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Despite Disney’s message of ‘be who you are’ and an abundance of other motivational posters, children are bombarded with subliminal messages to fit in. From the children’s story, ‘Rainbow Fish’, forced to give up what made him special (his scales), to fit in, to the constant fear of acting strange and losing friendships. The pressure to conform to a group is everywhere. Pharrell Williams, though, seeks to change that conforming message.
He believes that “Individuality is the new wealth,” as he told E!News in this article. “What is it when a person doesn’t understand who they are? What is at the basis of their voice? What is the basis of their meaning? What could they mean? If they don’t know who they are, how would they know who they could be?” He said. So he did something about it.
To help kids find their voice, five years ago he launched i am OTHER. This digital platform for artists showcases their unique talents and abilities in an inclusive space that celebrates individuality. Five years later, he takes it a step farther. As a result of partnering with Yoobi, a creative line of stationary and art supply products, the two collaborated on a back-to-school series that helps kids discover their potential. The benefits don’t stop there, though. Not only do they encourage acceptance, but they help the less fortunate. Yoobi donates one of their items every time one is purchased. But how do they help kids? Well, to make sure, Pharrell asked the kids themselves.
“We used silhouettes of what Yoobi already had (backpacks, pencil holders, binders, etc.) and put things on them that just might inspire. We actually created a focus group of children to choose words they felt like spoke to them or phrases they felt inspired them.” Among those phrases are words such as ambitious, bright, innovative, and of course the brand name, i am OTHER.
There will always be nay-sayers to the idea of resisting conformity. People who mock. People who are too afraid to show their real selves. Pharrell says that those people make society, “super bland.” “Society is beautiful when it is colored with culture, and you’ll never get that blanket of culture if you don’t have each one expressing who they actually are.”
But what truly inspired Pharrell Williams was his 8-year-old son, Rocket. He wants Rocket to grow up in a world where his differences won’t exclude him. “…Most people don’t recognize the importance of individuality, they don’t recognize what that can do when you galvanize enough of the right individuals who recognize that what makes you different makes you special, there is a need to make sure that those bright minds have supplies. If they don’t have supplies, they don’t have the means to take their aspirations to the next level. So for us, this was a wonderful proposition that needs to be talked about, and that needs to be replicated in order for us to heal this planet and to take our species to the next frontier.” Pharrell told E!news.
You can find the YOOBI products here.
Now get out there, and express your wealth as an individual. And maybe pick up a special new pencil case on your way out to being fabulous.