The Social Impact Heroes of Social Media: “Carrie Berk is helping to combat bullying by inspiring people to be their most fearless self”
People do not realize the severity of bullying, especially how much it impacts children. It has truly reached epidemic proportions with devastating results. According to non-profit No Bully, bullying and harassment often cause “lasting physical and mental harm, marginalize diverse students, and negatively impact the entire school culture.” Children should be taught as soon as possible — by parents as well as schools — that bullying is not okay. The sooner we can tackle the issue, the better chance there is to eradicate it in the future. No Bully has launched a great campaign, The Power of Zero, to “reshape early learning for a connected world.” It provides early educators and families with the learning materials they need to prepare children starting at age zero for the technology and connectivity they will experience in their lives.
I had the pleasure to interview Carrie Berk. Carrie is the bestselling children’s book author of three middle school series — The Cupcake Club, Fashion Academy, and Ask Emma — as well as the creator of the style empowerment website Carrie’s Chronicles (www.carrieschronicles.com). She is an influencer, lifestyle journalist and a passionate anti-bullying crusader.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was eight years old, my favorite book series was Judy Moody, and I used to write my own sequels to all her stories. One day, I met the author, Megan McDonald, at a Barnes & Noble book signing. She thought that it was great that I loved her characters, but she encouraged me to create some of my own, not borrow hers. That was the first spark of inspiration in my writing career. I went to school the next day and came up with the idea for a book called Peace, Love and Cupcakes about four middle-school outsiders who come together to form a cupcake club. In the process, they discover that what makes them different is what makes them special, and as their baking business is on the rise, they put an end to bullying in their school. The bullying plotline came from what I witnessed happening every day in my own school. I was truly inspired to spread positivity through Peace, Love and Cupcakes and thought that by writing a book, I could get the anti-bullying message out there. I was on a Disney cruise when my mom received a phone call from her literary agent in the middle of the ocean: a publisher was interested in not just one book, but a whole series! With my mom as my co-author, I wrote 12 books in total for The Cupcake Club, selling more than 300K copies worldwide. Years later, I published two other series as well: Fashion Academy and Ask Emma. Ask Emma, my latest book, particularly strikes a chord for me, as it follows the story of a teen advice blogger who faces cyberbullying. As a social media influencer and content creator, I’ve experienced my share of online bullying. I know what Emma is feeling, and I channel my feelings into her character.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
This story isn’t just interesting — it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life! The summer of 2018, I was working as an intern for Girls’ Life Magazine and was asked to cover the red carpet at the Teen Choice Awards. At just 15 years old, I was working as a legitimate journalist, standing alongside People Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter and other media outlets, interviewing celebrities for Girls’ Life’s live Instagram story. I was so honored to be wearing a press badge and asking the stars questions — it was truly a dream come true (and an experience I hope to repeat this year!). The icing on the cake was snapping a pic and chatting with Cole Sprouse from Riverdale. I’ve been crushing on him since The Suite Life of Zack and Cody!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was at a Bvlgari jewelry event for influencers and press, and Nina Garcia was there. I have always looked up to her as the editor-in-chief of Elle, and I admire the honest feedback she gives fashion designers on Project Runway. Though I was a little intimidated, I decided to muster the courage to go up and talk to her. I strutted over in my sequin dress and matching gold clutch and stuck out my hand to introduce myself. Just as Nina was about to reply, my bag — which I had been holding under my arm — fell to her feet, and my business cards, phone, and makeup splattered across the floor. I was mortified, but I picked up everything and stuffed it back in my purse. Then I smiled, shook it off, and had a great conversation with her about the fashion industry — phew!
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?
I decided to launch a style empowerment website called Carrie’s Chronicles in December 2017. My goal was to encourage readers to practice unapologetic individuality and celebrate their style without worrying what others think or say. I always preach, “take on the world in your own, one-of-a-kind way!” The site covers everything from fashion and beauty to food, fitness, and exclusive celebrity interviews. The “Carrie’s Q&A” section in particular spotlights people who are boldly pursuing their dreams, making a difference, and standing up for what they believe in. Bullying is rampant, especially among the younger generation, and we often feel judged or oppressed by our peers. I decided a long time ago that my style is my superpower, and I should never let anyone dull my sparkle. My way of channeling the pain of bullying into something positive was through creating Carrie’s Chronicles. My goal for every article I publish is to spark new ideas and creativity while helping you be your most fearless self.
Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?
Yes — me! When I was younger, I was bullied for my sense of style. People would tell me that my pink glitter sneakers were too “out there” or that my newsprint joggers were “too extra” for school days. For a while, it made me feel really insecure, and I even simplified my wardrobe to boring, muted hues in middle school to attempt to fit in. I didn’t feel like myself anymore, and I truly missed the excitement of being creative with my closet.
Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?
As time passed, I grew to realize that there’s nothing more beautiful than owning who you are. Although people still sometimes give me the side eye when I walk down the halls in a bold outfit, I’ve learned to ignore them. If someone says something snide about my outfit, I just smile and keep walking. Why focus on haters? Instead, surround yourself with people who love you just the way you are, people who lift you up rather than tear you down. When you do, you’ll realize your self-worth doesn’t depend on others, and the negativity just bounces off of you. As for a moment when I embodied this attitude: I went to meet Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour at The Met Costume Institute. I waited in line with dozens of other fashion fans, but I was the only one there “dressed up.” I wore a fancy floral dress and high heels when everyone else was in shorts, tees, and flip flops. When it was finally my turn to greet her, she scanned my look, head to toe, and smiled. “I like your dress,” she said, and my heart skipped a beat. It was like complete redemption: the queen of style loved my look!
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- People do not realize the severity of bullying, especially how much it impacts children. It has truly reached epidemic proportions with devastating results. According to non-profit No Bully, bullying and harassment often cause “lasting physical and mental harm, marginalize diverse students, and negatively impact the entire school culture.” Children should be taught as soon as possible — by parents as well as schools — that bullying is not okay. The sooner we can tackle the issue, the better chance there is to eradicate it in the future. No Bully has launched a great campaign, The Power of Zero, to “reshape early learning for a connected world.” It provides early educators and families with the learning materials they need to prepare children starting at age zero for the technology and connectivity they will experience in their lives.
- Make anti-bullying education a part of school, camp, and sports curriculums to teach children empathy and compassion, with organizations like No Bully guiding the way on how to prevent and respond to bullying. Again, knowledge is key. The more we are taught to choose kindness, the less bullying there will be in the world.
- Social media platforms should better educate users as to what constitutes “hate speech” in order to promote positive posting. Instagram’s algorithm and community guidelines — making toxic comments disappear before they ever show up under a photo — epitomizes this. All social media outlets need to get on board and teach their users what is and what is not acceptable.
What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?
I talk to as many people as possible about my style empowerment platform — I’m never afraid to share my own experiences with bullying and cyberbullying, even though they are painful to recount. I feel like I have a responsibility to turn a negative into a positive and teach others that you can and will overcome obstacles in your life. No one can hold you back or bring you down unless you let them. For those who want to use their platform for social good, I recommend finding something you’re passionate about, researching it extensively, and not being afraid to take a stand. I know it can be scary to speak out, but I promise that your courage and truth will be applauded.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Rejection is part of the process. I have been turned down for so many social media collaborations, but I’ve learned that when one door closes, another one opens. Being turned down just permits new opportunities to come through.
- It takes up a huge chunk of your time. Between school, dance, and social time, it’s really difficult to strike a balance while maintaining strong self-care. Thankfully, I’ve learned to budget my time wisely, but it takes a lot of planning to lead a busy lifestyle and make all the pieces fit together.
- Some people who you once considered your friends may not support you. I was shocked to see a few girls who I once considered my BFFs ice me out as my social media platform grew. At first, it really hurt, but I’m glad to have found a group of people who support me and understand what I do and why I do it. One of my closest friends now, a fellow influencer as well as a singer, told me to “find my tribe.” That’s so important. These are the people who will propel you forward because they get you.
- Bring at least 50 business cards to every event. Recently, I was at a Hollywood Reporter party with a ton of celebs and media personalities, and I didn’t think I’d be brave enough to go up and talk to them. I only brought about a dozen business cards in my purse, and when I found myself in conversations with Gayle King, Martha Stewart, Michael Strahan, Al Roker, Carson Daly, and others, I realized that I had made a huge mistake not bringing a bigger stack. I ended up passing out my publicist’s cards instead or jotting down people’s emails on my phone to follow up — a little embarrassing!
- Taking risks is crucial in order to reach your goals. You can’t be timid! I recently walked around Beautycon, connecting with thousands of fans, brands, and bloggers, urging them to check out my platform. I’ve also signed books at Bookcon and I’m always going to events in NYC and LA, eager to meet new people. Although I was initially scared to be so assertive (I’m only 16 after all), I realized that it was a necessary step to take in order to reach and inspire a wider audience.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
A social media movement encouraging others to join Carrie’s Chronicles in promoting its message, “Your Style, Your Superpower.” I’d love to see people posting images on their social media celebrating individual style in all its shapes, sizes, and colors with the hashtag “#yourstyleyoursuperpower.” It would be amazing to see how much creativity, originality and brilliance is out there just waiting to be seen and heard.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Anna Wintour once said, “Remain true to what you believe in.” Authenticity takes courage, which is something I’ve learned over the course of becoming an author/influencer/activist. Sticking to your core beliefs when others around you try and sway you or bully you into doing otherwise takes a lot of determination and self-awareness. I don’t think I could ever do what I do if I didn’t believe in it 100 percent. My career may grow and evolve, but at the heart of all I do is my belief that staying true to who you are is the key to success.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Anna Wintour! I have been inspired by her for as long as I can remember. She is truly superwoman — the way in which she manages all affairs at Vogue and has such a creative eye when it comes to fashion blows my mind. If I had the opportunity to have afternoon tea with her, I would have so many ideas to contribute and so many questions to ask her. I would be honored to hear her perspective on the fashion industry and the world in general.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook: Carrie’s Chronicles
Pinterest: Carrie’s Chronicles
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!