meet kelsey adams, voice of tomorrow

Two months ago we launched a global call-to-arms by inviting our readers to submit one thousand words that fought for their chosen cause. We speak to the winner.

by Steve Salter
08 April 2015, 12:55pm

For The Activist Issue we invited our readers to submit 1,000 words that fought for something they believed in. As we continue to publish the call-to-arms that captured our imagination, we learn more about the author of the winning entry, our Voice of Tomorrow, Kelsey Adams.

As everyone from 13-year-old students to 25 year-old creatives flooded our inbox with entries, the disaffected and dissatisfied jumped at the opportunity to see their fight in print. What do our readers stand for? Everything from mental health reform to declarations of Black Lives Matter, fighting domestic violence, protecting the arts, rising against gentrification and preventing the silent sexualization of our bodies. After we published the winning entry from Toronto based journalism student Kelsey Adams and continue to mic up further calls for change, we find out more about our Voice of Tomorrow. Here, Kelsey discusses the allure of Ugly Betty, the importance of challenging the status quo and the need to question everything.

Have you always wanted to be a journalist?
I've wanted to go into journalism since I was 12. I've always had an insatiable curiosity; I was the kid who never ran out of questions and I felt journalism fulfilled that need for answers. Before that, I wanted to be everything from a singer to a visual artist, but realized my interest in arts and culture could be applied to journalism as well.

Who are your role models?
As cliché as it sounds, my mother has been my role model for the majority of my life. She taught me from a young age about the importance of self-empowerment and to not rely on others for validation. If anything, my ambition comes from emulating both of my parents and I'm eternally grateful that they've pushed me to go after everything I want.

What first attracted you to journalism?
On top of my obsessive need to know everything, I have to admit I was rather enticed by the fast-paced world of fashion journalism that I saw in The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty. It wasn't until I started writing for my high school newspaper that I realized as a journalist, you're given the opportunity to tell really engaging, impactful stories. It's an immense responsibility. Still, I wouldn't mind spending my days sitting front row at fashion week.

What do you think the point of journalism is?
I think the point of journalism is elusive and dependent on the type of journalism that you're practicing. In a general sense, I find that ethics and responsibility to the public are key. I think journalism should be about telling the important stories of underdogs across all realms of culture and society, but that's definitely not the case in reality. Unfortunately, the media tends to be controlled by corporations and journalism suffers because it becomes more about turning a profit rather than educating the masses about the things that need to be known.

What was the first piece you wrote or presented?
In my twelfth grade year, there was a strike that impacted students' access to extra-curricular activities. As one can imagine, for students applying to university, extra-curriculars are crucial and so there were several student protests. The first news story I wrote was coverage of one of these and I found it so exciting. Engaged youth can be really inspiring especially since we live in a time where teenagers are assumed to be apathetic.

What do you hope readers take away from your Voice of Tomorrow entry?
The main thing I wanted to stress was the idea that the status quo needs to be challenged and thoroughly critiqued. In terms of how we view race, the need for more varied narratives about historically marginalized groups is so vital. For example, to assume all black people are the same, act the same and have the same life experiences is so regressive and really not reflective of reality. Also there is a need for greater representation of different races in the mainstream, ideas of white people being "normalized" and people of color being "other" need to be dismantled.

We've deemed you the "voice of tomorrow," what do you want to say with that voice today?
Be empowered. Question everything. Believe in the sheer optimism of youth. If there are barriers and glass ceilings in your way, tear them down.

What makes your generation unique?
Unparalleled interconnectedness. We are so fortunate to have the ability to learn so much about one another and to collaborate across countries. I think growing up in this generation has allowed for really open, critical conversations about the building blocks of our society. Being raised on the Internet, I think we're more aware and empathetic merely because of our access to knowledge about other people across the world. We're also growing up in a time where the traditional path of getting a job straight out of university is completely unrealistic and we've had to learn to be creative. I think this generation has the opportunity to make a real shift in the way the world operates, if we can stop obsessing over Instagram likes for a few minutes. And that's not meant to be condescending; I'm definitely guilty of that as well.

What advice do you want to give young activists today?
Don't let the fact that adults tend to look down on youth and assume our opinions aren't valid because we haven't lived long enough stop you. It's so crucial that we remain actively involved in the goings on of the world because we're going to inherit it and we don't want it to be in shambles. We grow up hearing "kids are the future" but the second we've made informed opinions, we're told we're too young. Never let that stop you from fighting for the causes you believe in.

What's the best thing about being young today?
No wrinkles, ahaha, I'm kidding. I think the best thing about being young today is that we're all so willing to be involved. Whether it be in politics, in Toronto we had an 18-year-old running for mayor; or in art, more and more student art collectives pop up every day; or in music, with a multitude of producers under the age of 25 headlining major music festivals, young people are going after the things we want.

What are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I'm working on a few creative ventures on top of my journalism degree. I've been working on fashion videos and using them as a platform to explore ideas of female empowerment and cultural diversity through fashion. I've brought together a collective of friends to produce them and it's just so amazing that as young people we have so many skills that a generation before us would need extensive schooling to achieve. I'm also in the midst of writing a novel, focusing on dealing with loss and the formation of identity, but it's still in its early stages. I'm also the fashion editor at a Canadian culture magazine called CanCulture, which is giving me extensive hands-on experience.

What excites you most about tomorrow?
All of the endless possibilities.



Text Steve Salter
Photography Maya Fuhr

the activist issue
generation z
Gen Z
kelsey adams