Real Talk With Kristin Wong

For her Make-A-Wish experience, Kristin Wong wanted to join the #AerieREAL campaign. We were SO honored to welcome her, celebrate her and make her wish come true!

Your wish through The Make-A-Wish Foundation was to join the #AerieREAL campaign. Why did you choose Aerie? And what do you hope comes from this experience?

I think I was able to use my Make-A-Wish in a way that most Wish Kids aren’t able to because I’m a lot older than most of them. The demographic of Make-A-Wish Kids are usually much younger, hence why most of the wishes are to go to Disney World or on a trip to a different country. However, I recognized the significance of how my wish could provide me with a once in a lifetime opportunity and because of that, I wanted to do something that money truly couldn’t buy. I also wanted to do something that wouldn’t only make me happy and help me grow, but help the greater community as well. I remembered just a few months ago when YouthLine, the teen to teen suicide/ crisis hotline I volunteer at, talked about just how many people reach out to YouthLine. The teens that contact YouthLine call or text in because they feel they have no one else to talk to or feel that no one else will understand what they’re going through. In comparison to the 1000 contacts we had back in 2013, last year we had over 12000, which just goes to show how many teens have needed and still need this resource for emotional support and help with mental health.

I chose Aerie because I knew they were national partners with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), and eating disorders are a type of mental illness and something we deal with all the time on YouthLine. My wish was to use my wish to promote YouthLine to more teens across the nation, and I thought that because they already supported NEDA, there’d be no better company to better spread the word about YouthLine than Aerie. Furthermore, YouthLine and Aerie have a shared demographic and ultimately spread the same message: learn to love and take care of yourself. I can’t think of a better way to have used my wish, and I truly hope that more teens will learn about YouthLine through Aerie and call in for support.

Real Talk With Kristin Wong

How did you begin your journey with YouthLine?

Sophomore year, my health teacher briefly mentioned YouthLine during the Depression/Suicide unit and then never talked about it again, so I went into my counselor’s office to learn more about what the organization was. A few months later, I applied and went to training. I think I was most intrigued by the type of help you have to provide at YouthLine. It’s different from volunteering at a food bank or playing piano at a senior center — there’s literally a life and death risk with many of the contacts, and the service you provide is so much more intimate and personal. The person calling in trusts you with highly confidential information that they’re afraid to tell anyone else, so you’re truly held responsible for every aspect of your words and actions.

Another reason I was drawn to YouthLine was because I didn’t quite understand the concept of mental health and just how important it was. I used to be someone that prioritized physical health over mental health; I was a part of the stigma against speaking out about mental health issues. For many years, I actually believed that having a mental illness was a luxury; there are people in this world that are starving, yet you’re choosing to not eat?

Fortunately, now I’ve learned now that being able to care for your own mental health and focusing in on self-care goes hand in hand with taking care of your physical health. It’s clear to me now that these mental illnesses aren’t a choice, and I’m forever grateful to have had my experiences with YouthLine terminate the ignorance that I once had and that millions of people still have.

What advice do you have for someone struggling with something in their life?

DO NOT BE AFRAID TO REACH OUT. TALK ABOUT IT. You need to understand that it’s okay to talk about these things in the same way that it’s okay to talk about physical health. If you break your bone, you talk to your doctor, and though it may take some time, that bone will eventually heal. Mental health is the exact same way; YOU MUST talk about these things because even if it may not be physical, it is still a part of you that is injured and deserves attention.

Though the circumstances of what you may be going through seem impossible and that no one will understand, there are still so many people in this world that are willing to listen to what you have to tell them, whether it’s someone you know and love, or a complete stranger from across the nation.

Another thing to not forget is that in spite of all of this stress and pressure you’re feeling right now, you cannot forget to take care of yourself. Sometimes when you’re caught up in a myriad of emotions, the stress and fear builds up to a point where you forget to do things such as get adequate amounts of food, water, and rest. You stop doing the things that you love and that relax you; you can’t forget to do these things, whether it’s taking time out of your night to take a bubble bath, playing your guitar, coloring in an adult coloring book, or simply just watching your favorite TV show. You should always talk to someone about how you’re feeling when you’re going through a struggle, but don’t forget that it’s also okay to take a step back, distract yourself from the reality of what’s going on, and take care of yourself when these struggles become too much to properly and safely manage.

If you’re a teenager who feels lost and has no support from the people you’re surrounded by, please go to oregonyouthline.org. Call 877-978-8491. Text “teen2teen,” to 839863. Reach out, and I guarantee that the volunteers at YouthLine will listen and support you so that you feel heard.

Real Talk With Kristin WongHow are you a role model to others?

I hope that I appear as a role model to others through my perseverance. When I first had cancer, the doctors told me that most kids take an extra year off of school and have to graduate a year late because it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of school work, especially for high school students. However, in spite of doing chemo and facing all of the side effects, I still worked hard to finish all of my work in time to graduate with the Class of 2018. During my time in treatment, I also continued to go to YouthLine as often as possible because when you have something that you’re genuinely passionate about, there really is nothing that can prevent you from doing it.

Passions and perseverance aside, I think all it takes to be a good role model is to remember that everyone is human– you need to treat everyone in the same way you would want to be treated. I try my best to not to exclude anyone, and I always find ways to show others that I care and that I’m thinking of them. I emphasize how important it is to take care of yourself and not be ashamed of who you are. I hope people perceive me as altruistic, ambitious, and vigilant because I consciously make all of my decisions so that they can inspire someone else to do something similar and treat others the same way. I want to be a part of the origin for a young mind to begin the process of loving themselves, allowing them to be unafraid to accept who they truly are, and letting it shine to the rest of world.

A role model leads, but also listens. A role model has strong opinions, but is not ignorant to new and different perspectives. A role model is unafraid to be independent and empowering, but is not so far out of reach that those that aspire to be like her find her unapproachable or intimidating. A role model leads by example to not only inspire others, but to inspirit herself as well.

Real Talk With Kristin Wong

#AerieREAL is about standing together and feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin. How do you personally identify with that message?

            One thing that I’ll never forget is back in 2014, I was told by another girl that she hated me because I was “too Asian,” as if embracing the race I was born in to was something to be ashamed of. This was especially shocking to hear because the girl that told me this was Asian as well. A few months later, this same exact girl told me that she wished she was white because being Asian automatically meant that you could never be beautiful.

The most frightening thing was that I understood the shame that came with being Asian American. I live in a primarily white city, and I go to a school where I don’t have a single teacher (besides the Chinese language teacher) that looks like me. Some teachers I’ve had in the past have told me that they have higher expectations for me because they know my parents are stricter (in spite of never having met my parents), and in 7th grade, a boy asked me if I was “a real Asian” because I didn’t have monolids. An even more repulsive experience was just a few months ago, I was being interviewed for a college by a white cis male who took not more than ten seconds to look over my resume and said, “I hate to break it to you, but you really aren’t helping yourself stick out from the rest of your people.”

Although there’s never been a point in my life where I’ve been embarrassed to be Asian and Chinese, there have been times where I’ve felt insecure about it, especially in public situations. For example, I’ve had people at school laugh because every photo I open on Snapchat is from an Asian friend (even though it’s completely ridiculous because they only receives photos from other white students). Other times, I’ll tell my family to be quiet in restaurants because of the stereotype that the Chinese are ill-behaved in public places and as tourists.

Up until last year, at the point where I was halfway through chemotherapy, I was relatively ashamed to be Asian, and this contempt seemed to be innate. All of these years, because of all of the stereotypes and blanketed racism I’ve faced, I wasn’t 100% proud to be who I am or what I look like. The wake up call for me was that during chemo, I realized that in a world where there are millions of problems that are unavoidable (such as getting life threatening diseases), you can’t oppress yourself even more by being discontent with what you are born with.

I think a lot of this acceptance of racism and widely familiar shame among people of color, specifically Asians in this case, is unquestionably due to the lack of Asian representation politics and media. What we see in media greatly determines how we establish our sense of self and our value of self, and when we don’t see ourselves in what the media displays, we feel that there is something wrong with us that causes there to be underrepresentation of people that are like us. The girl that I mentioned at the start is a perfect example of someone that, because of the stigma surrounding who she is, is so insecure that she openly admits to hating someone that truly embraces who they know they’re meant to be. She was afraid of the fact that she couldn’t see herself in me; even though we looked comparable on the outside, she didn’t feel the same confidence or pride in herself to the same degree that I did. Because of this, she aggressively acted out, perhaps because the resentment towards her self-identity was so substantial that she couldn’t understand how anyone else could be proud of what she was also supposed to be.

Rather than tearing each other down, we should be standing together as a collective to battle against this stigma (and blatant racism) that so many of us face. It’s important to be your own, self-made version of success. If you’re not proud or confident in who you are and what you do, that means you’re spending all of your energy being someone you’re really not, which is tremendously tiresome and unsatisfying. Not understanding how imperative self-love and self-care is is detrimental to your mental health, which in turn, destroys your physical health as well. Just like how it’s important to talk about these racial issues, it’s important to talk about your mental health as well. These two issues overlap in demographics, where many mental health issues derive from discontent with self-image.

Share your experiences with others and don’t be afraid to criticize or call others out for being disrespectful to who you are meant to be. No one should feel ashamed to be the way that they are. Embracing who you are is #AerieREAL; being #AerieREAL is unapologetically being yourself.

Real Talk With Kristin Wong

 

Real Talk With Sarah Herron

Sarah Herron founded SheLift, a non-profit that empowers girls with physical differences to discover confidence through outdoor adventures and body-positive mentorship. Read on to learn more about Sarah and SheLift’s story and what makes her #AerieREAL!

Real Talk With Sarah Herron

What inspired you to start SheLift?

Growing up as an early 2000’s teen, we only had TV and magazines to idolize our favorite entertainers and role models. There was no Instragram, or platforms for connection that removed the barrier of real human condition. Magazine photos were always photoshopped and the models we saw rise to the top were always impossibly skinny and perfect. I never saw a single women in the media who resembled me or my body. I had one arm, I was chubby and as far as I knew I was completely alone. I compared myself to those I saw and developed disordered eating and depression. I was in my twenties before I ever saw a woman with a limb difference in a movie and it was Bethany Hamilton in Soul Surfer. A few years later I set out to find love on ABC’s The Bachelor and quickly discovered that for millions of women across the world, I, too was the first woman they’d seen on TV that they could relate to. I wasn’t sure how to react or mobilize the groundswell of women coping with physical differences in a world that judges them by appearance. So I continued to do my thing – I got active, I got healthy and I shared my successes and my feelings to Instagram. When I discovered that my accomplishments in outdoor recreation and community directly correlated to my improved confidence and mental health, I realized this was my angle to make impact. I started SheLift with a mission to normalize differences by empowering girls with physical differences to improve self-acceptance and confidence through outdoor adventures and body-positive mentorship. SheLift provides once-in-a-lifetime experiences to young women with differences to help them live authentic lives and connect with others.

We just returned from a fundraising retreat in Mexico last month where 20 women – of different age and ability – came together to connect, share and conquer their obstacles. Over the weekend we went on adventures and practiced self-care and discussed the things that make us different but beautiful. You can read more about the trip and ways to join a future retreat here.

Real Talk With Sarah Herron

What advice do you have for someone looking to overcome a challenge in their life?

The best advice I can offer someone trying to overcome a challenge is to seek connection. When we keep our story and our struggle bottled up, we cannot rise from it.  When you share your struggles out loud (with a trusting support group), you’ll be surprised how many other women come forward saying “oh yeah, I feel that way, too!” There’s empowerment in simply knowing you’re not alone.

SheLift provides mentors for girls involved. Who is your role model and why?

My role model is my friend Debbie. I initially met Debbie through her husband Joe, who I worked with. Debbie is a personal trainer and was looking for new clients and Joe knew I’d be up for the challenge. Immediately I loved working out with Debbie because she didn’t approach training like a drill sergeant or with a bootcamp intensity. Instead, she coached that the importance of fitness and training is to become stronger and healthier and that that doesn’t mean exerting energy to the point of exhaustion. More simply put, Debbie didn’t make me fear fitness. As I continued to train, Debbie and I formed a strong friendship – she was coaching my body and my mind. Every week we would discuss the importance of positive self-talk and overcoming self-limiting beliefs. Despite my best effort to dismiss Debbie’s compliments when I was feeling “fat” or “ugly,” she always reminded me that it’s important I practice good mental health as well as physical health. Debbie is only a few years older than me, but she is a mom and an entrepreneur on a mission. She is empowering postpartum mom-bods to love the skin they’re in. She’s turned her passion of instilling “beauty is strength” into an online training program for moms called “Tough Mamas.”

Real Talk With Sarah HerronWhat makes you an Role Model?

I’ve never liked calling myself a role model because the truth is, I’m still human and I am very much imperfect. I never set out with a mission to lead or set an example, I just started living my life as an authentic person and that seemed to catch on! It’s part of my emotional makeup to want to help girls be the best version of themselves and to discover their self worth and strengths. Despite how many inspirational quotes I read or preach, I believe women are wired for personal struggle. So when people ask me what makes me a role model, I guess I’d say it’s because I’m the non-role model, role model. I’m just a person trying to get through each day like the next. I have strong days and healthy days but I also have bad days and fat days – and that’s OK. At the end of the day, I hope that by sharing my story, other women will realize they’re not alone in their journey.

How does the #AerieREAL message align with SheLift’s beliefs?

SheLift is about empowering women to live their most authentic lives. This means encouraging girls to embrace their imperfections and the qualities that make them unique and lovable and to let go of self-comparison. Through social media, I am trying to pull back the curtain on what differences look like. If there’s more visibility to size, shape, disability, etc, we begin to normalize differences and reject beliefs that only skinny is pretty. The #AerieREAL campaign is leading the same mission. It’s so important to be showing impressionable young women that bodies aren’t perfect! Putting photos of un-photoshopped women in media will help other women realise “Oh, her stomach looks like mine!” or “omg, she has stretch marks, too!” and ultimately help reduce eating disorders and depression. We’re both on a mission saying “It’s OK to have imperfections and you’re certainly not alone.”

Real Talk With Sarah Herron

What makes you #AerieREAL? Comment below & tell us! For more Real Talks, see here!

 

Real Talk With Erin Drischler Of The Garment Project

Erin Drischler founded The Garment Project, a non-profit that aims to empower women recovering from eating disorders by providing them with new, size-less clothing, individualized for their healthy bodies and lifestyles. We got to know Erin and the story behind her incredible non-profit—read on for more.

Real Talk With Erin Drischler Of The Garment Project

 

What inspired you to start The Garment Project?

I wanted to start telling a different story. There were so many years where I felt stuck in a loop as the ‘sick girl’. I decided that I want to be a voice for those who feel that same hopelessness. For me, clothing and sizing was a huge part of my eating disorder recovery. Returning home from treatment to a closet full of clothes that didn’t fit my body or soul is a struggle that not many in recovery think of prior to it staring them in the face for the first time. Between my fiancé, Jordan, and myself, our careers, hobbies, and talents seemed to give us the expertise needed to try to make a difference.

We recognized that there needed to be a way for someone to maintain their focus on recovery and not their size, even when finding new clothes. We decided that partnering directly with treatment facilities would give us the information we needed about each candidate Garment works with in a private and healthy way. From there, we needed to give each individual a unique shopping experience. Garment created an online tool that allows us to make a new, personalized shopping page for each candidate containing only items in our inventory that we believe matches both their needs and lifestyle. With the help of hard-working and talented people, we believe Garment will change the recovery process and a lot of lives along the way.

Can you tell us a bit more about the power sizing in clothing can have over women and what they can do to overcome it?

Each time I went through treatment, I would learn new skills or bits of information that would improve some of my behaviors and way of thinking. I would usually leave with a feeling of confidence and that I had worked hard to make important changes in my lifestyle. Yet I would find myself in the same place: back at home, day one of no longer having the security of an inpatient treatment team, trying to get ready for class. I was alone in my room staring at a closet full of clothes that no longer fit my body or recovered lifestyle. It was a terrible feeling.

For a long time I used clothes to fuel my eating disorder. It isn’t uncommon to use clothing sizes as benchmarks. I kept and used my old clothes as a means of body checking, or seeing if weight had been gained or not. After several cycles through the treatment loop, I had been convinced to throw away my scale. My eating disorder didn’t need a scale anymore because I had my ‘sick clothes’. I remember one dress in particular that would reveal my current weight based on how it fit. I didn’t have the financial stability or even the courage to box everything up and start over.

Clothing and fashion are personal and powerful ways to express yourself. It is exciting and the easiest way to express your individuality. I was missing the thing I used to love about getting dressed each day. I wanted to be able to pick my outfit based on my mood or whatever side of my personality was stronger that morning, but I was stuck with a wardrobe that had so many negative associations attached to it that I couldn’t feel confident about anything that I had to choose from.

What’s next for The Garment Project?

We are focused on bettering our service and expanding our reach. This year, we are going to be working hard to spread our message and let people know that we’re a resource for people who have done amazing work for themselves and are learning how to lead a healthier life. Of course, Garment is always learning and growing too. It’s a priority for us to be able to expand our service to men and hopefully we’ll make significant progress on that this year as well.

What makes you #AerieREAL?

It took a few years of practice and slips, but I have a completely new relationship with food, my body, and myself. My eating disordered thoughts once consumed my life, paralyzing me from living a life I was proud of. I am three years into recovery and I still feel pride and excitement when I catch myself in control. I eat when I’m hungry and until I am full, and I always order exactly what I want. When I look at a photo of myself, I no longer examine every dimple or imperfection. I am able to see the happiness on my face because that’s what is most important to me now. I learned how to be more patient with people I care about, and forgive others when they might not have met my expectations. The food finally came second to the relationships, which was one of the most important steps in accepting my recovery.

Living this recovered life had not only led me to accept my body and soul, but truly love and embrace what I have to offer. I’m proud of my recovery and the messy, motivating experiences I went through. It is important to us that we be champions of recovery and show those that are struggling how beautiful recovered life can be.

 

Want to learn more about The Garment Project? Check out their website here.

 

 

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Real Talk With Nia Pettitt

We met Nia last year, and since then she’s been inspiring us with her honesty about natural beauty, insecurities and confidence. Nia’s curls were always huge part of her life—she co-founded the Go With The Fro Tour, a movement to empower women with natural curls—but when she realized that her hair was starting to define her, she knew she had to let it go. We talked to Nia about that process and what she learned from it. Read on for more from this #AerieREAL Role Model!

 

Real Talk With Nia Pettitt

You’ve recently changed your look! Tell us why you decided to cut your hair.  

I knew I wanted to let go of my hair when the image of the woman I aspired to be wasn’t who I was. I was bored of looking the same every day just for validation through social media. I felt unhappy and drained but I couldn’t figure out why until I listed all the things I felt were holding me back. I wanted a fresh start and to completely step out of my comfort zone to finally see myself. I feel amazing, I feel so confident and free.

 

Real Talk With Nia Pettitt

What did you learn in the process?

That you should never remain in a career, relationship or friendship just because of the comfort. I could’ve remained talking about hair just because it was what I built my brand on but it wasn’t what I was truly passionate about anymore. I also learned that some people will be in your life just because of how you look which is sad but it made me appreciate the people in my life who love me for me. I also learned that I used to spend way too much time doing my hair because I can now sleep for an extra hour!

 

Real Talk With Nia Pettitt

#AerieREAL is about standing together and feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin. How do you personally identify with that message?

I have never felt more confident and comfortable in my skin as my comfort used to lie within my hair. I hid all of my insecurities underneath my hair because people always gravitated towards it. At first it was fun being known for my hair but I couldn’t keep up with the image of always having to look the same, I felt obliged to always wear my hair out for the gratification of others and thats when I knew I was no longer living for myself. I now identify with it through acceptance of my natural beauty, my intelligence, my kind soul and my ability to always evolve.

Real Talk With Nia PettittWho is your role model and why?

My role model is the older version of myself. We all have this idea in our head of who we want to be and sometimes we never know how we are going to get there. Whether that is a healthier version, a smarter one, a version that is more stylish or more happy. My version is a woman that doesn’t allow likes to validate her worth, that is free with herself to be herself at all times and never feel like she has to be in a box.

Real Talk With Nia Pettitt

What makes you an #AerieREAL Role Model?

I no longer look at my flaws as flaws. I look at my stretch marks as lines of love from girl to woman. I look at my acne scars as reminders to stop stressing over unnecessary things. I look at the hair which grows on my skin as a blanket and my belly button as a cool and unique part of me. I am an #AerieREAL Role Model because I understand that the natural me is the best version of me.

How do you stay true to yourself? Comment below & tell us what makes YOU an #AerieREAL Role Model.

 

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Get To Know #AerieREAL Role Model Rachel Platten

“It’s not going to be perfect, and it’s ok. Be kind to yourself.”

Rachel Platten is #AerieREAL!

This singer-songwriter and wave maker has fought hard to follow her dreams, and she uses her voice to uplift herself and those around her. When she’s not touring and sharing her songs with the world, she plays a first-hand role in the healing power of music by singing to patients at local hospitals.

With years in the music business, Rachel knows first-hand how hard it can be to reach your goals, and she also knows how amazing it is when you realize what YOU can do.

We asked Rachel to describe her personal style in 3 words. Her response? She can’t! “My personal style is whatever I wake up feeling like that day. I can’t pin it down for anyone.” Shop Rachel’s faves and see more from all of our #AerieREAL Role Models here.

Get To Know #AerieREAL Role Model Rachel Platten

Rachel’s words to live by? “Everything comes from a place of fear or love. Choose <3.”

 

Get To Know #AerieREAL Role Model Rachel Platten

Join the #AerieREAL movement! Share what makes YOU an #AerieREAL Role Model with us.

Get To Know #AerieREAL Role Model Yara Shahidi

“I love supporting movements that help perpetuate this idea of rising together.”

Yara Shahidi is #AerieREAL!

Yara is an actress and thought leader. In her gap year before attending college, Yara is furthering her own creative projects and using her strong voice to support movements that matter, from increasing voter turnout in the 2018 midterms to empowering young people to get involved in social causes focused on human well-being.

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Living and acting with purpose and following the examples of the amazing role models in her own family are some of the drivers that motivate this #AerieREAL Role Model to keep pushing forward each and every day.

With such a strong voice, it’s no surprise that to Yara, personal style is all about standing strong and feeling good in what she wears. “When I can own what I’m in, I feel much more comfortable when I take on the world around me.” Shop Yara’s faves and see more from all of our #AerieREAL Role Models here.

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Yara’s words to live by? “So it goes.”

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Join the #AerieREAL movement! Share what makes YOU an #AerieREAL Role Model with us.