PORTLAND, OR (November 12, 2017) – Seventeen-year-old Jolie Brownell launched a website and published a book recently because she wanted to tear down stereotypes and help other teens accept themselves—apart from society’s standards.
Her website includes lyrical reflections, and her book, Me Too, includes daily affirmations, snippets from blog entries she has posted on multiple sites in the past several years. (The book’s title and the name of her website, Me Too Girl, were chosen prior to the current #metoo social media campaign.)
In junior high school Brownell was bullied about how she looked, and she says she began to internalize the messages she received. Reading books with positive self-affirmations helped her develop a new sense of self-worth.
So did her faith. “What I always come back to is everyone wants to be ‘good enough’ to be loved, for something, for everything. We do so many things to be beautiful for other people. We’ll lose weight. We’ll take jokes. We’ll starve ourselves. We’ll do whatever so that our bodies will look ‘good enough.’”
She adds, “But we have been created in the image of God, and on the day we were created, we were deemed good enough. For me to know that I was created in the image of God, to know that I was beautifully and wonderfully made has helped me to let go of that striving to look good enough in the eyes of humans because I’m already good enough in the eyes of God.”
Her pastor at Irvington Covenant Church in Portland, Stephen Bjorlin, says, “Jolie is a leader who is using her story to help others. When I think about Me Too, I think of not only Jolie but the many people this book will touch. As I read her book I couldn’t help but see Scripture. Every page reminds people that they are made in the image of God.”
When she was 14 Brownell started blogging at a site called “All Women Talk.” She wanted to counter the messages she says are ubiquitous. “I thought a lot of their messages were not empowering. They were, ‘Do this and you’ll be perfect,’ or ‘Look this way and people will like you.’ I wanted to empower the girls.”
The number of her subscribers grew until she had more than 1,000. The editors at the site eventually stopped using her posts, but Brownell felt encouraged to keep going. “The site was for young adults and adults, and I would hear from women who said the messages were really important for them. Then they’d learn I was 14, and they would be super shocked. I figured if the messages had been so powerful for them, that meant that girls my age were really starving for it.”
She went on to blog for I Am That Girl, an organization focused on helping girls transform self-doubt in to self-love by providing a safe space for honest conversations about things that matter.
After high school Brownell took a gap year. “My mom said I wasn’t going to just lie around in bed for a year, and I had to commit to something,” Brownell says. She hit on the idea for the book and then developed the website to accompany it.
The posts include titles such as “Profit Off My Insecurity,” “My Blackness Is Not Dirty,” and “If Their Beauty Had a Taste.” The website uses images by graphic artists Brownell admires and illustrations of women of all shapes and colors. Inspired by their work, Brownell recently started creating her own similar images.
Brownell started the site before the recent scandals erupted around sexual harassment and assault. She was aware of the Me Too campaign, which was started by Tarana Burke in 1997 as a way of fighting sexual harassment. It exploded into a national phenomenon when actress Alyssa Milano turned it into a Twitter hashtag #metoo on October 15.
Brownell says she had hoped to find a publisher for her book but wound up self-publishing it. She said the process was intimidating, but she persevered with the help of her church after she made her plans known. “Within a day, I had a whole team. A designer for the cover, a designer for the inside, someone who helped me with the legal side of publishing. All of the people I needed came primarily from the community. I knew they had my back.”
Brownell’s book, Me Too is available on CovBooks.com.