Posted Suzanna McCloskey on 3/2/2015 |Featured Columns & Series
This year, Girls on the Run will serve its one-millionth girl! We’re honoring this milestone by celebrating what makes each of us one in a million and by showcasing some one-in-a-million women who have made exceptional contributions to empowering girls and women.
For the past 20 years, Jess Weiner has encouraged people to share their individual stories through her work as a social entrepreneur, speaker, writer and educator. As Dove’s Global Self-Esteem Ambassador for nearly the past decade, she has become an expert on inspiring confidence in women and girls. Jess has authored two best-selling books about the importance of love, body image and acceptance and serves as the CEO of Talk to Jess, a consulting company that creates authentic, compelling messages for female audiences and advises brands about the issues facing women and girls today. Jess also teaches personal branding and entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California.
Here's what Jess has to share about being one in a million.
Q: Girls on the Run envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams! How did you start to realize your own limitless potential and pursue the path to where you are today?
Jess: For as long as I can remember I have loved being creative and have always had a strong desire to express myself and put myself out there. While I may have had moments of doubt, I’ve worked really hard to not let those moments sway me from pursuing my vision.
Q: Of the traits and achievements that help make you one-in-a-million, what stands out most to you?
Jess: My desire to grow and evolve. It came as a surprise to me that I wouldn’t always want the same things in my life and that some dreams have to be put aside in order to go down a new path. Learning how to do that has helped me take on new challenges over the years and to continue to grow both professionally and personally.
Q: Girls on the Run believes that big things are possible when you keep moving forward. One of the ways our girls experience that is when they cross the finish line at the 5k that celebrates their completion of the program. Can you share an example from your own life?
Jess: I realized very quickly after graduating college that the nine-to-five world wasn’t for me. I had a strong desire to help people and had a lot of experience on the stage. I was able to merge those two passions into a social cause theatre company with a $5,000 grant that I had earned. I put on programs for at-risk youth and eventually took the show on the road, performing for schools around the country for over six years. The theatre company I formed has been the foundation of my career and something I will always be immensely proud of being a part of.
Q: Which one of the core values of Girls on the Run resonates most with you and why?
Jess: The core value “Embrace our differences and find strength in our connectedness,” resonates with me the most. I believe that every person on this planet has something to offer and is of value. I believe that everybody’s story is important and should be heard and seen. I also believe that we are stronger together than we are apart.
Q: One of the many things our curriculum teaches girls is how to recognize and work through challenges in productive ways. What is a challenge you have faced (or still face)? How did/do you respond, and what have you learned from it?
Jess: A challenge I continue to face is finding harmony between the different sides of who I am. I am an entrepreneur and a creative being, and it is important that I embrace, celebrate and explore both of those things. Being able to do the work I do is so fulfilling because I am passionate about changing the way the stories of women and girls are told by today’s media makers. The creative part of me needs an outlet as well, something that I hope to pursue more in 2015.
Q: What insight or advice would you offer a young girl today? What would you say now to your 8-year-old self?
Jess: My advice for both my younger self and a young girl today is to embrace who you are, wherever you are right at this moment! Sometimes we get so caught up in the desire to grow up and become something else that we miss the chance to really enjoy all that being young has to offer. Right now is the perfect time to be explorers of the world and to chase all the ideas that come your way…don’t be afraid to do that. Be a sponge!
We also invite you to put on your party hat and check out our virtual One in a Million celebration at girlsontherun.org. We'll be updating it regularly with new activities and showcasing some of the fun ways people are marking this million-girl milestone with us!