Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Berkley
I know a lot of you may only know me as an actress from TV, film and stage—some of you have even watched me grow up on Saved By the Bell during my teen years. Can you imagine having your own adolescence captured on television for the world to see? Yes, thanks, I know—you've seen me in all my frizzy-haired glory! You're probably wondering why I'm talking with you about my thoughts and experiences I've had with teenage girls, so let me back up and tell you something you may not know about me and about the column I'm honored to share with you each month on Oprah.com.
Four years ago, I started a nonprofit organization (501c3) called Ask-Elizabeth. I wanted to offer girls, ages 11 to 18, a safe, judgment-free place to ask their innermost questions—where they could get real and get the answers they need. A place where they could open up, feel heard, ask questions, laugh, cry, vent and, most importantly, know that no matter what they are experiencing, they're not alone. What began as a grassroots forum with a handful of girls in a small school in New York City has since exploded into a nationwide movement.
I've sat and talked with more than 30,000 girls from all walks of life, in all parts of the country, from Los Angeles to New York City, Colorado to Kentucky, Detroit to Connecticut. Schools and organizations like Girls Scouts of the USA have invited me to work with girls in their cafeterias, libraries and on soccer fields, in camps and coffee shops. But no matter where we are, very soon after we gather in a cozy circle on the floor, the slumber-party vibe comes to life. They share their innermost secrets—everything from not liking their bodies (we've all been there!) to feeling stuck in a bad relationship to dealing with drama at home. At a time when texting and emails have become the way girls try to create intimacy or meaningful connection, I have witnessed how much they desire and need to actually communicate and talk. The relief and takeaway they are armed with after a workshop has been truly transformational.
Why being a teen—or a mom—is so hard today