What These 3 Step Up Teens Taught Me About Confidence

BY Joann Row · May 10, 2017

Step Up Girls Visit Dermstore 1

As a marketing copywriter at Dermstore, and coming from a journalism background, my passion has always been about getting to know people and writing about them. I am fortunate enough to witness the joy in sharing peoples’ stories and painting moments through the simplicity of words. When I was told I would be meeting and interviewing the teens from Step Up–a nonprofit organization that inspires and empowers girls from under-resourced communities–I knew it would be the perfect marriage of my job and fervor.

Dermstore’s Step Up sponsorship is a natural, meaningful and seamless choice. Our president Cathy Beaupain saw the potential to find an organization that advocates the same message of positivity and female empowerment as Dermstore. It didn’t take long for her to come across Step Up and start building a relationship with the inspiring, forward-thinking team there. Step Up’s motto, “Inspiring Women to Inspire Girls,” draws a direct parallel to Dermstore’s. As a company, we value the importance of mentorship as well as instilling confidence in women through the education and support of healthy skin.

We had three of the girls from Step Up stop by the office to hear their stories, goals and challenges. It is our mission to be more than just a name under a list of sponsors; we are here to build a network of goal-oriented young women through the power of mentorship.

Welcoming the Girls at Dermstore

I prepared for this visit in the same way I did during job interviews: I wrote my questions, drafted a few ice breakers, and cleared up my calendar to ensure my time would be dedicated solely on the girls. I expected to exude confidence and conduct the interview as casually rehearsed in my head. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming nerves that came over me the day of, leading up to when the girls arrived at our door.

Once the girls came in and introduced themselves with striking smiles and enviable posture, I immediately felt unprepared and much younger than they are. It was the confidence they exuded that made me realize that I was looking to them to put me at ease.

We sat in our largest conference room with a few senior managers from Dermstore, Step Up Public Relations VP Alissa Zito and our three guests of honors: Kimberly Martinez,  Elena Sanchez and Cindy Cañas.

Step Up Girls Visit Dermstore 2

All three of them are seventeen years old, but I could immediately tell that they all have different personalities. Kimberly carried all the traits of a leader. She spoke of her future with conviction, transitioned from topic to topic without missing a beat, and was always mindful of her fellow Step Up girls. During one of my conversations with her, I was struck by her independence. I have been craving independence and can’t wait to see what I’ll accomplish while being on my own,” she says.

Cindy, on the other hand, started off a bit shy but her smile was impossible to miss. She expressed herself through her whimsical doodles and lit up as she talked about art. A simple change in color, model or styling can change the whole direction of an image’s message,” she told me as we were discussing her love of magazines.

And Elena, she was the one who possibly taught me the most with her fruits of political knowledge. A bit more serious than most, I could see a strong path in political law in her future. She enlightened me with topics related to the recent election. In one of our conversations, she said, “I’m amazed at how politically divided the houses are, and how religion plays such a role.” To think she’s not even old enough to vote yet!

*Read the rest of their interviews here.*

More Than an Interview

After the interview, I felt more relaxed and it was time to have some fun with the girls. We ventured to the Dermstore Beauty Bar and did a little impromptu touch-up session. Beautiful palettes, fluffy brushes, all of the Harry Josh Pro Tools–no product was left untouched.

This was just the break we needed before heading to the video studio for Joe, Dermstore photographer, to take the girls’ portraits. It was when the lights hit and the camera shutters began that the girls’ individuality really shined. Their poses perfectly showcased their personalities, with a touch of sass and a beam of confidence.

As I saw the girls work the camera with such ease, I began to think back to when I was in high school. As much as I enjoyed (the majority of) my teenage years, I never had the self-understanding or confidence these girls so naturally showcased. That single, powerful word is my greatest takeaway from this meeting: confidence.

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What the Girls Taught Me

As cliché as it seems, the time truly did slip by and hours felt like just a few minutes. Before long that I had to say goodbye to the girls I wanted so desperately spend more time with–I had just hit my stride!

It filled me with joy to see the girls laughing as they took pictures, apply makeup on one another and tell me how much they loved their experience at Dermstore. The cherry on top of this experience was when we received thoughtful “thank you” cards from each of the girls. This touch showed wisdom, professionalism and class beyond their years.

My only regret was not being more prepared for this interview, if that’s possible. But at the same time, what I learned from the girls that day was to carry an unwavering confidence whoever I am with, and wherever I am.

I go back to that affirmation through every task, project and meeting I have approached since then, all thanks to the girls.


Joann Row

Born and raised in sunny Southern California, Joann Row developed her professional writing chops in the world of local news, but soon the fashion and beauty industry came calling. She was a longtime content contributor to several Forever 21 campaigns... Read More >