Anna ZhangChief Editor of Pulse SpikesNew York, New YorkStory & Photos by Lauri LevenfeldStyling by Katja O’Brien & Erin Kelley for BCBGeneration
Makeup & Hair by Irmina Martinez Loeffler
|1. Who are you? What were you like as a little girl?
I’m a typical 15-year-old girl living in the suburbs of New York City. I’m a very driven person and once I set my mind to something, there’s no going back. My parents have always instilled in me to give back to the community. I spend a few hours of each weekend to volunteer at a local school as a teacher’s assistant. I also recently founded my own social good project with Covenant House, a nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless youth and ending child trafficking. I spent the last year working on the project, titled Ignite, and am so happy to be able to show the potential of all youth, as well as the power of love to transform youth and the community.
I was always adventurous at a young age and that comes from traveling a lot as a little girl. I tried many new and different things while I was small: from skating to swimming to dance and to tennis. I was also very creative, drawing and painting since I was young. I fondly remember taking pottery classes as well.
2. At 15, you are already an editor of the magazine Pulse Spikes- tell us about this platform.
When I started Pulse Spikes, my sole focus was to revolutionize the media and create a publication that would be a space made by young people for young people. The magazine collaborates with young photographers, makeup artists, and writers – focusing on creatives under the age of 25. The magazine also receives thousands of submissions from adolescents around the world – including countries like Indonesia, Germany, Finland, Belgium, and South Africa. Pulse Spikes is not just a magazine, it is a platform where creatives can grow and develop without any limitations, a platform that introduces young visionaries to the world. The name Pulse Spikes embodies who and what we represent: a magazine created by passionate people covering exciting things, things that get one’s heart racing.
3. Why is it so important to you that teens are heard? How do you help IGNITE their voices?
It is very normal for adults to label teens as ignorant, rude, stupid, and immature. Our thoughts and voices are disregarded for there’s this idea of a stereotypical teen, a teen who has bad intentions, who disobeys the rules. Most teens do not relate to this stereotypical teen. Teens all around the world have already achieved incredible success and have impacted the world. Take Malala Yousafzai who is using her voice for female education. More adults need to value the voices of teens as we are the future leaders.
Ignite is a collaborative platform I founded to share the voices of millennials. I wanted to share the strength, resilience, and intelligence of this generation by delving into the minds of young people.
4. Yay! You are the winner of the 1st TPFG Super Girl Contest and our 2017 ambassador- What was it about TPFG’s platform that spoke to you and resonated with your own mission & messaging?
It’s a great honor to be an ambassador for TPFG. I am amazed by the content the platform has shared on the influence of women and girls, a topic that made up a significant portion of my own project IGNITE. Lauri and the team at TPFG have created a community of strong, powerful women, and by promoting girl power across both our platforms, the impact will be prodigious.
TPFG coincides with my intentions with Pulse Spikes and Ignite. Ignite is an online platform and book that delves upon topics that affect youth today such as self-love, the LGBT community, and breaking stereotypes. The goal of both of Pulse Spikes and Ignite was to create a space of collaboration and community, not competition.
5. TPFG wants to learn more about what teenage girls need to help them to pursue and propel their dreams-What topics would you like to see TPFG dive into?
I want to see not just stories of success on TPFG. I want to see the failure, the hardships, the obstacles. The key is sharing the journey. I want to see young girls who have been able to succeed and how they’ve been able to pursue their dreams. I want to see diversity, girls from different backgrounds enforcing that each individual’s story is unique and unlike any others’. I would also love to see TPFG host events where girls can come together to talk and chat. Maybe have girls with a wide variety of skills collaborate on one project together.
6. Who are your role models/ your mentors?
My parents are my role models; both work in the science and technology field: my mom is a software engineer and my dad is a research scientist. Though they’re not very familiar with my work, they both constantly support me with unconditional love. They’ve taken a tremendous risk moving from China to the United States when they were in their twenties. They were unfamiliar with the language and the foreign place. Their sole intention was to start a family in a place of opportunities. As for mentors, my dad is the editor of several research journals and he has given me all his knowledge on the publishing side of the business.
7. What has been your most rewarding moment with Pulse Spikes? Your biggest challenge?
The most rewarding thing about Pulse Spikes is that I am able to provide this platform to young people around the world. I am in a position where I have the skills and connections to provide opportunities for millennials to pursue their creative passions. As for specific moments, I worked with Christina Grimmie for the cover of the second issue of Pulse Spikes. She was so kind and genuine that the shoot flew by and I was grinning from ear-to-ear by the time we wrapped. She covered the “Brave Hearts” issue and truly embodied what it means to have strength and courage.
Aside from that, I photographed 5-time Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer Nathan Adrian. Plus, he currently holds the American record for the 50-meter freestyle event so that’s crazy.
Oh and Ellen DeGeneres. I absolutely love her positivity, kindness, and how she uses her platform to give back to the community. Another role model of mine :)
The biggest challenge was when I first started the magazine. No one knew about the magazine and I didn’t have experience in the field. I took a lot of risks, received a lot of rejection e-mails. It took a lot of work and time to build up the publication to where it is now. I was very determined and persistent; a “no” to me meant no today, not no tomorrow or in the future.
8. How do you manage a school day, homework and a full-time job? What is your advice for someone your age wanting to start their own venture?
It’s not easy; it’s about delegating work, finding a balance and compromising. For me, education comes first. My schedule is ever changing as it depends on how much homework, tests and projects I have. I mold my other work around that schedule. In general, in the five minutes between classes I might be shooting a quick email to someone across the country regarding a project. Haha. That’s the norm.
Thankfully I have an amazing group of young people working on Pulse Spikes together. This project is simply too large for one person to handle, especially as I am still a student attending public high school.
As for my advice: Do what makes you happy, do what gets your heart racing. There will be obstacles when you’re pursuing a dream but if you’re doing what you truly love, your passion will propel you forwards.
9. What are your passions outside of work? How do you have fun?
My roots are not in publishing and editing but rather art. I started drawing and painting years before I found my niche in photography. And because photography is a passion, I don’t consider it work. I’ve been able to meet so many incredible and talented people and have become friends because of our mutual interest in creating things: from photographers, actors, musicians, writers, to hair and makeup. But of course, hanging out with friends is a go-to for fun. Movies, shopping, the usual stuff :)
10. You did a recent TedTalks titled Conquering My Fear of the Unknown– How do you do this?
We all have our comfort zones. Everyone’s experiences are different so naturally, comfort zones are different for everybody. A comfort zone is a tiny place that people feel at ease in, typically because it is something they have had good experiences doing and are familiar with it. Outside of that tiny space consists of new things that haven’t yet been done or tried. People tend to be nervous to go outside of their comfort zones because it’s a space of unknown. But there’s so much value in going outside of our own personal comfort zones as we can learn and grow, challenging ourselves to do better and be the best we can be. That’s why I titled the talk “Conquering My Fear of the Unknown”. I tried a new thing every month to take tiny steps outside of my comfort zone, explore the unknown, and the process allowed me to recognize my full potential.
11. And what’s next for Anna Zhang?
I will be continuing the project Ignite with Covenant House and working with the youth at their New York location in the future. I am currently exploring more opportunities and projects, growing the magazine, and working with new talents and creatives. And of course, creating AMAZING content with TPFG :)
Big Thanks to all our friends who committed to this contest to help support and promote it, we are so thankful! Olivia Peeke of Slash PR, BCBGeneration, Popsugar, Les Tout Petit, Skinny Tees, and BKR. And to our family of girls including Disney’s Stuck in the Middle Ariana Greenblatt, Francesca Capaldi of Dog with a Blog, AGT Comedian Lori Mae Hernandez, Model Violet Lux, Olivia Rodrigo of Disney’s Bizaardvark, and Disney’s XD Walk the Prank actress Jillian Shea Spaeder. We couldn’t have pulled off this contest without you!