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PopCosmo PopStar: Gabriella


Resolution: Make a difference.When we ran across the video "It Only Takes A Girl" we stopped everything we were doing and paid attention. Not much holds our sole and undivided attention, but this video did. After watching, we knew we had to track down the person who made it and find out more. We were so delighted to share Gabriella's story with you and we hope it inspires you too. Our interview with Gabriella: Age: 17 Always has: A book to read. I am currently reading NY Times journalist Nick Kristof's Half the Sky. This masterpiece addresses the issues of rape, sex slavery, and maternal health that are plaguing our world today. It is a must-read for anyone who hopes to be a good citizen of the world. Proudest of: Finishing the IronGirl triathlon in New Orleans last year. I am not a naturally-talented athlete, but I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when I crossed that finish line. Is thankful for: I am so thankful that I was born in the U.S., where opportunities are not denied me based on my gender. I wish every girl in the world had this luxury. Wants to: It's always been a dream of mine to go to New Zealand! There's no specific reason why, but I've always wanted to visit. Is afraid of: Deep ocean water. I have a fear of getting trapped under a very thick layer of ice deep in the Arctic Ocean. Believes everyone should: Be passionate about something. It doesn't matter what it is, but everyone should have a passion. Is embarrassed by: I make very loud and very strange noises when I am startled. My friends think this is hilarious, and they like to scare me in public settings. It's mortifying! My style is: Comfortable, but cute. Pet peeve: Cheaters.

What inspired you to make your video? The original motivation for creating my video was actually the Dean's Honor Scholarship to Tulane University in New Orleans. Basically, I had to produce a project that showed the admissions officers who I am and what I care about, and the health and education of girls is what I care about—so I made this video. Have you always been motivated to inspire others? When I was younger, I was shy and not at all outgoing. But as I've grown, I've come to be more of a natural leader. I like to get my friends and family involved in things I am passionate about, whether it is joining the school musical or competing in triathlons with me. In your opinion, is there a statistic that stands out more than the others? One in seven girls in the developing world is married before she is fifteen (according to the Population Council). Think about seven young girls that you know, tenth grade or younger. Now imagine one of them is married, and the others are probably going to be married pretty soon. To me, this idea is horrifying. In developing countries, marriage often means dropping out of school, pregnancies, miscarriages, obstetric fistulas, submission to her husband, and poverty. And all before she's finished going through puberty. What is the goal you have in mind for It Only Takes a GirlHonestly, I posted the video on Facebook so my friends and family could see the project I had created for this scholarship. Some of my friends reposted it, then some of theirs reposted it, and theirs, and so on. I never expected the video to spread so fast and so far. It's been a truly humbling experience for me. But now that my message is out there, I plan on continuing to raise awareness for these issues and the charities that fight them. I have a website , a blog, a Twitter, and a Facebook page. How did you become educated in women's issues? I became aware of these issues through individual reading and research. I can't remember the first time I stumbled across an article that addressed female genital cutting, obstetric fistulas, or child marriages. It may have been in National Geographic or in a random online article that my mom emailed me, but since I first learned about these issues, I've read about them extensively on my own. What are you planning on studying in college? I am interested in studying public health with an emphasis on women and girls in the developing world. Since I released my video and started communicating and raising awareness through the internet, I have also recently considered studying journalism as well. Do you have advice to other girls about spreading the word for the causes they care about? Host a fundraiser at school! Not only can bake sales, car washes, and raffles raise money for your cause, but they also raise awareness. In the spring, I hope to lead the Triathlon Club (a club I founded at my school last year) in a bike-a-thon to raise money and awareness for the Girl Effect. What is your advice to girls who want to make a difference? Every little bit counts. Sometimes it is easy to say, “Donating ten dollars won't really do anything. Buying this one Ugandan bracelet won't really do anything. Telling my friends about this cause won't really do anything.” But that's just not true. Do a little something today. And a little something else next week. Get your friends involved, and they'll get their friends involved, and before you know it, you will have made an important difference. What is the best piece of advice you have received?  Don't let the trolls get you down. After posting my video on YouTube, the internet “trolls” began to emerge. Some of the comments they left on my video were simply rude, but others were blatantly racist, sexist, and even perverted. Reading these comments stressed me out at first, but my parents told me not to let it bother me. The fact that I had trolls meant my message was getting out there.

About the Video Had you made videos before this one? My fourteen-year-old sister Celeste is the movie-maker of my family, while I am more of an actor. I have starred in several of her movies, including a promotional video she made for her summer camp and a “commercial” she made for Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. She did most of the videography for my movie, which I greatly appreciated. Were you concerned that people might not watch it... or watch it and not be moved? I never, ever expected this many people to watch it! Like I said, I just posted it on Facebook for my friends and family to see. How long did it take you to make the signs?!? The signs took forever! But they would've taken even longer if it weren't for the help of my fifteen-year-old sister Sierra. I spent hours outlining the letters, and she colored them in. Who is in the video?? I am the first and last girl in the video (“imagine a girl, any girl” and “it only takes a girl”). The other fifty-or-so girls and women are all my friends and family.

About You Has your daily life changed since making this video?  I have started blogging, Tweeting, and Facebooking on an almost daily basis, as well as answering emails about my video. Besides that, life goes on as usual—homework, holidays, friends, and family. What are your other interests? I am very interested in languages. I took four years of Latin, a few scattered years of Hebrew, and am now in my second year of Spanish. My goal is one day to be fluent in at least ten languages. What is your favorite hobby? Acting! I have been in plays and musicals since I was little. I don't dream of becoming a professional actor, but I definitely enjoy performing in my free time. This year, I am playing Eliza Doolittle in my school's production of My Fair Lady. Do you play sports? I played volleyball for three years and I just finished my first and only season of cross country running. However, my favorite “sport” is triathlons: swimming, biking, and running in local races around the state. Anything else you'd like to share with us? I think it's important that other young people know that you don't have to have your life planned out by the time you get to college. Figure out what you really care about, and I bet there are a thousand different career paths that you can take to follow your passion.

Thanks, Gabriella, for sharing your passion with us. We wish you the best of luck with It Only Takes A Girl and in college!