If you could broadcast your story to the world, what would you share? That’s the question Lifetime, one the most powerful, preeminent female entertainment brands, set out to ask women in every state. Their goal? To tell the real story of women in America. Launched Monday, February 12th on www.heramerica.com, the campaign is featured on Lifetime television, as well as Lifetime’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
“Following the 2016 US Presidential Election, at a time when America seemed more fractured than ever before, Lifetime set out to capture the truth about women’s lives in the United States,” says Lea Goldman, Lifetime Editor-in-Chief. “There was so much talk about women—how little media and entertainment knew and understood so-called ‘real women,’ how many assumptions we made about them. And we thought, there are so many stories, so many sides that haven’t been represented, that deserve to be told. That was the driving force.”
Lifetime crisscrossed the country, with an all-female production team of more than 20 women who produced, directed and shot the stories of women they met from every state. They covered a wide variety of subjects, including the challenges of marriage, complicated relationships with our parents, the hustle to pay bills, and sex.
The women profiled in HER AMERICA come from America’s smallest towns to the largest cities. From Arizona’s first female Asian-American state senator to an African American police officer in Minnesota balancing the current tensions of the “Blue Lives Matter” vs. “Black Lives Matter,” to a disabled gun enthusiast in Wyoming, HER AMERICA provides a fresh perspective to differing political, social and economic views.
“We scoured the country to find stories. College papers, local radio stations, word of mouth. Sometimes we showed up in a community and just asked around. Every town in this country has a woman everyone just knows,” Goldman tells HER Magazine.
One of the women featured on HER AMERICA: 50 WOMEN, 50 STATES is Angel “Chyna” Willis, a young woman with almost a million Instagram followers who offers an honest and nuanced window into the Instagram generation.
“Social media is a gift and a curse,” says Chyna. “It provides a platform for me to showcase my talents, but I tend to get misjudged a lot. Ultimately, I focus on the unconditional love & support I get from the hundreds of thousands of my supporters, somebody out there is rooting for me to be great and I hope my actions inspire them through it all.”
Photo credit: Natalie Keyssar for Lifetime
Even though she’s a social media star, at home in Georgia, Chyna is still a big sister who helps her single mother any way she can. Famous since the 6th grade, after doing “Hit Them Folks,” a street dance born in Georgia that went viral, Chyna thinks carefully about the image she projects.
“It pushes me to be a good influencer, to always think before I post,” she says.
The 17-year-old finds inspiration in her faith and regularly attends youth services at her church. Between school, homework, dance, and keeping up with her social media, Chyna says she doesn’t have time for much else. “I dance, and then I come home and study and do my work,” says Chyna. “Then I do it all over.”
Chyna wasn’t afraid to give Lifetime a behind the scenes look at her life. Even though she is used to being in front of the camera, she says “it was a humbling experience to have a photographer there capturing my every move.”
“When we found Chyna’s account, @chythegreatest, we were immediately drawn to her candor, directness, and self-possession that doesn’t feel as manufactured as most ‘Instagram stars,'” says Goldman. “Once we spoke to her, we realized she was a young woman who grew up with social media as a support, not a detractor, and we were hooked to her account,”
An aspiring professional dancer, Chyna says she hasn’t landed the perfect dancing gig just yet. She has her own clothing line, and besides running that business, she’s focusing on graduating high school with a high GPA, and wants to go to college.
“Fun fact about me that I don’t really showcase on my social media is: I’m shy! Yes, it’s weird to have so many people ‘following’ me, but when I see someone that recognizes me in public, I’m super chill,” Chyna says.
Even though she doesn’t consider herself a role model yet because of her young age, Chyna tells HER Magazine she makes mistakes every day, but keeps a positive head on her shoulders and tries to be a good leader. “It’s important to have good character despite my social media notoriety, to remind myself that I still need to master life as a human, not just on social media.”
When it comes to the haters on social media, she says “don’t get discouraged, always be the best version of you, and always remember who you are.” Her advice for those looking to build their social media platforms is to stay consistent and continuously work on your craft. “The people will follow what’s real,” she explains.
In HER AMERICA, viewers will be able to join Chyna for day in the life of a very young modern woman who is writing her own rules with profound self-discipline and a sense of responsibility to her community and family — and they can read the online essay here.
“She is a wonderful window into this moment for the next generation of American women and should be taken very seriously. Pink phone and all,” says Goldman. “These are stories you definitely haven’t heard before, and definitely not from mainstream media. They will blow your mind.”
If you could broadcast your story to the world — what would YOU share?
To see Chyna’s story on HER AMERICA: 50 WOMEN, 50 STATES visit heramerica.com.