“Compose yourselves, ladies,” another woman in our group calmly said. “We need to focus on our agenda.”
None of us could actually believe we were here — and that accounted for our giddiness. This meeting had taken months to confirm.
I had gotten the call less than a week ago. Alexis Jones, founder of I Am That Girl, a non-profit dedicated to inspiring confidence in young women through healthy media. She wanted me to join them at the White House to discuss their cause. Alexis said, because of the book that I had written to teen girls, ”Exactly As I Am” on girls and self-esteem, she saw me as a woman who wanted to change the world. I was truly honored — empowering girls is a true passion of mine. After discussing the short notice with my executive producer at Access Hollywood, I booked my ticket from L.A. to DC (and then drove to the store to find something “White House worthy”).
Clearing security, even if you are INVITED, takes 15 minutes. We were then escorted into the historic building and down a hallway of dozens of beautiful candid pictures of the First Family. We placed our cell phones onto a shelving unit and were taken into the Roosevelt Room, right outside the Oval Office. The huge table took up most of the space and after playing musical chairs for a few minutes, we settled into our spots and placed our nameplates in front of us; myself, Alexis (“Survivor: Micronesia”), actresses Soleil Moon Frye, (Punky Brewster), Kristin Bell, Sophia Bush, and eight other “actionists.”
A few minutes later, Tina Tchen, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Chief of Staff and the Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and a few members of her staff walk into the room and introduce themselves.
We discussed the current state of media as a global health crisis for girls. Depression, low self-esteem and eating disorders are linked to the sexualization of girls in the media. And television sends messages to girls that it’s natural for them to be adversaries and not allies.
We urged the White House Council to incorporate healthy media into all issues related to girls.
An hour-and-a-half later (30 minutes past the time we had been allotted), Ms. Chen was still praising us on our mission and promised to have follow-up meetings to discuss how we could move this agenda forward.
Afterward, we spent a few minutes tweeting from the White House lawn before leaving out the gate onto Pennsylvania Avenue to a crowd of tourists.
One spectator shouted, “Hey, how do you get in there?” I said to her, ”You have to want to change the world!”
Shaun Robinson is a correspondent for Access Hollywood and she also hosts TV One Access. Follow her @MsShaunRobinson