Laurel Schwartz

Dear Born This Way Foundation—

I once read that Lady Gaga used to send hand-made disco balls to prospective managers when she was hustling to make her dreams come true.

You are doing the work of my dreams: building a kinder, braver world powered by and for young people, using social science and art to bring it all together.

Consider this my disco ball.

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Warrior queen, live passionately.

My name is Laurel Schwartz. I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota with a camera, a YouTube channel, and a passion for people. Now, I spend my days in New York City working at the intersection of art and social impact.

Creative agency ideas and hustle, plus a master’s degree in non-profit management and social work, plus experience case-managing youth; I was made for you.

Here are a few things I thought you should know.

I believe in the power of theater to change people. If I can help just one person either change the way they act online or feel like they are not alone, this play will have done its job.
— 2011 Press Release for "Status Update" at the Minnesota Fringe; I've grown up and have more experience, but my guiding mission has never changed.

one: the intersection of creativity, young people and impact has made me tick since *I* was a teen. You could say I was born this way.

When I was a teen I built a business selling hand-made jewelry to help chronically ill kids go to summer camp. By my senior year of high school, I wrote directed and produced a play about cyberbullying, using ticket sales to raise money for The Jed Foundation.

These creative experiences for social impact are the foundation of my work today.

Art changes people. It can and it should “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” (Cesar Cruz). At BTWF you use the way people feel about Lady Gaga’s art and to build a new world—comforting and disturbing until we get to a better place.


two: i’ve studied up.

Years before #TimesUp or #MeToo went viral, I wrote a thesis about celebrity culture, digital media, and the modern feminist movement.

Last summer, I was a Digital Advocacy Fellow at BerlinRosen, where I worked on media campaigns for non-profits reuniting separated families, working in mental health, and fighting the travel ban.

Finally, in an effort to orient my work specifically in social impact, I’ve spent the last two years earning my master’s in non-profit management at Columbia University’s School of Social Work. Financial Management, Research Methods, Program Development, Program Evaluation, Grant Writing—I’m ready to put my classes to good use.


three: I believe in a kinder, braver revolution.

I believe that we can dare to show up for each other in the world in innovative ways every day.

And, I don’t just believe it—I do it.

I got creative with the #MultiplyYourGood Challenge, handing out round-trips for the MTA after identifying access to transportation as a primary barrier to work for young people.

And, after winning the ReelAbilities Film Festival, I began screening my self-produced film about chronic illness and mental health and hosting discussions about diversity and inclusion at companies like CitiBank, Google, Barclays HQ and NBC/30 Rock. (Learn more and watch the film here)

Maybe if we stop to check in with each other, if we say ‘I see this armor you’re putting on every single day to navigate this world,’ if we give people space to be honest and if we lead by example, we can start to change the world.
— Laurel at Google NYC, 2018
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four: my years as a producer made me a project management pro.

As a producer for Leo Burnett (view work here), I was once asked to find a professional sloth to film on a green screen. Instead of responding with, “impossible,” I asked, “when do you need it?”

Before everyone was “live” all the time, I produced the first-ever branded Facebook livestream. I helped recreate Van Gogh’s bedroom and listed it on AirBnb. I even shut down Six Flags and strapped a camera to the tallest rollercoaster in America. Daring—I know!

As a producer, I loved building teams to solve problems.

While maybe not always with a camera anymore, this is what I want to do for the world: build teams and empower people to collaborate to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.


five: i don’t think young people are just the future. they were all born superstars and they’re changing the world right now.

I worked on a project with a group of 13-year-old girls this fall. In minutes one went from talking about how she feels confident when “she has that perfect eyeliner wing” to breaking down systemic racism.

Another shared that she spent her weekend writing letters to elected officials urging them to address climate change.

A third shared, “I just like that I’m different. That’s the main thing.”

I’m passionate about tapping into a generation of young people who are driven to make a difference in this world. Growing up, I was one of them. But, the truth is, this generation has already surpassed my wildest dreams.

Now, if you still want the old-school resume, you can find it here.

you may be wondering:

Did she really just build us a website about using creativity and pop culture to empower youth and inspire bravery? Heck yes, she did!

Let’s build a kinder, braver world—together.

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