Speakers

At TEDxYouth@Hewitt 2014 speakers and performers will follow the theme “Worlds Imagined.”  Keep checking back as we build our slate of speakers and performers.

Preston Chaunsumlit (Host & Speaker)

An imagined world is the product of transcendence in creation of new interpretations of our previous means. It is the act of recreation, and the disposition of introspective contentment through craft.  Though not always achievable, self-sincerity and passion drives those, out of confined spaces, to find existential commitment to define their own world.
Emerging from humble roots in Little Rock, Arkansas, Preston Chaunsumlit found his calling in pursuing more than his measures; the semiotics of aesthetics, questioning essence, which led to his escape to New York City’s School of Visual Arts. Consuming the intoxication of a new environment with more individual liberation, he became involved in a casting agency, working mostly as a ‘nodel’ (not-a-model, model), where a series of events brought his name into the fashion industry.
Now, Preston balances on a new platform as the casting director at VFiles. Blending aspects of his hyperreal performance persona, as well as reconceiving the nuances of the fashion industry through satirical critique to illustrate alternative perspectives in his webseries, ModelFiles.  In the material sense, as a fashion icon, he represents the beauty found in the ambiguity of banality as an psyche of the Normcore sub-culture; closing the vacancy between being an ‘individual’, through trite sense of also embodying ‘everybody’. In the observational quest to find self, Preston is the Other, the outsider, and through participating in ‘this world’ in a conventional sense, he has merged experiences, relationships, universal cultures, and fantasies to create Imagined Worlds.
Julie Anne Quay (Speaker)

Julie Anne Quay is the Founder and Chief Executive of VFILES, Fashion’s First Social Media Platform. VFiles is an all encompassing digital destination that encourages its users to curate without inhibition.

Julie Anne is also the founder of COLAC Pictures LLC, an entertainment development company, with a focus on fashion related feature film and television shows. Projects currently in development include “Fabulous Nobodies” and “SuperModelSuperSpy” among others, and a historic drama series in partnership with Dreamworks television

For over 20 years Julie Anne has been a senior executive in fashion and media, including as Associate Creative Director for the VH1 /Vogue Fashion Awards. Her special project work includes: Estee Lauder, Clinique and IMG FASHION. She has also been instrumental in the casting of fashion’s next runway faces for both Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs.

Prior to VFILES, From 2004 to 2008 Julie Anne was Executive Editor at VMagazine, a trendsetting magazine for high fashion, cutting edge pop culture and entertainment.

From 2002 to 2004 Julie Anne was an Executive Editor with Vogue Japan working closely with the Japanese team establishing relationships with contributors internationally.

From 2000 to 2002 Julie Anne worked on various projects with famed photographer Richard Avedon, producing special issues for The New Yorker and highly acclaimed campaigns for The Gap.

From 1994 to 2000 Julie Anne was Studio Manager and Producer for world renowned photographer Steven Meisel with whom she collaborated on campaigns for many of the world’s most prominent fashion companies, publishers, and artists.

Julie Anne came to New York City in 1993 from Melbourne, Australia. She had held previous positions as a Fashion Editor at Australian Vogue as well as marketing and PR roles at Country Road and Esprit Australia. Julie Anne is a graduate of the University of Melbourne with majors in literature and music.

Julie Anne’s interests include fitness, music and anything media.

She is an instructor at Soul Cycle and a co-founder of the Australian Fashion Foundation which provides intern scholarships for young Australians amongst the international fashion community.

Julie Anne resides in New York with her husband, two teenage children and four dogs.

 

Samantha Stephens (Speaker)

Samantha Stephens is the chef/owner of OatMeals, the world’s first oatmeal bar.  She is also Quaker Oats’ Creative Oatmeal Officer.  Sam is originally from Fairfax, VA, and made the move to NYC in 2000 to attend Baruch College, where she majored in Psychology and minored in French.
A desire for healthy living and eating right became essential for Sam that first year in NYC when the ‘freshman 15’ quickly became the ‘freshman 30’.  Living on a budget and focusing on health & wellness, Sam started eating oatmeal for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner, and thought of many creative ways to jazz it up.  Reading about the numerous, outstanding health benefits of oats led her to want to share her oatmeal recipes, knowledge of oats and its amazing qualities with everyone she knew.  The idea for an oatmeal bar blossomed but took many years to come to life.
Sam started working in the investment banking world after college.  Her passion for NYC’s flourishing restaurant scene inspired her to attended courses at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies in Food Writing, and also in Business Management.  She took that passion a step further when she graduated from The French Culinary Institute’s Pastry Arts Program in 2010.
After over 11 years of research and nearly giving up on her crazy oatmeal idea, Sam finally opened OatMeals at 120 West 3rd St in New York City’s Greenwich Village on June 27th, 2012.  Quaker Oats soon took notice of Sam’s concept and creativity and named her their Creative OatMeal Officer in 2013.  She works with Quaker to help people see oatmeal in new and exciting ways!  OatMeals has become renowned for the original and unique recipes of its signature sweet and savory oatmeal bowls, oat-based pastries and baked goods.  Sam has appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS, and has been featured in countless newspapers, magazines, and digital media including The Wall St Journal, Huffington Post, Self and NY Magazine.
When not working in the store and experimenting with oatmeal and oatmeal pastries, Sam participates in speaking engagements at NYU, educating students about oatmeal health facts and avoiding the “freshman 15.”  She also recently participated on a panel at NYU on “The Rise of the Female Entrepreneur.”
Eva & Melissa Shang (Speakers)

Eva Shang is an 18-year-old sophomore at Harvard University and Harvard Campus Editor-at-Large at the Huffington Post. Originally from Philadelphia, she is a social activist who is passionate about criminal justice and education. She is the founder of the Student Prison Alliance, a national network for students working in prison education and reform.

Eva has been recognized in Dell’s inaugural “12 under 22” and by Philadelphia City Council as a “Rising Star” of the Next Generation of Women’s Leadership. She currently serves on several boards, including State Farm, Dell, and American Association of University Women, and has spoken at TEDx events and conferences around the country. Her writing has been featured in the Boston Globe, USA Today, xoJane, and the Harvard Crimson.

Eva and her sister Melissa launched a viral petition for a disabled American Girl doll that was featured in Cosmopolitan, USA Today, CBS, HLN, IB Times, and other major news outlets. The two sisters are currently working on launching a web platform for teens and preteens with disabilities.

Follow her on Twitter at @eva_shang.

Melissa Shang is an 11-year-old who goes to Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School. Born with a form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, Melissa is a disability advocate and an American Girl fan. With the help of her sister Eva, Melissa launched a viral petition of a disabled American Girl doll that was featured in Cosmopolitan, USA Today, CBS, HLN, IB Times, and other major news outlets and raised massive public attention to disability representation in children’s toys. Currently, Melissa is working on launching a web platform for teens and preteens with disabilities.

Melissa loves to sing, read, and hopes to one day be a singer or a music teacher. Her favorite song is “Let it Go,” from the Disney soundtrack of Frozen.

Follow her on Twitter @shang_melissa.

 

Matthew Wilkins (speaker)

Matthew Wilkins is a co-founder of Pedal Forward, an organization providing sustainable solutions to poverty and transportation issues through the manufacturing, sale, and use of bamboo bicycles.  Matt received his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from The George Washington University in 2012 and completed his M.S. in 2014, also in Biomedical Engineering, while working as The Dean’s Fellow in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at GW. He comes from a family of cyclists whose idea of a vacation typically involves enjoying the road on two wheels. In addition to his work with Pedal Forward, Matt has worked on the Program Team for the Clinton Global Initiative, where he helped identify speakers and generate content for the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. He also worked as the Transportation Commitment Mentor for The Clinton Global Initiative University where he was responsible for the development of all transportation related commitments. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of The Nyota Fund, a non-profit scholarship fund that provides full academic scholarships to secondary school students who exhibit both high academic potential and strong financial need in Tanzania’s Ngara District. While his education is in engineering, Matt has a passion for international development and public health, and designed and currently teaches a course at GW which bridges the gap between all three.

Melissa Kathryn (Speaker)

Melissa Kathryn helps women and girls of all ages around the world to fall in-love with themselves and their bodies through healthy living and positive thinking.  She created a unique method that combines nutrition, fitness, mindset, and styling so we achieve lasting change, overcome limiting beliefs, and thrive in our lives in bodies we love.

 

 

Michelle Joni (Speaker)

Michelle Joni is your spirit animal. She hurls you out of your comfort zone and into a more comfortable one. She massages your imagination and helps you feel liberated, while tapping into your greatness. She is a performance artist – on stage and off. With a half a degree in Early Childhood Education and a full one in Fashion Merchandising, Michelle Joni helps adults play like kids again, and inspires kids to feel like the superstars they were born to be.

She is the founder of Michelle Joni’s Skipping Club, a cataclysmic love-combustion of people who skip on Thursday afternoons (and anytime, really), intent on living joyfully, in a rhythm, exploring New York and skipping through their spiritual journeys… in a powerful community. With a Memberskip card. Paint the streets!

The “Sister of Sparkle” is also host of The Get Down, DJ Tasha Blank’s high-vibing dance party at Cielo. The party delivers a fully immersed mind-body-soul dance experience, starting with Michelle Joni’s pre-party Dance Floor Meditation. The party drowns you in sweet sound and offers floor-side massage, personalized haiku deliveries, live performance, supporting B.E.A.T. NYC, bringing music to visually impaired students. Dance like there’s no tomorrow, get up early the next day.

Michelle Joni is a co-producer of The Fest For Beatles Fans, her family’s 40-year old festival, which brings together the fans – the musicians, artists, thinkers and revolutionaries who are inspired by The Beatles – and those who live to tell their story. She is also a singer-entertainer; Michelle My Pelle is her Beatles tribute duet with popstar pianist Janna Pelle, a wink at the greatest band that ever lived. Michelle My Pelle is not the greatest band that ever lived, but Oh Darling, they lived.

With a professional background as a spa editor, Michelle Joni offers curated Spa Eat Party Repeat nights, as well as a private wellness liaison service for those seeking to find the right massage therapist or healer for them.

Michelle Joni is a purveyor of ::magic:: and synchronicity, a child of the sixties by association, a skipper, a seeker of awesomeness, who sometimes dines with a teddy bear, and who’ll gently guide you into your highest calling. Change your outfit, change the world!

Visit michellejoni.com, follow her everywhere at @michellejoni

Gracie & Rachel (Performers)

Piano-violin duo Gracie and Rachel combine contemporary song structure with classical technique, pushing boundaries with bold yet intimate musings on love, identity, and mortality.

The Brooklyn-based, California-raised duo of Gracie Coates (lead vocals/piano) and Rachel Ruggles (violin/vocals) have graced stages nationwide, most recently at a dedicated release show for their debut full-length album, Go. The recording, a penetrating record of lifelong friendship, flows freely between virtuosic violin textures to sylphlike melodies, highlighting Coates’ seasoned songwriting. The result: a heartfelt glimpse into two artists lives intertwined. From the pit of despair to the summit of success, Gracie and Rachel are always headed somewhere new and they invite us to come along for the ride.

Go is available now on iTunes and at gracieandrachel.com.

– “The pair crafts intricate tunes combining classical string elements with haunting, fierce vocals. It’s ivory satin lined with teeth. They find beauty in stark simplicity, pausing to breathe a hint of abstract into the highly emotive, evolved body they create.” – Beca Grimm (Village Voice, Paste Magazine, VICE)

Jenny Powers (Speaker)

Tired of traditional networking events full of business card exchanges and sales pitches, but void of meaningful connections and authentic conversations, Jenny Powers envisioned an antidote to the proverbial “Old Boy’s Club.”  She set out to create a “New Girl’s Club” that empowered professional women to connect, collaborate, and celebrate one another’s successes and Running with Heels was born.

Running With Heels is New York’s invitation-only society for on the go, in the know women executives and entrepreneurs. Their members-only event series are designed to elevate both the personal and professional lives of today’s working woman through curated connections and inspiring conversations.

A firm believer that your network is your net worth, Powers hosts a variety of events for women professionals ranging from her renowned signature dinner parties where guests are matched with different dinner companions during each course, to exclusive trainings at the Dale Carnegie Institute to intimate tours of some of the world’s most celebrated venues such as the Museum of Modern Art.

Powers offers networking and lifestyle tips in her monthly ezine “That’s What She Said” and has also been featured in The Huffington Post, Crain’s Business, Daily Worth, Fast Company and Women & Co. She regularly facilitates networking masterminds for female entrepreneurs at In Good Company Workplaces. and is the Founder of the Women Leaders in Networking Round-table, a consortium of women that represent the majority of the networking organizations in New York that cater to women.

Lindsey Cohen (Performer)

Singer-songwriter Lindsey Cohen possesses a rich, dusky voice that manages to convey both innocence and sophistication — a neat trick considering that Cohen is all of 18 years old. Add to that her knack for writing elegant melodies and bracingly honest lyrics and it’s clear that this young newcomer, who has performed at such NYC venues as Arlene’s Grocery and The Bitter End, is going places with her recently released debut EP Grace Under Pressure.

Cohen was raised in New York City, where she recalls attending concerts with her parents, sitting on her dad’s shoulders while watching Elvis Costello perform in Central Park and standing on her seat to peer over everyone’s heads when Sheryl Crow performed at Radio City Music Hall. She got into making music herself by singing with her dad, a guitar player who listened to Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton records in the house while Lindsey was growing up. “I still remember watching old Rolling Stones videos and trying to dance like Mick Jagger,” she says. Cohen began taking voice lessons at age 11 and started writing songs when she was 14 as a way to express some difficult emotions.

“I feel like I can say things in songs that I wouldn’t be able to say to someone in person, like telling them that I’m angry or that they’ve hurt me,” Cohen says. “I’m pretty shy in real life and often find that I’m too afraid of confronting someone to tell them when I am upset or too shy to tell someone that I like them.”

“Writing songs is a way for me to say things that I would probably keep bottled up otherwise.”

Her relatable lyrics examine the challenges that come with relationships, like “Stranger,” which is about how the people closest to you can be the ones who hurt you the most. “They might not even realize they’re hurting you, or other times they do it intentionally because they know they have that power,” Cohen says. “Daises” employs “he loves me, he loves not” imagery to explore the uncertainty behind whether someone shares your feelings and being too afraid to ask. “Speechless” addresses Cohen’s natural shyness, while “Grace Under Pressure” is about trying to look calm on the outside while feeling anxious on the inside. “I wrote that song during my junior year of high school when I was trying to juggle school, college visits, SAT tests, and music,” Cohen says. “Pressure to be perfect nagged at me in every aspect of my life.” She chose it as the EP’s title track because that emotion was present throughout the writing and recording process.

Cohen recorded Grace Under Pressure with the team from Airgo Music — veteran songwriter/producer/musicians Russ DeSalvo and Jimmy Greco, who saw Cohen perform at The Bitter End and expressed an interest in working with her. Together, they have crafted an emotionally charged, piano-driven sound that reflects Cohen’s myriad musical inspirations, which range from such edgy rock acts as The White Stripes, The Kills, and The Black Keys (she covers the latter’s “Little Black Submarines” on Grace Under Pressure) to singer-songwriters Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, Sheryl Crow, Regina Spektor, and Fiona Apple. “A lot of records have inspired me,” Cohen says.  “The Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet, Sheryl Crow’s The Globe Sessions, and Fiona Apple’s Tidal stand out. I love the stories Fiona tells with her lyrics and find her songs easy to relate to, which is something I strive to do with my music.”

“I want people to be able to think about their own experiences when they hear about mine,” she says. “My songs can mean different things to different people, but everyone has experienced frustration, anticipation, longing, and pain. I hope that by listening to my songs, people know that they are not alone or somehow different for having such feelings.”

Lindsey Cohen is currently a freshman at Columbia University in NYC and is working on her second EP which is expected to be released in Early 2015.

DJ Fulano (Performer)

When Nickelodeon needed a deejay for their Kids Choice Sports Awards, there’s only one kid they called. When Diane Von Furstenberg needed a deejay for the launch of her GapKids collection, there’s only one kid she called. When Cartoon Network needed a deejay for their Hall Of Game Awards, there’s only one kid they called. When Vogue Bambini needed a deejay for their Kids Fashion Week show, there’s only kid they called…

For the past three years, DJ Fulano has been the life of the party…and he is only eleven-years-old.

When considering the creative cloth from which Fulano Librizzi was cut, his awe-inspiring talent and accomplishments almost seem reasonable. Born on July 13, 2003 in New York City and raised in Harlem, Fulano was surrounded by art before ever taking his first breath. His mother, Latham Thomas, a renowned wellness specialist, filled their house with the sounds of Stevie Wonder and A Tribe Called Quest on the weekdays, while on the weekends, his father, visual artist, Nemo Librizzi, filled the house with the sounds of Nina Simone, Roy Ayers, and other artists he played on his radio show, “Jazz Alternatives.” Meanwhile, Fulano was exposed to fine art by his grandfather, veteran New York art dealer and friend of Andy Warhol, Rick Librizzi.

Before birth, Fulano was drumming on his mother’s stomach. After birth, he was drumming on his crib. At age two, Fulano was drumming on his Fisher Price drumset. At age four, he was taking drum lessons. Then, at age five, Fulano’s mother brought him to New York City deejay school, Dubspot. Impressed by the youngster’s natural talent, the school offered their youngest student a scholarship.

“Fulano told me he needed a cell phone because he was going to be travelling the world making people happy with music,” recalls Latham.” The budding deejay’s forecast would soon prove prophetic.

A couple of years later, Fulano stumbled upon a DJ Cassidy mix on the internet and immediately became infatuated with the renowned deejay known for rocking parties around the world for Jay Z, Beyonce, Diddy, Jennifer Lopez, Naomi Campbell, Oprah Winfrey, and President Obama. Fulano began tweeting Cassidy every morning before school, sending him links to download his own mixes. Then, by coincidence, Cassidy was referred to Fulano’s mother for yoga instruction. When the two deejays finally met, a mentor and protégé were born.

“Fulano’s vast musical knowledge, sophisticated rhythmic timing, and uncanny ability to read a crowd supersedes his age in ways that create utter wonder,” explains Cassidy. “A lover of all genres and eras of music, Fulano brings a truly refreshing musical diversity to the dance floor. Hearing him play is invigorating, not only because he is so shockingly young, but because he is so innocently sincere and inspiringly passionate. Fulano defines the phrase “old soul.” I began deejaying when I was ten, but Fulano continues to outdo me in every way.”

A full-time sixth-grader, Fulano has already deejayed around the country for a truly diverse list of clients from the world’s of fashion, television, art, sports and beyond. The roster includes Gap, Diane Von Furstenberg, American Eagle, Old Navy, Reebok, Happy Socks, Haddad Brands, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, PetitePARADE’s Kids Fashion Week, Fashion Week of Rochester, Vogue Bambini, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, CNN, Bugaboo, The Andy Warhol Foundation, The New York Knicks, Madison Square Garden, The Brooklyn Nets, Barclays Center, Flips Audio, Revolution Foods, and Morgan Stanley. Fulano also deejays regularly for many charitable organizations including VH1 Save The Music, The Clinton Foundation, The Children’s Museum of the East End, Generation NXT, Bent On Learning, Solving Kids’ Cancer, and The Center For Youth.

With his signature afro and sartorial fashion, DJ Fulano is a natural attention-stealer when he walks into a room. It is no wonder, then, that Fulano continues to make his mark beyond the deejay booth. Fulano acted as the house deejay on Nickelodeon’s 2014 Kids Choice Sports Awards and has deejayed live on ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today Show. He modeled in Gap Kids’ fall 2012 campaign and in Gap’s 2014 Winter Holiday campaign featuring Victor Cruz and Chanel Iman, shot by David LaChapelle. Fulano has been featured in Vogue Japan, DuJour, Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, Ebony, Time Out New York, Earnshaw’s, New York Post, New York Daily News, and many other prominent publications.

As if deejaying wasn’t enough to keep the child prodigy satisfied, Fulano has dreams beyond the turntables. “I want to be a hotelier one day,” the youngster asserts. “Every room in my hotel will be made of gold, and there will be a huge nightclub in the lobby where I will deejay for free; but, for now, I just want to keep making people dance and making people smile. That is why I deejay and that is why I love what I do.”

Matthew DeGraaf (Speaker)

Matthew DeGraaf was born on a farm and raised in west Michigan.  His vocational background is indicitive of his interests, including Army Ranger, stone mason, wildland firefighter, and mathematics teacher.  Matt received his B.A. in Mathematics in 2010 from the University of Colorado and his Masters of Science in Mathematics Education from Teachers College.  He is now working towards at PhD in Mathematics Education.  Matt owes everything in his life to the teachers and professors – especially his mom – who have helped him to develop.

Mary Elizabeth Elkordy (Speaker)

Mary Elizabeth Elkordy is the Producer for The Geraldo Rivera Show, The Ride Home with Pat Kiernan and Rita Cosby, and The Joan Hamburg Show on WABC Radio in NYC.  As the producer, she books guests who range from local to national to global leaders in politics and international relations, athletes, entertainers and more. She started at WABC Radio while in the middle of college at Fordham University, and has been there for three and a half years. She also started a newsletter called Mary’s News You Can Use that is sent out five nights a week to hundreds of policy and newsmakers. This year, she made City and State Magazine’s “40 Under 40″ elite list of  media, government and advocacy professionals in New York State at the age of 24.

Prior to WABC Radio, she immersed herself in politics with ten internships including working for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign and in her Senate office, Anthony Weiner’s Congressional and Mayoral campaigns, for the City Council Policy and Investigation Unit, Public Advocate’s office and more.

She grew up volunteering with her mother’s organization, The Museum of Comedy, where we put on more than a thousand comedy shows in hospitals and homeless shelters on a mission of cheer.  She later went on to help start and was campaign manager for her own mother’s two runs for Governor of NY.

Mary resides in Queens and when she isn’t working, she is an avid singer and researcher of motivational quotes.

Sophie Houser & Andy Gonzales (Speakers)

Andy and Sophie are the co-creators of the viral video game Tampon Run. They created the game as their final project at a summer intensive coding program, Girls Who Code, with the goal of combating the societal taboo of menstruation. It features a girl who throws tampons at oncoming enemies rather than shooting a gun. Over 200,000 people around the world have played the game since they posted it in early September. Tampon Run not only stands for the fight against the menstrual taboo, but also that women can and should code.

Sophie is a senior at Bard High School Early College and Andy is a junior at Hunter College High School. Sophie is the co-captain of her school’s tennis team, enjoys photography, writing, biking and spending time with friends. Andy is the co-captain of her school’s robotics team, on her school’s volleyball team, a classical pianist, a singer, and a TED talk binge-watcher.

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