Exclusive interview with actress and social activist Monique Coleman!
Whether she’s tearing up the dance floor on “Dancing with the Stars,” singing her heart out in the High School Musical movies, or channeling her inner Oprah on her Internet talk show, Monique Coleman is one talented multi-tasking mama! But while some might bask in the “me, me, me” part of being a celebrity, Monique is using her time in the limelight to draw attention to issues being experienced by girls around the globe. We caught up with this dynamic diva to find out more about what she’s up to:
When did you first take an interest in philanthropy?
Monique: I believe that we are all born with the desire to do good in the world, [but] the degree to which we do so varies. For me, I’ve always wanted to make a difference. It’s the reason I became an actress. I wanted to inspire people through my art. I’ve also volunteered with several organizations since middle school, when I was a Girl Scout and the president of a girls club that did a lot of community service. In the past 3 years, my focus has shifted and expanded to include more global and social issues.
You were named the UN Champion of Youth and had the opportunity to tour the world raising awareness. What were some of the most eye-opening things you saw during your travels?
Monique: The extreme poverty was certainly the most awakening aspect of the tour. I had seen poverty portrayed in films and in media, but never with my own eyes. Bangladesh, India, and parts of the Phillipines, Indonesia, and Africa were the most impressive. The most interesting aspect wasn’t the poverty itself—it was the positivity, gratitude, and incredible spirit of the people. The resilience, kindness, and generosity of spirit was most present in places where people had the least resources.
Highlight moments for me were: visiting girls in a safe house in the Phillipines, sleeping at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, having breakfast with young men in Colombia who were previously involved in the conflicts, and hearing Professor Yunus speak about social business.
The trip was awe-inspiring! I really saw the impact that young people are making on social change and the importance of empowering women and girls everywhere.
Having met with youth all over the world, what issues do you think are impacting girls universally? How do you envision needed change?
Monique: Violence against women and girls is universal and unacceptable. Also, access to education is extremely important. Organizations like GirlUp, She’s the First, and SayNo – Unite are doing an incredible work to improve these issues. I believe that the change will come from each girl that is liberated. Women are powerful. The work is already in progress. We live in an instant era which sometimes neglects the fact that things take time. I have hope for the future of women and girls. We just have to take one day, one moment, one girl at a time.
Monique: My advice is simple: Follow your dreams! Be the best YOU possible. Then, apply the things you learn and experience to making the world a better place. Whether your passion is music or make-up, being a doctor or pilot, there is so much that is needed to improve the lives of people everywhere. Anything you’re interested in can be applied toward social good. You just have to keep other people in your heart all the time and do small actions that will have great impact
What other celebrities do you admire that are using their position for good?
Monique: Angelina Jolie, Alicia Keys, Mandy Moore, Ben Affleck, Shakira, Sean Penn, and George Clooney are in my top faves. To be honest, I admire and respect ANYONE who is using their platform to make a difference
Why are you so drawn to girl advocacy work and has it impacted or influenced your acting career in any way?
Monique: Maybe because I am a girl. I believe this advocacy work has probably made me a better actress because I have so many more real experiences and dynamic people to draw from when developing a character. I’m interested to see if my work has deepened since I’ve had these experieces. You’ll have to let me know
What causes would you like to get involved with in the future?
Monique: PEACE. I believe that young people and women have the power to open our eyes to the unnecessary continuation of war. I want to be more involved in the cause to end conflicts around the world.
Anything else you want to share with our Heart of Gold go-getters?
Monique: You are powerful and limitless. Believe in yourself and don’t let anyone (not even yourself) stand in the way of your dreams.