Growing up can be so difficult! Children and young adults are constantly faced with feeling inadequate and insufficient. Personally, I remember many days wishing I could be someone else or be treated better. When I had the pleasure of meeting Stacey Lorin Merkl I was riveted to know the great work she was doing helping young girls and boys embrace and love themselves.
She is a native of Denver, Colorado and has taught theater and music to children and teens at various arts centers in Colorado, Seattle, Paris (France) and New York City. For many years it has been Stacey’s goal to combine her love of theater arts with her passion for social change and education.
Check out our interview with this inspirational entrepreneur!
Natasha: Was there an aha moment that led you to create Realize Your Beauty? If not, what was the story like?
Stacey: From a young age I knew that theater would be a part of my professional life in some capacity.
When I was about 14 yrs old, I had a mentor who used theater/music as a means to help those infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. When I was 15 I began performing with his organization, helping with the fundraisers, etc. The “aha” moment came when I realized I could use what skills I had in theater arts as a means to help others. For me, that realization changed everything.
Natasha: Why did you decide that theater arts was the best way to address body image issues with children and adolescents?
Stacey: Theater is an incredibly powerful tool for social change. When using theater to present to the public, the audience has the opportunity to connect with the characters on an emotional level, not just cognitive. The young people we perform for go through the journey with the characters, and learn as they go. You don’t have that same experience with a PowerPoint presentation.
Natasha: What are some common issues that young girls and young boys have about their bodies?
Stacey: We’ve worked with many different students of various backgrounds and experiences. The common thread that I’ve found is that often, students feel they don’t measure up to the cultural ideal, and therefore they are somehow deficient or not good enough. What the cultural ideal is that they are trying to achieve may change based on experience and background, but the feeling of being ‘not good enough’ is a common thread we see in our workshops with young people.
Natasha: What are some challenges your students face in life, school, and personally?
Stacey: Very often the students we work with have been waiting for a platform to discuss the topics we raise with them. A lot of students feel pressure to fit into a certain mold- fit a certain ideal. It helps them to see that their classmates feel the same way. I am constantly moved by how open and honest the students are with one another.
Natasha: What is your favorite part of the program?
Stacey: That’s a difficult question to answer! One thing that I particularly enjoy about running the organization is the many different possibilities for programs & outreach. We have so many ideas, and are constantly developing new programs & performances. Continuing to grow our programs and bring them to young people is a thought that brings a great deal of joy.
Natasha: If you could go back and give advice to yourself as a teenager, what would you say?
Stacey: I would tell myself that I’m just fine the way I am. That I don’t need to try to be anyone I’m not. You can’t focus on what others say, or try to change to please them to fit a certain mold. I’m just me- and that’s enough.
Natasha: What advice do you have to young people struggling with self-love or self-acceptance?
Stacey: We are most beautiful when we are the most ourselves. Everyone has unique gifts to offer to the world. Whenever you’re not feeling good enough, try to remember these qualities you have to offer. I think a great deal of self-love and acceptance comes from kindness. When we can learn to be kind to ourselves, we can learn to be kind to others. Through this kindness and self-love, we will see real change in this world.