AE ASSOCIATE SPOTLIGHT: FIGHTING MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA WITH LOVE

All across the country, young people like you are standing up for what’s important. Inspired by the launch of the AExME Council, we turned to our amazing team of store managers, stylists, and associates to learn more about some of the issues affecting their communities and the causes they’re passionate about


Meet Hannah from store #0392 in Towson, MD. She’s a 21-year-old body positivity activist who’s passionate about reducing mental health stigma and preventing suicide.

An eating disorder survivor, Hannah participates in National Eating Disorders Association walks with her AE coworkers – they’ve even taken home a top fundraising team award! – as well as American Foundation for Suicide Prevention walks. She believes in the power of being open and honest, and having conversations about the hard stuff… even or especially if they’re uncomfortable.

AE Associate Hannah

Q: How do you express your thoughts and beliefs?

A: I have always believed in being open and honest. While I was in the deepest part of my eating disorder, I kept so many secrets about what I did and why I did it. Through my recovery, I have become so much more open about my life in general and how I feel about the world. I’m always willing to listen to the beliefs of others and try to go in with an open mind when I meet new people and hear other points of view.

Q: What does AExME mean to you?

A: AExME means that I can be whoever I want to be and create my style to be something that I feel comfortable and confident in! Since my heart belongs to Aerie, I’ll say what #AerieREAL means to me, too! The entire concept of #AerieREAL reminds me that everything that has happened in my life has made me who I am, and that I am allowed to embrace that! #AerieREAL has helped me to embrace my quirks, wild mane of hair, mistakes, crazy laugh, journey with an eating disorder, and so, so much more.

Q: What’s a quote that inspires you?

A: I absolutely could not decide between these two, so here are two quotes I love: “You cannot change the world on an empty stomach,” as well as one that’s actually in our fitting rooms: “There is nothing more beautiful than a happy soul.” I love this one because I have always had a distorted view of what beauty is and how it should function in my life. I have learned over the years that it is my happiness and the way I serve others that makes me beautiful.

AE Associate Hannah

Fill in the Blanks

The future is uplifting!

The best thing about my community is the love & support I experience on a daily basis.

More acceptance would make the world a better place.

I believe in the pursuit of happiness.

My mom is my personal superhero.

If I could change one thing about the world today, it would be the stigma surrounding mental health.

 

 

AE X IT GETS BETTER GUEST POST: PATRICK TUCKER, AE ASSOCIATE

For the fourth year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us.

 We kicked off our series of guest posts about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better with our Global Brand President, Chad Kessler, and have followed up with posts from associates across the country. Now Patrick, a store leader in Louisiana, shares how he has found purpose in his authentic, happy, open life.

 

SHOP WOMEN’S PRIDE    |    SHOP MEN’S PRIDE

PATRICK TUCKER

Store Leader in Monroe, LA

I love that AE allows me to be open about my life and live authentically. Growing up gay in the rural South was hard, but the ability to marry my husband in 2016 made the long journey worthwhile.

Patrick Tucker and husband

I would tell my younger self to keep fighting because that’s how you get the life you dream of. I was able to make a difference in my life as well as educate my family and create an atmosphere of inclusiveness.

AE Associate, Patrick Tucker

I find my strength in knowing that what I do now could help someone else later. My favorite quote is from Dolly Parton: “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” I am me on purpose and I love my open, happy, authentic life.

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!

 

 

 

AE X IT GETS BETTER GUEST POST: BRANDON KLOUDA, AE ASSOCIATE

For the fourth year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us.

We kicked off our series of guest posts about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better with our Global Brand President, Chad Kessler, and have followed up with posts from associates across the country. Now, Brandon, a store manager in Iowa, shares how the first step to loving others is loving yourself.

 

SHOP WOMEN’S PRIDE    |    SHOP MEN’S PRIDE

BRANDON KLOUDA

Store Manager in Sioux City, IA

Working for a company that accepts you for who you are has truly made me love coming to work. The amount of support I have received from everyone at AE has truly made me feel welcome and able to be myself. The fact that we support LGBTQ+ communities at AE has a special place in my heart. I spread the word of such support and reach out to people to tell them that AE is a safe and amazing place to work.

I would tell my younger self that it does in fact get better. Coming out as gay and being a single dad scared me to death. But the amount of support I got from family and peers has been overwhelming.

Brandon and family

The best advice I’ve received is to be yourself and love yourself.

I celebrate me by being the best version of who I am and accepting the fact that there is nothing wrong with me.

Love yourself so you can love others.

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!

 

 

 

AE X IT GETS BETTER GUEST POST: JEN WARREN, AE ASSOCIATE

For the fourth year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us.

We kicked off our series of guest posts about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better with our Global Brand President, Chad Kessler, and have followed up with posts from associates across the country. Now, Jen Warren, an associate in Kansas, shares how important it is not just to stand by LGBTQ+ communities, but also to educate allies.

 

SHOP WOMEN’S PRIDE    |    SHOP MEN’S PRIDE

JEN WARREN

Operations Clerk at Distribution Center in Ottawa, KS

I am an openly gay, 34-year-old, AEO employee at the distribution center in Ottawa, KS. I have worked for AEO since October 2006. I love nothing more than to be able to come to work and know that my job is not in jeopardy because of who I am.

I could not be more proud of who I work for because of AEO’s support of all people, not just LGBTQ+ people. Obviously, that hits closest to home for me, but I appreciate ALL the equality in our workplace.

Jen and her nephew

Times have certainly changed in the last 15 years since I came out. I can’t imagine having to come out before then. I am very happy that kids these days have far more opportunities to be successful with programs such as It Gets Better, which is supported by AE’s Pride collection.

Educating allies is just as important, if not more important. Educating parents of gay children is so important, too, especially in these parts.

Jen getting a pedicure with friends

Let me tell ya! I believe AEO’s policies have helped turn around a few employees on their feelings about homosexuality. I was born and raised in Ottawa, Kansas. It could use all the education it can get on LGBTQ+ rights. AEO helps the case!

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!

 

 

 

AE X IT GETS BETTER GUEST POST: TALIA HOLLIS-ELWELL, AE ASSOCIATE

For the fourth year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us.

 We kicked off our series of guest posts about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better with our Global Brand President, Chad Kessler, and have followed up with posts from associates across the country. Now, Talia, a district team leader, shares her journey, including growing up in rural Tennessee, coming out to her mother in 1998, celebrating her first Pride in San Francisco in 2002, and meeting the woman who’d become her wife – it was love at first sight!

 

SHOP WOMEN’S PRIDE    |    SHOP MEN’S PRIDE

TALIA HOLLIS-ELWELL

District Team Leader in Tennessee

When I saw the AE windows for Pride this summer, I started crying. I was blown away with how all of AE will have this presentation. I called my wife and told her about it because I was so moved. We talked about our own history and disbelief that the world has come so far.

Our story started in the ’90s in rural Tennessee towns. I moved to Nashville for university and decided to come out to my mom in 1998. My wife came out to her family just the year before. At the time she worked as a high school band director and her principal asked her to resign. These were not easy times for our community.

Talia Hollis-Elwell

We met in 1999 and it was love at first sight. We will celebrate 20 years together this August. Our first Pride was in San Francisco in 2002. It was unbelievable to see a city come out in such force to support the community. I can’t describe the feeling, but it was joy and excitement mixed with a feeling of sorrow that we couldn’t be ourselves every day at home.

Talia Hollis-Elwell and wife

Fast forward to 2015, when SCOTUS passed gay marriage. I was working in rural West Virginia, teaching a business class to a group of store leaders, when I received a text message from another team member telling me gay marriage was now legal. I whooped with excitement and told the class. Then I sent a quick text to my now-wife, telling her the news and asking if she would like to get married in a month, on our celebrated anniversary. She agreed. In many states like Kentucky and Tennessee, there was controversy about giving out licenses and allowing courthouse weddings. We were so nervous the state would find a way to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision. Luckily that didn’t happen. We told our families of our plans and they came out to support us in full force, many flying in from far away to support us on our day.

Talia Hollis-Elwell's Wedding Day

To me, Pride, is knowing who I am, being who I am, and being comfortable talking about it. All I have ever wanted is to say “my wife,” and have that phrase understood and accepted. Every day now, I live that feeling I had at my first San Francisco Pride, and AE supports that feeling. Our value of “individuality” means just that to me as an AE employee.

We are all individuals. We are American Eagle.

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!

 

 

 

AE X IT GETS BETTER GUEST POST: ALY SILVER, AE ASSOCIATE

For the fourth year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us. 

We kicked off our series of guest posts about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better with our Global Brand President, Chad Kessler, and have followed up with posts from associates across the country. Now, AE digital project manager Aly shares what she wishes someone had told her when she was younger: love surrounds you.

 

SHOP WOMEN’S PRIDE    |    SHOP MEN’S PRIDE

ALY SILVER

Digital Project Manager

I haven’t always worked at AE, but I have always been a lesbian. I didn’t always know that I was queer, but I knew I was different from a young age. I remember asking my mother in middle school if she would still love me if I were gay. Instead of asking her, I wish I could have asked my future self.

Aly Silver, digital project manager of american eagle

I would have told myself that not only will your parents still love you, but you will find love from so many directions. You will find a partner who not only accepts you completely, but also helps you to stay true to yourself and bring out your best, real self. You will find many communities to surround yourself with, who will also love and accept you completely.

Also, you will be surprised to find yourself in an awesome career at a company that not only accepts you, but actively works to create a more accepting society by working with nonprofits to help kids like you feel loved and accepted.

Love surrounds you.
You are different, yes, but that’s what makes you, you!

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!