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Breaking Barriers: Meet First Latina CEO Of Girl Scouts, Anna Maria Chávez

The first Latina CEO of Girl Scouts of America,  Anna Maria Chávez, on courage, character and confidence. 

Anna Maria Chávez is the definition of women's empowerment. From a young age, the Arizona native knew she would dedicate her life to public service, working in the federal government in her home state to now serving as the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

"I feel that I’ve been extremely lucky. I started in an organization as a child that impacted me in such an amazing way," Chávez told VIBE. "Now, several decades later, I’m actually part of the team that’s making sure it’s here for another generation of girls.

The organization continues to encourage young women to become successful leaders by getting involved with the Ban Bossy campaign. One of its pivotal leaders and Chief Communications Executive of Girl Scouts, Kelly Parisi, said, "I think what we are most proud of at Girl Scouts is that we started a worldwide dialogue about what girls need to lead and what’s holding them back from leadership."

Check out #VIBELeague's latest honoree as she speaks on her mother and grandmother's wise words, embarking on a leadership journey, and how to address challenges.

My profession in one sentence:
I live to inspire girls, volunteers, Girl Scout staff and alumni of all ages to engage and move forward in order to build a generation of girls of courage, confidence and character.

My MLK moment (Realizing the dream):
I had an extremely pivotal moment when I was actually 12 years old. I had been a Girl Scout for two years in Arizona and I had learned about the environment and the outdoors. I was on a picnic with my parents one weekend and noticed that some kids had graffitied over this very historic cave that had indigenous writing on it. It really upset me. I was talking to my mother about it and basically at the age of 12, I decided to become an attorney to protect the environment and help people defend their rights. From that moment on, I set my goal of becoming an attorney and being in public service. Girl Scouts really helped me flesh that out as to what I wanted to do with my career. I went on to Yale, and then the University of Arizona for my law degree. From there I spent several years in the federal government and ultimately working for Janet Napolitano, who's the governor of Arizona, as her deputy chief of staff which led me to the Girl Scouts.

An impressive Girl Scouts stat:
I am such a believer in the Girl Scout leadership experience, because I know first-hand how powerful it can be, and how important it is to help support girls on their journey to adulthood. Our incredible alumnae are proof. With 59 million living Girl Scout alumnae in every U.S. zip code and 94 countries who are accomplished leaders, including 75 percent of the 20 women in the U.S. Senate, over half of the women in the U.S. House of Representatives, all five current serving female governors, and nearly every female astronaut, Girl Scouts is the largest leadership organization in the world for girls.

On handling roadblocks:
What I’ve learned from my parents and my grandmother [is] that challenges are actually a great opportunity to learn new skills. They said, “Anna, at a young age, you’re going to have a tool kit to deal with challenges. Along the way and along your path, you’re going to be met with opportunities to develop new skills.” In my role throughout the last 20 years, I’ve added a lot of tools to my tool kit.

I knew ____ would be the way to pursue my dreams:
Law would be the way to pursue my dream. Not actually just my dreams but my dreams of my community. Growing up as a girl of color in a poverty situation, I knew education and ultimately law would be the key to open up the future. Not only for myself, but for other girls like me. That has been so true. I have seen how the knowledge of the law, the practice of the law, teaches you to think in different ways. It teaches you how to spot issues in situations where others can’t. It gives you an extreme view around analytical thinking and it has been a tremendous path for me to help other people. I am very grateful that early on Girl Scouts inspired me and that my parents supported me because a lot of girls in my community didn’t go on to finish high school. The fact that I was able to graduate from high school, go on to an Ivy league school on full scholarship, go to law school on a scholarship and then pursue my dream of being a lawyer is just a dream come true. I’m very blessed.

My biggest personal win:
I am very proud to be the first Latina CEO of Girl Scouts. This allows me to be a role model for young Latinas everywhere.

My best advice to mothers or women in relationships trying to balance work and life:
I think they need to find a way to incorporate the things that inspire them. Whether you love music, movies or food—or like myself, ice cream—you have to figure out how to integrate all of the pieces of your life. I’m very fortunate because I work in a youth-inspired organization so my son has grown up knowing the power of children and he’s able to see me and work alongside me in community projects. I noticed that with anybody, whether it’s a man or woman or a child, if they’re passionate about something, it doesn’t stop at 5pm. It creeps into after work and on weekends because they’re so passionate about what they’re doing. I‘ve been very fortunate that from a very young age, I have been able to marry both the need of providing economic wherewithal for myself, and my family has been integrated with my passion for life and the passion to serve others. I’m constantly telling, specifically women and mothers who work with me and for our organization, to keep that balance but also work toward things that inspire you.

On creating a successful brand:
I think that the way of creating and keeping a strong brand is always being focused on the brand's mission and the vision. For example, our brand is 103 years old. It's iconic and historic, people know it and it also brings a smile to people's faces when they see it. You also need to be flexible enough to understand that you have to stay relevant with the times. As long as you’re committed to the vision that has been set forth, you have to remain flexible to understand that you will need to change the way of work to meet the needs of your customers versus 10 years ago or 20 years ago.

My mentors in real life:
My mother and my grandmother when she was alive. I came from a family of very strong women, a matriarchal family who was very focused on education. They ensured that nothing got in the way or distracted me from that path. They instilled in me from a very young age an understanding that the decisions you make as a very young lady will have an impact on your life going forward and we have the responsibility to be of service to others. Now that I’m older, I’ve realized that they really did spend a lot if time with me, giving me perspective about life, taking everyday as a blessing and as a gift, seeing problems as opportunities and seeing the best in people.

My favorite Girl Scout cookie:
Samoas, also known as Caramel deLites in some areas of the country.

One mantra I always try to instill in young women:
To be the leaders in their own life. That leadership is not about one role or activity, it is about making decisions and owning your own life, and bringing others along with you in a positive way. Whether you are chairman of the boardroom or the home, you can make the world a better place, and serve as an example to others.

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VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

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10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

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NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

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“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

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“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

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