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Center Stage

Meet Naomi Wadler, the 11-year-old activist whose passion and determination earned her a national spotlight.

While most fifth graders fret presenting a book report before 20 or so classmates, Naomi Wadler found herself standing before 200,000 attendees at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington D.C. on Mar. 24. With only two days to prepare, Wadler wrote a three-minute speech that eloquently shed light on the lack of media attention girls and women of color receive as victims of gun violence. It was a passionate, tour de force performance that immediately went viral, attracting high-profile fans like Sen. Kamala Harris, producer Shonda Rhimes and actor Tessa Thompson, who tweeted, “Naomi Wadler is my president!” Within days, Ellen DeGeneres invited Wadler to come on her show, to which Walder enthusiastically agreed.

    In fact, the 11-year-old gun control activist  first made headlines when she and classmate Carter Anderson planned a walkout at their elementary school in Alexandria, VA, a month after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, FL. More than 60 students joined the pair in an 18-minute protest—one minute for each victim of the shooting and an extra minute for Courtlin Arrington, a 17-year-old black high school student shot and killed in an Alabama classroom days earlier. A reporter from The Guardian tweeted that day how impressed she was to find the kids so well organized and prepared with press packets, to boot. Indeed, Wadler is a natural born leader.

Always a step ahead, Wadler hopes to continue to inspire her peers to take action, with her most recent endeavour being a position on mission-based fashion company KidBox’s Kids Board of Directors. “Success isn’t what your parents do—it’s what you do,” she says. “People often lose sight of what they can accomplish when trying to achieve what somebody else has accomplished. Just remember you can be most powerful by just being the best you.”

How would you describe your personal style? Adaptive. I like to always be comfortable.

What’s your favorite outfit of late? Mom isn’t a fan of them, but I love ripped jeans. I even rip the jeans myself. I’ll pick at them to the point where I have these huge rips, and then my mom eventually makes me throw them out.

What do you pair with your jeans? I like shirts with messages on them—even controversial ones. I have a shirt that says, “Freedom of Speech is Not a License to Be Stupid,” and there’s another I want to buy that says, “Why Be Sexist, Racist, Homophobic or Transphobic When You Can Just Be Quiet?”

Have you noticed more brands empowering young kids through messaging? I have. Whether it’s gun violence, sexism, racism, youth empowerment, LGBTQ community—I’ve noticed a very positive movement in fashion. I enjoy wearing and supporting them all!

Do the ethics of brands matter? Treating their workers right is something I’ve always cared about. I’m very much against the harmful environment of some labor communities, and I think it’s something more young people should become aware of.

Do you shop online or in stores? Both. We live near a mall, so it’s easy to just run over and buy what you need when you need it. 

How often do you accessorize? Pretty often. I love headbands and head wraps. I also am really into glasses. I love the huge, fake glasses. I try to explain to my mom that they’re supposed to be super-duper big, but she still doesn’t get it.   

How about shoes? Sneakers are definitely a big thing for me and my friends. I like my Vans and (Bernie) Mevs. Both of them are black and can match everything. I also have a cool pair of red velvet Vans. Sock mixing is another really big trend now. (Mixmatching) is huge at my school! Sure it’s a little odd, but it’s fun. Different colors, patterns, lengths—anything goes!

Go bold or go home! Yeah, forget the boring black and grays. Wild rainbows are in! I’ve noticed “I am a Unicorn” shirts everywhere. And while I’m not a huge fan, you can’t deny unicorns are popular. Lord knows when that trend will fade.

What’s your dream job? I hope to be the first black female executive president of The New York Times.

In the meantime… To continue inspiring people to stick to what they believe in.

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