Remember when I said I had cupcake fever? I think it’s turned into cupcake craze … As you all probably know, for the rest of the summer (when I’m not working at Food Net Mag) I’ll be camped out at She’s the First – an incredible non-profit organization that sponsors girls in developing countries who are the first in their families to graduate from high school!
As I start to learn more about the organization, I’m becoming more invested in the story and the inspiration behind everything they do. I’m currently working to develop materials for our big fundraising campaign, a National Tie-Dye Cupcake Bake-Off happening in November.
Why tie-dye cupcakes?
To find out, I caught up with Lindsay Brown – the Notre Dame college student who inspired them and even traveled to Nepal last year to spend time with the girls she sponsored.
Lindsay is a SEVENTEEN PRETTY AMAZING FINALIST … and on top of that, she’s spending her summer as an intern in Cambodia working for an NGO that works with young sex trafficking survivors and victims of sexual abuse.
Describe what it’s like to be a Pretty Amazing FINALIST? What have you done so far and what is happening now?
Being a Pretty Amazing Finalist is surreal. I found out the morning I left for Cambodia, so two days later when I got to Phnom Penh and went on the internet, I was blown away by how many people were tweeting about the contest and sharing the link on Facebook. It was crazy to see how much support I had! I flew to New York City for one week in June to meet the four other finalists and do press events.
We attended a luncheon with celebrity judges Emma Roberts, Jared Eng, and Seventeen Magazine Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket. At the luncheon we each had to give a speech and then were interviewed individually by the three judges. Beforehand, I was somewhat nervous, but over the past year I’ve noticed that the second I start talking about She’s the First and my soccer girls in Nepal in front of a large group of people, my nerves disappear. Sharing these girls’ stories is so important to me, it’s the reason why I was inspired to get involved with She’s the First and why I entered the contest in the first place. My hope is for Seventeen readers to see my story and want to get involved too.
The rest of the week consisted of a make over and two photo shoots. It was fun getting all “glammed up.” I’m so used to being dirty on a soccer field or working in a developing country. I was nervous for the cover photo shoot, they put me in 6-inch heels and had me jump around with wind blowing hair into my mouth- I bet it was a pretty funny scene to watch. But after a few minutes, I got the hang of it. The entire week I kept reminding myself how much fun it will be to tell the Kopila (Nepal) girls all about it – I bet they won’t even believe it’s me in the pictures because they are so used to me with my hair in a bun sweating to death!
For my second photo shoot I went to a soccer field with a local New York girls’ team. The girls were awesome and even donated soccer equipment for my new nonprofit organization. It was a lot of fun taking pictures with them and having them there eased my nerves. A lot of their moms have emailed me since, asking how they can help their 8-year-old daughters organize tie-dye cupcake bake sales in the fall. That’s my favorite part about this entire experience, sharing how something as simple as a cupcake can change a girl’s life and then seeing people want to get involved!
What initially drove you to the cupcake campaign?
At the start of my sophomore year, I offered to take over She’s the First for a girl in my dorm who was studying abroad. At the time we weren’t even a registered club on campus. My teammate Maddie Fox and I decided a bake sale would be a simple way to raise the $300 needed to re-sponsor the girl from the previous year. Our goal was to host 3 bake sales and earn $100 each time. To our surprise we made $400 within the first 2 hours. We went ahead with the additional two bake sales and altogether raised more than $1000, enough to send three girls to school. We were beyond shocked with our success. We owe a lot of credit to the Notre Dame community. Once we explained who we were raising money for and why, students would donate $5 and ask for no change back, it was pretty cool to see people our own age being so generous.
Have any funny stories about your experience with the kids in Nepal?
One of my favorite stories is about the first soccer game my girls’ team ever played. It took us 6 weeks to find another girls’ team in town to play against. Technically, they weren’t even a team- my Kopila girls had convinced about 12 girls from a nearby school to finally play us. When the other girls showed up they all were wearing bright red lipstick. All my girls turned to me with this terrified look on their face saying “Oh my god they are so big and pretty they are going to kill us.” I laughed because if my soccer team back in the US ever played a team that was wearing lipstick we’d think they were a joke of a team and that we could easily win.
Once the girls started playing I couldn’t even tell they were nervous. I even had to ask them to stop scoring. These girls have been raised to think that your beauty determines your value, so even though I kind of felt bad for the other team, it made me feel good to be able to show the Kopila girls you can be strong, competitive, even aggressive and still be a “beautiful” girl. I think the cooler part was I didn’t even have to tell them that, they slowly began to realize it by playing soccer. (See this story in her latest blog post, here!)
If you could say anything to millions of teen girls both here and abroad, what would it be and why?
Don’t let the enormity of any problem overwhelm you. Start small. One cupcake turned into one academic sponsorship in Nepal and has now turned into over 50 girls’ academic sponsorships on 3 different continents. If I were to become overwhelmed by the fact that millions of girls still remain out of school I would fail the one little girl I started with. If you’re passionate about something it’s contagious- other people will join in … and before you know it you’ve created a powerful wave of change.
Where will you be in 10 years? In 20 years?
In 10 years I hope to be working for the UN or World Bank as an advocate for women’s empowerment. This summer I’ve been exposed to the atrocities of human sex trafficking as well as the complexities involved in putting an end to it. It’s obvious these women and girls have been exploited because they lack an education, do not know their own rights, and men do not respect them whatsoever. I hope that whichever career I end up in, I will be able to raise awareness about this issue internationally. More importantly, I wish to help girls escape the sex industry, get the chance to go to school, and create better lives for themselves and their children.
In 20 years, I hope girls playing pick-up soccer games in developing countries like Nepal and Cambodia is a norm. I believe this will be a sign that gender equality has been achieved. I hope my nonprofit organization, The SEGway Project, can play a role in achieving this!