If you could say anything to the future women of William and Mary, what would you say?
I think I would really urge other women to not be afraid to be loud. Because I think that I’ve gotten where I am by being loud and unapologetic, but ironically, it’s something I still struggle a lot with now. I’m afraid to talk a lot, I’m afraid to post on social media a lot, I’m afraid to have my ideas and thoughts out there. It’s scary, but I’m also very proud of all the work I’ve done, and I think that what I’ve accomplished would not have been known by a lot of people if I hadn’t gone on Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and I hadn’t told people, “Come to this event!” I think that a lot of women are scared to do that because they feel they can come across as being too much, but I would ask them to challenge that for themselves and tell people what they think and mean and care about. To me, if you care and you’re bold and you feel badass, you’re creating more space for them to care and be badass too.
What’s a personal experience that you could talk about where “being loud” worked in your favor?
I’m a co-founder of HEART, which is a group on campus that advocates for survivors of labor and commercial sex trafficking, and tries to educate our campus about the issue of human trafficking. HEART started after I completed a Branch Out service trip where we worked with women in a rough area of Baltimore who were in after-care situations from human trafficking and prostitution. When five of my friends and I got back on campus, we realized there was no organization here that was addressing such a pervasive and devastating issue that affects so many people and ruins lives, even in Williamsburg. We thought that was weird for such a socially progressive campus, so we started HEART. And going back to owning your voice, when HEART started I became our Public Relations chair. I created our Facebook and Instagram accounts and I posted about all our events. I was online a lot and I was sharing a lot, and it often made me feel like I was seeking so much attention because I was telling people all the time, “Read this,” and “Read that.”, “Come to this” and “Come to that!” I was so worried about it for so long, but now I really don’t feel any guilt about projecting what we do and pushing people to come. It’s funny, now a lot of people come up to me and they’re just like, “You’re the girl from HEART!” It’s the best.
I just spoke about how I got started in human trafficking advocacy at our Rally Against Trafficking Event last weekend. I put it on my Facebook page–it’s a video of me talking about my experience working with women and what it’s taught me and how I’ve gotten where I am. I was nervous to share that video because I didn’t know it was being taken until one of my co-chairs sent it to me and said, “You should post this.” My immediate reaction was “Nobody wants to see that. That’s so conceited of me to post a video of myself talking.” But she really forced me to do it, and I’m so glad I did. It was real and it was honest and it was me, and I really realized how satisfying it felt to own myself and the amazing opportunities I’ve had.
I’ve just had so many spaces where I can be loud, and while it’s always uncomfortable at first it is always always worth it. I don’t know how personal we want to get with this this and I’m pretty open about it now, but I’m in recovery from anorexia, so I worked on National Eating Disorders Awareness Week at William and Mary this spring, which was incredible. I did a student panel where I talked about my experience with seven other students. A lot of my friends came to it and a lot of my teammates came to it, which honestly gave me chills. A lot of my teammates had a lot of questions and wanted to just talk to me about it and we actually ended up doing a discussion on my team about food and loving your body, which is something I’m so passionate about. I’ve been loud in that aspect and it has been such a gift–I’ve really tried to help my teammates wherever they are in their recoveries and just tell them, “You’re an athlete. You need to actually really need to take care of yourself and fuel your body and your soul.” I cannot emphasize how important that is for women.
That’s really amazing. I’m speechless.
Thank you so much, it’s so weird, a lot of people come up to me and they’re like, “It’s so cool you did that. You’re so inspirational.” It can still make me feel like a bit of a fraud because I am honestly such a nerd and I don’t have my life together so I laugh when people tell me, “You’re so inspirational” and I’m just like, “That’s so nice of you, but also like, I have nothing together.” I need to acknowledge that imperfection too.
But I also think that’s a really nice perspective to hear.
It’s so nice but I feel like I don’t deserve it and I want to deflect it and say, “Someone else is also doing this really cool thing! Go talk to them!” because really so many people are on this campus. I don’t know, I just feel like I get a lot of undue attention and I’m just like, “Don’t put it on me. There are other people!” but I’m starting to realize how much of a common sentiment that is, and how great it can be to combat that insecurity for yourself.
Listening to all this, you’ve definitely supported the college in so many ways, so kind of on the other side of that, how do you think the college supports you?
I really like that question, honestly, it’s given me a lot of really weird coincidental opportunities where I’ve been able to blend my interests unexpectedly. I’m a double major and one of my majors is Hispanic Studies, so I studied abroad in Spain and did a research project on sex trafficking in Spain, and I investigated what it looks like in Spain, that was so cool. William and Mary has given me all of these opportunities to engage in activism but in the end it’s really given me all these fantastic people I’ve gotten to reach out to and connect with.
I think I’m in a position now where I really tried to seize everything around me, so now it’s kind of like a full circle effect where opportunities are seizing me. I’ve gotten messages on Facebook where other students will write, “Hey do this thing. Hey, speak on this panel.” And I’m like, “Me? You want me to speak on a panel?” But it’s so so nice. That’s how I heard about this opportunity, my teammates told me, “we nominated you for this Humans of William and Mary!” And I was so appreciative, I nearly cried.
Definitely. I think that’s really important that you’re given the opportunity to speak out.
Absolutely, speaking out has been everything. Plus aside from all the work, it’s such a beautiful school and I walk around and I’m always like, “This isn’t real. I’ve met the most incredible friends here and the best people that have saved me.”
So on one last thing, what kind of new perspective do you think you are bringing on campus now and you will continue to bring?
I think that I’d like to dig into the idea of what it means to be too loud, but also how you can be intersectional and intentional in what you care about, and you can be powerful by being vulnerable. I wear this ampersand ring on my index finger, because it represents my recovery and reminds me of how far I’ve come. I worked with a eating disorder treatment group where we talked a lot about the power of “and”–like how you can be two things at once. I’m a runner, so I really like to work hard and push my body, so I think that you can be an athlete and tough and gritty and also be very feminine. Or you can be very socially active and be loud. That’s okay. You can give yourself permission to be both things. There’s this amazing interview I watch of this creator named Elisa Goodkind where she says “It’s almost like I love life too much.” And I completely relate to that. I love life too much and I love people too much, but I’d like to keep challenging that for myself and for other women. But you can be vulnerable AND too passionate AND uncertain about it all, it’s all this beautiful mess.