Nicole Starr is one of the leading forces giving media a much-needed social make-over. As part of Participant Media, Nicole helps create film, television, and other digital texts that not only entertain or inspire, but also raise awareness and make a positive impact in the world. What sets Participant apart is the way the group actively engages with companies and social organizations to give audience members a stake in the particular subject matter showcased. In a word: awesome. Nicole expresses her deep passion for learning more about the world and how she can make a difference in it through this innovative model of digital storytelling and activism. “I want to continue working more with organizations to help develop campaigns that really address some of the most pressing issues we’re facing.” And when Nicole’s not driving social change you can find her spending quality time with her husband and kids and possibly indulging in one of her most favorite guilty pleasures: freshly baked brownies.
If you could describe yourself in one hashtag, what would it be?
Tell us about a girl in your life who rocks.
My mom has always rocked. As a role-model she's shown me how to balance a career you're passionate about, with raising a family, and all of life's other obligations. She doesn't allow me to get overwhelmed, and I'm a much more balanced, easy-going person because of her. Plus, she's always given me confidence about my body – no matter what size I am. Just the other day she told me, "tummies can be sexy too." Who doesn't want a girl like that in your life?
What are your dreams/goals/ambitions?
Since become a working mom, I constantly challenge myself to create a work-life balance that satisfies my career-oriented personality, and fulfills my deep desire to be with my children as much as possible. Its not always easy, but I think if working parents continue to prioritize family, my hope is that in the near future more workplaces will offer flexible working hours and more opportunities for parents to be present in their children's education and extracurricular actives.
What are you most proud of?
My kids. Nothing makes me happier than seeing them grow, learn and experience new things for the first time.
What piece of advice changed your life?
During the college application process, I was told by school counselors and university recruiters how hard and nearly impossible it is to get accepted into the nation's top universities. I vividly recall one recruiter talking about a student with a 4.2 GPA, excellent SAT scores, was a varsity tennis player, but didn't get into the school of her choice. I felt defeated before I even tried, as I was none of those things. So when it came time to start the application process, I lowered my expectations and didn't apply to my dream school. What was the point? Fortunately, that's when my dad stepped in and told me simply to try. How could I not? I wanted to go to UCLA since I was 10. Why wouldn't I at least try? So I did. I applied. And 4 months later I received an acceptance letter to the University of California, Los Angeles – aka My Dream School. I'm thankful everyday for my dad's encouragement. And now whenever I'm afraid of putting myself out there, for fear of rejection, or because someone else told me its impossible, I remember my dad's advice of, "just try."
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Happily juggling a satisfying career and life with my family. Its hard to get more specific than that - life evolves so quickly, I can't even imagine what the next 10 years will look like.
What is the number one item on your bucket list?
I don't really think in terms of bucket lists. If there is something I really want to do, I try to plan for it in the near future. Life is short – have fun now!
Who has been the biggest female influence in your life and why?
In addition to my mom, I'd have to say my grandma. She was a single parent in the 50's, raising 5 kids on a librarian's salary. She was strong, independent and left a wonderful impression on everyone she met. And though she never had money for large vacations, she still managed to take her kids and their friends on camping trips every summer, either to the beach or at a state park. She instilled in all of her family a deep love for nature and appreciation for the simple things in life, whether it be a beach sunset, or the warmth of a campfire. When life gets hard, or overwhelming, I often think of how much my grandma managed on her own, without complaint, and it gives me the strength to step it up and get through the challenge. Plus she taught me, "life is short, eat dessert first." Sound words to live by.
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken and what did you learn from it?
I recently left a high-paying, stable job with benefits galore, to pursue a career I was passionate about. I didn't have a job lined up, and wasn't sure how I was going to break into this new industry, but I left my job anyway. The funny thing is, the day after give my notice, my dream job opened up. I felt free for the first time in years to pursue it and really go for it, and 2 months later I started working at a company I've wanted to be apart of for years. Through this experience I learned that you have to vocalize what you want and be open to the uncertainty that comes with pursuing your dreams.
Why are you THAT GIRL?
For me, IATG is an incredible community of girls who are open and honest about who they are, and also so accepting of others. By being That Girl, there is a commitment to be real about what makes you without embarrassment or self-consciousness, and to inspire others to feel good about themselves too. Imagine how powerful we can be if we're not limited by our own self-doubt and insecurities. This community really inspires, and I hope we can all work together to help each other achieve our dreams and be all we want to be.
*Interview conducted and compiled by Sheila Moeschen, IATG Senior Editor
Featured image courtesy of Nicole Starr