Olivia Vella is 13 years old and a seventh grader at Queen Creek Middle School in Arizona. If I remember being 13 correctly, I got my first period, my first boyfriend (and consequently my first heartbreak), my first Fall Out Boy album, plus an unhealthy obsession with red patent accessories (try not to judge, shit was hard at 13). The difference between Olivia and my 13 year old self is that she is literally woke af, whilst I was barely awake enough to be able to make it out of bed in time to catch the bus each morning.
At 13, I had worries I was too fat, I wasn't pretty enough, I wasn't cool enough. I had no clue that it was a harsh combination of societal pressures and growing up that caused me any of the pain that I felt. The next generation - the Olivia Vella generation - seem to, on the whole, have more of a cultural understanding and awareness than my generation did. Whether that comes part and parcel with the exposure to more resources or accessibility to better role models via social media, who knows.
Whilst I spent most of that year's English class trying to wrap my head around Shakespeare, there's Olivia Vella, the same age, performing a spoken word piece - that she wrote her damn self, might I add - to her entire class. Not only is it incredibly written, it's performed with such raw emotion and conviction; at no point does she flinch or forget her place. Nostalgic, heartbreaking and inspiring all at once, watch Olivia's monologue here:
Girlhood was hard enough as I remember, let alone in this day and age. Technology is advancing, kids are growing up quicker, peer pressure is creeping in at younger ages, and more is expected from teenagers. There are social, physical and emotional expectations that young girls (and boys) should not need to meet but feel like they have to, and they can make every day feel like a struggle.
It's undeniable that watching this brings back memories from our more vulnerable years, but you don't have to be Olivia's age to feel this way. Her words are just as relatable for grown women, who face similar (if not the same) troubles on a daily basis and with that, I'll wrap this up here and leave you with some more of Olivia's words:
"Society infers girls have to have skinny waists, tanned skin, long silky hair, perfectly straight teeth, big butts and et cetera. Society infers girls have to wear tonnes of make up to be pretty. Society infers girls have to wear skanky clothes and do inappropriate things with boys to be considered cool. But society is wrong. You are loved. You are precious. You are beautiful. You are talented. You are deserving of respect. You can eat that meal. You are one in seven billion. And most of all, you are good enough."