As I stated in a past post, with my blog's 2 year anniversary coming up I want to start covering some more serious topics here. And with that being said, when I came across Ilana Harkavy on Instagram and began reading about her Just, Girl. Project I knew that this was a story I absolutely needed to talk about.
Photography by Keith Weidner
Normally, this is the part where I would dive in and begin telling you about Ilana and her project however, I'm going to let her tell you about it herself because she was kind enough to let me interview her! So let's get to it.
The Just, Girl. Project.
Bree Fesh: Though I have read a bit about you andThe Just, Girl. Project, to start off this interview tell me a little about yourself! How long have you been a musician and what made you decide to start this project?
Ilana Harkavy: Hi! My name is Ilana and I am an LA based musician. I have been singing and songwriting for my entire life! I had an exciting career in electronic dance music and was able to collaborate and tour with some amazing artists worldwide. I also worked on music that was featured on TV and in films. I had a blast! I feel so grateful for those opportunities! But to be honest, I never felt truly satisfied. I decided I wanted to get back to my first love, my roots—Pop music. So, I created my very first solo project, Just, Girl.
This body of work sheds light on the struggles I’ve faced as a young woman and the mottos I’ve adopted to overcome them. I’ve put my heart and soul into this project.
So… It is with glowing pride that I present to you The Just, Girl. Project.
The Just, Girl. Project is a fiery art movement that empowers girls to embrace their passions, be blatantly honest, and to take ownership of their individual struggles. Through the power of music, this project relates to and empowers girls to be the utmost honest version of themselves, take responsibility for who they are, and go after what they are most passionate about.
I wanted to provide something functional and relatable that would spread positivity, inspiration, and happiness, and inspire my fellow girls to do the same with their own art.
Photography by Keith Weidner
BF: I really like your positivity and thoughts (well I’d have to say truths) about people being able to create their own happiness. Have you always had this outlook? If not what was your turning point, and what issome advice you could give to young women who are trying to bring more positivity into their lives?
IH: I spent a large portion of my life blaming other people and “society/the media” for my depression, but I’ve come to realize that my happiness is dependent on my attitude and the way I decide to perceive myself. Once I realized that I held that kind of power, I was able to train myself to get out of that cycle. I still struggle--I have days where I feel so low that everyone can feel it, but I bounce back much quicker now, so that’s progress!
The truth is that if you decide to own how incredible, amazing, and unique you are, you’ll live a much happier life. You have the ability to shift your attitude, even when you feel miserable. It’s important to talk about the things that make you uncomfortable, whether it’s with loved ones, a professional, or even yourself (I talk to myself all the time!). Once you open up and express yourself, you’ll start to work through the kinks, and you’ll see color again. I know that being okay with yourself and loving who you are is a CONSTANT cycle, but you can never truly be okay with yourself if you don’t allow yourself to be.
BF: While reading about The Just, Girl. Project, I noticed you stated a big influence that prompted you to do this body of work was due to the promotion of eating disorders and lack of self-love on social media. Have these issues ever hit close to home for you, and if so, how?
IH: As a teenager, I struggled with eating disorders, negative self-talk, bullying from my peers, and mental health diagnosis after diagnosis from doctors and teachers. Everyone had an opinion, and those opinions stuck with me and became my identity. But as I’ve grown, I’ve learned that the opinions of others, while important to me, cannot affect the way I feel about myself if I decide not to let them. I turn to music to express my frustrations. I create my art as an expression of my soul–my wants, my needs…my heart.
I still struggle with my body... We have a love hate relationship. I’m not here to tell people that eating disorders can go away like that if you just love yourself, but it definitely helps. I’m a work in progress and I think that’s something that isn’t addressed enough. It’s great to say “I love myself” but what about “I want to love myself”… to me that’s something I can relate to and it’s something I’ll stand by.
A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a startling subculture: social media accounts devoted to the promotion of anorexia, bulimia, and self-harm. It broke my heart because, not only did I feel saddened by these negative messages, but I also related to them, so I knew I had to stop avoiding my own insecurities, and start doing something to help myself, and the other girls who were going through the same things as me!
Photography by Keith Weidner
BF: Aside from promoting positivity and self-love, how else do you feel The Just, Girl. Project helps to empower young women?
IH: The Just, Girl. Project isn’t full-fledged yet, but it will be. I want this movement to grow exponentially. I want to start The Just, Girl. Project mentorship program and a non-profit and foundation, a record label and management company where we can develop artists with strong social messages, and a global movement!
I’ve been a business owner for almost 7 years and it’s been a blessing, because it’s taught me to be self-sufficient. I want to teach girls the skills they need to feel independent, inspire them to pursue entrepreneurship, and not give up on their art. I want this project to provide as many girls as it can with the tools, resources, and support they need to do their thang. Cause let’s face it, working for yourself is badass.
BF: Due to the name of this project, I would be willing to bet that you believe in feminism. So, I would like to know what feminism means to you, as well as why you feel it is important in today's society?
IH: The F word? Just kidding.
Feminism has turned into this bad word, hasn’t it? It’s a shame. Feminism was founded on such an amazing ideology, but I think it’s portrayed by the media and organizations in so many different lights right now, that you sort of have to find your fit. The 1960’s Feminist Movement was meant to promote equality, and we should never forget that or take for granted how hard those women fought to bring us to this point.
I consider myself a feminist because I too believe in the equality of men and women. For me, feminism is about solidarity. Women have a bond that men will never understand (yes, men have their own bond), so I think we should embrace it and empower one another. It’s that simple. I don’t believe women are superior to men or the same. We are different in many ways and that’s OK. But as long as this new wave of feminism embraces solidarity and avoids radical hatred towards men, I think it will continue to grow beautifully.
Photography by Keith Weidner
BF: Though girl culture is going in a more positive direction in recent years, what are somethings you would like to see within the community to strengthen it even more?
IH: OMG, I’m in love with the #girlpower movement! I’m so grateful for social media’s influence to make it a thing.
But, I really think we need to stop with the name-calling. Terms like “mean girl”, “curvy girl”,“normal body type” are poisonous. Like, can we just stop? We need to stress the importance of diversity!
And…the struggle! Not everything is sparkles and rainbows. Life can flat out suck, especially for younger girls who experience emotions like a typhoon on steroids. I think something as simple as influencing the music industry to address these uncomfortable issues will really change the game. I hear a lot of self-love songs and I’m grateful to know they are there, but what about the struggle songs? They are there, but I want more.
And we need to give girls the tools they need to get through it all! Inspirational talks are great, but if there’s no solution or answers, are they going to do much beyond the surface?
I have way too many opinions about this and thoughts and ideas… but the ultimate thing I want to stress is…let’s stop sugar-coating and start getting real.
BF: What has been the hardest part of putting this project together?
IH: Financially it’s been difficult. It’s easy to avoid something that doesn’t provide you with monetary compensation, but knowing I get to do what I love (mentoring girls and learning from them), makes it utterly worthwhile… and I mean that.
And I always compare myself and my success/lack of success to other women, but that’s just unproductive… It’s so easy to get discouraged, but…
The ultimate win for me has been that I discovered my purpose in life! This started as a music project, but it’s evolved in to so much more. The Just, Girl. Project is here to make waves and support/empower as many girls as possible. You can quote me on that.
BF: Due to The Just, Girl. Project’s current success, where would you like to see this go within the next year? And do you happen to have anymore long term goals such as possible concerts or conferences?
IH: We had a concert last year and it was amazing! I finally performed my solo music and it felt great.
And now, I'm SO excited because we are about to release the music video for "My Body" - a song I wrote about my relationship with my body. The video is about eating disorders and the battle we face with loving our bodies and ourselves. This video is very near and dear to my heart. Plus, my cast and crew were absolutely inspiring to work with!
Th website is being made RIGHT NOW too! And come Spring‘17 , I want to turn the movement into a 501c non-profit, and by summer, I hope to have it up and running (but I mean, life happens and so I’m going to take one calculated step at a time!). I want to participate in as many conferences and TEDx talks I can! A lot is on the horizon and I’m really excited for the possibilities!
Photography by Keith Weidner
BF: For people who want to get involved and help with this project, what can they do to pitch in?
IH: I would love for everyone to share the video, to help us get some more media coverage and plays, and to bring to light the importance of recognizing that eating disorders are very real and we need to talk about it!
I’m also hoping to bring on ambassadors, volunteers, and supporters, so contact me if interested!
And please,GIRLS, continue to “spread the love” amongst your community (it’s infectious!)
Remember: Your life IS full of beauty and magic, but like everything, you have to decide to see the good in the bad. Your story is a movie…or a book, whichever you prefer… and while the plot isn’t for you to decide, your attitude is something you can control. So speak to yourself with love, the way you would to your best friend. And don’t forget to express yourself!
How have body and self esteem affected you throughout your life? Feel free to talk about it in the comments below and remember if you want to help out this cause you can follow the @justgirlproject on Instagram and Twitter. Also feel free to check out Ilana's website The Just Girl Project as well as her SoundCloud to hear some great tunes!