Allison Epstein Photo (1)

Name: Allison Epstein

Age: 23

Location: Berwyn, Illinois (Western suburb of Chicago for out-of-staters)


Junior business-to-business marketing copywriter by day, managing editor at Adios Barbie by night. I write and edit articles about everything from eating disorders to rape culture to systemic racism. At my day job, I write copy about products you didn’t know existed for trade magazines you also didn’t know existed. (Ask me anything about galvanized steel conduit. No, go ahead, ask.)

Where did you come from?

Lansing, Michigan, home of several now-defunct General Motors plants, the state capital, and, at one point, Malcolm X.

A Fear: Settling. Choosing comfort over working for what intimidates and inspires me, professionally and personally. Also bats. Slit-nosed leather-winged furry demons. Nothankyou.

A Goal: Pay the bills by writing fiction. It can be one short story I sell for $20 to pay my electric bill with. I’m not picky.

A Memory: In the summer of 2013, I was studying abroad in Northern Ireland when my grandmother passed away from Parkinson’s disease. I couldn’t make it back in time for the funeral, but I traveled to the Antrim coast along the north of the island, and spent the day of the service on a cliff above the blue-green sea, watching the waves roll past and listening to seals barking on the rocks below. I don’t know what I believe about this life and anything after, but I’ve never felt more connected to the universe and whatever’s beyond it.

A Mistake: Backing out of opportunities from fear of what people will think of me. It’s an ongoing mistake, and one I’m working daily to correct.

A Hero: My parents and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

A Fault: You haven’t seen Type A until you see how I do Type A. My work-life balance is a hot mess, and I’ve always demanded more of myself than I can deliver. Someday I’ll be able to fall asleep with unanswered emails still in my inbox. Until then, I will lull myself into a false sense of security with lists, spreadsheets, and a flawlessly alphabetized bookshelf.

A Talent: I have a Shakespeare reference ready for almost any occasion. The number of friends and family members I’ve convinced to read / watch / attend a performance of King Lear is frankly alarming. I’m not sure if this is a talent or a nuisance.

A Prized Possession: My library of notebooks. I write longhand whenever I can, and haven’t thrown away a book since 2007. Everything before then is too embarrassing to be read, anyway.

A Need: Solitude. As an introvert, I’m like old film: For anything to turn out OK, sometimes I need to be alone in a dark room for a while.

I want More: Compassion. Locally and globally, for people we know and understand and for people we don’t.

I want Less: Coldplay.

What would you change about the world?

I want to get rid of the connection between food, our bodies, and our worth. There’s so much morality tied up in these issues when there just doesn’t need to be. There is nothing good or bad about food or bodies — they are what they are. The way you treat someone, whether or not you tip your servers, how you vote on social issues, how you support friends in need, there’s morality in that. In our thighs? If we could stop this culturally sanctioned long con, I’d be over the moon.

What do you love about yourself?

My writing voice. Whether anyone but my family, friends, or workshop group reads my work is beside the point (although if you’re searching for a novelist-for-hire, hit me up…). I’m closer emotionally to the main character of my novel-in-eternal-progress than I am to most people. He just understands me.


Name: Baily Racheal Warman
Age: 23
Location: Chicago, Ill
Occupation: Full time Seminary Student. I work various part time jobs around campus to make ends meet.
Where did you come from? I was born and raised in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, IL.
I spent a year in Florida attending Eckerd College then moved back to Chicago to finish up my undergraduate degree.
A Fear: Not being enough.
A Goal: To see more of the world.
A Memory: Working as a recycler my freshman year of college. St. Petersburg didn’t have a recycling service, so we used to ride around campus in the back of an old beat up pick up truck collecting and sorting everyone’s trash. It was disgusting, rewarding, and awesome all once.
A Mistake: Not telling those whom I’ve loved, “I love you.”
A Hero: Savitribai Phule. She and her husband spent their lives dignifying and educating India’s Dalit women. She lived to abolish oppression based on gender and caste. She was such a badass.
A Fault: I let people go to easily.
A Talent: Empathy.
A Prized Possession: My journals and scriptures.
A Need: Time alone.
I want more: Love.
I want less: Fear of missing out.
What would you change about the world? I would change the way women are treated globally and all forms of social hierarchy based on gender, race, religion, caste, orientation, etc.
What do you love about yourself? I love how deeply I feel things. I cry a lot. Like a lot. It’s something I used to get made fun of for, but I believe God uses my tears for a greater purpose. I love that I am comfortable and open with how I feel. No one should ever be ashamed to feel what they feel.



Name: Gail A. Hanson

Age:  43

Location:  Grand Rapids, Michigan

Occupation:  I evaluate training / motivation materials.

Where did you come from? Born and raised in Southern California.

A Fear:  Never accomplishing something of significance. Leaving my boys without a legacy they can be proud of and not being remembered.

A Goal:  Write a book. I’ve started more than once. If only I could finish.

A Memory:  One of my favorite memories of childhood is riding my lavender bike with the white basket to the library. Filling that basket with books for the week and then riding to the grocery store for ice cream or candy. This is what summer looks like. Even though every trip was a little different I remember them all as one collective snapshot. And, I’m always smiling and happy with the sun beating down.

A Mistake:  I will always regret not finishing college.

A Hero:  My older sister for making the raising of children look easy even when it was hard. Single mothers never get enough credit for what they do.

A Fault:  I think I know everything and therefore I am always right. I do not and I am not. (Don’t tell my husband I admitted that.)

A Talent:  I can crochet.

A Prized Possession:  An old broken manual typewriter that belonged to my father. Once it was my dream to use it to write my novel. It reminds me of how he believed I could do anything. I still long to have it repaired.

A Need:  Patience.

I want more:  Time and energy to enjoy life with my family and friends. The introvert in me is always searching for quiet places but I also want the boisterous moments with those I love.

I want less:  Stress and worry.

What would you change about the world?  I would change the prevalence of prejudice; eliminate the hate crimes that accompany racism. Bring about justice for the marginalized. Recent years have shown too many instances of injustice. I worry for my boys and what the next generation faces.

What do you love about yourself?  Such a tough question … I love my sense of humor. The moments when I can feel light in laughter. It doesn’t happen nearly as much as I would like but still I feel my best at those times.



Name: Grace Manger

Age: 21

Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan

Occupation: I work multiple jobs, but most notably, I manage content and development at The Parents Project, a website that gives comprehensive advice and support to parents of LGBTQ young people.

Where did you come from? A single-parent home– and then a blended family home– in west Michigan. I grew up surrounded by loving parents and a million siblings, a conservative school district, some hard times, and a lot of figuring things out as we went along.

A Fear: Disappointing those I care most about.

A Goal: To help people fully and unapologetically inhabit their bodies and their identities.

A Memory: I was painfully shy as a child, and there was a time when I exclusively communicated with my mom through written notes that I hid in a make-shift mailbox in our living room. She kept every single one, and they range from “Can we have macaroni and cheese for lunch today?” to “I’m really sad, can I have a hug?” I still read them every once in a while, and the emotions and vulnerability of my 4-year-old self consistently bring me to tears.

A Mistake: I was so terrified of being labeled a lesbian in high school that I remained complacent in instances of bullying that I witnessed, out of fear that my standing up for someone would turn the target on me instead. We didn’t have a GSA or many positive and out LGBTQ role models, and the kids who were thought to be gay were ostracized. I remember hearing some kids make fun of those participating in Day of Silence one year, and I couldn’t bring myself to say anything while fighting back tears. I didn’t know if I was gay or not at that point, but my biggest fear was being labeled as something before I was ready. College turned out to be an amazing place for me to figure out my sexuality, but I still feel incredibly guilty for not being a better ally to my peers during that confusing time.

A Hero: A magical little girl named Maia, who taught me more about loving myself during her 8 years on earth than anyone else.

A Fault: Basing my self-worth on what other people think of me.

A Talent: I am very good at handstands.

A Prized Possession: My voice.

A Need: Affection and affirmation.

I want More: Courage to say the big things and take the big risks.

I want Less: Doubt and disillusionment. Also, guns.

What would you change about the world? I wish we could have less emphasis on productivity and more emphasis on pleasure. We base our success as human beings on how much we work and produce, and I wish we paid more attention to how much we love, how much we smile, how much we connect with others on a daily basis.

What do you love about yourself? At 21 years old, I think I have been through more than most: some destructive relationships, an eating disorder, coming out to myself and to others, and the loss of a loved one. When I look back on it all, I am incredibly proud of my resilience and my ability to use those experiences to transform my life into one that I never could have imagined for myself just a few years ago.


Ashley Jones

 Name: Ashley M. Jones

Age: 24

Location: Miami, Florida

Occupation: Student, Instructor, Community Outreach Aficionado

Where did you come from? I’m from Birmingham, Alabama, and I’ll be moving back there in just a couple of weeks. Miami is also called the Magic City, but Birmingham is the original (my original, anyway).

A Fear: Never falling in love

A Goal: becoming president of a university and a mom of four

A Memory: I went to my senior prom without a date, but I ended up dancing with the boy I liked, anyway.Stole him!

A Mistake: Allowing someone to disrespect me repeatedly until I believed all the bad things they said about me.

A Hero: My dad–he’s a Fire Chief, paramedic, and manager of the EMS services in Birmingham. He works so hard for us, and he never complains. He is happy when we’re happy, no matter how tired he is. I learned how to serve others from him. I also learned how to be goofy and tell corny jokes.

A Fault: I’m too guarded sometimes…and I overthink everything. The poet’s mind, I tell you!

A Talent: I’m an excellent whistler. And I can sing all the words to “La Bamba.”

A Prized Possession: not sure…I don’t think I possess much that can be prized. I really treasure the shape of my eyes…but I guess that’s not a possession.

A Need: A man who can tap dance, who loves poetry, and who can sing along to all my favorite songs. Ahem, I mean, I need a book contract for my poetry manuscript!! Priorities…

I want More: laughter

I want Less: financial worry

What would you change about the world? I would give everyone the gift of chill. That is, I would give people the power to relax, appreciate everyone else, and stay out of each others’ religions, sexualities, wallets, etc. Live and let live, world!!!

What do you love about yourself? Now, I love everything. I love that I learned how to love myself. It wasn’t always that way, but I’m glad I made it to this loving place.



Name: Erin McKelle

Age: 20

Location: Columbus, Ohio

Occupation: Freelance writer, social media strategist, communications whiz, and badass feminist blogger

Where did you come from? I was born in Columbus and adopted by a family who lived in the suburbs of Cleveland, where I grew up and spent the entirety of my childhood.

A Fear: That I won’t reach my professional goals. I’ve always been very ambitious and been successful in my ventures, but I’m always thinking about what’s next. I want to make my passions my career, which I’ve been able to do so far at a young age. Even writing this, I’m realizing my fear may be irrational or more likely a part of the high standards I set for myself.

A Goal: To revitalize my physical fitness and not let working out fall by the wayside. I truly enjoy the rush I feel when I exercise and want to cultivate that more consistently.

A Memory: During the end of my first year of college, I was walking to my dorm after a particularly great therapy session and work day at my university’s LGBT Center, where I was interning. I remember seeing the tall trees and the pretty brick buildings and thinking to myself that if God existed, this is what it would feel like. Since then, it’s been hard to call myself an atheist.

A Mistake: I don’t believe in regrets or mistakes- if you learn from something (and you can learn from any experience), it becomes valuable. But I would say that I’ve made the mistake of being too self-conscious and not putting myself out there because I feared being rejected. It’s amazing how a subtle shift in your attitude can make all of the difference in the quality of your life.

A Hero: Kacy Catanzaro, the first woman to ever complete the qualifying course on America Ninja Warrior. I remember seeing the clip of her conquering the course last summer and being so inspired- she truly embodies the power of womanhood. She also connects me back to body positivity, as she used her height and small stature to her advantage, when others insisted it would bring her down.

A Fault: I’m often passive-aggressive and it’s something that I’m trying very hard to let go of. It’s a behavioral pattern I picked up during my childhood and never realized how it’s affected my relationships until recently. Also, it’s usually better to be direct with people- I find it creates a lot less stress.

A Talent: Writing. From a very young age I’ve always loved to write and it’s been a talent I’ve been complimented on since I was in elementary school. My writing is usually what connects me to people and what I’ve found has been the most impactful to others, which has been such a blessing.

A Prized Possession: My teddy bear Daisy- I’ve had her since I was an infant! She’s a classic looking bear with black eyes, a red bow, and brown fur. We’ve been cuddle companions for twenty years and I never plan on abandoning her! She’s been with me through everything and I still sleep with her in my bed to this day.

A Need: Privacy and personal space. I’m very introverted, so I naturally need to have my alone time away from other people. If I don’t get this, it’s hard for me to really concentrate on anything. Being alone revitalizes my spirit!

I want More: Face to face contact. Up until recently, all of the people I’ve dated have been long-distance and most of my friendships were as well. I now value seeing and being with someone in real time, offline and want to bring more of this into my life.

I want Less: Job insecurity! Since I’ve decided to pursue freelancing full-time, it means that I don’t have a salary or anything to really fall back on if things don’t work out. This makes me work that much harder, but it would be nice to not have to worry about what I’ll be doing six months from now or how I’ll pay the bills if I don’t find another contract after one ends.

What would you change about the world? I would eliminate violence as a whole. We’re so quick to insult, ridicule, hit, curse, and beat on others and it’s very disturbing to me. I see more and more violence in mainstream media and it’s perfectly acceptable to violate others if it means getting what you want. If we could stop using violence in our lives, including verbal and emotional violence, we could repair so much. I know that for me, most people will use my size as a weapon against me when they are trying to hurt, but because I’ve embraced who I am and what I look like, it’s transformed this negative into a positive. I want to see that same thing happen for a whole host of issues.

What do you love about yourself? My passion and enthusiasm for life. It’s something a lot of people notice when they interact with me and I think it’s a quality that isn’t cultivated enough in our world.


Deqa Elmi-Buursma

Name: Deqa Elmi

Age: 24

Location: Accra, Ghana

Occupation: School librarian, nurse at Liberty American School

Where did you come from: I was born in Somalia but after the Civil war my family and I migrated to Kenya where I lived until I was 13 years old before moving to America.

A Fear: Fear of failure. The thought of not doing things right scares me. I know some people say that fear helps to protect us, makes us be alert and prepares us to deal with our fear but in my case I hate the feeling of being fearless. I think this is one of my weakness in life.

A Goal: Be happy, healthy, have close friendship, exploring, being inspired and appreciating beauty. One example is I love fashion and being artesian in my own wardrobe. I would like to think I am my own person. When it comes to that I express myself through my style and I wear what makes me feel gracefully at ease. I hope one day to have my own store which will be full of international goods. With that said, I would like to build a successful business from scratch.

A Memory: A recent one is, my husband Derek and I visited Kenya. It was Derek’s first time and for me (10 plus Years). The memories of my childhood came floating back. Derek and I talked about our homelands and about the experiences of living. The more we talked and shared memories, questions like how long I’ve been gone came to mind and you realize that here (home) has gone on without you. People have grown up, they’ve moved, married, they’ve become completely different people and so have I. It’s hard to deny that the act of living in another county, in another language really changes you. Sometimes I felt that so much has happened in my absence, that so much has changed. The feeling of being an outsider trembled my mind and fear starts to tremble and weaken me as I think back of the memories found there. Some people might say you are different when you move to a new county but I have matured and accumulated a lot of wisdom over the years in the two places I call home.

A Hero: My mother. Like a lot of single moms, she had to struggle to work and care for eight children and at the time in an unfamiliar county, language and culture. Seeing her over come challenges in life, instilled in me the sense that I can do anything.

A Prized Possession: My wedding ring. My ring is a sign of love and fidelity between myself and husband, I cherish the memories and relationship it symbolizes.

I Want Less: Stuff and things that clutter and take away space. I want to make memories not take up space with non meaningful things.

I Want More: TRAVEL!

What would you change about the world: Human nature. For humans to put ethics before greed, and courage before fear. And to take away the illusion of body image so people can see the heart and character of the person.

What do you love about yourself: My natural hair. Growing up, I hated my hair because I never knew how to take care of it. Now, I love my hair, its BIG, CURLY and GORGEOUS.