The Unexpected Thing America Ferrera Did to Feel More Empowered and Body Confident
The actress and activist gets personal about how being adventurous and trying out a new sport changed her perspective.
What we tell young girls about their bodies, and what they are capable of, matters. To that end, The North Face has teamed up with the Girl Scouts of the USA to launch , a global initiative aimed at celebrating and sharing the stories of adventurous and courageous female explorers. And we aren’t just talking about women who do extraordinary things in the wild (though this collaboration will birth new outdoor programming for the Girl Scouts, with 12 new outdoor badges) but all women, from athletes to educators to innovators.
As part of the campaign launch, the outdoor brand tapped actress and advocate America Ferrara, who is also a staunch supporter of the Time’s Up movement, to help bolster the visibility of role models for girls, and encourage young women to step outside their immediate worlds and explore both the great outdoors and the potential for their lives.
“I think that the stories we tell ourselves and our young women and young men about what women’s bodies are for is really important,” said America Ferrera at the New York City launch event. “And to know that our bodies are for doing and adventuring, and making babies, and for doing whatever we choose to do with them, is such an important narrative that we put out there.”
One way to do this is by showcasing the awesomeness of women, which this campaign does, highlighting a myriad of women from ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson to aerospace engineer Tiera Fletcher.
“We know better than anyone that there are plenty of women out there who are already accomplishing incredible, inspiring things every day. Yet women and girls don’t see themselves represented as ‘explorers,'” Tom Herbst, global vice president of marketing at The North Face said in a press release. “We had a simple theory that if women and girls see more role models in exploration, it will create more female role models for future generations.”
Adds Ferrera: “I feel so exited about helping to promote and share and make sure that the young girls know the power that exists inside of their own bodies.” Here, the 33-year-old mom-to-be (and former Girl Scout) gets real about empowering women, triathlon training, and how to tap into your inner strength.
On inspiring the next generation
“It means helping young women understand that they have everything that they need inside of them. There is no thing or zip code or outside external thing that you need to be your best self. And it is incredible that initiatives like this are coming in to fill that gap of resource and access, because we know that that is often the only thing that is standing in-between young women and their full potential. Talent and possibility is universal; opportunity is not.”
On feeling empowered and getting adventurous
“My five tips are to do something that scares you; don’t be afraid to fail; learn to make friends with discomfort and pain; when you are doing something new and challenging, do it with friends; and always let yourself sleep more when you are taking on a new challenge.”
On imparting lessons of exploration to her unborn child
“I would just love for it to be natural to my children. I grew up in a concrete jungle, so all of my schools were surrounded by wire fencing. We played handball, but so rarely did we get to get in the dirt or get in the mud. Running a mile on Wednesday felt like torture instead of fun or a celebration of what is possible. I never thought of myself as an adventurous person. I never though of myself as a hiker. And I never in a million years thought of myself as a triathlete. And that was all because what was immediately around me. I didn’t see it, and I didn’t see people like me doing it, and so I couldn’t see myself doing those things. For the next generation, and my next generation personally, I want that to feel like first nature, because it is our nature to get outdors and explore and test the limits of what is possible for us in the world.”
On how triathlons changed her body perspective
I had to change my relationship to my body, and I think the most drastic thing I did was train for a triathlon. I didn’t do it to punish myself. I didn’t do it to loose weight. I didn’t do it to get a certain body type. I did it as a mental or spiritual challenge of kind of meeting myself, and all my stories about myself, and seeing if I could push through that. And I did. Not only did I push through it, I transformed my stories about myself: I’m not a runner. I can’t get in the ocean. I don’t know how to swim. I could never bike that far. All these things that we tell ourselves become what we think we are capable of.
I think the physical is the mental is the spiritual. I feel like for me, anytime I had ever taken on a physical challenge, all of the stories come up like that. And I feel for most women, and for most people, you get on a treadmill and three minutes in, you have a pretty good sense of how you talk to yourself and how you feel about yourself. And so the opportunity to change that tape that plays in our head about who we are and what we are capable of, there is an opportunity to shift that and to change that.
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On the inner strength that comes from being active
I have to say that physical exploration and pushing yourself to the threshold of what you are capable of is an emotional, spiritual, and mental journey, and one that makes you realize how strong you are—and that is something that we all need.
On the importance of role models
I grew up in a sort of lower-income community, and we didn’t have access to parks and mountains and oceans. It wasn’t easy for everyone to get out into the world and to explore what’s out there for us and also what we are capable of. I watch these videos and I think that’s amazing. I didn’t even know rock climbing was a thing you did. I knew how to climb fences because that’s what we did, hop fences. I didn’t know a young woman could rock climb on the side of a mountain, until you see it ... until you are told this is possible, and someone like you can do it.