How a Gen Z Activist Is Eliciting Change in Her Youth Community
Deja Foxx, the former strategist for Kamala Harris' campaign, talks self-care, activism, and more.
Deja Foxx isn't your average Gen Z Instagram creator. Yes, she has a following of almost 50k and is a digital creator for Ford Models, but she's also a period and political activist, the founder of an online community called Gen Z Girl Gang, and a former influencer and surrogate strategist in Kamala Harris' vice president political campaign. The 21-year-old has a lot of titles on her resume, and she credits her drive for activism and community building to her upbringing.
"When I was 15 years old, I experienced hidden homelessness—not living in a home of your own," Foxx tells HelloGiggles. "I grew up in a community where there often wasn't enough. I grew up in section eight housing, on food stamps, and often would only have my needs met if I relied on others or if I asked for help."
Inspired by these difficult experiences, Foxx started her activism career in high school to help fight for communities like her own, especially when it came to sex education.
"It was through this lens that I saw how the sex education in my school district was built to disadvantage students like me," she explains. "I started getting active, telling my story at school board meetings and bringing my friends to do the same." Due to her efforts, Foxx and her fellow students won in favor of comprehensive sex education at their school district.
High school wasn't the only time Foxx worked to elicit change, though. As a freshman at Columbia University, Foxx founded GenZ Girl Gang, a community that offers mentorship opportunities, events, and informational digital content for Generation Z womxn. A year later, she became the youngest strategist for Kamala Harris' vice presidential political campaign. In this role, she was asked to lead the social media campaign #ThisIsWhatAPresidentLooksLike to bring awareness to the power of representation in politics.
Now, Foxx is continuing to lead important conversations on her Instagram talk show, Leaders of Today, which highlights people making valuable changes in their communities. She also leads the El Rio Reproductive Health Access Project, a non-profit she co-founded to help teens became peer sex educators and help run free clinics for youth sexual health. This is all while she continues to attend Columbia, where she's majoring in race and ethnicity studies.
For this week's Self-Care Sunday, we spoke with Foxx about activism, the Gen Z community, and how she makes time for self-care.
HelloGiggles (HG): As someone with an extremely busy schedule, how do you maintain your mental health?
Deja Foxx (DF): The truth is... I don't do it all by myself. The key to doing 110% of the things is having a team. Having people around you who you trust. And know that when you need a break, you can delegate, you can pass things off, or you can ask for help.
HG: On Instagram, you talk about being authentically yourself, whether it's about sex or politics. What would you suggest a Gen Zer do if they're having trouble being authentically who they are?
DF: We all get asked the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and it's such a big and scary question. I don't have the answer figured out, but I do know that there is nothing I'd rather be in this life than a good role model. And that is something that I get to do on social media. It's where I get to be my whole and authentic self. I get to be sexy and smart and successful and own all of those things in a public space and show others what is possible.
If you're struggling to be yourself online or in real life, the question I want you to ask is, "How can I do what is uncomfortable, but not unsafe?" And then I want to leave you with a piece of reassurance: Your story is yours and yours alone, you're an expert in your experience and no one can tell it like you can, so own that.
HG: How do you physically show up for yourself every day?
DF: I show up for myself physically by running every morning. My therapist and I have agreed that I should exercise and eat every morning, so that is the baseline. I also have a pretty strict skincare routine because I feel my most confident when I feel good in my skin. I think that those are forms of practical self-care. It's not all bubble baths and face masks. Sometimes it is all about the routine.
HG: As a former strategist for Kamala Harris' campaign, what would you say was the most physically demanding part of that job?
DF: It was the uncertainty. I got the job offer when I was unpacking my sophomore year dorm room, hanging my stuff up at Columbia. Two weeks later, I packed it all up, moved to a city I'd never been to, signed the lease on my first apartment, and got started on a job that didn't exist before I got there.
Something I want you to take away from this is to be fearless. Take those jumps, follow your heart and make decisions wholeheartedly because they'll always be the right ones. But also, give yourself some credit. We are all living in very uncertain times and that takes a physical, mental and emotional toll.
HG: How do you incorporate community care into Gen Z Girl Gang?
DF: This idea that "Together we have enough," is something I've replicated in my organization Gen Z Girl Gang that is committed to redefining sisterhood for a new generation. The idea is that if we put collaboration over competition, we can all do better. Our success is truly tied to one another. That at its core is what community care is all about.
HG: If someone wants to help their community and become an activist, how do you suggest they begin?
DF: The best advice I have for you is that you don't have to do the whole thing. You might see people like me who have founded organizations, who've worked with large non-profits, but you don't have to do it that way. In fact, I encourage you to start small and to start personal.
Find an issue that is personally impacting you. Think about your personal story. What is your narrative? How do you and your life intersect with the things you see in the news? Then, think about who is in your personal network: friends, family, neighbors, significant others. How can you bring them along? Because the people who care about you are going to care about what you care about. When you bring those things together, that's how you start making change.
HG: Are there any products you've been gravitating toward lately during your self-care routine?
DF: You don't have to buy anything to practice self-care, but I do want to share some products that are close to my heart. That is the Gen Z Girl Gang merch line that our organization has been working really hard to bring to you, [which will be launching on September 8th.]
Some of the products in it include a "Hot Girls Heel" tote bag that has some messaging about setting boundaries on it, there is also the "To My Younger Self" hoodies which has notes from our leaders to their younger selves, as well as some notebooks that you can use in your own self-care practices.
The best part is that when you shop with us, all of the proceeds are reinvested into our community. That means that the dollars you spend are going back to young women and femmes in the form of microgrants and programming.
HG: What are some self-care practices that have been bringing you joy?
DF: Dreaming up what I want my new, empty apartment to look like! As someone who does a lot of work from home—shooting content, doing homework, attending Zoom meetings—this space is professional, but also deeply personal.
As someone who has experienced housing insecurity, I know the value of my space. So, I've been taking a lot of time to dream it up. Walking around vintage stores, shopping them virtually, and creating Pinterest boards. It's been really fun to use my creativity to cultivate my space.