Remember a few months back when TWIST profiled a new charity-supporting book called Ignite? A ton of your favorite stars, like Chloe Lukasiak, Cameron Boyce, Brec Bassinger, Brooke Sorenson, and more all shared their personal stories in Pulse Spikes' latest project. We caught up with 15-year-old photographer and editor-in-chief Anna Zhang, who created the book, to ask her all about founding her company, working with these stars, and giving back to those in need while doing so. Check out our exclusive Q&A below.
TWIST: How did you first get the idea for Pulse Spikes, and what was it like putting that idea into action?
Anna Zhang: A lot of the stories I was reading online about young talents was negative and the stories simply did not appeal to me. Think of it this way … the editor-in-chief is 30 years old and most times even older; the photographers and writers double, triple, or quadruple the age of their target audience. How could they possibly know what the youth of today are going through and what’s on their mind? I wanted to revolutionize the media and create a publication that would be a space made by young people for young people. Our team is composed of young photographers, makeup artists, writers, designers and stylists - focusing on creatives under the age of 25. And Pulse Spikes would not just be a magazine, it would be a platform where creatives could grow and develop without any limitations.
It’s hard to answer the second part of the question fully. Mostly because there is so much to say. Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes days, weeks, months and years of work. It wasn’t easy to create Pulse Spikes to say the least. I was establishing a media outlet in a very competitive industry where few young women succeed. And, on top of that, I am still a student attending public high school so I have to balance both my passion and my studies. However, what’s easy was that photography and the magazine were my passion. Any bumps and obstacles I was and still am met with are tough, but ultimately because it is what I love, my passion will always drive me forwards, beyond all of these challenges.
Actor Cameron Boyce wrote an inspiring piece on breaking stereotypes for our book IGNITE, in collaboration with nonprofit organization Covenant House. All profits from the book go to assisting Covenant House in their works to help homeless youth and end child trafficking. Grab your copy of the book, link in bio! #ICanIgnite #PulseSpikes #CameronBoyce 📸: @colorflame
TWIST: How do you hope the work you do inspires other teens?
AZ: My main goal is to show not only teens, but everyone, that your age should not define what you can and cannot do. In the past, I have always been the youngest person working on a campaign or covering an event. Yet, I’ve striven to break those youth stereotypes and make a name for myself in a competitive industry by working hard and maintaining a positive mindset.
TWIST: We love the concept of the Ignite project, and how did that come about?
AZ: Thank you! I actually had this idea for a while before any plans were set into motion. Ignite was a goal of Pulse Spikes when I started the magazine: to create a space made by young people for young people that would revolutionize the media. I didn’t think much of it at the beginning when I was establishing Pulse Spikes; it seemed so far out of reach. Around a year ago, this idea started to become something bigger. I noticed that there was a lot of negativity and gossip concerning celebrities, pitting talents against each other in a competitive atmosphere. I wanted to create a space of collaboration, not competition.
Ignite is both an online platform and book, allowing it to reach audiences from around the world, and to receive community submissions so that all content remains genuine and authentic. Ignite covers topics that are usually skipped upon in the general media such as breaking stereotypes and self-love.
TWIST: How did you choose Covenant House as the cause you wanted to support?
AZ: I spoke at a TEDx event alongside the president of Covenant House, Kevin Ryan. He spoke of the works of Covenant House and the power of love to transform youth and society. This was right around the time I started planning Ignite. Kevin’s powerful words on fostering love and showing young people that they are capable of so much more than they can see aligned with my goals for both Pulse Spikes and Ignite. Covenant House is not your average homeless shelter, it’s a place of love and providing youth with unconditional support when they’re at the lowest points in life - on the street, a victim of human trafficking, and/or mentally unwell.
TWIST: How did you choose which writers and stars you wanted to contribute to the book?
AZ: These talents are extremely passionate about the issues they are writing about and have personal experiences to back their ideas. We wanted to stick with authentic content as genuine stories are what people will respond to. The talents’ passions for the issues are evident in their daily work.
TWIST: Have you all met while working on other projects?
AZ: I actually met most of the talents for the first time while working on Ignite. One of the only talents that I met prior to the book photo shoots was Chloe Lukasiak. I photographed DigiFest and Beautycon in 2015, both in NYC, and I believe she was at both events. But it wasn’t until 2016 when I worked with Chloe for the cover story of issue three of Pulse Spikes that I met her. I also worked with New District for an issue of the magazine.
TWIST: When organizing everyone's work for the book, what surprised you most about either their stories or how everything came together?
AZ: I think it’s easy to judge “celebrities” before you know them because there is so much circulating about them. But, in all honesty, each of these talents was a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with; it’s rare finding creative people whose sole concentration is on their passion and not money.
TWIST: Why do you think it's important, especially for young people, to get involved with causes they feel passionately about?
AZ: I think it’s easy for a young person to believe that he/she, as a single person, cannot create change. That’s where the name Ignite came from. By igniting one small flame, you can create a forest fire. One person creating change and radiating positivity will spread quickly and catch on, starting a movement. So don’t underestimate your ability to revolutionize. Your small act of kindness and advocacy can result in something much larger.
TWIST: What do you hope readers will take away from their experience of reading these personal stories?
AZ: These stories are raw and genuine pieces written by the talents themselves. It’s a compilation of the ideas and thoughts of a young mind. I think these stories will resonate with the readers because they are so authentic. I hope that the reader doesn’t feel alone in these issues. I hope that the readers will be inspired by the talents and will also help bring awareness to and create change to combat some of these issues affecting adolescents. Lastly, the book was created with the intention to spread youth empowerment. I hope the reader feels stronger, and that they can do anything they set their minds to. They are capable of creating change and spreading love. They are the future leaders.
TWIST: What would your advice be for a teen your own age who wants to get involved with a cause but doesn't know where to start?
AZ: There are so many ways to spread awareness nowadays. Social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook allow any young person to create change. A simple tweet or post on a cause a teen feels passionately about already brings attention to the issue. Also, actively seek out opportunities to help out. There are local organizations that are always looking for bright, hardworking young volunteers, and starting local goes a long way!