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Pop Quiz: How many positive images of women in today’s entertainment, especially for young girls, can you come up with? Years ago I would’ve struggled with an answer, however, I’ve had the honor of working with one of them as a volunteer for the past two years. She is one of the most beautiful, selfless and passionate women I know who is fueled by showing young girls just how amazing they truly are, even if they don’t realize it.
Jillian “JJ” Simmons has over fifteen years under her belt in radio broadcasting. She has crisscrossed the country enthralling listeners from various cities such as Cincinnati, Dayton, New York City, Indianapolis and now Houston on the popular Hip Hop and R&B station KBXX-FM 97.9 The Box. Over the years she has interviewed countless celebrities and public figures such as President Barack Obama on “JJ On the Mic”. However, there is a lot more to her aside of her job as a radio personality.
JJ is the founder of the I’m Me Foundation, a non-profit organization providing positive social experiences, character building training and self worth to young women through education and entertainment. Due to her experience in music and media, she sees the influence that today’s industry has on young girls. “With girls not being able to see many positives images on TV or the media, we felt there was a need to expose these girls to amazing, positive women in the community”, she expresses on her official I’m Me Foundation website. After learning more about the “JJ’s I’m Me Tour” I knew that I wanted to attend her next event. To my excitement it was just days away and set to be hosted at Cypress Springs High School in Houston, Texas.
The moment I entered into the room I was greeted by her wonderful volunteer staff who were sporting the official “I’m Me” t-shirts. They were preparing to receive approximately eighty high school girls. I introduced myself to JJ, and I was pleasantly taken in by her warm, down-to-earth and confident spirit. Her smile is contagious! I informed her that I learned about her event by way of DJ Honey B and I wanted to support her efforts in inspiring young girls. She was delighted and welcomed me to do just that.
Toward the front of the main meeting room, where all of the girls would be, were pretty pink gift bags organized on a table; enough for each of the girls who would be present.
Within minutes the young ladies, who were eagerly waiting in the school cafe, were making their way into the room. Seeing them on a Saturday morning put a huge smile on my face. I said to one of the workshop facilitators, “Wow, how did they get…”, and before I could finish my question she said, “…all of these girls to commit to coming in on a Saturday”? I said, “Yes!” She looked at me and replied, “I have no idea”. It was certainly a beautiful sight, and it brought back memories of my high school days seeing a variety of girls who are still learning about themselves.
Once they were seated, JJ gave them a warm and enthusiastic welcome. She introduced each of the I’m Me facilitators and the workshop they would lead; Beauty/Style, Health/Fitness, Etiquette and Goal Setting. As I watched I thought to myself, “These girls will not only acquire tools for building self-love, but they will also see the proper way of interacting with each other”.
After the workshop facilitators were introduced, the volunteers began passing out the I’m Me Tour Passports to each girl indicating which breakout session they would attend. I decided to attend the Beauty/Style session first that was being led by JJ. This would be my first time hearing her speak in this capacity, and I was very eager to hear what she would share.
Once we were comfortably seated, JJ asked each girl to introduce herself and name one thing they thought was beautiful about themselves. For some, high school can be the most exciting years of our lives, yet, for others this time can be very scary. The first girl stood and softly said her name and, with slight hesitation, admitted that she didn’t know what was beautiful about herself. My heart paused for a moment. She had beautiful chocolate brown skin with a shy yet amazing smile. She had the most adorable dimples that appeared each time she laughed even if it was a nervous laugh. She had long black hair and was quite possibly an athlete. JJ said, “That’s okay. We’ll help you find something beautiful about yourself”. She asked the rest of group to name what they thought was beautiful about the young girl. Immediately hands flew up. JJ picked about three girls to share what they thought was beautiful about the young lady. You could see the change in her demeanor almost immediately. It was one of the most powerful demonstrations of girls building each other up. Again, the thought I had earlier crossed my mind that these young ladies will learn how to properly interact with one another as a result of attending this I’m Me event.
After everyone introduced themselves, JJ held up a total of three photos of female celebrities, one at a time. Her question for the group was,”What do you think people think about these women?” The first image was a very naturally beautiful Beyonce, with loose spiral curls in a sweater that fell slightly off of her shoulder. There was a positive response by the girls to this photo of Beyonce. JJ’s next question was, “If this was your doctor, what would you think?” Again, another positive response.
The next photo was of Nicki Minaj. The moment JJ held up the photo, the mood of the girls went from excited to displeased. Their response to Nicki Minaj was quite strong and not so upbeat. I was very intrigued by this. They immediately began discussing how inappropriate her outfit was. A couple of girls said her clothes would be okay for a club, however, the young lady seated in front of me said, “That outfit isn’t appropriate anywhere”. I think JJ was just as taken aback as I was by their remarkable comments. JJ asked the girls, “When a man sees this what does he think?” One girl said, “That she’s easy”. JJ’s said, “She could be a doctor, but would anyone take her seriously?” The girls gave a unanimous, “No!”
JJ explained to the girls that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. She could very well have a good heart, but her (Nicki Minaj’s) appearance may not speak very well of her and what may be on the inside. She continued explaining that people make judgments about us based on our presentation.
The final photo was of Oprah Winfrey. It got a little quiet. JJ asked the girls if they knew who she was and what they think when they see her. The top three thoughts the girls responded with were money, beauty, and “not like Nicki Minaj”. That last one tickled me! Although it began to materialize for some of the girls, JJ shared some of Oprah’s accomplishments. “Oprah is consistent in how she carries herself”.
I need to make a special note here that when the young girls were discussing each image the term “sexy” was used quite often. JJ said in her motherly voice, “Y’all don’t have to worry about being sexy right now”. I thought that was very commendable to redirect their thinking away from “sexy” especially due to how young they are.
After that exercise, JJ began sharing a little bit of her own struggle with her self-image when she was younger. She opened up about a unique skin condition she has called vitiligo, which is what Michael Jackson had. She told us a story about a relationship she was in where her boyfriend told her that he didn’t like her spots. He told her that she should get a tattoo to cover it. She held up her left hand and showed us the tattoo and admitted that it was, “the worst mistake I made, because it told me someone else’s opinion means more than my own”. She continued by sharing how she has larger spots on her back, and that her boyfriend told her she should get a tattoo of a big dragon to cover it up. Although she considered doing it she ultimately refused to allow him to bring her down. She eventually broke up with him, because she realized how she felt about herself was more important.
Unfortunately, the cover-up concept didn’t stop at her boyfriend. JJ shared that her mother actually suggested that she cover up her spots with a tattoo. She closed with telling the group that the experience helped her to work on accepting and loving herself. She told the group, “Be careful what you say about others. Learn to love what you do not like about yourself and embrace it. Embrace your flaws”. This was a phenomenal demonstration and teachable moment on self-love and self-acceptance. “I used to be self-conscious about these spots, but now I love them. You have to learn to love those things, because it affects what and how you feel about yourself.”
The final portion of her workshop involved making the “JJ sugar scrub” made with brown sugar, coconut oil and vanilla extract. She asked for three girls to volunteer in making the scrub as well as to pass out little Ziploc bags for the group to take home and use.
While we were watching the scrub being made, one of the younger participants said to the girl in front of her, “I like your hair”. The cool thing about that was that she said it in Chinese and then translated it. Both of the girls were Black. It was such a beautiful sight to see them loving and celebrating each other and it making them happy to do so.
Before the conclusion, JJ asked a few girls to share what they learned during the workshop. She even had a few girls name a flaw they decided they were going to embrace and work on.
I was absolutely proud of what I was witnessing in these young ladies inspired by JJ. Although I wasn’t able to stay for the other workshops, I made sure to express how much I enjoyed her segment and how awesome I think she is to encourage girls to love themselves.
Despite the negative and over-sexualized images of females in the media, music and entertainment industry, JJ is certainly doing her part in providing girls with positive avenues to love and celebrate themselves and each other. Priceless!
To view the full photo gallery click here!
JJ is currently chronicling her own personal experiences from a past abusive relationship and the journey to healing in her book, “Without Bruises,” designed to give guidance to others who find themselves in harmful situations.
She is also the founder of Single Moms Rock, a blog that provides “high quality content, product information, and entertainment to empower Single Moms all around the world!”
You are welcome to follow JJ via social media @jjonthemic @ImMeFoundation @SnglMomsRock
Also visit her online at: