When I learned from PetalsNBelles.org that March was Women’s History Month I immediately decided that I would join in the celebration by highlighting women who have inspired me throughout my life. Of course there’s the normal mother, grandmother, sister relationships that keep us all sane. But there have been many women who have touched my life albeit small or big.
Before time took over my life I originally wanted to feature a fabulous woman each Wednesday in March. Well that didn’t happen. So I’ve decided to just do one – the source of this post’s inspiration. Damali Elliott, founder and president of PetalsNBelles.org an organization for young women in New York between the ages of 12-22. I was introduced to Damali via the power of social networking. A friend of mine sent me an email asking me to help support Damali’s twitter campaign to celebrate women and of course I agreed. After heading over to her site I realized this was something that everyone should know about. I found myself tweeting and retweeting and finally I said to myself, I just need to speak her. And I did!
GIG: Who is Damali Elliott?
Damali: I’m huge on happiness and kindness. Everything I do in my life I really just want to be happy. If I am unhappy or if things in my life make me unhappy I’m not going to quit but I am gonna start looking for that happy factor. And I think that’s the great thing about me. My mom always says that I have a happy disposition, I’m very cheerful and happy! I’m driven and purposeful. I’m huge on purpose. We’re here to enjoy ourselves but it’s bigger than that.
GIG: What were you doing before PetalsNBelles.org?
Damali - I started off doing Entertainment PR. Growing up I always knew that I was going to go to college. When I got there I knew I was going to do entertainment because it was the only thing remotely interesting to me. When I got into journalism school, PR was so diverse and I thought WOW. This is it. I can be behind the scenes. I could really enjoy this. But when I got in PR I was really unhappy. I’m not really a “nightlife” person. I don’t like to stay out late. I love people but there were certain aspects of PR that I didn’t like. It was just really superficial. And I am really sensitive person. Being in PR and being sensitive just wasn’t going to work out.
GIG: I was reading your “story” on PetalsNBelles.org and you mention a crisis of purpose, what exactly happened?
Damali: It was interesting when I left PR I literally told my boyfriend I have to go to church, I need to talk to God. It was this overwhelming feeling, I was just so lost in terms of what I wanted to do. That summer a few different people called me and wanted me to talk to their nieces, their daughters – and then my Aunt called and wanted me to talk to my cousin and all these things started to happen. And I spoke with them all. I spent the summer just getting to know the girls. I had to the time of my life. They were all dealing with similar issues. So I thought, wow I should just bring them all together and they could help each other through their issues. I would be there as their chaperon and help them when needed.
GIG: How did you come up with the name Petals N Belles?
Damali: One day I was sitting in church and God literally whispered to me Petals N Belles. I was thinking about young women and how impressionable they are and how delicate they are. And then the word petals just came into my head. Later on in the service I started thinking of bells – but like bells ringing. It was when I wasn’t until I was talking to one of the girls that I was mentoring and we came up with Belle.
GIG: Awwh awesome, so how did you actually start Petals N Belles?
Damali: I ended up getting all the girls together for a pilot group that lasted 5 months. When it was over the girls were like, what’s next? So I knew that I had to continue it.
GIG: Now that you have created this amazing network for young women, what type of activities does your program offer to the young ladies?
Damali: A lot. Our programs are called Lockets and our facilitators are called Keys. We have a 6 to 1 ratio. We do everything from self esteem sessions, to going to museums, to dining out and learning different cultures. We have an etiquette coach during one of our sessions. And that just the first program – the Core Locket. We’re huge on edutainment (the act of learning through a medium that both educates and entertains).
GIG: Wow it seems like you guys are having loads of fun?
Damali: We are! It’s all about them talking to us. I am creating an environment where they are heard and we listen. I really want it to be a “one stop shop” for them. In the future as we grow they will have the opportunity for them to travel.
GIG: Speaking of future, where do you see Petals N Belles in the next few years?
Damali: I want it to be an umbrella company – Petals N Belles Detroit, Petals N Belles Chicago, Petals N Belles Los Angeles. The passion that I have isn’t unique so I would love to provide other people with the same passion a solid foundation to start a Petal N Belles in their city.
This was my very first phone interview and it was so refreshing. There were so many awwh’s and oh’s during our conversation that we both agreed we need to meet up for some brunch this summer.
Be sure to check her organization and please support her and our future!