Between being a digital creator for Ford Models, a strategist for Kamala Harris' presidential campaign and a full-time student at Columbia University, Deja Foxx's lengthy resume may be one of the most impressive we've ever seen. In addition to these significant titles and high-profile gigs, though, the 21-year-old is also a prominent influencer, organizer and activist using her large platform to bring attention to issues like homelessness, period poverty and education inequity, not to mention the founder of an online network for young women and femmes to discuss all that and more.
Dubbed the GenZ Girl Gang, the group — which Foxx started as a freshman in her dorm room — aims to be an inclusive support space offering mentorship opportunities, career advice, community-building workshops and just a general sisterhood for whoever needs it. Now thousands of members strong, the organization has continued to virtually connect young women and femmes across the nation through social campaigns and exciting events like the recent Back to School Survival Summit with Instagram, featuring panels and discussions about creating your own career path, student money management advice and campus confidence.
Granted, Foxx herself is hardly new to fostering these types of critical conversations. During a town hall meeting in 2017, the then-16-year-old famously confronted former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake about birth control access through Title X by pointing out their racial, gender and socioeconomic differences before questioning his supposed support of policies that uphold the "American Dream."
"I only sort of scaled-up my advocacy from there, and I've always based in what is personal to me and my personal story," she said. "I feel that my life has always been very political."
Foxx grew up as a first-generation American living below the poverty line in a single-parent household, which made her acutely aware of things like money, healthcare and food from an early age. So out of necessity, she became involved in advocacy after realizing her "access to the things [she] needed to survive and thrive" were "determined by other people."
However, it wasn't until her mother's struggles with substance abuse forced her to move in with her then-partner's family that she began to realize many of the systems and institutions meant to serve her community were actually "built to disadvantage young people like me." And the first place she decided to start was with her school district's abysmal sex education program, which connected her with an organizer from Planned Parenthood who "really pushed me to see my potential."
"Advocacy gave me a new set of eyes," Foxx said. "I saw my potential and it pushed me to see the power in my story to create change, create actions around that and, eventually, win a big sex education reform victory."
She added, "I've kind of reclaimed that power. And I did it through advocacy."
Needless to say, GenZ Girl Gang is empowering other young women and femmes to do the very same thing, and the group is doing it by using social media to "redefine sisterhood," which seems logical given how members of this generation are "digital natives," as Foxx explained.
"We can use this superpower, this tool that we've been given, to build a better future, to empower one another and to shift culture toward that," she continued. "[A world] that is more collaborative and less competitive, and where we really can mobilize [is within] our personal networks."
Even so, Foxx makes it clear that GenZ Girl Gang isn't about "building a following or gaining numbers." Rather, it's about "curating" an experience that pushes the "boundaries of how we use [social media] to do it." And with the goal of creating a community that members felt a "deep ownership over," GenZ Girl Gang came out the gates as a fully collaborative space by letting people vote on everything from the logo to the mission statement prior to the official launch.
Since then, the organization has created other programs that aim to build and reinforce this sense of sisterhood, and that became all the more important during the pandemic when our only means of connection was through a screen. But as Foxx also pointed out, this was particularly difficult for young twenty-somethings as it's a "really crucial time for building those connections that will, not only be friendships for the rest of your life, but that will support your professional and personal well-being." So in an attempt to mitigate this, GenZ Girl Gang started hosting Zoom dates, individual outreach initiatives and group chats led by mentors who could read people's college essays and help them with the financial aid process.
"In that way, we are pushing the boundaries of these [online] features to create real tangible connections and impact on the lives of our community members," Foxx said before adding that the group's next goal is centered on making GenZ Girl Gang financially stable. And they've already started to do so through their new merch line with all the proceeds going back to the organization's microgrants and future programming that Foxx said will create "direct benefit for our community members."
"That way we can create a more holistic version of success for ourselves," she said. "And that's what GenZ Girl Gang was born out of."
Shop GenZ Girl Gang's merch, here.
Welcome to "Internet Explorer," a column by Sandra Song about everything Internet. From meme histories to joke format explainers to collections of some of Twitter's finest roasts, "Internet Explorer" is here to keep you up-to-date with the web's current obsessions — no matter how nonsensical or nihilistic.
Photos courtesy of Deja Foxx