"Through the power of art, this project relates to and empowers girls to be the utmost honest version of themselves, take responsibility for who they are and go after what they are most passionate about. The Just, Girl. Project aims to encourage girls to embrace their artistic expression!"
Singer/Songwriter, Ilana Harkavy, struggled with body issues her entire life, but she decided to make a change; not only for herself, but for girls everywhere. She started a movement called The Just, Girl. Project, which aims to empower girls through art and music.
Well, that's certainly music to our ears. Go Ilana!
Every Ella: Tell us about yourself.
Ilana Harkavy: Hi! I’m Ilana. I’m a redhead. I live Los Angeles, and I spend most of my days working, hiking, and making terrible jokes. I have been singing and songwriting for my entire life! While attending Loyola Marymount University, I studied abroad in London where I pursued an exciting career in EDM. I was able to collaborate and tour with some amazing artists worldwide. I also worked on music that was featured on TV and in films. I had a blast! After college, I started my own branding company, “nailed it! media” and have been marketing passionate, conscious-based companies ever since. I have a passion for entrepreneurship, philanthropy, music, travel, fitness, healthy living, and #girlpower. I’m also admittedly obsessed with my dog Camden. He’s a showstopper.
You started The Just, Girl. Project. Can you tell us about it?
The Just, Girl. Project is a fiery art movement that empowers girls to embrace their passions, be blatantly honest, and to take ownership of their individual struggles. Through the power of art, this project relates to and empowers girls to be the utmost honest version of themselves, take responsibility for who they are, and go after what they are most passionate about. The Just, Girl. Project aims to encourage girls to embrace their artistic expression!
What inspired you to start the project?
A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a startling subculture: social media accounts devoted to the promotion of anorexia, bulimia, and self-harm. It broke my heart because, not only did I feel saddened by these negative messages, but I also related to them. I’ve suffered from a poor relationship with food and my own body for my entire life. I went from starving myself, to binge eating, to not wanting to leave my room, because walking around in my own skin, felt unbarable.
As a songwriter, I try to write from a place of vulnerability. My little sister, Shula, has always stressed to me the importance of being a positive role model. Since I’ve always been passionate about girl culture and mentorship, I felt it would be a great idea to create a body of work devoted to the thing I love most in this world—being a big sister. I always say “Express yourself til it hurts,” so I knew I had to do the same-to make an impact by letting my guard down and facing myself head-on. I knew it wouldn’t be pretty, but it would be real, and that’s what mattered most.
“Just, Girl.” - It’s about just the girl...and only the girl--her journey and her ability to make changes and empower herself. This isn’t about saying, “I love myself”...It’s about saying “I don’t love myself yet...but I want to.”
You have been a singer and songwriter for years. You wrote and recorded a song for your EP called "My Body." What is the story behind this song?
This was the very first song I wrote for my EP. I locked myself in my room and just wrote. I wanted everyone to know the truth--that my body and I--we are in a “complicated” relationship.
My entire life I have struggled with my body image and self-esteem. I was told I had body dysmorphia, anorexia...among other things. These diagnoses and opinions encouraged me to continue the cycle until I finally had a realization--I hold the ability to make a change. This song is about the ongoing battle I’ve had with myself. I choose to take full responsibility for the judgement I’ve placed. I will not blame anyone. This is all on me. This song admits what makes me uncomfortable, but it also embraces an incredible mantra--“I wanna love my body!”
I’m gonna drop some knowledge on you! Ready? Most people can’t guess your weight, most people don’t care, and most people are uncomfortable with themselves to some degree, so by loving yourself, you are spreading positive vibes and hopefully helping them to love themselves, too! I hope “I wanna love my body” will be your anthem, as I have made it mine. If you say it enough, maybe you’ll actually start to believe it.
What was the most exciting part of recording this EP album?
I wrote and recorded the EP with my best friends, and they are boys! It made it that much more uncomfortable to reveal my deepest truth. Why was this awesome? Because they appreciated my rawness and never once judged me for how I felt. I felt completely liberated and comfortable, which I really didn’t expect.
Beyond that, recording is so much fun! It can be a gruesome and tedious process to be thrown into the trenches, especially when you’re your own worst critic, but the team-work process made it that much better. It also felt pretty darn liberating to finally write music that felt honest and functional. I wasn’t just whining and complaining anymore. Rather, I was finding solutions and admitting the things I wanted to change.
Can you tell us more about the songs on the EP?
Just, Girl. is a five track EP (half an album) -- these songs address ongoing struggles I’ve faced ranging from body image to social acceptance and the mottos I’ve adopted to overcome them.
“My Body” – Your Body Image and Self Worth
- Look within yourself and take ownership of how you feel, even if it’s ugly.
- Love your body, and if you don’t, tell yourself you want to so you’ll believe.
“Lipstick Liars” – Your Reputation
- Own who you are and the choices you make.
- Avoid lying. Try your best to live life honestly and not throw others under the bus.
“Just, No.” – Your Voice
- Hold true to what you believe in and what you want.
- Speak up for yourself and be assertive.
“Neon Fire” – Your Passions
- Never give up on your dreams. Let them drive you.
- Let your frustrations fuel and motivate you.
“We Are Famous" – Your Motto
- Give yourself a positive mental pep talk everyday.
- Convey confidence: Fake it 'til you make it darling.
This is my pep talk to the future vibrant, bold, and beautiful women of the world!
What has been the most challenging part of starting "The Just, Girl. Project?"
The age-old problems: Time and money! I wish I had unlimited amounts of time and money to work on this project. I can’t tell you how great it feels to see that this project is getting attention and making an impact. It keeps me going. But I know that if I want this movement to do more and be more, that it needs my undivided attention, so I’m being patient with myself and setting aside time everyday to work on it--and reaching out to those around me for support.
I raised almost $30,000 with the Indiegogo campaign, and I’ve worked hard to put it to use--I filmed my music video for “My Body” about body image and eating disorders (It’s in production!) and put on a “Just, Girl.” concert, I’ve built-up the social media, and have been writing in the blog, doing interviews, and participating in public-speaking engagements. Every step I take is a beat and I know that eventually, it will turn into a masterpiece!
What are your goals and ambitions for "The Just, Girl. Project?"
I want to create more amazing music videos with strong messages, as well as tour worldwide to perform and promote the songs. I would also love to make this EP a full-length album by creating an additional 5+ songs. But more importantly, I want to continue growing the movement online. I’ll continue to write in the blog, create social campaigns devoted to positive and honest messages for young women, and feature #GoW’s (girls of the week). Furthermore, I want this movement to grow exponentially. I want to help develop other girls and promote their messages by launching The Just, Girl. Project mentorship program and a non-profit and/or foundation where we can develop artists with strong social messages. I want this to be a global movement! I want to include dancers, artists, writers, and make it a more than a music movement.
I honestly started The Just, Girl. Project with the intent of creating meaningful, functional music, but now it’s way bigger than just me and my music. I want it to be about girls everywhere. My desire for fame and notoriety isn’t at the forefront of my mind anymore. I want to help other girls reach their destiny and accomplish their dreams.
What are your personal goals and ambitions for your future?
I want to build an empire for myself, my non-profit, my company, and my movement.
Many of my friends are in the music industry as signed songwriters and artists, making money in the big leagues. I would be lying if I said I didn’t crave that, but over the past few years, my desire to be an entrepreneur and philanthropist have been undeniable.
From creating a business (nailed it! media) to fund my passion and work for myself, to launching The Just, Girl. Project, I’m truly motivated to build more than just my music career: I want to impact as many young girls as I can and live a life of purpose. My ultimate goal is to channel everything I do with love. I want to teach young girls how to express themselves through their art. I’m going to do a TED talk, win a Grammy, become a serial entrepreneur, and I am going to be a mom! And even if I don’t do all or any of those things, I want to be a leader and keep growing as a person.
How has starting this project changed your life?
Simply put: This project has made me realize my true purpose in life--to empower people. I now realize how badly I want to lead a life of purpose. I want to send love to as many people as I can--because that is what matters most, to me. I love being able to listen to those around me, reveling in their stories. I love making people smile. But if I’m honest, I have a soft spot for tween and teen girls, because they inspire me. They are so romantic, so truthful, so dramatic, so full of energy--and that is something I’ve lost a bit during my 20’s. I admire them and I’m inspired by their passion. I believe these girls can change the world, because they hold the fire and determination.
Name one woman who inspires you.
My mom, Laurie Strom.
If you could have dinner with one female celebrity, who would it be and why?
Beyoncé--She’s all about that #girlpower, she has continued to pursue a thriving music career while being a wife and mother, she gives back through philanthropy and charity efforts, she’s a flawless performer (perhaps the best of our generation), she clearly cares for her fans, she never apologizes for being herself, and never engages with her haters.
I saw her live and I don’t know that I can ever go to another concert again--it was actual perfection. Is that even a thing? Yes, because...Beyoncé exists.
It’s hard not to love and appreciate her.
What advice would you like to give girls today?
Stop making excuses and start being kind. You’d be surprised what a positive attitude and warm heart can bring to the table. The energy it takes to blame, complain, and judge those around you, is so wasteful and unproductive. Plus, there’s nothing cute about being a self-proclaimed mean girl. Remember, your smile can literally change the world, so try your best to shine through the darkness.