Welcome to Creators for Social Good. In partnership with RARE GLOBAL — a boutique talent management firm to digital superstars and content creators in beauty, fashion, and lifestyle — we profile YouTubers who are using their platforms to make an extraordinary contribution to their communities and positively impact humankind. Each week, we’ll chat with a creator about how they became an influencer, the causes that inspire them, and why they’re committed to change the world for the better.
As virtually any parent or child knows, The Talk is an always awkward, largely uncomfortable, and ultimately necessary part of growing up and learning about our bodies. But Stephanie Villa’s parents never gave her that talk. Instead, she was left to navigate the tricky waters of things like puberty, birth control, and first times on her own.
Now, as an influencer with 324K subscribers on YouTube and 326K followers on Instagram, she’s committed to ensuring no other girl has to grow up without a thorough knowledge of exactly what’s going on with her body.
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Villa, who joined YouTube in 2013, originally found her audience by posting crafting, fashion, and beauty videos. But once she amassed a platform, she wanted to figure out how she could expand her female-forward activism — she’s been supporting women entrepreneurs and creatives through her work on the board at The Be Rare Foundation — to include sex education.
She landed on producing Sex Smarts, her brand-new series focusing on a variety of topics related to sex. So far, Villa’s talked about how unexpectedly painful it can be to get an intrauterine device for birth control, how the foods people eat can affect their vaginal health, and what to do when you get a urinary tract infection — all things vital for people to know, but which aren’t always discussed by parents or offered in your standard fifth-grade sex ed course.
Villa’s mission, with these episodes and upcoming installments about online dating and masturbation, is not only to spread knowledge and confidence, but also to encourage people to start conversations with one another, and to be more open about discussing sex, our bodies, and all the sometimes terrible, sometimes wonderful things they can do.
Check out our chat with her below.
Tubefilter: So first, tell us a little about you! Where are you from? What did you do in the days before you became an influencer?
Stephanie Villa: I am from the Bay Area in California, and am currently living in Los Angeles! When I first started making YouTube videos, I was in grad school for Chinese medicine in San Francisco. At the time, I was watching a lot of YouTube videos to just relax in my miniscule downtime. As time progressed, I started watching certain YouTubers more religiously and thought it would be fun to give it a go myself!
Tubefilter: What made you decide to share your content on YouTube and Instagram? Did you come to those platforms with a content strategy already in mind, or did you develop it as you went along?
SV: YouTube really started off as a passion project for me — something outside of work and school I could put some creativity into and interact with others. The community is what really drew me in from the beginning. To be honest, I didn’t have any kind of strategy going into these platforms. I just put my interests and life out there, and was received with open arms by my online community. I feel really lucky.
Tubefilter: You’re dedicated to using your platform to break down stigma about women’s sexual health. Why is this cause so important to you?
SV: There are so many reasons why speaking about sexual health is taboo — whether it be religious, cultural, etcetera — but the reality is, we are all sexual beings. We should understand how our bodies work, what signs to look out for, and what health options we have. I am a first-generation Chinese American, and my parents and I never had “the talk.” I want to be able to give people who are just starting off in their sexual journey information, along with informing people who are well on their way. Open conversations about women’s sexual health will lead to the spread of correct information, and that is really my end goal.
Tubefilter: What made you decide to launch Sex Smarts? How long was the series in development? What do you hope people take away from each episode?
SV: I guess, first and foremost, I like talking about sex. It’s a very interesting subject. It’s probably the most fun thing to talk about with friends. But besides that, I grew up navigating a lot of things on my own — such as birth control — and I just want to be a part of a movement to normalize speaking about such important and life-altering subjects.
I’ve been wanting to do this series for years. What held me back is that I am in no way an authority in sexual health (I minored in sexual health at UC Davis, but that is the extent of my training) and I never want to come off as a pseudo-expert. Recently, though, I realized I just want to spread information and create conversations amongst friends, and that’s really want my end goal is for every episode. If I can help just a couple people feel more comfortable speaking about sexual health, I am so, so happy.
Tubefilter: How did you join RARE Global? Do you do any work with The Be Rare Foundation?
SV: Oh, I am an OG member of RARE Global. I was there before RARE, because the founder, Ashley Villa, is my sister.
Ashley was there for me at the very beginning of my YouTube journey. I remember sending her some of my first contracts with texts like, “What is all this? Please help! I am so confused,” and getting, “Do not sign a thing until I read this!!” texts immediately back. My sister had my back from the jump, and I am very blessed.
I am on the board of The Be Rare Foundation. This year, we had our second annual women’s summit, and I helped put together our vendor village with a bunch of female-owned local businesses. I also had an onstage talk with Cassy Martinez of LadyLab — the winner of our 2018 $10k Female-Forward Grant.
Applications are currently open for our 2019 $10k Female-Forward Grant, so make sure to check out the site if you are interested (~*shameless plug*~)!!
Tubefilter: What inspires you as a creator and as a woman helping other women love their bodies?
SV: I think that the female form is freaking beautiful and should be celebrated. I’m far from a socially constructed “ideal” female body, but over the years, I have come to love my body in whatever stage it’s in — and I think this is because I have more of an understanding of my body and what it can do. I know what it feels like to be so uncomfortable in your own skin, and the online world does not help with that a lot of the time. This is a conversation that is being had over and over again, but social media is a double-edged sword. You can find a beautiful community and at the same time be absolutely torn down by images of “perfect” people. I would like to take part in a more realistic and body-positive digital space.
Tubefilter: What are your plans for Sex Smarts? What are your future plans for continuing to break down stigmas surrounding women’s sexual health?
SV: I want Sex Smarts to cover a whole range of subjects, from the very scientific and fact-based to the more conversational and topical. The first few videos I have up are definitely not super controversial, but it’s taken me a little bit of time to ease in to this series. Even though I talk about a range of sexual topics comfortably in my daily life with friends, it’s a new experience to talk about them online for anyone to view (especially my mom — hi, Mom!). I am getting more comfortable speaking on camera about these topics, though, and have some very interesting videos coming up, including ones on masturbation and online dating. I just want to keep this conversation going, and hopefully help others become more informed in the process!
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