Meet The Latinx Mental Health Activist Spreading Kindness

May 18, 2023

Emily Flores (she/her), a 21-year-old disabled advocate and Mexican American, founded Cripple Media, the first media company run by and for young disabled people. Cripple Media aims to reshape perceptions of disability by creating impactful and inclusive content, destigmatizing mental health, and empowering young disabled people to control their narratives. Additionally, Flores has collaborated with several Fortune 500 companies to continue her work in reshaping disability narratives. She also recently starred in the Disney+ docu-series “Growing Up,” where she shared her life story and the story of Cripple Media.

This story took place in United States

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As my fellow youth advisor, Joseph Arujo, and I both begin our incredible journeys as advisory board members for Born This Way Foundation, I decided to sit down with Joseph this month and learn more about his advocacy and social media career, and dive into his passions, creativity, and his story. Together, we found that we shared a lot of the same values, and love for our communities. So much so, I just had to ask Arujo what his star sign was. Read on more to learn all about Joseph and his story!

Emily: So to start off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your career in social media?
Joseph: I’ve been on social media for as long as I can remember, but I really got into creating content during the pandemic. My claim to fame was a storytime series I hosted on TikTok Live. Every night at 8 p.m., I’d go live on TikTok and read stories to kids. I had tons of children’s stories laying around my house from when I was younger, so I thought it’d be fun to share them with the world. The series took off like crazy, and I eventually had thousands of people tuning in each night. It was insane to see my little show on TikTok getting more views than some TV shows! After about two and a half years, I started transitioning to more fashion and lifestyle content. Now I’m my own brand and my audience follows me for a bit of everything.

Emily: Wow, that is actually so incredibly cool. And I feel like that’s so sweet. If you still do those lives, let me know, because I would love to be read a bedtime story haha. But because it is such a sweet idea. I feel like it’s something that kind of brings a community together, you know? So on to my next question; what brought you to wanting to start posting on social media like TikTok, and what do you think social media can offer to, say, underrepresented communities or to teenagers?
Joseph: The community aspect is what really drew me to social media. I love that it brings people from all over the world together. It’s wild to check my analytics and see people tuning in from different countries like Japan, Thailand, and Canada. And when I get to meet my supporters in person, it’s always a cool surprise to realize that there’s a community that knows me. 

As for how social media can help diverse groups and younger people, it’s definitely a double-edged sword. There’s a lot of negativity out there, but I try to focus on spreading positivity. If you keep consuming negative content, you’ll just keep getting more of it, thanks to those pesky algorithms. But if you focus on creating and sharing positive content, you can attract like-minded people and build a supportive community. It’s all about using social media in a conscious way and making connections with people. 

Emily: Absolutely. I love that so much! And it’s so true what you’re saying. Social media has so many pros and cons, but in the midst of it all, it’s so incredibly important to foster that positivity aspect. That’s actually one thing that I will say that I got from your content, I feel like your content immediately radiates positivity! And I think that’s so awesome to kind of foster into young people and communities of the like. So talking about young people, what brought you to want to become a Youth Board Advisor with Born This Way Foundation?
Joseph: When I started my Storytime Series on TikTok, it was really more than just a fun live stream. It became a mental health outlet for a lot of people. For some, it was a chance to relive that childhood experience of having someone read to them before bed. For others, it was a way to destress and unwind after a long day. It was like ASMR, you know? 

So when I learned about the Born This Way Foundation and the opportunity to join the Advisory Board, I knew I wanted to be part of something bigger that was making a difference in mental health awareness. Sharing my own mental health journey and working with others to boost awareness is something I’m really passionate about, and I’m excited to bring that to the Advisory Board.

Emily: I love that. I feel like it’s so cool to be able to work with other young people in this same space and work together on special projects that we are so passionate about. So my other question, so as I was stalking your socials (lol), I learned that you are a Latinx creator, and I was like, oh my God, yes, because I’m also Latina! So we love the representation.

So, as a Latinx creator yourself and someone who works in the social media and entertainment industry, can you tell me a little bit about, what is the current representation of creators like us or people like us in those spaces? What is that like right now? And how do you feel about it? What do you think needs to change?
Joseph: As a Latinx creator, it was definitely a little more of a challenge finding my footing when I first started out on social media. It seemed like there weren’t many of us out there, and it was hard to establish my community. But I’m happy to say that things are changing for the better. Social media is becoming a lot more inclusive, and I’m proud to have played a small part in that. In 2021, I was fortunate enough to be part of #CasaTikTok, a program designed to help Latin creators grow and develop on the app. And from there, I was invited to join the TikTok Diversity Collective, which is all about promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion on the platform. As part of that program, we were able to make some real changes to the app that benefit everyone. One of the things I’m most proud of is the option to add pronouns to your profile. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s a big step towards making sure everyone feels welcome and included on TikTok. I really feel like TikTok is leading the way when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusivity on social media. And I’m excited to be part of that movement.

Emily: That’s amazing. Oh, my gosh. That’s so cool to hear about that initiative, I had no idea. And that is so incredibly important that TikTok is pioneering those types of missions. So going back to the representation topic, I am still reflecting back on your answers. It’s kind of something that I think we both have in common as far as pioneering for representation in our communities. And it’s something that I think we both really push for in our work, whether it be on social media or offline. And so going off that, can you tell me why representation is so important to us and our communities?
Joseph: In the US, we’ve definitely had a history of marginalizing certain communities, and it’s important to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. We all have such unique perspectives and experiences that shape how we see the world, and it’s really valuable to bring all of those ideas and experiences together. I think when we can do that, we can create a more diverse and inclusive society where everyone feels heard and valued.

Emily: Absolutely. Yes. Please say it louder for the people in the back! I feel like it’s so true. I mean, like the media industry, social media, entertainment industry, heavy on the entertainment industry…They really need to understand that and understand why it’s so so incredibly important to pass the mic onto underrepresented communities. So, okay, now  shifting gears a little bit. What are some projects that you are currently working on right now that you are really excited about?
Joseph: I’m actually really excited about this project I’m working on with the Chris Kindness Foundation. It’s an awesome organization that recognizes and rewards people who are spreading kindness in the Berkeley community. As Vice President of Marketing, my job is to help expand our reach and bring attention to the amazing acts of kindness happening all around us. We accept nominations from anyone in the community, and each month we award $1,000 to the person who did the most impactful deed. It’s amazing to see how much kindness is out there and how it’s affecting people’s lives in such positive ways. The fact that we recently received an $80,000 grant just goes to show how much people believe in this cause and want to help us grow. I’m really excited to be a part of it and see where it goes from here.

Emily: Wow, that is honestly so incredible. That’s so cool to hear about a little bit more about the professor and everything. That’s honestly such an incredible project like to be a part of. So now, shifting gears a bit and looking ahead, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Joseph: In five years, I hope to have graduated from Berkeley and started my career in the entertainment industry. As an LA native, I definitely see myself working in the business entertainment field, and ideally, I’d love to be on the entertainment side of things. However, I’m also open to exploring other areas, such as managing creators or helping others grow their careers. I think it’s incredible to be able to help people turn their dreams into a reality, so that’s definitely something I’m passionate about pursuing.

Emily: Okay, so this can be an off the record question, but what’s your star sign? I just need to know!
Joseph: Oh, this can be on the record! Wait, I’m going to let you guess first, and then I’ll tell you. So, a hint, I am a triple something. 
Emily: Oh my god, what?! Okay, now I’m scared. Lol.
Joseph : Haha! People say I’m intense with this sign. 
Emily: Oh, okay. Well, I think I already know, but I was going to guess Leo. Like you have a Leo placement somewhere, but I’m assuming that you’re a triple Scorpio.
Joseph : Yes! As soon as I say intense, everyone knows like, oh, you’re a Scorpio. 
Emily: No, it’s like, I get it. Listen, like my boyfriend is a Scorpio. And like, immediately I knew when I met him, I was like, that man is a Scorpio.

Emily: Anywho, so a last question to kick us off, what tips would you give to someone who wants to break into social media and who is on the younger side?
Joseph: Okay, so my first tip for anyone wanting to break into social media, especially if you’re on the younger side, is to just go for it! Don’t worry about what other people might think, because honestly, who cares? I remember when I first started out, people would ask me if I was embarrassed to post on social media, but you know what? I just did it anyway and it turned out fine. My second tip is to be committed. Like, really committed. I know this might sound crazy, but try posting three times a day for 30 days. It’s a challenge, for sure, but it’ll help you get into the groove and figure out what you like posting about. Once you start growing your audience, you can scale back to two times a day, then once a day, and so on. It’s all about finding your niche and sticking with it. So yeah, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and be consistent. That’s how you’ll see real growth and success on social media.

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