Category: Overcoming Adversity

Winnie Harlow


Harlow was bullied and tormented by classmates over her appearance.

“Growing up, I never saw anyone like me on TV, billboards or on the runways. I felt like I was the only person in the world like me.”

Things began to shift in her teens when a friend, journalist Shannon Boodram, encouraged her to pursue modeling.

“She used to photograph me a lot, but I never took it seriously. The more I did it, the more of a following I gained on social media. I was getting a lot of love and support and people telling me that I inspired them. So I was like, ‘If doing this thing that’s just fun for me is inspiring people, then it’s a win-win.” People Magazine

Zachary Levi


“If I do nothing else in this world, I want people to understand that they are loved, that they are worthy of love, and that they are worthy of investing in themselves. The truth is, we’re all messed up. But it doesn’t mean that we’re broken beyond repair. It just means that we all have healing that we need to do.” People Magazine



“It’s important to get comfortable with the fact that we don’t get to know everything. When the boss wanted to sleep with me, all I knew is I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t compromise myself in that way. It looked like the worst decision at the time because I knew I didn’t have a way to pay rent, but it ended up freeing me. That’s the mystery. When you do the right thing and you follow your gut, you don’t know the magic that will unfold because it’s better than what your imagination would come up with.” People Magazine

Tiffany Haddish


“I was actually court-ordered to go to therapy as a teenager, but I didn’t really use it. I just was quiet, sitting there coloring, putting puzzles together, but I wouldn’t talk to the therapist. But when I was 21, I had a breakdown, so I went back and really took it seriously because I felt like dying. It still makes me emotional when I think about it. I didn’t know why God put me on this planet to hurt so much? Why I had to be everybody’s punching bag. That’s where I let it sit. Right before I turned 18, I wanted to kill myself. My grandma told me I wasn’t allowed. She made me realize I was valuable. You know as a black woman, we don’t talk about certain things like being molested or raped because we’re embarrassed or we think it will bring shame to the family or whatever. But I needed to talk about certain things. I think the biggest lesson for me is learning that it’s okay to say I’m not okay.” Cosmopolitan Magazine

Michael J. Fox

“Optimism is really rooted in gratitude. Optimism is sustainable when you keep coming back to gratitude, and what follows from that is acceptance. Accepting that this has happened, and you accept it for what it is. It doesn’t mean that you can’t endeavor to change. It doesn’t mean you have to accept it as a punishment or a penance, but just put it in its proper place. Then see how much the rest of your life you have to thrive in, and then you can move on.” People Magazine



“Last year was the year that I finally became comfortable in my own skin. I kind of figured out what my purpose was. I think it’s important to show little black and brown girls that they can be successful in whatever they want to do. If I can do it, you can do it too. I won’t act like there isn’t a certain type of power that comes with people admiring your face. But that’s not something that gets me off. I like being Female Athlete of the year. I like getting 4.0s for a straight year. I like knowing that I create my own treatments. I like knowing that I donated $150,000 to Black Lives Matter.” Cosmopolitan 



“I wanted to be accepted so bad; not fitting in really hurt. My defense mechanism was humor. I became the class clown, that’s a kind of perceived confidence. And I have the type of social anxiety where I get louder and funnier the more stressed I am. I know I’m not the only person who experiences extreme negativity thrown at them from the internet, there are people in high school right now who have a whole high school talking about them, and they don’t know how they’re going to get through it. So if they can see me get through it on the level and scale I’m experiencing it, maybe they’ll think they can get through it too. I literally could not afford a $5 Jimmy John sandwich, I couldn’t afford to buy $2 frozen pizza. I’d have to get quarters from strangers for gas money.” Vanity Fair

Kelly Rowland

“I remember seeing a magazine cover that said, ‘This Is What Beauty Looks Like’ and not seeing any minorities on it. It made me question my beauty. Janet Jackson made me feel seen. Whitney Houston made me feel seen. Because their beauty was so taken in worldwide, it made me feel like there is a space for me. I remember the first time a fan said, ‘I’m you when we play Destiney’s Child because we look the same.’ And this girl was the same complexion as me, and that made me so happy because there’s nothing like feeling seen and being heard. The hardest part of my journey was cutting negative voices off and those negative voices were mostly the ones that I was inflicting upon myself. When I did my 2002 duet ‘Dilemma’ I was super scared. That was really the first time I got a taste of solo success. It felt overwhelming for me at the time. In retrospect, I don’t remember feeling like I deserved that. Which goes back to valuing yourself and your opinion and your greatness. You have  to surround yourself with people who believe that and who believe it when you can’t see it. There’s black art all around my house. I am like, ‘There can’t be any identity crisis in this house!’ Because I remember that was a big thing for me as a kid. I didn’t see enough people around on the walls or anything that looked like me. A week ago I heard my husband giving Titan a bath, and he goes, ‘Daddy, I am black and handsome and great.’ It really means a lot to us for him to know his roots and who he is.” -People

Kayla Cromer


” I won’t say the word, but I have been called the word R-E-T-A-R-D. And I remember looking around during tests and always being the last to finish. I wanted so badly to fit into social circles, but parties and friends were few. I loved taking things apart and studying how they worked. When I saw Kiera Knightly and Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, I became hooked on acting. They’re both dyslexic and created amazing careers, not letting their disabilities stop them. That was the first exposure I had to someone with a disability in the film industry, and it just wowed me. It brings me joy to entertain people. Autism doesn’t define me. Everyone has their little quirks. I’m just human. And I’m so excited for what my future has to hold.” People Magazine