Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Andolyn Medina, Ebony Acton & Faith Porter Are Helping To…

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Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Andolyn Medina, Ebony Acton & Faith Porter Are Helping To Change Our World

Andolyn Medina- I took up the cause of human trafficking after working as an intern at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. My job was often calling the family members of kids who were still missing and being struck with sadness and a sense of fear. I realized that I did not want to sit in that fear and instead wanted to be a part of causing change by providing awareness, and resources, and also advocating for policy changes. I then worked for the National Center for Victims of Crime and then throughout my career as a psychologist, I have provided assessments for immigration visas for victims of trafficking.

As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andolyn Medina, Ebony Acton and Faith Porter.

Her Triumph: Andolyn is serving as a Lieutenant in the Navy. She is completing her psychology internship at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.

Her Voice: Andolyn is the Founder of Operation PEACE, an Annual Christmas visit to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, for 15 consecutive years. Andolyn is also a volunteer/partner with FAIR Girls, a non-profit organization, through writing, moderating, and presenting Webinars on Mental Health, Adultification of Black Girls, Intersectionality, Trafficking, and speaking engagements nationwide. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Name: Ebony Acton

Title: Miss DC for America 2021

Her Triumph: Ebony is an Author, Motivational Speaker, Coach, and Model

Her Voice: She passionately advocates, to the youth, to “break barriers” and to become dauntless trailblazers. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.

Name: Faith Porter

Title: Miss District of Columbia USA 2022

Her Triumph: Faith graduated from Pace University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arts and Entertainment Management. She currently works as a Broadway and Entertainment Manager. She is also a Casting Assistant at Grant Wilfley Casting. Faith has assisted with background casting for Starz’s Power Book III: Raising Kanan, HBO’s We Own This City, Prime Video’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Netflix’s film Maestro starring Bradley Cooper.

Her Voice: Faith is a Co-Director at CreateHER, a free course for female or non-binary high school students interested in playwriting and producing for theatre.

Ladies, thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share with us the backstory that led each of you to your career path?

Andolyn Medina- Yes, I am currently a Lieutenant in the US Navy and a Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology. There were a lot of things that led me to choose this career path. For one, being an only child always made me curious about how other people thought about or processed things. In addition to that, I was an only child to two career naval officers which means I got to personally see how many notice the physical toll upon our service members, but few take no notice of the mental toll it takes on them and or their families. My father was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which directly led to my current career path of becoming a Navy Psychologist. This dream will be realized in May 2023 where I will graduate with my Doctor of Psychology (Psy D) from George Washington University! I want to be a part of the change in bringing mental health to the forefront as a provider and advocate, through also sharing my own story.

Ebony Acton- When I was younger, my grandmother and godmother co-owned a beauty shop. It was our special bond and my introduction to all things cosmetic and feminine. I competed in several pageants in my childhood and as a young adult, I returned because I really do love seeing women embrace their priority in personalizing their beauty and brand.

Faith Porter- I am a Broadway theatre manager and Miss District of Columbia USA 2022. I was drawn to both industries because I love being able to inspire people. My goal is always to promote equity in the arts and for young women in the pageantry.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Andolyn Medina- Telling my uber driver that I was a psychology student. Whenever you tell someone, your field is psychology you open a can of worms that you can never close. It’s like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube, you can’t. I will never forget that uber driver; I learned more about my uber driver in that short ride than I could have ever imagined. It quickly turned into an impromptu therapy session. Now, when people ask me what I do I try to keep it guarded or if I do tell them, I usually have my way of navigating the conversation so that I can get in and get out. I have also learned that it is quite an icebreaker!

Ebony Acton- In college, I competed for and won the campus queen position Miss Virginia State University 2016–2017. Long story short, I changed a lot of stuff 28 hours before the day of the pageant. Ten out of ten… I do not recommend it. In my oratory portion, I blanked on the middle chunk but my favorite part of my speech. So, I do what most women do when they mess up: pretend to get emotional to provoke others’ emotions. The audience ate it up. When I pretended to get choked up, I immediately remembered my speech and executed it all the way to the end.

Faith Porter- When I was in college, I always made sure that I had a packed schedule. One year I decided to plan a concert during finals season… a bad idea. I wasn’t taking care of myself and almost fainted backstage before the performance. I learned that it is important to take breaks. While it is important to be driven, it’s also important to give yourself time to rest.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

Andolyn Medina- I would advise them against trying to emulate my success but to find what fuels them. I hope to be an inspiration and motivator to enable others to become their personal best. However, the best way to be successful is through doing things that truly replenish, bring joy to your soul, and manifest peace. When you do that, you’ll love what you do, and the success will be genuine and fulfilling. I think often in society there is pressure to be successful, and when that success isn’t meaningful it can feel lonely and isolating, so I would always encourage people to go on the path that fuels them.

Ebony Acton- I would advise them to commit to an expedition of excavating themselves. Though imitation is said to be a form of flattery, I find it more emancipating when you unearth inner treasures. Yes, use others as inspiration but be more focused on what makes you priceless and timeless.

Faith Porter- I think it’s important that young people focus on what success looks like for them, rather than emulating the success of someone else. Success looks different for everyone.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Andolyn Medina- Cheslie Kryst. She is a former Miss USA whom I was inspired by in every possible way. She was loved, full of life, and an inspiration to all who were blessed to have graced her presence. She was a light- truly the epitome of a beautiful, successful, bright/intelligent, and joyous person. When I was Miss DC, I posted once about the impact she made on my life, and she took the time to respond and kept me encouraged. Months later she completed suicide, and it is a day I will never forget because it shook me to my core to see someone, I saw in myself and then to learn that she was struggling with high-functioning Depression. A term that I am quite familiar with but is never truly talked about. At that time, I was a state pageant titleholder, a top 10 semi-finalist at Miss America, a naval officer, licensed therapist, with three degrees (one undergraduate and two masters with a year and a half away from completing my doctoral degree as a Clinical Psychologist). As an accomplished/high-achieving individual, Cheslie’s death pushed me to take a harder look at my mental health and put it at the forefront.

Ebony Acton- I would have to say Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lopez are two cornerstone role models who have played a significant role in owning my differences and never betraying myself along the way to my success. Both women became resourceful with their craft and talents. They both come from humble beginnings. Though harshly criticized as public figures, especially regarding their love lives or ability to sing, they’re still two of the most iconic and resilient women in the industry. Since I was young, I’ve always seen my character in them. And they’re apart of the beauty world, too, with their skincare lines. How coincidental?

Faith Porter- My Grandma is 96 years old with advanced dementia. She can no longer communicate with words and requires 24-hour care. I have been taking care of her my whole life. It has been hard, but she continues to teach me. Even when she can’t speak, she still remembers to smile.

How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?

Ebony Acton- My platform through competing as Miss DC for America Strong was bringing awareness to Human Trafficking in America. It is a cause that I am extremely passionate about as it is something that is heavily impacting our society, and yet not enough is being done to prevent it. I continue to advocate, educate, and bring awareness of Human Trafficking, while also advocating for mental health through being transparent about my mental health journey in hope to remove the stigma in the black community and providing tools and resources for others.

Ebony Acton- I encourage everyone to follow their own paths and to do it with unshakable confidence. I’ve been working on my orating skills to improve one of my careers of a motivational speaker. It is enjoyable to galvanize others because I encourage myself daily. It is one of my ways to choose to overcome my dysthymia (chronic life-long depression).

Can you share with us a story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

Andolyn Medina- I took up the cause of human trafficking after working as an intern at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. My job was often calling the family members of kids who were still missing and being struck with sadness and a sense of fear. I realized that I did not want to sit in that fear and instead wanted to be a part of causing change by providing awareness, and resources, and also advocating for policy changes. I then worked for the National Center for Victims of Crime and then throughout my career as a psychologist, I have provided assessments for immigration visas for victims of trafficking.

Ebony Acton- I wanted to be the queen of the world or at least the Queen of England. When I discovered I don’t necessarily fit monarchy and parliamentary, I thought settling as a beauty queen was good enough to satisfy my inner child’s dream of reigning as a royal.

Faith Porter- I want to help eliminate as many barriers to success as possible. I am a co-director at the non-profit Co-Director at CreateHER, a free program that prepares high school students who are girls or non-binary for careers in theatre. Growing up it was the arts was my saving Grace, I want to give that back to more young girls.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

Andolyn Medina- Sure, I once did an assessment for a 40+-year-old, Mexican woman who came to the United States to be able to help provide for her family back in Mexico. While here, the folks that gave her work began to sex-traffic her and the other women she worked with. Being an immigrant, she felt no one would believe her and was left being traumatized repeatedly for over 8 years. My assessment with her was the first time she shared her story. It was an incredibly emotional process, but I was thankful to be able to provide her with support and provide her with an assessment so that she can be provided with protection.

Ebony Acton- Actually, it’s Raquel Riley Thomas. I was determined to never return to compete in beauty pageants because there was an instance where a directing staff showed extreme favoritism. It is deceptive and dishonest for any beauty queen to not admit that it happens sometimes. Someway, somehow, I encountered Raquel and I bluntly said to her, “If this is an opportunity to only get my money and not give me a fair chance to win the state title, I’m uninterested.” From that moment forward, she has been fully supportive and honest with me when inviting my participation. She hasn’t misled me once. I’m sure it’s because she’s a Veteran Army Captain. The woman has integrity for days. I highly doubt she would direct anyone to defeat over victory. Forever, I am grateful for her impact.

Faith Porter- As Miss District of Columbia USA, I get to meet and connect with young girls all the time. I recently met a girl who saw me compete and was inspired to compete in her first pageant, and she won! Seeing young black girls look up to me for inspiration is what keeps me going.

Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Andolyn Medina- Stop blaming women for the acts of men or others by judging them based upon what they wear or how they dress; Stronger/stricter legislation for offenders of trafficking and child exploitation; and a larger platform/invitation to speak to lawmakers and community leaders about trafficking and mental health.

Number two would be to learn the art of love. Love does not control nor does it bully people to believe in every single notion you believe in. Differences perfectly co-exist. I would presume it would be odd if someone said the aurora borealis against the dark sky is hideous. That’s one of the most beautiful natural sights in existence.

Ebony Acton- One-Learn how to honor with truth. Two-Honor the dishonorable with ethics and the courage to stand up for yourself and what’s morally upstanding. I learned that watching “A Few Good Men.” You know where the famous line by Col. Jessup shouting, “You can’t handle the truth!” Three: Apply one and two to the majority of your life and you’ll go far.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”

Andolyn Medina- You’ll be okay; be kinder to yourself; be patient with yourself; It’s easier to walk in your truth than to renegotiate it later; find peace within.

Ebony Acton- (1) Things change a lot. (2) Get better at pivoting and adjusting. (3) You don’t have to stay. (4) Don’t throw in the towel early. (5) Always think long-term in the now because you’ll never know about it until then.

Faith Porter- (1) The key to success is networking, (2) Think BIG, (3) Good things take time, success, doesn’t happen overnight, 4 — Successful people take risks, and 5 — Never forget your friends and family.

You’re a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Andolyn Medina- I would require psychology and sociology classes to be taught to all students beginning in high school and incorporated into a history course. I think it is so important to not only understand our psyche’s but to also understand how that relates to the psychology of society. The history of the world is rich, and I think being able to understand trends, behaviors, and mistakes we’ve made through history through the lens of psychology would be beneficial for the next generation. Additionally, I would hope this could also help them understand the role of leadership and the importance of being governed by a psychologically sound and emotionally intelligent leader.

Ebony Acton- A movement I already began is the Bold ’n’ Bookish Campaign. It is an initiative to encourage people to operate with immovable confidence and to find pleasure in obtaining knowledge. It was inspired by experiencing impoverished living conditions — like being homeless until I was 13–and finding solace in reading and educating myself outside of school. I would consider myself a trailblazer with a dash of impatience because I find it difficult to wait for others to lead me or to start something if I see a deficit.

Faith Porter- I would start a movement to provide adequate education for young people across the world.

Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

Andolyn Medina- “What’s for you will not pass you.” I tend to be an anxious person and can stress about things that are out of my control. Saying this quote and/or the Serenity prayer helps to ground me and bring me to center to know that what’s meant for me in life will find its way to me. All I must do is exist and run my race at my pace and trust the process of life.

Ebony Acton- My life’s philosophy is 1 Corinthians 15:10. I am truly blessed by unmerited favor. I will leave my legacy on that truth. There’s not much I can explain but state: if it weren’t for my faith in God’s grace, I would not be as dauntless to live out my purpose for myself and others.

Faith Porter- Know your worth, then add tax! I always try to remember that I was chosen by God for this purpose.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Andolyn Medina- Always, Beyoncé. In addition to being a huge fan of hers, I am continuously moved by how she has stayed at the top of her game for so many years and has been able to remain an inspiration to so many for so long. I would love to talk to her about how she has been able to navigate the pressures (mentally and physically) and be able to remain true to herself and her vision.

Ebony Acton- I’m convinced you want me to be a novelist because there are so many! I’m so glad this isn’t a pageant question and answer because time is ticking. I already mentioned Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lopez. But I’ll have to say my top 5 are: Bono, Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey, Carmelo Anthony, and if he was still alive, Kobe Bryant.

Faith Porter- Rihanna Robyn Fenty! She is a leader in entertainment, beauty, and fashion. As a singer, MUA, and entertainment manager, I am inspired by her work.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Andolyn Medina, Ebony Acton & Faith Porter Are Helping To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.