In 2011, Free2Luv came into fruition as a platform for young people to use their voice and advocate for themselves and other young people which according to co-founder Tonya Sandis, was specifically created in response to bullying and the teen suicide epidemic. Since then, Free2Luv has Advocates in 27 states and 18 countries who work to use their platforms in order to raise self-esteem and empower youth.
This Saturday, March 10, 2018, the organization is throwing their music-driven event UNSTOPPABLE; a girl empowerment event dedicated to raising self-esteem, self-image, and self-love through the use of the arts. Among their celebrity ambassadors attending and taking part in the event are Stephanie Gonzalez (sports personality), Laya DeLeon Hayes (Doc McStuffins), and the events lineup also includes up-and-coming artist LoveSea the Poet.
“First of all, I’m so proud and honored to be part of Free2Luv,” Stephanie begins about how she got involved with organization around 2012. “I completely fell in love with them and everything that they stood for. In conversation, I told my agent about this nonprofit organization I saw online and told her that I’d love to help them in some way.” What drew Stephanie to Free2Luv was the organization’s mission, something that described as dear and close to her heart, “No kid should ever be bullied. No kid should feel afraid or unloved. I love that we’re making a difference in so many people’s lives.”
Laya became an Ambassador with Free2Luv similarly. “I got involved with Free2Luv because I wanted to support this organization against bullying and wanted to spread more love among my peers, family, and friends,” Laya says.
LoveSea adds, “I got involved with Free2Luv through a friend who referred me to one of their events to perform. After I performed, I met Tonya Sandis. We spoke [and] her energy was great so we exchanged info and it pretty much went from there.”
Below, we discuss what they’re most excited for regarding the Unstoppable event, girl empowerment, the power of art, and what it means to be Unstoppable.
Teenplicity: What are you most excited about this event?
Stephanie Gonzalez: Ahhh where do I begin?! The fact that I will be surrounded by amazing, beautiful, talented, strong women is more than enough, right? Haha. But in all honesty, I cannot wait to be in a room filled with so many beautiful souls. Stephanie Rice and Ddendyl are friends of mine and those girls can SING!!!! I can’t wait to jam out to their music, hear breathtaking voices and inspiring poetry for a few hours. It will be a nice way to remind myself and everyone around me that life is beautiful and we have to enjoy every second of it. And I also can’t wait to meet new people/make new friends!
Laya DeLeon Hayes: I’m very excited to attend this event to show support for all the strong women out there and to support self-love, independence and confidence! I’m also excited to perform with my friends and other performers.
LoveSea the Poet: The thing I am most excited about for the event is, getting the opportunity to uplift the youth. I know it’s cliché, but they really are our future, and I feel the way we treat the youth, as adults will determine how they will treat us when they’re adults, and how they will deal with the world just in general.
Teenplicity: What all can you share about what you’ll be doing for this event?
Stephanie Gonzalez: I am the host of the event. I will also be doing “red carpet” coverage before the event. I will get to chat with our celebrities/guests and get a little behind the scenes action for everyone before the event starts!
Laya DeLeon Hayes: I’m excited to attend, support this event and spread lots of love! I’ll also be singing a beautiful neo-soul song.
Teenplicity: This event and organization use creative means like music, art, dance, fashion, and spoken word to celebrate self-love. What is it about these mediums that you think give it that power?
Stephanie Gonzalez: Wow. This is a great question! Well, I have such a love for music, art, and dance. Growing up, there were moments where I needed to get away for a little bit and music was a great escape. I believe that music is the common denominator amongst people. It is a great unifier; it brings people together from so many different walks of life. No matter race, gender or even hairstyle, music is something that we all feel and that we can relate to.
Laya DeLeon Hayes: These mediums give it that power because they show that we can express ourselves in many ways. Self-expression is very powerful! We can be who we want to be and feel free to express ourselves in a positive, beautiful light no matter what other people think of us.
LoveSea the Poet: I think the thing that gives these art forms and/or mediums their power is the subjectivity. The beauty of being able to experience said art forms based on the emotion it provokes out of you, and the fact that each person will experience the work based on their own perspectives makes the possibilities endless as far as the kind of affect your work can have on people. (Hope that makes sense lol.) I believe art forms that have been chosen are very influential.
Teenplicity: Who are some girls or women who have empowered you?
Stephanie Gonzalez: There are a lot of women in my life who inspire me. I wish I could name them all! My mom is one of them. She’s always taking care of us, loving us, and she gets things done! Something she would tell us growing up was, “If you can’t do it with your feet, do it with your toes!” It somehow makes sense, right? Haha. Also, my best-friend Temryss Lane is another woman who inspires me. Her love for life and wisdom has helped me through some hard times. I hope everyone has a Temryss in their life. I also love Sandra Bullock. She’s gone through some tough things in life but she still manages to be strong, funny, hardworking, and loving. She’s definitely one of my favs!
Laya DeLeon Hayes: My mom, Zendaya, Beyonce, and Oprah inspire me and continue to inspire me because they all promote women empowerment and they stand up for what they believe in.
LoveSea the Poet: My Mother is the woman who inspires me daily. Just being in contact with a woman in her rawest form, through good and bad, up and down, she teaches me how to be Unstoppable. She is my definition, if not the definition, of what it means to be Unstoppable as a woman in this world. She’s super dope, and I couldn’t ask for a better Mother, ya heard? Lol
Teenplicity: How do you empower girls and explore or incorporate intersectional feminism in your work?
Stephanie Gonzalez: I worked in sports for 8 years and this can easily be a man’s world. But I was honored to be the first and only female reporter for this sports team that I worked with. It made me realize that you can do anything you set your mind to, no matter what the statistics say and no matter what opinions others may have. I love telling young girls my story and love telling them not to give up. We can do anything we want to do, it’s our time.
Laya DeLeon Hayes: As the voice of Doc McStuffins I’m able to show other girls that look like me that they can pursue their dreams no matter what they choose to be.
Teenplicity: When you’re feeling down or insecure, what do you do to empower or uplift yourself?
Stephanie Gonzalez: I love to listen to some good music, and by good music, I mean powerful voices! There’s something about listening to good singers that lifts me up. I also remind myself of my goals and what I’ve accomplished so far. It’s easy to think about the things that you haven’t done, but it’s also super important to acknowledge what you HAVE accomplished to date. I also like to lie on my couch and watch some TV with my pups! Haha. It’s ok to stop for a bit, wear no makeup, put on your sweatpants and just lay low. It’s a great way to recharge, to give yourself a break and some self-love.
Laya DeLeon Hayes: When I need encouragement I keep a positive attitude, surround myself with my family and friends that love and support me and I continue to move forward. I also listen to inspiring music that motivates me to focus on what’s important and it gives me the strength to achieve my goals.
LoveSea the Poet: When I’m feeling down or insecure I cry, I cry out to God, I converse with him, then I ask for the strength to get through what I’m feeling. Afterward, I’m usually exhausted so if I’m somewhere I can rest I’ll more than likely take a nap, knowing that after I’ve surrendered my heavy heart I can rest and wake up feeling light and re-energized.
Teenplicity: In the world/era of social media and its role in social awareness, how do you educate yourself and figure out what social issues you’re going to use your platform to fight for?
Stephanie Gonzalez: I like to read and stay up to date with issues. I will always fight for love, equality, and peace.
Laya DeLeon Hayes: I keep up with current events in the world by watching the news and reading articles about what’s going on. This gives me a good understanding of how I can support other girls, my peers, and my family.
Teenplicity: What does being Unstoppable mean to you?
Stephanie Gonzalez: To me, being unstoppable means being yourself and not saying sorry It means continuing your journey and going towards your dreams no matter how many people tell you no. No matter how many people may say you won’t make it far, you gotta keep going. At the end of the day, it’s YOUR journey, YOUR dreams, and not theirs. Only you can stop yourself. So let’s be unstoppable!
Laya DeLeon Hayes: Being Unstoppable means not worrying about what others say about me, focusing on what I need to do to make my goals a reality and how I can become a better person.
LoveSea the Poet: Hmmm, it means being able to get back up after you fall, no matter how many times you fall. It means not giving up even when you want to. It means being the truest form of yourself in spite of lack support or heart ships you may endure along with your journey. It means being vulnerable and courageous all at the same time. It means standing up to your fears and helping others stand up to theirs. Being Unstoppable is an amazing gift, and it is something I aspire to be every day.
Teenplicity: Can you fill this in with your own affirmation: “I’m Free2Luv _______?”
Stephanie Gonzalez: I’m Free2Luv the way I am.
Laya DeLeon Hayes: I’m Free2Luv everyone.
LoveSea the Poet: I’m Free2Luv myself.