Real Talk with Aysha Emmerson

Aysha Emmerson founded Self.I.E. (Self Inspiration and Empowerment) Camps to help girls in their pre-teen years. Read on to find out what inspired Aysha to become an advocate for empowerment and learn more about the camps that bring girls together at such an important time in their lives.

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What inspired you to create Self.I.E. Camps?

My fervent belief in the powerful strides girls can take when they support one another drove me to create Self.I.E Camps. I experienced this support from inspiring young women double my age when I was hospitalized with anorexia as an eight-year-old. I battled with this life-threatening disorder from ages seven to twelve. The unkind words and actions that were all too common in middle school only made my struggle worse. I watched my peers’ attempts to conform, while wearing my own feelings of not being “good enough.” In high school, as I found my niche and grew a stronger voice, things began to change for me. I realized that I was not alone in my experience of insecurity and isolation. Believing that no other girl should have to hurt like I did—I heard my call to action. I could not find a pre-existing venue to help inspire and empower younger girls using the approach that I felt was needed, so I decided to create my own.

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Tell us about how your camps empower girls and young women & why that’s important to you.

I believe that our uniqueness is what makes us beautiful and I have experienced the pain that comes from struggling to change the body we are born into. I no longer want to live in a culture that perpetuates an unattainable image of beauty. I no longer want to see girls’ and boys’ true selves be degraded by their own low self-esteem, which can lead to any number of serious issues that inhibit an individual’s capacity to reach their potential. I no longer want to feel helpless to a situation that I can help improve. I want everyone to embrace themselves and each other.5 Days_Themes

Self.I.E (Self Inspiration and Empowerment) is a day-camp for girls entering grades 5 and 6. Led by high-school students, the camp includes activities and reflections designed to build a strong sense of self and skills to navigate the pre-teen world. Each day of the camp centers around one of five themes: self-care, self-acceptance, self-expression, self-defence, and self-to-others. The goal is to help participants at a vulnerable age develop a rich appreciation and understanding of themselves, allowing them to build resilience and flourish, while also enabling them to support other girls and give back to their communities. It creates a safe space where girls entering middle school can come to see the value in being themselves and can be given love and support from their peers and positive teen role models, who were in their shoes just a few years earlier. In addition, sharing and role modelling Self.I.E’s five themes helps the camp counselors to better embody these lessons in our own lives, while strengthening their confidence as leaders.

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What would you tell your ten-year-old self?

To my ten-year-old self: you deserve kindness. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself and who accept you as you are—and if you can’t find them just yet, hold on a little longer—they do exist. Treat yourself as you would treat others. Be kind, be patient, be accepting, and know that it is okay to be confident in who you are. Stop focusing on others’ opinions and focus on what you think of yourself. In the end, that’s all that matters.

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What advice do you have for someone who is struggling?

Find trust. Trust the resilience of life’s little joys. Trust that there are people who care about you and who can help you. Trust what your own body is telling you. Trust that you can and will get through this. Like when you are on the last stretch of a run and all you want to do is quit, physically override any negative thoughts with each step you take—no matter how small. Trust that you and others have crossed a finish line before and can do it again.

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What makes you #AerieREAL?

I am #AerieREAL because I believe our real selves are our best selves. I live each day with the intention of lifting others up and building their self-confidence. I see the world through an accepting lens, recognizing the beauty in everyone and everything. I focus on the things I do control—who I am and how I treat others—rather than the way I look or what others think of me. I recognize that I will always have my flaws and challenges but that these are an important part of the real me and the person I am becoming. By using my voice and personal story I hope to inspire and support others, while helping to bring about social change.

 

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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!

 

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Introducing #AerieREAL Role Models

No retouching. Body positivity. Girl power. Introducing #AerieREAL Role Models!

Joining our original Role Model and Body Positivity Activist Iskra is Singer-Songwriter Rachel Platten, Actress Yara Shahidi and Gold Medal Gymnast Aly Raisman. Each of these amazing women inspires us, just like each of YOU inspires us and empowers those around you every single day.

See more from our #AerieREAL Role Models here (and watch them below!), shop their faves and stay tuned for Real Talks and so much more inspiration from these amazing women.

This is women supporting women. This is empowerment. This is #AerieREAL!

Rachel, Yara, Aly and Iskra are #AerieREAL, and so are YOU! Join the movement and share what makes you an #AerieREAL Role Model.

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#AerieREAL Love From Iskra: Goal Setting

Hey Aerie girls,

I wanted to talk about dreams and goal settings and share some ways I get creative and organised to help me achieve my ambitions.

The first thing to remember is that any dream you have is valid. We are encouraged as young children to be whatever we want when we grow up but as we move through the education system we are then told to choose a college course and pick a career that’s actually attainable…

I just want to tell you no matter what age you are or what you are currently doing we have the power to be and do anything. I recently trained with a 20 times undefeated boxing champ and she only started boxing at 29 years old! She was going through a divorce and had a 8 year old but found what she loved and was talented at and has never looked back!

So now I will share with you things that have helped me get where I am today.

First off I LOVE vision boarding.

My vision board is in my bedroom. I put pictures and quotes on it. Some are my dreams, some inspire me, and some remind me of people and moments that are special to me.

You don’t need rules to make a vision board and I love getting together with my besties and having a whole day of getting creative. I like to grab my fave magazines or images I find online and make it super colourful with crayons and pens.

You will just need a corkboard or even some cardboard you can add pictures and quotes too. Of course you can add other things too if you want, friendship bracelets, gig tickets, cards from your besties! Your board your rules!

So you put a picture of Times Square on your moodboard, what’s next? It’s not just gunna happen by staring at it lol! You’ve got to have a plan. Make your dream a goal, add a date or year when you want it happen, think about things you need to do to make this happen! I call this my POA… Plan Of Action.

A POA is great for bigger goals, which are longer term and require lots of actions. But for everyday things to do, I make lists on my cell phone. I group list items as things I need to do now and things I can do later. So I also keep the highest priority or the nearest deadline things at the top of the list.

The important thing is to find something that works for you. For me it is my vision board, POAs, and cell phone lists.

Don’t be afraid to have big dreams – they’re the best sort! Breaking them down into smaller steps and setting specific goals will make your dreams easier to achieve. You might find your your goals change over time but that’s OK, go for it! You’re still be super effective having dreams and getting things done! And don’t forget to help your besties have inspiring dreams, set goals, and have fun!

Excited to see your vision boards! Tag me @iskra and @aerie #AerieReal

Sending you so much love!

Iskra x

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Follow Her Friday: Krystal Cantu

We’re inspired each day by the stories you share that show how you’re #AerieREAL. This week we’re sharing the story of a truly incredible woman who overcame some seriously extreme obstacles to make her dreams come true.

Krystal Cantu is an award-winning weightlifter, a sister, a fighter, a daughter, and a graduate from the University of Texas at San Antonio. At 25, she can lift 200lbs – with only one arm!

On August 2, 2013, Krystal and her boyfriend Daniel were in a car accident where her right arm was severely crushed and had to be amputated immediately. Her first concern? Never being able to compete again. Despite the odds and with outstanding amounts of courage, Krystal was back in the gym 3 weeks later. Shortly after, by serious will and faith, Krystal begun beating all of her old records and lifting more than she ever could. She says the accident is ‘the best thing that could have happened’. Read on below to learn a bit more about Krystal and what makes her Aerie REAL.

Follow Her Friday: Krystal Cantu

Aerie: Hi, Krystal – thank you so much for chatting with us. What does #AerieREAL mean to you? 

Krystal: Aerie Real, to me, is something that stands for so much within an individual. It is something within someone who has looked past the media and what they portray as an ideal individual. It’s accepting who you are and being happy with what you have been given. It’s knowing that perfection is not being thin or tall, it’s being you that makes you perfect.

Follow Her Friday: Krystal Cantu

Follow Her Friday: Krystal Cantu

Aerie: What makes you #AerieREAL?
Krystal: I’d be lying if I said that I never wanted to be like the girls in the magazines. As you get older and you start to realize that looks aren’t everything, you change. I’m very happy with my body and who I am as an individual, athlete, daughter, sister and girlfriend. I don’t have the six pack or flat belly, but that’s okay.

Aerie: Where do you see yourself in 3 years?

Krystal: In three years I hope to have been in a lot more competitions with podium standings, as well as pursuing a full time crossfit coaching position. I hope to have seminars going as well around the states. Heading out to different boxes, answering questions, meeting new faces and showing everyone how strong they truly are.

Follow Her Friday: Krystal Cantu

Aerie: What’s your favorite inspirational quote?
Krystal: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13

Aerie: What has been your biggest accomplishment thus far?

Krystal: My biggest accomplishment thus far has definitely been the progress I’ve had in Crossfit in under a year. There’s no particular event or movement that I’m proud of because I am really proud of it all. I continue to surprise myself with the strength I have mentally and physically. It’s been under a year and I can only imagine what can come in the next few years.

Follow Her Friday: Krystal Cantu

Aerie: Do you have a role model? If so, who is he or she, and why does he or she inspire you?

Krystal: I don’t have one set role model, I have various ones. I look up to my mother who is the rock of my family. She has the biggest heart and puts her family before herself all the time. She loves unconditionally and never fails to be by my side when she knows I need her the most. I look up to Daniel, my boyfriend, because he is the true representation of how everyone should love. He cares and supports me in whatever I do. He may get upset with me from time to time, but he never holds grudges or ignores me. He’s a good hearted person who I love very much. I look up to my coaches and how they genuinely care for each of their athletes. They competed in the 2014 crossfit games (Ballistic Crossfit) and they never trickled away from us nor did they focus on themselves. It’s always their athletes first, and then them. The heart and dedication they show day in and day out is very inspirational ad motivating.

Aerie: What are three things you always have to have with you?
Krystal: My iPhone, Ray Ban Sunglasses, and iPad.

Follow Her Friday: Krystal Cantu

Aerie: What are three things you always have to have with you? Krystal: My iPhone, Ray Ban Sunglasses, and iPad. 

Aerie: What’s your favorite part of the day?
Krystal: There is nothing I look more forward to than a good WOD (Workout of the Day).  I am anxious throughout the day just waiting to head outside and sweat.

Aerie: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, All, or Nothing?
Krystal: Never really got into the whole twitter thing. I have an account, but never use it. I do love me some instagram and facebook though!

Krystal, thank you so much for sharing your story with us!

Follow Krystal now on Twitter or Instagram.

xoxo,

Aerie

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Farewell AEO 2014 Interns!

At the end of every summer we experience the same bittersweet moment as we say goodbye to our amazing interns! One of those talented interns, Tyreke White, spent the summer in our photo studio and demonstrated his talent of creating beautiful imagery. Inspired by his love of the popular blog, turned book, Humans of New York, Tyreke had an idea that goes far beyond the camera lens.  He wanted to create a photo book that would capture the emotion and moments of his fellow colleagues to serve as a reminder of the special friendships formed for years to come.  A project that could be shared and hopefully just the beginning of his life long journey to inspire the world.

Introducing the 2014 AEO Interns:

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Row 1, L to R: Kristen Pospychala, Tyreke White, Chelsea Schulze, Megan Lundy, Maria Ilochi, Mark Dai, Kristin Schmidt | Row 2, L to R: Natalia Concepcion, Allese Kukalis, Angie Minnick, Chris Uhler, Julia Goll, Ellie Seta, Taylor Johns  | Row 3, L to R: Jared Clemmensen, Kelsey Birsic, Timothy McNally, Laura McCanney, Lindsey Barbour, Wesley Jernigan, Ali Garoon, Tara Llewellyn | Row 4, L to R: Tiffany Trinh, Alex D’Angelo, Megan Albright, Abby Einwag, Brian Kang, Brooke Hanby, Nicholas Massina, and Eric Mink

Tyreke put six questions in a hat and had each of his colleagues randomly pull one out with the task to answer the question wholeheartedly.  The responses from each participant is what evoked the emotion that Tyreke caught on film. We chose our favorite answer from each question to share with you below:

What is your greatest fear?
“I’d have to say my biggest fear is not pursuing my dreams and not going after what I think’s most important to me, even if that means being selfish. I just don’t want to be complacent.” – Nick M.

In five years, what do you hope to have accomplished?
“What I hope to have accomplished in five years is a good start to my career coming out of college, maybe even looking at grad school at this point, and really just enjoying what I’m doing, waking up and being happy with where I am.” – Chris U.

To you, what defines true happiness?
“True happiness, to me, means not having to think about being happy because that’s just how you live your life.” – Alex D.

To you, what defines true success?
“I define true happiness as waking up every morning, being excited about the people I’m with, the things that I’m doing, what I value in life and having that surrounding me at all times and being a point of hope, drive, and motivation.” – Kelsey B.

What inspires you?
“What inspires me are people, traveling, and finding beauty in the little things.” – Lindsey B.

Who has been the most influential person in your life and how?
“My mom actually might be superwoman. The best advice she’s given me is to keep laughing no matter the circumstance because laughing will get you through anything. She’s always been right.” – Brooke H.

 

Meet Tyreke White:

“The reason I began my photographic journey five years ago was very simple, I wanted to capture the world. I wanted to capture those fleeting moments that we often times forget about as quickly as they happen, and photography was a good device for this. Photography has allowed me to explore the huge spectrum of human emotions and personalities. Above all, photography has given me a subtle voice, a way to express how I’m feeling and to fearlessly share my story, my passions, and my dreams. Storytelling was the true inspiration for this project, however. It’s all too easy to take for granted the fact that everyone has a unique story worth hearing and remembering. So, when that storytelling is coupled with a shutter-click, the story is immediately ingrained for eternity – in a manner that is not only delicate but also inspiring. It is in this way that I hope to inspire the world. Thank you, AEO, for giving me the opportunity to showcase the stories of my fellow interns. And thank you, Humans of New York, for the photographic inspiration.”

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Wishing you all the success in the world as you conquer your dreams, Tyreke!!

We would love to hear what inspires you and what you think defines true happiness. Tell us in the comments below.

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