Cool Girls with Tag: featured

Jackie Brenner

Name: Jackie Brenner
Age: 29
Location: Portland, OR
Occupation: Environmental Scientist

Jackie Brenner thirsts to improve life for her community and beyond by working for a Portland-based environmental consulting group and volunteering to teach life skills and outdoor education to underserved girls.

Jackie’s day job is to evaluate the environmental impact of industrial waste and development on aquatic ecosystems. When she’s not taking samples, writing reports, or completing fieldwork, she’s doing public outreach, or volunteering with Betties360, a non-profit that provides underserved young women active in rock-climbing, mountain biking, and STEM programs.

“I always excelled in labs and hands-on projects, but struggled with the memorization biology required, or understanding the complexities of chemistry. I felt environmental science was more accessible because it’s more creative and relatable: it’s understanding broad scientific concepts and thinking abstractly about how to explain and solve problems in a regulatory framework with that knowledge,” she explains.

After graduating college with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Jackie struggled to make ends meet. It was the recession, she had a low-paying internship without benefits, and she still had student loans to pay. After three months of commuting over 90 minutes each way, Jackie was starting to work enough regular overtime that she was able to move out of her parents’ house.

“Within a few more months I was hired full time salary and could start paying off my student loans. The work was hard because it was a lot of fieldwork in manufacturing facilities, homes, and businesses, and on construction sites, so I was constantly traveling, and it was a lot of climbing ladders and crawling underneath structures looking for water damage or determining air quality in dusty work environments. It was also challenging to be taken seriously,” she says. “My coworkers were great, but I grew a thick skin working with some of our clients who were wary of my ability being both young and a woman.”

After two years, Jackie was laid off as a result of the company’s struggles, so she applied to graduate school.

“When I was laid off, I accepted my admission to Oregon State University to study Environmental Science and complete a degree that was blended with their Water Science program, so I could pursue doing something I really loved,” Jackie says.

Following grad school, Jackie began working at a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data processing firm modeling watersheds and floodplains for municipalities to inventory their water resources and plan for flood events. These days, her task mastery has expanded.

“My team at my company helps municipalities and governmental coalitions write and manage EPA Brownfield Grants to fund assessment of contaminated and potentially contaminated properties so they can be cleaned up if need be, and redeveloped,” she says. “My clients are all Colorado and west…including Alaska! I continue to do GIS work and fieldwork including groundwater sampling, but we really look at addressing environmental health on a community scale.”

Beyond funding endeavors and water safety, Jackie’s pet project is the after-school women-empowerment program Betties360 that works to get underrepresented and underserved middle school girls involved in action sports and outdoor activities.

“It’s women-led, and focuses on leadership, trust, teamwork, and risk-taking themes in the classroom and in a safe and encouraging environment with our community partners,” Jackie explains. “We want to remove all barriers to participate in these activities, so the program is always 100% free.”

After learning about Betties360 through a friend who was the former Program Coordinator, she volunteered to lend her grant writing skills and community outreach passion to the organization.

“I’ve been the Grant Committee Chair since shortly after I started with Betties360 in 2017 and was recently elected Vice Chair of the organization,” Jackie says. “I’m more tired than I’ve ever been, and hustling harder than I ever have, but it’s incredibly rewarding.”

So what message does this aquatic safety ace and outdoor enthusiast have for young women who might be struggling to find their place on the planet?

“Pining after boys and maintaining superficial friendships is a waste of time. Focus on developing your interests, your hobbies, and pursuing what you care about in any way you can. When you’re an interesting person the right people will be interested in being around you,” she says. “Also, lift each other up. Being friends is way more fun than being competitors; you will also go farther with each other than stepping on each other.”

Excellent advice from an environmental advocate. For her work keeping water clean and young girls excited about getting outside, we think Jackie Brenner is one Cool Girl!

Megan Jayne Crabbe is Back!

Name: Megan Jayne Crabbe
Age: 26
Location: Essex, UK
Occupation: Author, influencer and advocate for body positivity and mental health awareness

A few years ago, we profiled Megan Jayne Crabbe, aka bodyposipanda, and gave her serious kudos for all of her body positive social media love. Today, we asked Megan to be our first ever repeat Cool Girl in honor of National Self-Confidence Day on March 26th.

In the time following our initial interview, Megan Jayne Crabbe has become a blogger at The Unedit, been featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, and has written a book, Body Positive Power. Still, with a larger platform and the label of being an Instagram influencer, she remains the same down-to-earth, accessible, utterly lovable human being.

“I’m still living a bit of a double life between being an influencer and also remaining a caregiver for my older sister Gemma. I’m definitely still just as much of a dog lady and I’m still dancing around in my underwear on the internet!” she says.

The immediacy and transparency of living life online hasn’t always been easy, however.

“A lot of my personal growth over the last couple of years has come from adjusting to the highs and lows of existing on the internet,” Megan admits. “I’ve always said that as someone who struggles with anxiety and self-doubt in the ways I do, I’m not really made for this world. A lot of putting yourself out there online is dealing with hundreds of people every day telling you who they think you are – good or bad – and it’s super hard not to lose your own sense of who you are in that. I’m definitely better at keeping hold of that now and trusting that I know who I am better than strangers on social media do, but it’s been a real journey!”

Over the course of nine months, Megan wrestled with aforementioned anxiety, and many pots of coffee, in order to create Body Positive Power, her new book that is largely an inspirational autobiography.

“I was just trying to pass along the things I’d learned in my own body acceptance, with a bit of sass and a lot of straight talk about diet culture. I’m so thankful people have connected with it the way they have and used it to start reclaiming their body and a life that isn’t filled with hunger and self-hatred,” she says.

The healing power of the writing process, as well as the perks of her personality being at the forefront of the mainstream body positivity movement, has led to a lot of transformation.

“I’m never done learning. There are always ways to be a better advocate, make my message more pure, and hold myself accountable for that. But there also has to be a lot of room for self-forgiveness when you don’t get it right, which is often,” she says.

When it comes to navigating the often cruel ocean of social media, Megan has a bevy of sage, hard-learned advice.

“I think it’s on each of us to treat the people on our timelines as full human beings. So much of what makes social media toxic is that it enables us to put people into one-dimensional boxes of who we want them to be. In reality, we’re all more than our social media, we have more going in our lives, we make mistakes, we screw up, we learn. We have to allow the people we follow to be human. And when it comes to the straight up trolls who just want to spread hate – block on sight, they’re not worthy of your time or energy,” Megan says.

“Also, the same as always, what you see everyday has a huge effect on how you see yourself. We should all be regularly curating our social media feeds to be full of inspiration rather than negative comparison. We should be conscious of what we’re reading and what we’re watching, we deserve to feel represented in the media we consume and we don’t need anything in our lives convincing us that our bodies are wrong. Follow a diverse range of humans online, watch shows with casts of strong characters whose differences are celebrated, throw out the photoshopped magazine covers. Curate what you consume as much as you can so that the messaging you’re getting is that you’re good enough as you are,” she adds.

As for the average young woman, Megan empowers everyone to ditch the self-hate.

“We are all affected by diet culture, fatphobia and beauty ideals in some way, and we deserve to have our feelings recognized and understood. Find the people who will fight back with you, whether they’re in real life, online, on podcasts or even in books! You really aren’t alone in this.”

And what advice does the passionate and compassionate new author have to pass along to each of us in honor of National Self-Confidence Day?

“When I was learning about why we hate our bodies and where that comes from, I realized that it is so much bigger than you or me. Our cultural body dissatisfaction is something that we’ve been taught since we were children, by thousands of messages we take in every day about beauty, weight and worth.

We didn’t ask to live in a world that values how we look over who we are. And it’s not our fault that we feel the way we do. Once you really believe that you can let go of the blame you’re holding against your body and get angry at the real culprit: diet culture! Unrealistic beauty standards! Patriarchy! I think self confidence ultimately is about refusing to see yourself as anything less than what you’re worth, which is the absolute world.”

For her constant body positivity, and being a light for everyone who is yearning to grow in self-love and acceptance, we think Megan Jayne Crabbe is a very Cool Girl! Check out Body Positive Power and Megan’s advice column, as well as her Instagram and website.

Camila Rosa

Name: Camila Rosa
Age: 30
Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Occupation: Illustrator and Visual Artist

Artist Camila Rosa uses her talent to create visually stunning illustrations that are meant to inspire women and connect them across social boundaries. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Bust, GQ, and on Spotify as well as in myriad other publications and advertisements. That’s not to say that this Brazilian born trailblazer has always had it all figured out.

“I went to industrial design school in my hometown, and after working for a big company designing trophies, I decided to quit and that changed my life,” Camila says. “I moved to Sao Paulo and started to work with graphic design and illustration, which was my distant dream back in 2012. It was very hard to move to a new city, a new job along with a lot of other changes at just 21 years old, but it was worth it after all.”

By then she’d been involved with Coletivo CHÁ, an artists collective she joined one month after two of her friends founded it. 

“We started with the desire to publicize our ideas, and we chose to put it on the streets. Being part of a group of five women supporting each other was the best way to believe in ourselves and in our work. I decided to be an Illustrator because of the collective,” Camila confesses. 

Between her professional endeavors as a freelancer and her desire to inspire other women, Camila has found herself on the forefront of a socially conscious design revolution. From feminist calendars to Pride Month illustrations for Refinery29 to provocative works such as her “No Human Is Illegal”, Camila’s work goes beyond the simplistic eye candy of commercial art. But, believe it or not, abundant sparks of artistic ingenuity don’t come naturally. 

“I always have a hard time trying to be creative,” Camila says. “I think we have to exercise our minds every day, and for me, it’s never an easy job. I believe that creativity is not about what you are, it’s about what you experience. It’s a moment.”

And these days, most of her workday consists of the solitary practice of being a freelance artist toiling at home. 

“Being a full-time freelance illustrator, it’s a big challenge because you have to do all the work, including the business part, planning my schedule, chatting with clients, and everything else. I’m a one-woman studio and sometimes it’s not easy to do all the work,” she says.

When she’s not illustrating, Camila is going to punk and hardcore shows, traveling, visiting museums and exhibitions, and hanging out with her pals. 

Other than gleaning inspiration from everyday experiences, Camila hopes to strike the balance between commercial success and creative expression by honing her artistic skills beyond design. That said, she recognizes the importance of keeping her illustrations out there as a professional, beyond the fact that it is her career. 

“I believe it’s important to keep doing commercial work just so I can still show my work to the world,” she says.

With her art speaking volumes, is there any message to young girls out there that Camila would like to add?

“Believe in yourself and never give up. It’s important we understand that we can do stuff, and to do that, we need to educate ourselves!”

Bold words from a brilliant artist! For her electrifying and thought-provoking artistic works, and for her perseverance when it comes to female unity, we think Camila Rosa is a very Cool Girl!

See more of Camila’s work on her website camilarosa.net. Like her on Facebook or follow on Instagram.

We made a $200 donation to The Maria Da Penha Institute to help support women against violence and abuse. We encourage you to make a donation too! The Institute is in Brazil so you may need to use a translator and a currency converter to donate. 

Megan Petersen

Name: Megan Petersen
Age: 29
Location: Portland, OR
Occupation: Producer at Nike, Founder of The Bladies Co.

Growing up with her brothers, Megan Petersen was always on some sort of wheels, from big wheel tricycles to rollerskates. When she was around seven years old, she got her first pair of rollerblades.

Megan Petersen hangs out with her pup, Canon.“I fell in love with rollerblading when I first saw it, but it wasn’t until I was 23 I was able to really get into it. I would rollerblade around as much as I could but my health was a battle,” she recalls.

“When I got to my teenage years, I started getting really sick way too often,” she says. “There were days it was really hard to walk, my knees would get so swollen that I had them drained and shot with Cortisone. Getting light-headed and falling down started to happen and I felt so sick and weak it was hard to get out of bed. I was really scared.”

At 17 she was diagnosed with Junior Rheumatoid Arthritis, which was believed to be caused by Lupus. She was prescribed a ton of medication, and learned how to wrestle with her autoimmune disease. It was around this same time that she was exposed to extreme rollerblading, which included grinds, jumps, and backsliding.

“I met a few kids who were doing tricks on rollerblades, which I’d never seen before,” Megan remembers.

In 2004, Megan attended a contest called Barn Burner in Renton, Washington. There she met tons of legends in the sport, including Erik Bailey, Brian Shima, Jon Julio, and Chris Haffey. At 19, Megan moved to California, which is where she began shooting photos of skaters. By 2012 Megan began to attack her blades and attempt tricks.

Megan catching some air.“I knew this girl Aarin Gates who was the absolute coolest girl I’d ever met. She had more style than any of the guys I’d seen skate. (Sorry, guys.) I started meeting more girls like Melissa, Coco, Fallon and Chyna. There was nothing I wanted more than to learn to skate with girls like these. I was so stoked!”

Megan’s friends and fellow aggressive inline females Fallon and Coco would chant “Bladies!” when they were skating, and the name stuck. From there, it took off, becoming a website, online shop, and brand for women in the sport.

“There’s potential for a solid industry of females in rollerblading and a community to build!” Megan gushes.

Megan and Canon racing by Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.Between playing with her husky, working at Nike, and keeping up with Bladies, Megan finds herself squeezing in skating on her lunch break or after work. Beyond scheduling her skates, and battling the winter blues when the cold weather beats up on her arthritic joints, Megan finds herself still fighting the specter of sexism within a community as close-knit as rollerbladers.

“Even here it’s hard to say, but as a girl surrounded by guys you get heckled and hear a lot of sex jokes and deal with some comments from guys that aren’t great,” she says. “I think the biggest challenge is that there’s not a ton of girls to skate with in most places and we need a bigger community of bladies.”

Bladies T-shirt close-up.Megan and her cohorts are working to launch a brand that motivates lady bladers while also creating an industry for them. “There’s a whole community of rad Bladies shredding!” Megan exudes. “Join the shred!”

For her work attracting attention to ladies who rollerblade, and for never giving up, we think Megan Petersen is a very Cool Girl!

To learn more about the Bladies, visit their website, or follow them on Instagram.

We made a $200 donation to Stronger Skatepark to support a safe (and dry) environment for everyone that loves skating and those that want to start. We encourage you to make a donation too!

Dr. Karen Wilcox

Name: Dr. Karen Wilcox
Hometown: New Milford, NJ
Occupation: Department Chair at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah, Principle Investigator of the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program

Dr. Karen Wilcox is a professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah, and the director of an anticonvulsant drug development program. When she’s not combing over new data with her students and postdoctoral trainees in the lab, she’s going to meetings, and trying to answer the copious emails she receives. This brainiac neuroscientist always knew that she had wanted to be involved in science, so that sort of a schedule is a dream come true.

“When I was a small girl, I wanted to be an archeologist. And then an influential high school science teacher got me interested in marine biology. Finally, a mentor I met in college taught me about neuroscience, and I knew I had found my calling. So as far back as I can remember, I have always had a sense that I wanted to be a scientist,” she explains.

After years honing her skills and becoming an esteemed researcher, she and her husband moved to Utah to follow a great career opportunity for him.

“It was a bit unclear whether I would find an academic position here,” she recalls. “I was lucky, but had to start in what is known as a research track assistant professor position, which meant that I was not in a more secure tenure line. Eventually I was able to be switched to the tenure line and that has helped with my career tremendously.”

Now she works to hire new faculty members for her department, and makes sure those eligible candidates ensure its long-term success. Beyond the scope of academia alone, she is the Principle Investigator for the contract site of the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program.

This is your brain on massive magnification.

“Just about all anti seizure drugs have been through our program,” Dr. Wilcox says, “so we are very proud of the fact that many of the medicines that are now available to patients with epilepsy have been through our program. When we test them for activity in our experiments, we are blinded to them so we can perform the experiments in an unbiased way. So I do not know which potential medicines we are currently working on!”

Fortunately, this contract for the program is NIH funded and has been at her university for over 40 years, though garnering funding for experiments is always a challenge. Nonetheless, Dr. Wilcox hopes that her experiments will continue to help those who suffer from epilepsy and that someday she and her team will either discover a cure or a way to prevent epilepsy in those patients at risk for developing it following a brain injury.

Dr. Wilcox in the WildernessBeyond the lab, Dr. Wilcox explores the beautiful foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, soaking up the replenishing energy of nature with her husband and their newly adopted terrier, Milo. She also binge watches British detective shows, reads historical fiction novels, and gets her passport stamped as often as possible. “I love to travel to other countries, which my job lets me do!” she says.

For her tireless work researching, and running a department whose experiments and steadfastness help countless people suffering from epilepsy, and for enriching the lives and minds of her students and co-faculty, we think Dr. Karen Wilcox is a Cool Girl!

You can connect with Dr. Wilcox on twitter at @kswilcox
Or see more specifics on her lab and work on her faculty page on the University of Utah.

We made a $200 donation to Citizen’s United for Research in Epilepsy to support the awesome work that Dr. Wilcox and others do to help others. We encourage you to make a donation too!