Guest Story by Celeste
In the 8th grade, I talked myself and a friend into auditioning for the local Teen Board. Teen Boards provide an opportunity for young men and women between the ages of thirteen to eighteen years, to represent and work with their local malls to produce fashion shows, create special events and participate in community service projects. It was promoted as a way to increase teens’ sense of self-worth and self-esteem through the positive impact they have on their own community.
I did not think I had a chance to get in. For me, it was a way to do things I normally would not do. I did not see a dark brown, chubby girl like I was walking the runways at the local malls. The audition was an experiment. Because I did not see myself as Teen Board material I had no worries about auditioning. I threw caution to the wind and performed in front of a panel of judges. I went home with my friend and we laughed about it.
Weeks later I got what I expected would be a rejection letter from the Teen Board staff. At first, I decided not to open it but since I did not expect an affirmation I opened the letter. Inside there was a congratulatory note with instructions for getting started as a member of the new Teen Board. In shock and terror I told my mother who made it clear that I would have to show up. I cried because I did not want to be looked at or made fun of. I thought that they had made a mistake and once they saw this dark girl they would send me home.
With great trepidation I showed up for orientation and was welcomed by the Teen Board staff. All the girls I thought would get in were there. I was the only black member, the dark girl in the group. Because I was selected and given the opportunity to be seen in public venues I learned to ignore the nagging fear of rejection and humiliation. I participates in summer fashion shows, learned modeling techniques and fashion coordination and experienced behind the scenes action at fashion shows. I wore makeup and dressed in clothing I never wore before. Before I realized it I forgot I was the lone dark girl. I was a teen fashionista and worthy of enjoying the many social aspects of being an insider.
Being an insider even when people alienate or exclude me because of my color or appearance is a state of mind and I carry that Teen Board experience with me to board rooms and national organizations where I’ve been asked to take the lead.
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