Check out Part 1 of our Free2Luv feature with Stephanie Gonzalez, Laya DeLeon Hayes, and LoveSea here.
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 include singer-songwriters GabrieLa, Britten Healey, and Serena Laurel.
For both GabrieLa and Serena, the two got involved with the organization through music. “About 6 years ago, Free2Luv and I crossed paths after they say a music video that I release,” GabrieLa explains. “I was actually starting my own anti-bullying campaign and the video caught their eye, they reached out, we chatted and that was that. I admit—it was pretty much love at first sight.”
“The connection with Free2Luv organically happened after I attended an event they hosted in LA,” Serena starts about her experience. “Then they reached out to me and I hope to continue working with them on more music projects.”
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 for the event?
GabrieLa: Oh gosh—I am so excited about everything that Free2Luv does. Everything they touch turns magical. I am just thrilled for this event to expose the Free2Luv Mission to more folks. They hear our message and tell a friend, and they tell a friend and it snowballs and becomes amazing. I believe there is strength in numbers and it takes a village and this event will help build those numbers and that village.
Britten Healey: My gosh, that is a tough one! In all honesty, music has by far been one of the most important influences in my life. It has an abundance of labels from “shoulder to cry on” to “personal self-esteem booster.” What greater gift than music; the ability to feel something grander, poetry in the form of sound. I can only begin to describe how honored I am to have the privilege of sharing this empowering gift with other youth. ECSTATIC is an understatement that merely scratches the surface of just how full my heart is. UNSTOPPABLE will be one of the most amazing memories of my time, and I am grateful for the opportunity to not only share but celebrate every aspect of it in support of the amazing girls around me.
Serena Laurel: There is such a phenomenal lineup of talented artists performing, and I can’t wait to see the entire show! I am truly honored to be performing as well.
Teenplicity: What all can you share about what you’ll be doing at the event?
GabrieLa: Well, I am a singer and can say that I plan on performing some amazing, beautiful and empowering songs. There is so much music, poetry, books and art out there that share inspiring messages. It was difficult to choose just a few songs that I thought would mean something to someone but I think my choices are pretty amazing. Looking forward to rockin’ the event and hoping that even one word I sing can mean the difference to someone.
Britten Healey: I have been given the privilege of using my voice to empower those around me at the upcoming UNSTOPPABLE event. The song I will be performing holds a place close to my heart; not only does it represent strength in its purest form but embodies lyrics that turn that strength into a greater power. This song represents us empowered youth and how far we have come in finding our true selves. It celebrates our authenticity and allows us to believe in the power of being ourselves, despite the pain you’ve experienced.
Serena Laurel: I have been asked to sing “Who Are We” by Amaal Nuux. It will be my acoustic version of this song.
Teenplicity: This event and organization use creative means such as music, art, dance, fashion, and spoken word to celebrate self-love. What is it about these mediums that you think give it that power?
GabrieLa: For me, I would say it’s all about the creativity of these arts. Being comfortable enough in your own skin and allowing yourself to shine and expose yourself through your words, song, dance – whatever it is you do. Loving yourself and loving what you do and being true to yourself is the most power you can have. No one controls your uniqueness and creativity but you.
Britten Healey: Artists are admired for their ability to make emotion so much more than just a feeling. I believe they have the ability to share a piece of their power with you. Each and every aspect of this event and organization allow for the art of personal expression. What greater representation of self-love than that? The ability to have so much love in your heart that you are able to share it with those around you through music, art, dance, fashion and spoken word has to be one of the most beautiful aspects of self-love; it shows that if artists are capable of having the courage to share a part of themselves with you, can’t you do the same? This act of self-expression highlights the fact that we are unstoppable, incredible, authentically unique, and are capable of accomplishing anything.
Serena Laurel: Creating is innate to humans, it gives humans power. As a songwriter, I find music an influential outlet and a method of healing. I used music as a way to deal with all the problems I have encountered. Most of my songs are a result of working through issues or expressing a feelgood moment.
Teenplicity: Since this is a girl empowerment event, who are some girls or women that have inspired you or continue to inspire you?
GabrieLa: This is a tough one because there are so many. I have been inspired all my life by women in my life that have raised me like my Grandma and my Mom as well as my older sisters. I continue to be inspired by the words of Maya Angelou and by the strength and wisdom of Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. As a singer, I am inspired by the lyrics and message of many artists I adore – and yes, I mean you Lady Gaga. Seriously though – Just so many.
Britten Healey: Both my mom and grandma influence every single aspect of my life. Ever since I can remember, I have always dreamed of being a woman with a soul as beautiful as theirs; a woman with their drive, courage, confidence, intelligence, kindness, and individuality. These two women have endlessly supported me, encouraged my dreams, and served as the best friends I could ever ask for. I respect them with every part of me and have modeled my life around what I believe make them the two most genuinely incredible women. I am eternally grateful to have the privilege of loving them as much as I do. I wouldn’t be half the young woman I am now without them. I owe it all to them, hehe!
Serena Laurel: Nai Palm is a musical artist who inspires me to not only be the best musician I can be but also the better human.
Teenplicity: How do you empower girls and explore or incorporate intersectional feminism in your work?
Serena Laurel: I like to encourage other girls to find the passion that allows them to express their feelings and ideas through a medium of their own. I like to call it a secret power. Find your secret power. My secret power is songwriting.
Teenplicity: When you’re feeling down or insecure, what do you do to empower or uplift yourself?
GabrieLa: For me, I always turn to music. My parents have raised me to be confident and strong and luckily even on a “bad day” I always seem to pull myself up by them britches and get through it all.
Britten Healey: Let’s face it; being a teenager has to be one of the TOUGHEST jobs EVER, am I right? Being completely open and honest, insecurity followed me around in a little dark cloud. It began with my indescribably horrible experiences in public school. Bringing it back to what an amazing woman my mom is, she began to notice my head down and placed pieces of paper on my mirrors saying “Britten, you are beautiful, inside and out”. Simply knowing that I had the love and support of my parents and family helped me to overcome my tough experiences. I learned to love everything around me, and in turn, I learned to love myself. I taught myself that beauty goes so much deeper than what lies on the surface. I learned to love myself for the character of who I am, the beauty I see around me, and for the kindness of my heart. It has brought an entirely new meaning to self-love; there are days I’ll wake up with a giant pimple on my forehead and I’ll just say, “HEY GIRL HEY, YOU ARE KIND AND UNIQUE AND THIS PIMPLE MAKES YOU EVEN MORE UNIQUE BECAUSE I BET NO ONE ELSE HAS A PIMPLE LIKE IT…and that’s that!
Serena Laurel: I go to my favorite things to power-up, I like to eat ice cream, pick up my guitar, talk to my mom and talk to God. Mint tea helps too.
Teenplicity: In the world/era of social media and its role in social awareness, how do you educate yourself and figure out what issues you’re going to use your platform to fight for?
GabrieLa: I have a huge presence in social media and always try to do my best to stay positive and to be a role model to anyone who may be looking at my posts, photos, and music. Sadly, most of the stuff you see in your timeline is surrounded by negativity and hate – it really hurts to see all that going on. It just makes you more aware of how harsh it can be out there and how there will always be someone who needs support from someone and positivity in their life. I knew when I was 12 years old that I wanted to stand up for kids being bullied. I was bullied at school and on social media and it was horrible. I promised myself I would always pay it forward and do anything I could to be a shining light.
Serena Laurel: I pick platforms that relate to things I have personally experienced. I feel that you can fight with more passion on something you know about first hand. I had the year from hell in middle school and was in tears every day because of mean girls. Nobody should have to feel like that at school. The current political climate now has me thinking about a broader range of issues and where I can take a stand. The ability to vote soon will be a big step.
Teenplicity: What does being Unstoppable mean to you?
GabrieLa: Unstoppable to me is just that…I AM UNSTOPPABLE! I am me. I like me – just the way I am. I have dreams and goals and I have every right to go for those dreams and goals and nothing – no person is going to stop me. I will advocate for myself first, always. I am proud to be from a family of strong, independent and smart women and I will do everything I can to honor that.
Britten Healey: To me, being unstoppable means not allowing others to define who you are. YOU are entirely up to YOU, and no one owns the power to diminish that fact. Remaining true to yourself, using strength as power and kindness as confidence paves the road to self-love, making you UNSTOPPABLE against any negative energy that comes your way.
Serena Laurel: This word is for everyone, all inclusive to uplift support and pursue our dreams, passions to live a full life without being torn down by disparaging words or debilitating behavior from others.
Teenplicity: Can you fill this in with your own affirmation: “I’m Free2Luv _______?”
GabrieLa: I’m Free2Luv
Britten Healey: I’m Free2Luv myself.
Serena Laurel: I’m Free2Luv myself, my music, my friends and my red hair. I think I’m Free 2 LUV says it all without filling in the blank.