By Elizabeth Gracen:
If you've been following me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you've probably heard about a new January 1, 2020 project launch called THE GEN Z COLLECTIVE. Along with my co-producers Sandra Marbaise and Shana Blevins—and a talented team of editors, writers, and the inspiring voices of our nation's youth, we have created a powerful platform for Generation Z youth to express themselves by submitting their own videos to the project that will screen on Instagram and The Gen Z Collective YouTube Channel. The Gen Z Collective website serves as a massive, ever-growing database for young people to connect with others all across the USA and find help for the issues that concern them most—whether that be on a personal level or the "big picture" global issues facing the world. Needless to say, it's a big undertaking, but the idea is to help our country's youth harness their energy to help them make the world a better place for all.
Over the past couple years, I've interviewed hundreds of Gen Z activists at various marches and protests and filmed sit-down interviews with even more of them in a number of states—all in an attempt to find out what they are thinking, what they are worried about, and how they intend to take on the powers that be in order to transform the world. The most fascinating and rewarding part of the process has been the actual interaction with the young people who make up Generation Z. I've said it many times, and it is the truth: without a doubt, I always walk away from these interactions with a hopeful spirit, convinced that if we can manage not to blow it all up before Gen Z can take the reigns, our world will be in good hands.
Over the course of this coming year, Flapper Press will feature stories by, about, and for Generation Z members. We thought it would interesting for you to see what the future looks like through their eyes. I have no doubt that you'll be inspired by their ideas and warrior spirits. The first Generation Z powerhouse I would like to introduce you to is Gracie K.
Gracie K. is a YouTube and Instagram sensation with over 1 million followers. She is an ASMR star who uses her social media influencer status to help her generation cope with anxiety, body issues, and mental illness. THE GEN Z COLLECTIVE is proud to have her onboard as our first spokesperson for the project. We are more than stoked to have Gracie with us to spread the news.
Please meet this charming Gen Z powerhouse—Gracie K!
EG: Gracie, thank you so much for talking to me today. I’ve seen so much
footage of you recently, I feel like I know you, but can you tell our readers a
little bit about yourself?
Gracie K: Yes, of course. I am a 16 year old that loves life. If I’m not making YouTube videos, you can find me out exploring nature, riding horses, or creating a new art piece. I spread awareness for things such as climate change and mental illness. I was very sick due to anorexia, and I also used to have a disease called transverse myelitis that made me paralyzed at age 12. I had to work really hard to learn how to walk again. Going through and overcoming those obstacles made me realize how beautiful and valuable life is. I am trying to send a message of love and acceptance across social media. I want people to know that life is wonderful if you choose to have a positive mindset.
EG: I have a fourteen-year-old daughter, and I have to confess that I did not
know what ASMR was until recently when she told me. Can you explain it to
our readers? What is it? Why do people listen to ASMR recordings? How and
why did you begin recording ASMR videos?
Gracie K: ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. ASMR is a comforting, relaxing, tingly sensation that typically starts in the back of your head and travels down your spine. ASMR helps people with anxiety, depression, insomnia, etc. ASMR has helped me through all of my struggles, so I started to make ASMR videos in hopes that I would help others the way it has helped me in the past. I ended up helping people, and that is something that I truly cherish and value.
EG: I know that you have spoken quite openly about your journey with eating
disorders, do you have a message for someone struggling right now who may
Gracie K: My main message is that you don’t need to be scared or ashamed to ask for help. Many may think that asking for help is weak, but it is actually a sign of strength, because you have the courage to accept the fact that you are struggling. Asking for help is the best thing you can do for yourself. Your beauty isn’t defined by your looks and appearance. Your beauty is based upon who you are as a person, your character, and how you treat others. You are strong, and I believe in you.
EG: You begin your videos with “Hello, my lovely flower children.” Where did this come from? Is there something in particular that inspired you to create this approach? It’s lovely.
Gracie K: My family has always called me a flower child or a hippie child. I wanted to jazz up my somewhat boring and typical YouTube intro, so I started to call my viewers “flower children.” I also see my subscribers as family, so it just made sense to me.
EG: I’ve talked to a lot of kids in your generation over the past couple of years, filming interviews and talking to kids at various protests and marches. Do you get involved in the same way?
Gracie K: I definitely spread awareness for popular march/protest subjects, especially climate change. I have taken part in several climate strikes. I live in such a small town, and it is hard to get involved in marches and protests because there aren’t many around. That is why last year, I organized my own Fridays for Future school strike in my small town, so that we could join Greta Thunberg in bringing awareness to the climate crisis.
EG: How are you feeling about the world in general right now? And how do you feel about the future? Are you optimistic or pessimistic? Why?
Right now I see the world is struggling, however I see potential and lots of it. Future generations are in danger, but so many people are waking up to the problems and are actually starting to do something about it. I am very optimistic. I believe in the power of the people. Am I concerned? . . . Yes. Do I have faith in my generation? . . . A hard yes. I also believe that in the end, love always wins, even if I don’t know what that will look like.
EG: You are still very young to answer this question, but do you have any ideas about what you’d like to do with your life going forward? What impact would you like to make on the world?
Gracie K: I really would love to be an art therapist or regular therapist. I love art, and I love helping people, so why not mix both and be an art therapist. I have gone to some in the past, and they have helped me tremendously. I want to work with kids at an eating disorder clinic. I remember when I was in rehab for my eating disorder, and I just wanted a therapist that understood me. You never truly understand an eating disorder until you have one. That’s why I feel so drawn to becoming a therapist.
EG: Your artwork is just wonderful. How did you get started making art? How important is art in your life? How do you express yourself through art?
Gracie K: Thank you! I have always been an artistic person. Art has been one of the main things that I turn to when I am struggling. It is my coping mechanism. I process and work through my emotions when I am creating art. I am able to create my own universe and really become grounded. I am a very expressive person. By that I mean it isn’t always paint and paper art that I do. I express myself through the artistic way that I dress, and the songs I play on the piano.
EG: What do you think the most important thing is that we need to know about your generation?
That we aren’t afraid to stand up for what we believe in. We are determined to make the world a better place and there is no doubt in my mind that we can do just that. As long as we come together, because when a lot of determined people come together, the impacts are limitless.
EG: Your fellow Gen Z young people out there are pretty passionate and frustrated about the state of our planet. Are you angry that older people have made such a mess of mother Earth?
Gracie K: Honestly, I am not angry. However, I do strongly believe that we need to act now and come to the realization of the harm people have done. The Earth is our home, and we need to take care of it. I don’t want you to totally change your lifestyle to save the Earth. I don’t want you to go vegan, or stop driving cars, or go zero waste. I want you to make small changes. I want everyone to make small changes to see a bigger and positive difference.
EG: What are a few words that you feel describe your generation well?
Gracie K: A few words I would use are aware, determined, open, and somewhat social media obsessed.
EG: What do you think we could do on a personal level to make the world a better place for everyone?
Gracie K: Acts of kindness. There is a lot of hatred in the world right now. The slightest act of kindness can make someone’s day better, encouraging that person to carry on with another act of kindness. Give to people. Follow the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. I also believe that it is important to accept and love people for who they are. Respect our differences instead of judging them.
EG: What issues are most important to you right now?
Gracie K: Right now I would say it would have to be the discrimination I see toward others because of their differences. Then there is also the climate change issue which I am also passionate about.
EG: What do you intend to do to make the world a better place?
Gracie K: Continue to spread my message of positivity, acceptance, and self love. If there is an opportunity to do something kind or important, and it goes along with the message I spread, I will take that opportunity. I will be aware of my actions whether personal or environmental. I will follow my heart and trust that everything is working out the way it is supposed to.
EG: What does your vision for a brighter future look like?
When I imagine a brighter future, I see more environmentally friendly alternatives being used. I see more awareness. I see everyone coming together to help those that struggle. I see kindness and love being spread.
I see unity.