March 13, 2012

Interview With Michelle Gray

"Once you embrace that WHO you are defines you, you can conquer the world. What matters is what's in your heart, what your goals are and what kind of life you want to lead."
 ~Shantel Van Santen

In today's world of media, image, celebrity, and photoshop, the phrase "be yourself" has taken on an entirely different meaning than it did for the last generation. The media has such a negative way of telling girls (and some guys) what they're supposed to look like and act like. It's no wonder that so many people have either gone through or known someone with an eating disorder or issues with body image. Girls all around the world compare themselves to what they see on TV, the magazines, and music videos.
However, in the midst of all of that confusion, there are still people out there fighting to tell girls that it's what's inside that counts, and that is where Team True Beauty comes in. 
Body image is something that has always been close to my heart, and something I've been passionate about for quite some time, so I was really excited to hear about this organization. Because I had recently gotten into One Tree Hill, I saw that some of my favorite cast members would be attending this fundraising event and I HAD to go! I started doing a little more research to see what the cause was all about and I loved it even more. I was able to attend Team True Beauty's one year anniversary party in January, and met so many wonderful people that night (women in the business and girls that are in their 20s like me), that really live out what they're sponsoring. 

My first interview is with, Michelle, who I met at the event in LA a couple months ago, along with her sister Kristen, and I've gotten to know a little better through Twitter since then. She's super sweet, fun, and has one of the most beautiful smiles. I hope you all get to see how fantastic and inspiring she is through this interview :)

S: First off, tell us a little bit about yourself and the role you play on the team. As well as the mission statement, and how it start up?
M: My name is Michelle Gray and I am the Director of Promotions for the Team True Beauty campaign. Our motto is "Its the size of your heart, not your waistline." Team True Beauty all started one year ago, when some ignorant person on twitter started tweeting about how girls should be super skinny and how they should have "controlled anorexia" to remain skinny. That person has no clue or perception of life, because that's not what it's all about. Team True Beauty is here to enforce the true meaning of self-image and self-worth...its all about the person you are on the inside, because that's what really matters in this world. 

S: How did you TTB deal with body image growing up? Did you feel any pressures when you hit your teen years? Any personal stories or experiences?
M: Everybody growing up feels the pressure to be perfect. Pretty, popular, well-liked, etc., especially throughout middle-school and high school. Its hard because at that point in your life, you really haven't experienced the world yet,  school is pretty much your whole life, it's all you know. I felt all those pressures.  You just live your life every day knowing the person that you are, you stay strong, you get through it, and it all changes after high school. Everyone enduring middle school and high school at this time needs to know that. It all changes for the better! Cliche or not...its true!

S: Who are some people that helped you in those tough times and who are your inspirations now?
M: The people who really inspired me and who helped me through those hard times growing up was definitely my family.  One of the things in life that I am most grateful for is that fact that I was blessed with a wonderful, loving family. We are so close, I wouldn't know what to do without them. They will forever be my inspiration.

S: There's a Backstreet Boys song, called "What Makes You Different (Makes You Beautiful)" that was featured in The Princess Diaries. I think we tend to think that those things that make us different, make us weird, and it's really just the opposite. What feature did you think was "too different" about yourself in your teens that you've learned to embrace now?
M: Funny you should mention that song because that's actually one of my favorite songs of all time! Its such a beautiful song! I just had to put it on actually...haha! The message in that song is something that everyone needs to hear and believe in. I know it's a lot easier said then done, but the key to surviving those hard high-school days is.....BELIEVE in yourself, KNOW that your differences are not bad differences, but good differences, REALIZE that God put you on this Earth for a reason and a purpose, be confident about that, and be YOU!! You are unique, and there will NEVER be another you EVER. 
A feature about myself that I always used to be so self conscious about is my legs. I was an athlete throughout my entire life and so from running and just from playing sports my legs always seemed  "bigger" to me then the rest of my body and it really used to be something I focused on a lot. Then I came to the realization that I'm being rediculous. Some people can't even walk, some people don't even have legs, and I'm sitting here complaining about the shape of mine? Its human nature to not like certain things about yourself, its inevitable, but be realistic. I felt so selfish when I came to this realization.

S: What's one motto you live by?
M: The motto I live by is 'everything happens for a greater reason, it's all in God's plan'. You have to believe in this statement in order to get through life. Faith is what gets us through our worst times.

S: What is the greatest advice someone has ever given to you?
M: The best advice that someone has ever given me would be to just be myself. You are the only you in this world and that seems pretty special to me! 

S: There are a lot of celebrities that support and promote the organization, especially the gals of One Tree Hill. How did that come together?
M: We are very fortunate to have all the support that we have from all of our supporters, including our celebrity supporters. The more people that join the campaign and help spread the word, the more support we get, the farther and wider the message gets spread! It's an amazing feeling knowing that so many people are so passionate about our cause and we couldn't ask for anything more! Shantel VanSanten is our campaign ambassador and there is no better person for the job! She is an amazing person who does amazing things for so many people and she is truly a genuine sweetheart and I am privileged to work alongside her on the campaign. Also, Daphne Zuniga plays a huge role in the campaign as well. She's like our campaign Mom...haha. She has been where we have all been and has the expierience and the knowlege on how to live a strong, happy, healthy life and we all look up to her so much! But all of our celeb supporters do an amazing job spreading the message and we are so lucky so have such wonderful people support us.

S: You just came up on your one year anniversary for TTB, and had an incredible celebration for it at The Avalon in Hollywood. I had such an amazing time meeting new people, and just celebrating who we are as individuals with music and all that jazz. What was that night like for all of you? Favorite moment of the night?
M: One word to describe the night of the event...surreal. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty nervous as it was coming down to crunch time, but everyone worked so hard on preparing everything that I knew it most likely would run pretty smooth. As it was going on though, I kept saying to myself, "Is this a dream? I can't believe this is happening right now." I mean, our supporters that flew out just to come to our event, the celebs who volunteered their time to come and meet fans and fellow all felt like a dream to me. A few times I even got a little teary-eyed just because I was just SO proud of what the campaign has accomplished in just a year! The work that the founders did to create this amazing campaign and the work that goes into it everyday...watching it all come together at that event was just unbelievable.

S: What you like to see TTB do in the next year? The future in general?
M: In the next year, I would love to see TTB soar even higher. I want the message to be spread farther and wider to reach as many people as it possibly can! If we accomplished this much in one year...I can't imagine what the future holds! I'm excited to see what lies ahead for us!!

S: What would you say to your 13 year old self? Or the 13 year old that is out there struggling right now with an eating disorder or negative body image?
M: If I could give my 13 year old self advice I would tell truly does get better! Those days and those times you think to yourself that nothing is going to're wrong. It ALWAYS gets better! Ive been through high school, I've been through college, I've lived it, and I've seen it first hand, everything changes after high school! Those people that were bullies, they now have no ground to stand on, they have no more "cliques" to back them up, they are nothing but lonely bullies and you've come out stronger then they ever were. And there is always something to look forward, your career, marriage, kids, grandkids...the list goes on. Always something to look forward to and that is worth living and fighting for.

S: What has been the most rewarding feeling of being part of such an incredible team? How has it changed your life?
M: The most rewarding feeling of being part of such an amazing team is that I have these people by my side at all times! They are like my second family! We bounce ideas off of each other, we're not afraid to speak up about something, we help each other, and we're always there for each other! When the founders asked me to officially come on board the campaign, I was ecstatic! They gave me this amazing opportunity to do such wonderful things...there just aren't even words to describe how coming on board the campaign has changed my lifeI I'm forever grateful to these girls and love them tremendously!

S: When you're having one of those "down days", as we all do from time, what do you do to get out of that funk?
M: Usually when I'm having a down day, I'll go home and put on one of my favorite shows or movies, or I'll jump on twitter or facebook and talk to friends on there, that always puts me in a better mood. Also though, this may sound crazy to some people...haha...but just hanging out with my family is one of my favorite things to do! They always brighten my day, I swear they are the funniest people I have ever met in my life. It's like a full-fledged comedy show every day in my house...and its free! can you beat that?!? haha! So those are definitly  the things that really turn my bad mood around real quick.

S: What are some ways you think girls can encourage one another in their everyday lives?
M:  I think that everyone needs to realize that no matter how confident or unaffected another person may seem, they have the same insecurities and the same feelings that you do...they are just good at hiding it. Even celebrities and models who you see on the covers of magazines, they have the same feelings that you do. We are all human, nobody is carved from steel, nobody is perfect, and everyone has something that they are self-concsious of. Life is hard enough, we need to all stick together and support each other and treat each other how you would like to be treated, and it will make life that much sweeter.

Michelle and Shantel VanSanten (Ambassador of True Beauty)
If you'd like to find out more about upcoming events and True Beauty's street team that just launched, you can check it all out on their website!

That's all for now,

Remember that life is worth living! And don't let anyone look down on you or make you feel inferior to them. You are a creation of God, and that alone should tell you you're worth it all! :)

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