TAKE RISKS. You can’t change the world if you aren’t willing to grow and change yourself at the same time.
Let rejection drive you. Think of rejection as redirection: do not give up. If I had given up when I was 17 and let that producer stop me, I would’ve never landed Fearless Everyday. Let rejection lead you.
As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexa Curtis of Life Unfiltered with Alexa & Be Fearless Summit.
Born and raised in small town Mansfield, Connecticut, Alexa Curtis knew she was different. She didn’t fit into the “normal social mold.” When she entered middle school, all the bullying she endured led her to needing an outlet to escape. In 2011, at just 12 years old, she started a fashion blog; A Life in the Fashion Lane. It became a platform for her to express her feelings around everything relating to teens, body image and mental health.
As Curtis evolved as a person, her blog naturally shifted from fashion to discussing sensitive topics that teens and young adults face every day. A Life in the Fashion Lane was changed to Life Unfiltered with Alexa Curtis and became a lifestyle website and podcast for teens & parents discussing topics such as social media and mental health. Not only did Curtis turn her little fashion blog into a full-time lifestyle platform for teens, through cold-pitching, she managed to get sponsored by brands like British Airways, T-Mobile, Lands’ End and more.
In 2018, Alexa founded the Be Fearless Summit, which is a pop-up summit that appeared at Drexel University on March 15th, 2020. The next summit was slated for April 1, 2020 at UC Berkeley. Sponsors include Headspace, Shake Shack and Morphe.
Curtis has spoken at numerous colleges; Northeastern, UConn, Eastern Connecticut, Rutgers along with high schools — discussing how to be fearless as well as mental health and social media. In October 2018, Curtis spoke alongside Amal Clooney and Serena Williams at Penn Women and in Sept 2018, Curtis added ‘host’ to her arsenal as she launched her own radio show on Radio Disney called “Fearless Every Day” with Alexa Curtis. “Fearless Every Day” was the first of its kind and broke new ground for the Radio Disney brand. Alexa interviewed various guests who shared their journey of overcoming obstacles/challenges and chasing after their dreams.
When Curtis is not hard at work, she meditates frequently and makes time for hobbies like cooking and exercising to keep herself grounded. Although she is based in Los Angeles, she spends part of her time on the east coast.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?
I grew up in a very small town in Eastern Connecticut called Mansfield. Serious farm vibes! My mom was a nurse and my dad was in sales- my entrepreneurial journey was totally unexpected. I struggled with making friends, even going to school and especially, studying — I certainly think everyone thought I’d either be mega-successful or a total flop! I don’t think I’d have the drive or passion I have now to be successful if I hadn’t grown up with very little.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
When I was 7, my father was wrongfully convicted and put in a maximum-security prison. The year he got out was the year I started my blog (I was 12-years-old) so two projects that come to mind are REFORM and the Innocence Project. As I got older and started to work through the trauma I endured as a kid, these two organizations truly inspired me to keep persevering. The more involved I got with them, the more I realized how people truly can overcome anything they endure.
You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?
I run two brands: the Be Fearless Summit, which is a college summit program that teams up with colleges across the country to host pop-up summits, and then my personal brand, Life Unfiltered. The summit program enables me to take a step back and not be the center of attention. Whether you’re involved with the Be Fearless Summit or you enjoy following me personally, all I can ask is that you walk away feeling inspired and secure with who you are. I want young adults to know being not okay is okay, that rejection is part of the journey, and that your journey truly starts when you take the leap towards doing whatever scares you.
Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?
I launched my blog back in 2011 because I was insecure and sheltered. What 12-year-old isn’t insecure? Over the years, I began to realize how much I hated everything besides writing and fashion. The blog became my fuel to keep me inspired when I was struggling with finding myself. The more involved I got with the entertainment industry and began pitching my own TV segments, and then landed my show on Radio Disney, the more confidence I had that I could run my own company. Every day that I get to speak to a new young adult and share my story, and vice versa, the more inspired I feel. The energy I get from being around excited and hungry young adults gets me HYPED.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
When I was 17, I cold-pitched a show to a big production company, flew out to LA from Boston with my best friend, and thought the meeting was going to make my career take off. Well it didn’t, and I walked away feeling like total crap. I had never been told I’d be unsuccessful by someone in such a high position. 3 years later, where was I filming my Radio Disney show, Fearless Everyday? Directly across the street. You only fail when you give up — screw what people think.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I’ve been lucky to mentor hundreds of young adults. Every day I get emails from teens about how they were rejected and didn’t give up because I told them not to, or they emailed their dream mentor because they thought, why not? All of those stories make me realize how impactful sharing my positive and negative experiences as a young founder are. The more authentic I am, the more I impact.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
This question has so many levels to it, and the answer depends on how you look at changing the world. For me, my ability to connect and share my story from childhood to now is unique because the story is difficult and raw. The more I’m able to share and experience, the more I hope to make a difference in someone’s life.
I’m very excited about this new mentor program we’re launching with the Be Fearless Summit because it’s like the Tinder for mentorship, which hasn’t been done before. By matching mentees with mentors in a seamless fashion, we hope each mentor/mentee relationship will make a difference in both of their lives.
Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.
- TAKE RISKS. You can’t change the world if you aren’t willing to grow and change yourself at the same time.
- Let rejection drive you. Think of rejection as redirection: do not give up. If I had given up when I was 17 and let that producer stop me, I would’ve never landed Fearless Everyday. Let rejection lead you.
- Connect with people similar to you. Though I never fit in during middle school, I was able to create such a strong community via blogging. In the moments I felt weak, I felt inspired by my counterparts.
- Don’t compare yourself to people on social media. Social media is a highlight reel: getting caught up in the scrolling will only make you feel insecure.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes. I’ve made so many mistakes I couldn’t even count them on my fingers and toes — and I’m obsessed with saying that. Mistakes make you LEARN!
What are the values that drive your work?
Reliability, open- mindedness and consistency are key. You seriously must have all 3 to be successful.
Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?
This is such a great question! Meditating, exercising and knowing when I’m getting burnt out are such a huge part of my routine. I was finally able to start meditating (unguided) last year and it’s been super practical for me before and after a busy day. Learning and understanding yourself and your personal morals/values will help you not only find yourself more, but truly lead you to living a fulfilled and happy life. I also think being uncomfortable helps you become fearless — do something everyday that makes you a little bit uncomfortable.
In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!
The past year has been difficult for so many. like to see college more affordable, the government way less corrupt, and the justice system more organized. I’d change a lot! Having a President like Trump in office for 4 years brought us back in many ways, especially with women’s rights, so it now means we have to catch up and fight harder to get back to the place we were years ago. I don’t blame everything on him, but having such a bad President in office didn’t help anyone or anything for years. Social media is becoming a seriously unhealthy and scary place for young adults — I wouldn’t also mind seeing more control over social media and what young adults can access on a daily basis. There’s no reason to sit and scroll through social media platforms when you’re 12, 13, 14 for hours a day.
We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?
I’d hire a co-CEO and CFO, that’s for sure. By the time I’m 27 I admire to have a full-time team around me! I’d love to expand the mentor program into an app ASAP (but it’s expensive), be able to take a few more risks financially, and continue to take on unpaid speaking gigs and opportunities for the right reasons. I rarely say no to opportunities that will impact people — money isn’t why I do what I do.
I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?
I grew up going to public schools with tons of kids and I struggled. I struggled all the time and was never given the attention I needed to excel, and I bet many young people face the same thing. Similar to the justice system, schools are underfunded. I’d like to see teachers trained in other areas rather than just traditional subjects (how about yoga, or guitar, or fashion?) and teach more on mental health. How cool would a class on social media and mental health be, required in EVERY school, like health class? Let’s start there!
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Do what you love because it will impact someone around you or in your community. Don’t follow money or fame because if you start anything with that intention, you won’t be successful. I promise.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Michelle Obama, Halsey and Sara Blakely! Hit me up, ladies!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
@alexa_curtis, @befearlesssummit, www.lifeunfilteredwithalexa.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!