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As a #GirlMom, there’s nothing that gives me hope and gets a fire burning in my belly like a strong message about empowering girls. For far too long, girls were told to be quiet, pretty, and still. Well, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see that narrative finally changing.
In 2018, girls are finally hearing that it’s okay to be loud sometimes (just like the boys are), to fight for what they believe in, and to dare to dream that they can be anything they want to be. But perhaps most of all, they’re finally being told that their looks are not the most important thing about them — and actress and activist Ashley Eckstein is proud to be a big part of spreading that message.
Eckstein, who lends her voice to the character Ahsoka Tano on the animated series’ Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars Forces of Destiny, is one girl I’m thrilled to have as a role model for my daughter. Not only is Eckstein a Star Wars girl (and if you ask me, Star Wars girls ROCK), but she’s also the founder of an innovative clothing line for girls and women called Her Universe.
Eckstein’s also also written a book about her journey, called It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make It Happen, which chronicles her life as a little girl with big dreams, her acting career with the Star Wars franchise, and the ins and outs of running her own business.
In it, Eckstein’s message to girls is clear: Don’t be afraid to dream. This is your world, too — so make room for yourself in it, and don’t stop working toward your goals.
The book tells her story of growing up in Orlando and dreaming of one day working for Disney. And although Eckstein did grow up to achieve her goals, she was met with plenty of obstacles (and “failures”) along the way. From audition rejections to her struggle to get her clothing line off the ground, Eckstein tells the story of a girl who kept going, despite being told to give up.
“I was not born into royalty or great wealth and opportunity,” Eckstein writes. “I had to work hard and earn everything that was ever given to me, but thanks to the lifelong influence and inspiration of Disney, I’ve been able to make my dreams come true. By sharing my story and what I’ve learned, I hope I can prove to you that the universe is truly yours to take hold of and that you have the power to make anything happen!”
Throughout It’s Your Universe, she does just that. With journal prompts that coincide with her story, Eckstein encourages her young readers to write down their own vision for the future, and make a plan to get there.
Some of her topics include challenging readers to practice their skills every day, writing down a list of traits “that make you YOU,” and admitting their failures — as well as what they’ve learned from them.
Eckstein tells Babble that it was very important to her that facing failure be addressed in the book, especially for today’s youth.
“Due to social media, we live in a society today where perfectionism is ‘liked’ and failure is not often talked about,” she says. “However, social media is just a highlight reel and our failures rarely make the post. The need for everything to be and look perfect often creates a paralyzing fear to even try. I personally think it’s so dangerous to inhibit failure. Some of the most valuable lessons are learned from failure. The feeling of failure creates a necessary hunger to succeed.”
As a parent, I also appreciate that It’s Your Universe boldly addresses bullying, a common struggle millions of kids face, but that’s often made worse by today’s online world.
“Bullying is very personal for me because I’ve been bullied as a kid and as an adult and I’ve also been a victim of cyber bullying,” Eckstein tells Babble. “It’s an awful feeling to be bullied and it’s exacerbated if the person being bullied feels like they are alone. I hope the message they take away from my book is that they are not alone.”
As well as voicing the much-loved character of Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars, Eckstein’s other huge success is her clothing line for girls, which caters largely to an age range that Eckstein says is often skipped over.
“I love catering to an audience that is underserved and the tween audience is often overlooked,” she says. “They don’t want designs that look really young but they aren’t quite teenagers yet either. They still love the Disney princesses but they don’t want to wear a picture of a princess on their shirt anymore. However, they are still inspired and empowered by the princesses.”
Eckstein’s clothes still let girls channel their dreams and model themselves after princesses they may have looked up to growing up, but they also let tweens mature a little bit, too.
And, Her Universe makes awesome Star Wars clothes for girls as well, which was a major priority for the fashion designer and actress.
“It’s important because Star Wars is for everyone,” she tells Babble. “To me, Star Wars is a story of hope. It’s a story of good overcoming evil and you can’t put a gender on that. For many, being a Star Wars fangirl is not a trend, it’s a part of your identity and how you would describe yourself. Not being allowed to share your true self can be harmful and hurtful. We’ve come a long way in changing this narrative, but we’re not there yet.”
But having a book in their hands like It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make It Happen and clothes that let girls express who they really are is certainly a good first step. Thank you to Ashley Eckstein for sending our daughters the message that they CAN achieve their dreams and they can be any kind of girl they want to be.More On