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adventure, photography, friendships, languages, traveling, family.


Message from Ann Marie

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Ann’s story is the first of what I hope is a collection of 111 stories of the dreams and hopes of teenage girls around the word.

She is really special to me, she is my first niece. And I see so much about myself in her, that by giving her this gift of a space to use her voice to inspire others, I feel like I am also giving myself that gift. 

Ann Marie is curious, playful, smart. Sometimes she gets distracted from school by Korean pop and dramas, or Korean Soap operas. But this “weakness” got her interested in a culture very different than her own. It got her to learn to understand basic Korean. 

Living in the Dominican Republic, an island in the Caribbean, where 

She didn’t always loved her curly hair. A country where being dark skin, but we have a colonized mentality, we all want to be white and have “good hair” or straight hair.

But things are shifting, and there is a movement that believes in going natural. Slowly she has learnt to love the way her hair looks. So much so that I learnt to love myself too. And I haven’t straighten my hair in about 6 months. That is a record for someone who would do that 2 times a week. And this is how we inspire each other. By being brave and waking up, questioning what society tell us beauty means, by defining it for ourselves.

Being a teenager is not easy. I remember wanting to fit in, and not being able to. Every time I felt I fit in, I knew I was either dimming my own or playing by someone else’s rules, thus overwriting my own desires to so others could relate to me.

I deeply believe we all have something that makes us special. A gift meant to be shared with others. And if we don’t explore what that is, then the world will miss out.

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Seeing the world through her eyes made me remember my own desire to be part of something even if that meant not being myself. But I am so proud of her, because she is choosing to follow her passions and curiosities even when her friends may not approve of her choices and may labeled her as “weird”.

But what does it really means to be weird? If being different means we are weird, then aren’t we all a bunch of weirdos who sometimes pretend to be “normal” and play safe in order to “belong”?

So Ann, I salute you for your bravery. I know it is not always easy, but it is the right thing when you know deep down it is. And you always know, even when you think you don’t. I promised. Trust your own voice, specially the one inside that feels good, that is telling you with love and in whispers that you are amazing. My hope is that if you don’t trust that voice, you trust me when I tell you you are magnificent and have a bright future in front of you.

Love, Laura Peña