monique colemanAs host of GimmeMo, a talk show for teens, Monique Coleman has come a long way since her High School Musical days. we talked to Monique about her future plans for GimmeMo, her role as the first-ever UN Youth Champion (!!), and the three people who inspire her.

MyEveryzine: What gave you the idea to start GimmeMo?

Monique Coleman: I’ve always been passionate about youth and I feel very blessed to have been in a film that reached SO many young people. In 2009, my good friend Elizabeth Berkley asked me to write a quote about her amazing organization for girls “Ask Elizabeth.” Writing that quote inspired me to think about the kind of impact that I would want to make someday. As a joke, I started toying around with different names and when I got to “GimmeMo” a light bulb went on and I stayed up all night writing down ideas that weeks later I put into action.

ME: I’ve watched YouTube clips of GimmeMo’s first season. How is the show different this season?

MC: Season one was really about exploration. I wanted to better understand some of the issues that young people were dealing with. I investigated issues like youth homelessness, bullying, self-esteem, and inking. The episodes were 8-15 minutes long and covered different aspects of each topic. The second season is about engagement. We filmed each 1-hour episode live and relied heavily on social media and audience interaction. 

ME: What is your favorite part about shooting a show?

MC: My favorite part is the fact that it’s live. There’s a rush that comes from having a studio audience and getting to manage every thing on the spot. To me, the live aspect keeps it real, authentic, and electric. Also, I can’t stress enough how lucky I am to work with the amazing young people that make the show come together each week. They are truly the best part!

ME: What was your favorite topic to cover in season two?

MC: My favorite topic so far was “Let’s Talk About Sex.” The real issue we were arriving to was whether there was such a thing as “healthy sex” for young people or if it was best to abstain all together. It was a raw and dynamic dialog with a sex education professor, a 15-year-old male, and a female college student. The perspectives were diverse and interesting. It’s definitely a topic I want to revisit in more detail. 

ME: What do you think is the biggest issue facing young women today?

MC: In America, I think one of the biggest issues facing young women is self-esteem and the pressure to be perfect. There are so many pressures to be a certain size or fit an unattainable standard. I also think that finding love while pursing a big career can be challenging. Globally, and particularly in developing countries not having a voice and experiencing unthinkable violence and abuse is the biggest issue they face. 

ME: Do you have a motto?

MC: I have so many and they change all the time. Lately, I’ve been living by a yoga saying, “Do your practice. All is coming” by Patabi Jois. My favorite quote is “The jump is so frightening between where I am and where I want to be; because of all I may become, I will close my eyes and leap” by Maryanne Radmacher. 

ME: Who are your role models?

MC: Oprah and Martin Luther King Jr. are tied in the top spot. My mom is a close second, and ANY person who’s ever tried anything difficult and not given up. 

ME: What would you say is the single thing that makes you happy?

MC: Inspiring others to be happy. 

ME: Can you speak about your involvement with the UN?

MC: In 2010, I was appointed the first ever UN Youth Champion for the International Year of Youth. I then self-initiated and funded a global tour to better understand the most pressing issues facing today’s youth. I visited 24 countries in a span of six months, and engaged with thousands of young people. When I returned, I spoke at the High Level meeting on youth, hosted the Year of Youth Culmination event, and continued to participate and engage with UN organizations and events. I’ve worked closely with UNICEF, UNFPA, ILO, and UNESCO. I’ve also had the incredible honor of interviewing the Secretary General Ban ki Moon and co-hosting the UN Foundation Gala. I’m presently the Girl Up Youth Champion for the United Nations Foundation (who’s purpose is to further the efforts of the United Nations). 

ME: What else are you up to (as an actress and philanthropist)?

MC: I just wrapped an independent film called Girlrillaz and recently attended the Global Social Business Summit in Vienna, Austria. 

Catch ALL episodes from season two ,and look out for more videos on YouTube!

-Grace Gavilanes