawled all over my lap, trying to make it in time for a Daniela Corte Bikini cover shoot for the Boston Herald. I went on to be the youngest female in Boston to attain her Master’s Degree in Business. I was deeply entrenched in the rigor of a full time master’s program, so I was constantly forgoing modeling opportunities. I decided to make a pact with myself: upon graduation, I would move to New York, enter into a larger market and allocate my full time to modeling and building my brand.

But I’ve got to be honest with you… I was very conflicted. I felt emotionally tied to take a role in my family’s business upon finishing grad school. This sense of obligation arose after my father suddenly passed when I was 14. My mother immediately took on running the family business which was now a robust, international chemical manufacturing company exporting automotive treatment products. She was grieving and working simultaneously while my brother and I trudged through school, our confusing teenage years, feeling incredibly numb and broken. I knew that my hard work in school would need to be centered on a succession of my family business (http://magazine.babson.edu/2015/05/11/small-talk-with-simone-aptekman/).

But I decided to stay true to myself, and the fact that I had a brilliant brother stepping into the business but my qualms at ease. So… I moved to NY! A week later, I found myself at an art opening where I was scouted to be the model for a month long fashion editorial/art collection shoot in Vietnam, China, Cambodia, and Laos…and I agreed to it, and off I went! The shoot was an incredibly poignant moment in my life of self-discovery as a person as well as a model. The set was unconventional — every day the terrain would change. My tolerance to any possible set situation grew beyond proportion. Most models cannot say that their first shoot took place in a third world country for 1 month — so I was experiencing something that others would possibly experience well into their career. I was learning as I went and began to truly develop as a model in Vietnam. Today, these art pieces are displayed in different galleries around the world (https://www.artrabbit.com/events/raphael-mazzucco-an-odyssey) and feature my typewriting over mixed materials, which was the beginning of establishing myself as an artist.

Back in New York, after being represented and working for an agency that I didn’t feel aligned with (which eventually paved the way for The Model’s Bill of Rights), I was scouted at a restaurant by the owners of The Industry Model MGMT and began to really identify with modeling. I am currently represented by The Industry Model MGMT NY, LA, Miami as well as MP Management Atlanta.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

So as you’ve read so far, my career truly began with two chance scoutings that you tend to only read about in fiction novels or see in films. So the most interesting aspect to my career was definitely how I started and then how I signed with my most recent agencies.

As aforementioned, the first interesting story involves being scouted at an art gallery for the month long fashion editorial in the most rural parts of a third world country (Vietnam), Laos, China, and Cambodia. I had literally just moved to New York. I knew that I wanted to pursue modeling but I didn’t know how I would get there. My plan was to do it rather formulaically via open calls and setting up meetings. But instead, my career began in the most spontaneous and least formulaic way. I took a risk and decided to go on the trip and that sort of zest and commitment to carving my way into the industry in my own unique way, is what i believe gave me an edge and gave rise to my distinct identity as not just a model but an artist, writer, and activist. Everything that I experienced from that day forward (the day I was scouted), I incorporated into my identity and career.

To be scouted once is rare, but twice is definitely a combination of fate and being in the right place at the right time. I was wrapping up dinner at a restaurant in Soho, NY, and began to traverse to the coat check. I was in a great mood and instead of walking, I was almost gliding across the restaurant. At this exact moment, Federico Pignatelli (owner of Industry Model MGMT Group and Pier59 Studios) as well as the late Brunella Casella were having a work dinner, they noticed me and invited me to have a meeting at Pier59 Studios the very next day. Thereafter, I signed with Industry Model MGMT NY & LA followed by being placed with MP Atlanta and Industry Model MGMT Miami.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Haha! You will definitely find this funny… although at first it was super sad for me but now that time has passed, we can talk about it! Okay, so I had a shoot at Pier59 Studios and prior to the shoot I went to get a quick blowout. Before I paid and left the salon, I went the restroom and placed my favorite handbag down on the counter. When I went to go pick it up after washing my hands, the purse was stuck to the counter! WHITE WET PAINT!!! The sign on the door had fallen off, so I had no idea. I got frazzled and freaked out and began to try to peel the purse off the cabinet and in the process was getting white paint all over my hands, cheek, and legs. Eventually, the purse came off… but the paint would not. But I had to head to Pier59, I was running late for my shoot! I showed up to the shoot… A TOTAL HOT MESS. I was covered in paint that wouldn’t come off and there was nothing I could do about it. Truth be told, I did cry in the cab so I also had puffy red eyes. But hey, I had to trudge through, and the majority of the photos in my portfolio are from that shoot. SO the lesson from this story? Turn a whoops into a WOW! And never give up.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

So I use my platform to connect with models undergoing financial duress and share their stories while providing them the Model’s Bill of Rights as an educational resource so that they are aware of their rights. I myself had been undergoing grievances (mainly in the form of withheld payments) in my previous representation. While in an SLT pilates class, I overheard a few models talking about similar experiences and I became privy to the fact that I wasn’t alone and that in light of the Me Too Movement, financial duress was for sure another form of abuse. I decided to host a symposium in my apartment and invited 12 models from different agencies. They shared their stories; I documented them all. A lot of these models were on 01 Visas sponsored by their agencies and therefore were scared to speak up in fear of deportation, so I became the voice for them. Thereafter, in collaboration with Federico Pignatelli (owner of The Industry Model MGMT Group and Pier59 Studios) we founded The Model’s Bill of Rights which sets specific standards and guidelines to mitigate financial duress, protect models’ fundamental rights, ensures safe working conditions, and promotes education for models to understand the legalese in contracts. I was the voice for the models, having had documented an entire manuscript of grievances, and Federico had the wheelhouse to expose this reality as he is a major industry leader.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

One scenario I documented was truly appalling. A model did many hours of work, mind you overtime work, for a large automotive brand. The job was lucrative. Months went by…no payment from her agency. Upon reaching out to her agency, they purported that the client had not paid. The model contacted the automotive company and they had sent her a photo of a check that was sent 4 months prior and it been redacted immediately by the agency. Last time I checked, this is blatant fraud. The model was then paid a smaller portion of what was due to her because the agency fabricated expenses. Worst thing about this scenario was that the agency threatened to deport the model if she took action. She filed a claim in a small claims court to receive her money and had to spend thousands of dollars on a lawyer which etched away at her payment for the job which was rightfully hers! As someone who concentrated in Contract Law in college, I was beside myself that models are falling prey to predatory contracts, myself included. This is when I began to draft the Model’s Bill of Rights.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Absolutely! First, I think spreading awareness by having more conversations surrounding financial duress. When conversations start at the top, they are prioritized and that significance trickles down. Second, many models are international and therefore granted an 01 Visa. The truth about transferable 01 Visas is critical. Models are made to believe that the agency that sponsors their visa has grounds to terminate the visa or deport the model. Often times, agencies use this to their advantage by withholding payments with no accountability which in turn puts the model in a powerless position. Third, I believe there is potential for SAG to partner with modeling agencies and have everyone abide by the same payment standards for talent at large.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I recently went live on a podcast for iHeart Radio where I discussed the purpose and goals of The Model’s Bill of Rights Movement and thereafter promoted those conversations via my Instagram page in the form of posts, stories, and highlights. Also, I recently took part in a press conference during New York Fashion week and was interviewed by the Associated Press and Bloomberg as an ambassador for this movement. My hope is to see heightened transparency regarding contracts, working visas, payment, and taxes so that models have more control over their career in order to protect their present and future and I am happy to see that the movement is gaining significant traction. In terms of using social media platform for social good, if you want to bring awareness to something that may not match your theme/content, use the story feature. I personally am very passionate about animals and whenever I see that there is an animal that needs to be rescued/adopted, I post the information on my story and have had success in finding a pup a forever home! I have close to 20,000 followers and so I feel empowered and obligated to use my special platform for social good. Regarding the Model’s Bill of Rights awareness and content, I aggregate all of that press and information to my highlights.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Dieting does not mean suppressing food intake!

Unfortunately, I think many models implement diets and workout regiments that are not sustainable. The word ‘diet’ is totally tainted. People have misconstrued diet to mean suppression of food when in reality diet is nutritious consumption. Relating to nutrition, my motto is: just as quickly as you lose, is just as quickly as you’ll gain. If you are starving and working out intensely to look good for those swim digitals coming up, you may very well shed weight and look the way you want for those snaps. BUT, you will quickly bloat and gain back even more…your body will punish you! TRUST ME, I’ve been there. Instead, you want to change the composition of your body over time by implementing realistic and healthy measures that work for YOU. It’s not a one size fits all and it really is all about being consistent. So don’t go extreme when your agent/booker says to tone up… take your time, and do it in a healthy & sustainable way! Your journey is personal to you! Keep your goals realistic to your own personal body composition and be the best version of YOU. Find exercise that makes you happy and patterns of eating that are doable and healthy! For me, its pilates, barre, smoothies in the morning, yummy chicken and kale salads, and a fatty fish for dinner (or sushi!).

2. Don’t compare yourself to other models, especially on social media!

I do believe that the beauty ideal has totally gotten unrealistic and morphed, specifically how it is presented on social media. I would tell girls and women to not conflate that with real life and not to become dysmorphic about their image as compared to an altered/photoshopped image on Instagram. Beauty really does shine from within. If anybody is curious about great workout studios, skincare, or nutrition, please DM me (@simoneaptekman) and I would be happy to chat! I am happy to say I have implemented a healthy lifestyle that works for me and would love others to achieve the same.

I can honestly say that modeling has heightened my awareness of body image. As a result of modeling and the pressure, I have become critical of myself but luckily today I channel this awareness into healthy solutions. I do wish that I had more resources and guidance prior to entering into a bigger market like New York. I worked so hard to break into the industry, and was elated to get my start, that I did not carefully read my contract and instead placed a lot of trust in others. I urge models to exercise due diligence and take their time reading and signing anything. That is why I co-founded The Model’s Bill of Rights — I want other models to break into the industry, informed and empowered.

3. Keep track of your jobs/hours/payments

If the model is experiencing financial duress, I would advise her to send detailed statements to her booker and CC the accounting department that show date/client/hours/rate to exemplify that she is keeping track of all of her jobs. If payment is withheld past the contractually promised pay period, this is material breach of contract and enables the model to be released from the contract if she so chooses. I would advise the model to then refrain from accepting work until she is paid what is rightfully owed to her because there is no evidence that she will be paid for future work and will be continually taken advantage of. If the model is mistreated on set, she should immediately notify her booker/team and communicate her concerns. She should not have to tolerate anything that makes her feel uncomfortable or in danger; feeling safe trumps losing one client — there are plenty!

4. Don’t rush to sign ANYTHING!

I hope any aspiring model reading this takes a copy of her contract home when she is offered representation and reads the contract before signing, amending it in any way she sees fit. In the past, I have made the mistake of not reading through a contract thoroughly and signing it on the spot! Which is totally embarrassing as I concentrated in contract law… sometimes you really learn things the hard way! Always read through any document you sign. Just do it!

5. Always be prepared and casting ready!

Okay… this may seem trivial but it is super important: once you start going to castings, your chart can change throughout the day on a very short notice. When you’re in town and available, it means you are available. Unless you book out, you are AVAILABLE. Meaning, always have a pair of plain black or nude heels handy, nude polish on fingernails or no polish at all, something that will pass as a casting outfit, and your IPad or book (whichever way you store your portfolio). You may get a great opportunity and only have an hour to get there. The fashion industry will keep you on your toes, so don’t fall behind and always be ready!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Thank you very much! I have inspired a movement and I am so happy to see that The Model’s Bill of Rights is gaining significant traction. I believe it is a very timely and relevant movement. Many models have come forward, sharing their grievances related to sexual harassment. Financial duress is another form of abuse. We have held numerous press conferences at Pier59 Studios where models and many key industry figures attended, as well as the Associated Press and other media outlets that have circulated the movement. I can say that not all agencies pledged to implement The Model’s Bill of Rights as a practice. These agencies thrive off of predatory contracts. But hosting these symposiums, press conferences, and starting this conversation has enabled the model to have resources and education. I hope any aspiring model reading this takes a copy of her contract home when she is offered representation and reads the contract before signing, amending it in any way she sees fit. These are the kinds of conversations and suggestions we offer to models when we host press conferences and gatherings.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It is a very simple but positive life lesson: TURN A WHOOPS INTO A WOW! Life presents us with so many decision points. Inevitably, you may make what seems to be a “wrong” decision. Don’t ever submit to that defeat; rather, turn that whoops into a wow! Find solutions to eradicate the situation, to make it better, maybe even better than it would have been if you had done it “right” from the start. Be creative because everything is subjective (this is the artist in me shining through!)

This is super relevant to my life…and always has been! I started to live by this motto in the 2nd grade. We had a school-wide bookmark competition (grades 1–9), I began to draw and immediately realized that I had made a mistake. I got the attention of a faculty member and asked her for a fresh bookmark to which she informed me that every student only gets one. I was dismayed and super disappointed (from a young age I was always a perfectionist!) The teacher proceeded to tell me to turn a whoops into a wow. The curved line I had mistakenly drawn, I turned into a bumble bee and created a collage of different bees and butterflies and nature related figures. I proceeded to write “Make a Whoops into a Wow” on the bookmark. That year, I won the bookmark competition. 600 students, mind you, students that were also 14/15 years old participated. I was 7 years old.

Nowadays, I am a busy, modern renaissance woman. I possess a zest for modern advances, progressive schools of thought, but simultaneously have an extremely old soul. I wear many different hats and am constantly saying YES to life! But with this fast paced lifestyle, there are LOTS of forks in the road and I am constantly making decisions. To be at peace with my decisions, I know that I can always be creative with the aftermath of every decision I make.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have a private breakfast/lunch with Cher. Cher is a self-made, confident, beautiful, intelligent, and unique woman. She has gravitas, she is rock-and-roll, and she totally carved her own path. She does not follow, she leads! One word: ICON. In many ways, I am also taking risks by truly being the architect of my future instead of listening to naysayers!

I have been to many of Cher’s performances. I recall being very young and going to her concert in Maine. My mother, father, brother, and I drove out to Maine from Cape Cod. I was mesmerized by Cher! I think she noticed because she ended up tossing her white sailor hat to me! When we were leaving the venue, I remember clenching that hat in my small hands, protecting it with my dear life!

I have always had this vision of starring in a film with Cher about her journey and career. Cher is Armenian-American and I am Armenian-Russian; we have similar features 🙂 I hope this message can be passed to Cher and we could meet up!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am most active on my Instagram page: @simoneaptekman so feel free to follow me there to keep up with me 🙂 Also, check out my website: www.simoneaptekman.com

My future entails a continuation in building my brand, what makes me Simone. Thank you for reading and be well!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: Simone Aptekman is using her platform to support models… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.