As an actress, producer and, now, life coach, I have been blessed to travel the world and attend many wonderful events, premieres, film festivals and award shows. I have met some of the most creative, eccentric, impressive, inspiring and interesting people on the planet. I have met people who I will remember forever and some I'd like to forget! Then, on that rare occasion, I will meet someone who touches my soul and truly moves me, with what he/she is committed to in his/her life and work! I never know how this person will "show up" in my life. I don't know his/her gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation or anything. I just know that he/she has moved me and my soul and I am supposed to know him/her for a period of time.
I know you know this feeling and experience I am describing and I know you cherish these experiences as much as I do. I was recently lucky to win the HONOLULU FILM AWARDS 2012 SILVER LEI AWARD for my Ms. Vampy's Tween Tawk, Teen Tawk & In Between Tawk TV Pilot/Talk show/Web series. Ms. Vampy has become a positive role model with positive messages for young women and the young LGBT Community. Like myself, Ms. Vampy is a Vampiress with a mission to help put a stop to bullying and putting others down. Ms. Vampy is a stand for courage and being fearless (sound familiar?). When I found out we won the award, I began tweeting about it. Now, ya never know who you might meet via Twitter, but I got lucky a second time, as I met the coolest 20-year-old student filmmaker ever! Alix Vander Vlugt won a Honolulu Film Award, as well, for his film Speak Out. I went to his website and lo and behold, this young guy not only created a film about ANTI-BULLYING, but he created an entire freakin' organization against bullying!!! I mean, is this kid speaking my language or what? And, at 20? Now, I am truly inspired! So, I felt compelled to dedicate this article to my new buddy, Alix, his film and to introduce all of you to... SO WHAT SPEAK OUT!!!
I would love for my readers to get to know this amazing, courageous young man and his organization, SPEAK OUT, like I had the good fortune of doing, so I chose to share a mini interview with you:
BROOKE: Who is Alix Vander Vlugt, Executive Director, SPEAK OUT?
ALIX: I am a mixed-bag artist. I am a 20-year-old award winning filmmaker, most recently winning at the Honolulu Film Awards. I wrapped up a year of film school in Montréal this past spring and am continuing my education at Sheridan Tech Institute in the Media Arts program. I am currently shooting a new production this summer. As an activist, I started a not for profit organization, SPEAK OUT, in response to the ongoing bullying issues I witnessed when I was 15 years old. I led the growth of the organization internationally and have worked with students, parents, communities and celebrities. Anchored by the national day of pink event, SPEAK OUT works to raise awareness, produce creative content, lobby government officials and provide a forum online to discuss issues. I am a TD Scholarship winner (2011), currently working as a technology strategist for the Toronto Dominion Bank. I utilize my free time by writing, playing hockey, baseball and shooting pool.
BROOKE: What is the mission of your organization SPEAK OUT?
ALIX: Since its formation, SPEAK OUT has been student driven to end bullying. We strive to raise awareness, strengthen communities and foster positive relationships with our network.
BROOKE: Can you describe SPEAK OUT for my readers?
ALIX: SPEAK OUT is a student run organization determined to put a stop to bullying. I founded SPEAK OUT in 2008 and the organization has grown from its grassroots in Guelph, Ontario to challenging the globe to become a better place for everyone. SPEAK OUT doesn't compete with other anti-bullying campaigns and organizations, but instead works alongside them to strengthen our message. Each year SPEAK OUT hosts an annual Pink Shirt Event in April. SPEAK OUT has released a documentary, sponsored by the Pepsi Refresh Project, that is available for viewing online and for download. Information regarding the Pink Shirt Event is available in our EVENTS section of the page. In 2012, SPEAK OUT will begin its transformation in becoming an incorporated charity and will search for new student leaders to shape SPEAK OUT in a refreshed outlook.
BROOKE: How does SPEAK OUT support the LGBT Community?
ALIX: As an ally of the LGBT community, SPEAK OUT and myself are always pushing the fact that LGBT and straight youth do not have to accept an environment of hatred, fear, and disrespect in their communities and daily lives. Unfortunately there are pockets of bigoted, closed minds who fail to realize the equality and rights of others and have certainly made it difficult for youth to express themselves as who they are. SPEAK OUT strives to make it aware that it should not be about waiting for things to get better, but to take an active stance on making it better. As a straight youth myself, I have experienced backlash for simply agreeing that gay rights are an important thing to fight for. It should not matter who you are or what you identify as, speaking out for change is as important as someone perfectly healthy looking for a cure for cancer. SPEAK OUT works hard to foster a positive environment where LGBT youth can openly share their stories and look for support. I regularly keep in contact with students who feel threatened or beat down and try to work with them to find a solution or some help. I am always inspired further when I get an email back saying how successful they have become, or how things started working out once they took an approach to end the bullying. It may never be perfect but we are trying our hardest. More and more people each day are opening their minds and realizing that we are stronger together.
My dearest Huffington Post readers, I am so proud to introduce you to my new friend and inspiration Alix Vander Vlugt and his powerful organization SPEAK OUT! I ask you to imagine what the world and the future would be like if more young people would ban together and put their time, energy, passion and creativity into more organizations, films and public forums that spread a message like SPEAK OUT. I imagine a world where people perceive that they and others are PERFECT just the way they are! Until then...SO WHAT SPEAK OUT!!!
Click here for the SPEAK OUT website and to contact the organization for more information.
Be You And Be Fearless,
XO Brooke Lewis