"Perfection is this strange enigma that everyone defines differently and no matter how much you starve yourself or purge, you won't be what you think is perfect. Because perfect doesn't exist." - Shelby Reilly
Shelby Reilly is a college student living in New York City. During her free time, she volunteers at Reading Hamlets to break the cycle of poverty through literacy for young girls in Nigeria. She's also a writer for The LaLa, a college web publication that strives to inform and inspire women with one-of-a-kind, uplifting content.
Shelby, who once struggled with depression and an eating disorder, is now recovered and ready to take the world by storm!
Go Shelby! Keep it up… :-)
Every Ella: Tell us about yourself.
Shelby Reilly: I'm originally from North Carolina and am currently living in New York. I absolutely love anything that's creative and have a small obsession with coffee and elephants.
What are you studying in school and what are your career goals?
I'm currently studying theatre at Marymount Manhattan College. I am to be a part of empowering and inspiring shows. Throughout my life, I know I want to inspire people and create art as much as I possibly can. As long as I'm creating, I'm happy.
You volunteer for Reading Hamlets. What do they do and what's the most rewarding part of that experience?
Reading Hamlets is a non-profit organization created to end illiteracy for young girls in Nigeria. It's so rewarding to know that we are changing the lives of these young girls forever. I don't know where I would be without my love for reading and being able to instill that love in these girls is so amazing.
Tell us about the website you write for, The LaLa.
The LaLa is the ultimate lifestyle destination for bright, adventurous college women. With a team of over 500 college writers, photographers and reps for campuses across the world, the Lala team stands behind a positive media mission aimed at redefining college culture today. It's absolutely amazing to be a part of such an empowering team, each one of the ladies involved inspires me. The Lala was created by two amazing women, Katherine and Molly, while they were in college and it's just grown so much. I am so proud to be a part of the team and honored to represent them.
How did you get involved with The Lala?
I somehow found The Lala my junior year of high school. I can't remember exactly how I stumbled upon them but I am so glad that I did. I ended up reading for about a year and a half and once they said that applications were open, I jumped at the chance.
What has inspired you to get involved with organizations focused on female empowerment?
In high school, I recognized that women weren't building each other up as much as we should've been. I want to make sure that I am a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. I think that as women we need to support each other rather than tear each other down. Every women deserves to feel like she matters and that she is important.
You struggled with depression and an eating disorder and are now 2 years recovered. Congratulations! What motivated you to get help and what was your biggest challenge during that time?
To be honest, at first I didn't want to get help and I'm not sure anyone begins with wanting help. One day a girl from my choir found me in the bathroom and brought me to the chorus teacher. Both of them changed my life completely. Although I didn't think that I deserved to get better, I had so much support from my family and friends. I ended up realizing that if I continued, I wouldn't have a great chance of living the life that I deserve. My biggest challenge was recognizing that the curves that I was with are beautiful and not everyone is meant to look a certain way like how the media portrays.
Do you feel that society's image of the "perfect girl" impacted you when you were young and may have caused self-esteem issues?
Definitely. I didn't see any girls who were curvy and loved it. I only thought that I had to be tall and skinny in order to meet "everyone's" expectations. I think we're slowly leaning towards a more progressive view of body image, but we definitely have a ways to go.
What would you tell girls who may be struggling with an eating disorder?
You are already beautiful and people already love you. I know it is so hard to accept yourself sometimes, but redefine perfection. Perfection is this strange enigma that everyone defines differently and no matter how much you starve yourself or purge, you won't be what you think is perfect. Because perfect doesn't exist. Take a deep breath, drink some tea, slowly try and give yourself a little more dietary freedom. It's hard to not feel guilty and mad at yourself but eventually that will fade. And please never forget that recovery IS possible.
Name one woman who has inspired you.
I am so inspired by Audrey Hepburn. Not only for her classic movies and wonderful style, but the volunteer work she did throughout her life. Seeing someone like her use her influence to change the world is extraordinary. I think she truly exhibits grace and if I could be anything like her, I would be honored.
What advice would you give girls today?
Always bet on yourself. You're so much more brave, courageous, smart, creative and beautiful than you think that you are. Let yourself like new things, if you constantly worry about what other people are thinking rather than just letting yourself have a good time, then you're not really living life for yourself. And at the end of the day, you're stuck with yourself, so why not give yourself the love that you deserve?