black girl magic confernece*13-year-old Atlanta native Mikaela Sydney Smith has dreams of becoming a Hollywood star, and she’s already paving the way towards a successful and fulfilling career by helping to empower girls of color.

The aspiring actress has created the Brown Girl Magic conference. Its theme: “Activating Your Inner Magic,” and the keynote speaker is young entrepreneur Gabrielle Goodwin of GaBBYBOWS. She created a first of its kind hair barrette that “doesn’t fall out,” and the design landed Gabrielle in the national spotlight.

Smith launched the Brown Girl Magic movement at the age of 11 after creating her “Crazy Knee Socks for a Cause” campaign to collect socks for kids in need during the winter.

“It really all started when I was reading this book for class called Chicken Soup for the Pre-Teen Soul. And in the book there were so many kids that were doing good things for their communities, and it was amazing. I was like, ‘Wow, I really want to do something like this,’ Smith told EUR during a recent phone interview.

“So I told my mom my idea about doing something for the community and she loved it! So then I created something called Mikaela’s “Crazy Knee Socks for a Cause,” where we would give out sock to the (less fortunate) during the winter time. They were knee-high and crazy because they could be warm and fashionable.”

Mikaela and her mother Kia Morgan Smith collected “600 pairs of socks” from Facebook friends and “people who wanted to help out.”

“Once I did that, I just didn’t want to stop,” said Mikaela. “I wanted to know how I could make this an everyday thing, like, for the rest of my life. That’s when I thought of Brown Girl Magic. I wanted girls to celebrate themselves. I wanted them to walk away knowing that they’re special and that they are beautiful.”

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black girl magic conference

This year’s convention theme is “Activating Your Inner Magic,” and Mikaela says that, for her, this means “loving you from the inside out, not just the outside and what you look like.”

Continuing, “In school, I would see other girls getting teased because of their skin color or their hair and they would come and ask me, ‘Mikaela, why are you so confident to wear your hair out like this? Why do you act like the way you do?’ And I would talk to them and just say, ‘You are beautiful. Don’t listen to those other people. They’re haters.‘ ”

Smith has already booked a dozen high-profile presenters for the conference, including New York Times bestselling author Denene Millner and Alisha Ballard, who was a contestant during Cycle 14 of ANTM.

Mikaela wants young girls to know that they can unlock their inner magic by: finding yourself, knowing yourself and loving yourself.

“That’s one of the three main things that my mom always tells me,” she said. “Because there’s going to be people who don’t like you, even as adults. There’s adult bullying that’s going on and people don’t even know. But you really have to find yourself to know yourself and just embrace yourself from the inside out.”

Even her friends are inspired by her empowering movement. “I post a lot on my Instagram and you know kids are always on Instagram, Snapchat and stuff like that, and when they see it they come to me at school like, ‘Mikaela, you’re so awesome. That’s really cool!’ Even some of my white friends,” she laughs. “They’re like, ‘Mikaela, can I come to the Brown Girl Magic convention?’ “.

Mom Kia notes that all “curious” non-black moms and their daughters “can come, but our problems are unique to us.”

Continuing, “They do want to know and they are curious. And everybody is so PC. You can’t say this online, you can’t do this… you can’t ask about this… we’re so sensitive, and people really do want to know — and it’s not offensive. They want to know. So they need a safe space too where they can ask questions or gain insight into who we are, what we’re going through, what things we do expect, but in a safe space where they’re not judged, and it’s okay. They want us to know that they love us too.”

“So yes! Absolutely they can come and join in and learn something,” Kia adds.

Mikaela’s convention is a space for “all girls” to unlock and embrace their magic.

“I thought of the name Brown Girl Magic because I am a brown girl with lots of magic and that’s one of the main reasons why I started the organization,” she said. “I want brown girls like myself to feel something cause we’re always looked over and pushed over to the side.”

The “Activating Your Inner Magic” conference is sponsored by Curls, and will be held May 7, 2017 in Sutton Hall in Douglasville, GA (20 minutes outside of Atlanta). The interactive event will also stream live on social media. Visit BrownGirlMagic.com for more info.

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