Oprah Winfrey and Me (I was chosen as one of her Supersoul 100!!)

Oprah Winfrey and Me (I was chosen as one of her Supersoul 100!!)






Maya Penn is a 17 year old award-winning eco-designer, artist, philanthropist, activist, entrepreneur, animated filmmaker, coder, illustrator, writer and author of You Got This! She has been featured in countless publications such as Forbes, Huffington Post, Seventeen Magazine, Cosmopolitan, The View, NPR,CNN, TIME, Essence Magazine, CBS This Morning with Gayle King, O Magazine, The Steve Harvey Show, Entrepreneur Magazine, Ebony, Black Enterprise, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, and many, many more. Maya has given three TEDTalks and her latest TEDWomen Talk has gone viral worldwide and with almost 2 million views and growing. She is known as the youngest female to do two back-to-back official TEDTalks. Maya has been chosen by Oprah Winfrey as one of her Supersoul 100 influencers. Google has partnered with Maya to speak to girls about coding and computer science at their Made With Code events. Magic Johnson chose Maya to be featured in his 32 Under 32 article series.


Amazing People


Girls Fight Back is a live 60 – 90-minute seminar with a goal of teaching women of all ages the basics of personal safety and self-defense. Girls Fight Back is an AWESOME organization, and here's my interview with Gina Kirkland who is the President of GFB.

What made Erin Weed (the founder) want to start Girls Fight Back and when did she start it?

Erin Weed founded Girls Fight Back in 2001 after her friend and sorority sister, Shannon McNamara was murdered in her home near her college campus.  Shannon fought back when she was attacked and because she did so enough evidence was collected to put her murderer in prison.  Erin wanted to ensure that Shannon’s legacy would be kept alive and also help other women to live safe, strong, and empowered lives.  After the murder, many of Shannon’s friends starting sharing stories with each others about their fears.  Fear to walk to their car alone at night, fear that kept them looking over their shoulders, and that could lead to a restricted life.  Erin believed that all women should be able to live a full life and never be forced to make decisions stemming from fear, so she set out to learn everything she could about personal safety and self-defense and then started sharing it with other women so that all women could learn how to be their own best protectors.

Why do you think it's so important to empower girls and teach them to be their own best protectors?
 In an all of nature, you will not find a species in which the female is incapable of protecting herself.  In fact, in many species, the female is the primary protector taking care of herself and her offspring.  Human females are also equally capable of taking care of themselves.  It is culture that has told us otherwise.  While boys are encouraged to speak up for themselves and protect themselves if necessary, girls are often taught to be nice and to look to their fathers, brothers, or boyfriends/husbands for protection.  This misconception is putting us at risk in so many ways.  Niceness is a great quality to have, but not at the risk of putting ourselves into dangerous situations, such as getting into an elevator with someone that sets of your internal alarm bells as a bad apple.  Would you rather be nice and avoid hurting the person’s feelings?  Or, would you rather honor your intuition, take the next elevator, and place your safety as a top priority? All young women need to have the skills to say NO the right way, how to set boundaries that work for them, and how to fight back and protect themselves if their well-being is at risk.  My friend,  Ellen Snortland, in her book Beauty Bites Beast explains it this way, “. . . if you heard of a country where six thousand of its citizens drowned every year, and where 500,000 citizens come very close to drowning . . .” you would wonder why they didn’t learn to swim.  Violence and the threat of violence is all around us and by ignoring it, we put ourselves at risk.  Like learning to swim, we can learn how to protect ourselves too, be aware of the risks and know what to do if we ever find ourselves in too deep of water.  Once we have the skills to take care of ourselves, we can live our lives with no apologies.

Have you heard any feedback from the girls who have attended your program? What did they say?  

I am going to give you this link as there are several direct quotes here from attendees: http://www.girlsfightback.com/praise/

If you could teach a girl only ONE defensive move, what would it be?
The best defensive move for any woman is to know how to defend herself verbally.  Just being able to handle a verbal de-escalation in a sketchy situation with poise and confidence can often get you out of a tough spot before things get physical. The number one verbal tool that all women need to have is the ability to say NO, the right way.  No, is a complete sentence and should be stated with confidence, direct eye contact, a firm tone, and . . . . it should never be negotiated.  As Gavin de Becker teaches in The Gift of Fear, a great book that everyone who is interested in preventing violence in their lives should read, “’No’ is a word that must never be negotiated, because the person who chooses not to hear it is trying to control you.” For physical defense tips, I highly recommend downloading our free Sassy Self-Defense Guide.  You can get that here:http://www.girlsfightback.com/  This guide contains hotline numbers for anyone in crisis, our best tips on self-defense, and a list of full contact self-defense classes that you can sign up for in your area.  

Anything awesome you'd like to share?
I have two great links to share with you!  http://www.girlsfightback.com/video/  This page has our story in video and what we are all about along with a bunch of other great videos about Girls Fight Back and our training process for our speakers. http://shop.girlsfightback.com/  This page has our store for cool GIRL POWER related merchandise including a DVD of the full Girls Fight Back program.  If anyone is interested in bringing one of our trained speakers to their group, school, or community organization to present our 90 mins program, you can contact us at gfb@girlsfightback.com.  And, if that isn’t possible, but you want more information, you can get a full DVD of the program on our merchandise page as well as our book about being your own best protector OR you can download the free Sassy-Self Defense Guide for more information! We want all women out there to know that YOU ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR!


Louis Tuakli-Mason Is a 15 year old photographer and creator of LIFE (Life Imagery Foto Events). It's great meeting other young entrepreneurs like me, so I spoke with Louis about his amazing photography and his company LIFE.
Why did you start your photography business?
I have loved photography since I was 8 years old, when I first got the chance to use a camera. I loved taking photos and gradually taught myself how to take good ones. In November 2012, I decided to make a photoblog to show my photos to people around the world, also, I liked the idea of creating a website. In July 2013, I found a local project that was helping young people become young entrepreneurs. After learning of this project, I decided that this would be a brilliant opportunity to drive my passion forward. After writing a business plan, I pitched my idea to 3 local business people from my area, who (thankfully) liked my idea and invested £5000 in me to begin my journey. I started life. I wanted to start a photography business as I love photography and really wanted to drive my passion forward. I have always dreamed of doing something I love and sharing my passion with others, and I guess now, that's what I’m doing!

What are your favorite things to photograph?
My favourite things to photography vary. I love finding shapes and patterns in nature, and capturing people with expressions that reflect how they feel. I wouldn’t say that I have a favourite subject to photograph, as I feel that would limit me to certain things; as I am young I still need to explore. I love capturing pictures of happiness, peace, the sunrise/sunset. I love taking pictures not only using my Nikon DSLR, but using my phone for instagram, it’s my little photography tool. 

What would you tell other aspiring artists or photographers?
I would tell other aspiring artists and photographers not to give up. Photograph everything and don’t let bad opinions of your work change how you live. Explore and learn your trade as I still am. Remember that art comes in many different shapes and sizes so you should never compare yourself to others as this isn’t what photography is about! Have fun, aspire and achieve, no matter how long it takes you, believe in yourself and you will make it.

View more of Louis' work here: http://www.lifefoto.co.uk/